naked: how you dress is how you feel is how you dress

I’m moving in a few weeks, and I’ve been going through my stuff, as is traditional, to toss anything I don’t need or use or wear or want, because moving giant boxes is bad enough when they’re filled with actual useful items. It is insulting to move books you hate and broken pans and stretched-out T-shirts. I am sure I have a ton of junk hiding in my office and my kitchen and scattered across my living room, but I realized, going through my closet and my dresser, that I don’t have any of those stretched-out, ratty T-shirts. I don’t appear to own anything I don’t wear–it is a miracle! But I also don’t have any of the kind of comfy, casual, flop around the house clothes that straddle the border between street clothes and pajamas.

At my heaviest, that was all I wore. I never put on jeans because they constricted. I wore big sweaters that came down to my knees, and long skirts and I even left the house a few times in an L.L. Bean nightgown that I told myself looked exactly like a T-shirt dress except that it really looked like was an ankle-length nightgown, and what I really looked like is someone who had given up and didn’t care and would shower in a down coat because she hated her body so much and couldn’t stand to have anyone look at it, including herself.

I had been fat all my life, and once I figured out it wasn’t a
death sentence, I had always tried so hard to dress well, and
fashionably, and sexily. I had so many cute things, sexy things,
low-cut shirts and tight jeans and clingy dresses. I looked good. I
honored my body, and showed the world, which so often told me I wasn’t
allowed to take pride in my body and I was foolish to think that I was
hot or awesome or sexy, that I was not listening, that I was everything
that was hot, that I looked good and I knew exactly how good I looked.
I looked good in those clothes, and I looked even better out of them.

gained more weight, though, a lot of weight in a short period of time,
and I gave up. I could not keep up, I could not accept the possibility
that I needed to buy new things, to dress the body I had, to love it
and celebrate it and feel that it was beautiful and valued. I gave up,
and became the cliché of the fat girl, in her giant swaths of fabric,
her indoor/outdoor, couch-to-work-to-couch clothing. I didn’t care
about what I looked like–or rather, I cared entirely too much about
what I looked like beneath the clothes, and the clothes reflected
exactly what I thought of myself and my body. I gave up, and I
despaired, and sometimes I wonder exactly how much the decision to get
weight-loss surgery was a rational, well-thought-out decision, and how
much was desperation and depression.

So many sizes down, in
rapid succession. I had to replace my entire wardrobe several times
over. And I realized the one thing I wasn’t buying–I never bought
anything with an elastic waist. I always bought my size, not something
oversized. And I never bought casual clothes–comfy pants, sweatpants, T-shirts, baggy jeans. Everything I have bought has been a celebration.
Even the ill-advised fashion choices have been clothes that are a
little bit dressy, snazzy, stuff I would wear to a nice restaurant or
to the office. My body now is far from perfect and gives me fits and I
struggle to accept its myriad flaws, but I work to love it. I work to
look good and to feel good. I never want to dress down again.

is a chicken and egg question–did I give up and despair and that’s why
I started to dress as if I had something to hide, or did I start
dressing as if I had something to hide, and that is when I began to
despair, to hate the body hiding under all the layers, to never want to
look at it again? I think it is a little bit of both. I wonder what
would have happened, if I had accepted my new contours, gone out and
bought myself a gorgeous new dress, a pair of hot new dark-wash jeans
in my new size, a top that was cut to show off my boobs. If I had taken care of myself.
If I had thought that what I deserved couldn’t be predicated by my
size. How much hurt would I have saved myself, and how much pain?

8 Replies to “naked: how you dress is how you feel is how you dress”

  1. Hi, Your post has me in tears. I am at the point of absolutly hating myself. I hurt all the time, but can’t get moving to help loose because of the pain….I have given up almost as many programs (diets) as I am years old. It is certainly something to think about. Thanks.

  2. Awesome post, sister!
    “did I give up and despair and that’s why I started to dress as if I had something to hide, or did I start dressing as if I had something to hide, and that is when I began to despair?”
    For me, it was the former, not the latter. I hated myself more and more as I got heavier and heavier, and I was embarrassed and ashamed of my weight and my size, and I started to dress in ways that tried to disguise it, big sacks that I thought hid me, made me invisible. My apology to the world: sorry, I’m fat, but here I am in my big shapeless sack, not offending you, please ignore me.
    Fucking sad, no? The first thing I did when I started to lose weight was buy sexy, fitted clothes. I don’t think I could have done that when I was fat. I WISH I could have done it, I definitely think everyone should dress in a way that makes them feel special and sexy and worthy regardless of their size, but I personally couldn’t. Being thinner finally gave me the guts to dress in a way that said, Hello world, here I am.

  3. I found myself in a similar boat when I got laid off. Suddenly while I was looking for work I was wearing clothes I could comfortably help carry a vintage sofa while wearing since I was combing thrift stores every day for items to sell on Craigslist. I allowed myself to leave the house on a daily basis on a purely functional level, not caring if I felt I was cute or not and as a result, I didn’t feel cute, not most of the time, and I was this ghost. It wasn’t until I started working, and wearing skirts nearly everyday again, that I realized how different I feel, not only because I’m employed but because I am prepared to be recognized every day. It’s the reason I dress up in a very casual office setting, because it makes my attitude different and I am again, very aware of how that matters. The sad thing is sometimes it’s as simple as wearing lipstick and mascara instead of the cloak of sullen invisibility no matter what size..

  4. Everyone who’s overweight says it isn’t the same thing, but I was completely ostracized in middle school for being too skinny, and it is exactly the same thing. I hated myself and hid in clothes exactly the same way for the same reasons.
    People who were supposed to be my friends would accuse me of every eating disorder in front of me or just start rumors behind my back, and they also accused me of being a lesbian b/c I didn’t have boobs or get my period. If I got too close on defense to one of my basketball teammates during practice, they’d be grossed out. Everyone, including myself hated me. All because I was too tall and skinny.
    I maintain my hypothesis that we live in an extended version of a sorority house where homogenization is the ultimate goal. No one is going to be happy until we all look the same and are rattling bags of insecurities. There’s a sweet spot of acceptance, and I think that happens between sizes 8 and 10, maybe 6 if you’re below 5’7″. Too tall and skinny, you must be mentally unstable and on drugs/starving/vomiting. Too fat, you’re a stupid dumpy loser. But achieve that golden size:height ratio? Then you’re One Of Us.
    I wish we could fix it all.

  5. Anne, you’re such a rock star. Thanks for sharing this.
    At my heaviest, I wore what my husband dubbed my “hide inside clothes,” and felt very similarly to you. And once I began to lose, I also went directly for tailored, sexy duds. I really do believe that dressing to flatter your figure can help you ACCEPT your body just a little bit more … even if you never actually like or love it. But I also agree that somewhere in there – between your old clothes not fitting and picking out new ones that will – it can get all tangled up.

  6. If you are willig, I would really like to talk about this some more. Publicly or via email or whatever foats your boat.
    I am currently somewhere over 400lbs due to a pancreatic tumor and some other endocrine stuff. I work hard on being accepting of my size, and I think I do pretty good at it. I tell myself I am self confident, proud of who I am, out there and visible.
    But your post strikes a major chord with me. It’s 12:40pm and I am wearing pajama bottoms and an old tshirt from college with a bleach stain and a hole in the side. Because they’re comfy. Earlier today I actually went grocery shopping in this very same snazzy outfit.
    I struggle with my self esteem deep down, I know I do. Are my clothes the key to admitting this to myself? Are they my window to how I REALLY, TRULY view my body????

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