I was clothes shopping a few days ago and while I was in the change room I heard something that made my heart stop for a moment. I overheard an interaction between a customer and an employee that went something like this:
Customer: "I don't think this looks good on me."
Employee: "That piece hasn't looked good on anyone so far."
Customer: "Mhmm, I can see that."
Employee: "Yeah it makes you look worse than if you were naked."
Now I don't believe that the employee's comment was directed at the customer. It was a plural you, or like the French would say, "vous." Perhaps she meant all women, maybe just "plus size" women, as we were in a 14+ clothing store (more on plus size as a category in a later post). Regardless of the who, the message was the same, women don't look good naked and the purpose of clothing is to minimize (I'm looking at you Spanx) and cover what's underneath as much as possible. This is a sad sentiment. Clothing can be a fantastic source of self-expression and individuality, but we look good in clothes just as much as out of them.
I believe this comment is consistent with a larger, societal idea that clothing should be slimming. This reminds me of trends such as, wearing black, vertical stripes and leggings restricted for certain bodies. The unwritten rules are don't take up space and mask the natural shape of your body. What does this mean for us when our fashion, and for some self-expression, is restricted to certain types of bodies? How do we embody self love when we keep hearing that our bodies are something to be hidden away?
It starts with self compassion for our imperfections; being imperfect is being human. Then we begin to challenge the messages we hear and relay to ourselves. Imagine you're standing naked in front of a mirror. What is that little voice in your head telling you about yourself? Where have you heard that message before? Perhaps from an advertisement, a family member or social media. Maybe it was yesterday or when you were quite young. Then ask yourself, is this a message that serves me? Is this a message that helps me be my best, self loving self? If not, maybe this is an idea that can be let go. Piece by piece the messages of self-loathing and "not good enough" can be pulled apart until what is left behind is love for what our imperfect bodies do for us every day. Maybe then you can feel as good as you already look naked.