Yesterday, a good friend of mine posted on Facebook that a trip to the mall with her daughter had left her feeling old, outdated and fat. This friend is far from any of those adjectives. In fact, she’s beautiful, vivacious and perfectly shaped – not to mention she possesses an inner passion for life that touches all of those around her.
Her frustration with the shopping experience stemmed from several factors: 1.) She’d been shopping at a posh, overpriced mall in a pretentious part of town that caters to the wealthy and unrealistic. 2.) She’d been shopping with her 15-year-old daughter, who is tall, willowy and, as of yet, lacks the curves of a grown woman. And 3.) She’d been trying on clothes that should have fit her right, but, in her opinion, didn’t. “Victoria’s Secret makes nothing for a curvy body, at all. I tried on a bunch of dresses, and if it fit me on the top, it was too big everywhere else. If the everywhere-else fit, it didn’t fit my top.”
A mother-daughter shopping adventure that should have been fun and fulfilling, ended with my friend crying in the parking lot. Even though she admitted later that she felt ridiculous about it, she also admitted that she’s in a place right now where she can’t quite embrace her curves and would like to get back to a body weight that she’s comfortable with. To most anyone, she would never be viewed as fat, not even for an instant; the curves she possesses are beautiful reminders that she has two lovely children and a blessed, abundant life for which she can feel proud of. But her self-doubt rightfully belongs to her. She is entitled to own that emotion, and I respect this and don’t wish to diminish or in any way invalidate her frustration.
What struck me the most after reading her Facebook post is that, personally, I don’t experience the shopping mall dilemma. A woman who has been thin most of her life and finds herself carrying a few extra pounds will undoubtedly feel disheartened by the fact that the clothing size which once fit her perfectly now doesn’t fit right, if at all. But a woman who has been overweight in varying degrees for the majority of her life doesn’t feel as disheartened, because she’s learned and accepted over time not to be delusional about the clothes shopping experience. She’s stopped searching for a particular fashion trend, style or size and is simply searching for whatever will “do the trick,” hoping it won’t result in the dreaded potato-sack. Sadly, when you have lowered expectations, disappointment doesn’t come around as often. But it does make finding that perfect dress, blouse or bra that much more rewarding.
With shops like Lane Bryant and online specialty stores offering a vast range of sizes, finding flattering jeans, cute dresses and bras with the right fit has become much more attainable. Yesterday, I stopped into a Lane Bryant location I had not been to before and was surprised to see an entirely new look and layout: fashion-worthy blouses and slacks on strategically-placed chrome racks; bras and panties in every cut and style displayed beneath decorative chandeliers. Gone was the department store look. In its stead was a specialty boutique that resembled Victoria’s Secret – only with more abundance, realism and accessibility. Although, in my opinion, Lane Bryant would be better off sticking to its own unique branding technique, offering us plump women a pleasant place to shop where we’re both welcomed and accepted is something to give accolades for.
So to my beautiful friend who faced the disappointing shopping experience yesterday: I have compassion for you. I have compassion for every woman who finds herself without a familiar size at her favorite clothing boutique. I understand the difficulty in accepting your reflection in the dressing room mirror, even though it’s never as monstrous and unforgiving as you give it credit for. But know that there’s hope for finding an equilibrium of peace with your body. Look beyond the norm… think outside the box… become creative in your shopping endeavors. Don’t put too much stock in the pretentious, high-couture malls, where reality is shamefully skewed.
Getting to that place of embracing your curves is a journey not likely to be accomplished overnight, and it may even be exhausting and seem implausible. But have faith – once you arrive at it, the liberation is tangible.