It’s Not You, It’s the Clothes!


“I try to only buy things that I really need and can see myself in again and again. Otherwise I will end up with what my dad calls ‘rainbow chaps and unicorn hats’. That rule goes down the toilet when I have an emergency and need tights or underpants, and then anything goes.”  ~Lena Dunham, from Women in Clothes

In the spirit of Fashion Week, happening now in New York City, I thought I’d talk a little about what I think Real Beauty is when it comes to getting dressed.

Wherever you are on your journey towards self-compassion when it comes to your body, there are real challenges when it comes to shopping for clothes. I think shows, such as ‘What Not to Wear’, have brought into view some of these challenges, ranging from body misperception to downright body hatred, and everything in between. The lack of self-worth when it comes to getting dressed happens on a daily basis for many of us. It’s could be a long process of try on/take off/try on, with negative self-talk mixed in, or putting on the daily ‘uniform’, a resignation to “Why bother when I’m this size?”.

I know that feeling positive about your body is truly a process. It’s life long for me, so I get it.

But I also know that wearing clothes that fit well, feel good, and look good can help inspire you to love your form. Nope, not talking about it being a superficial outside before inside thing. Not at all! I’m talking about working with your body now, accepting it as it is, with love and gratitude–even an inch at a time–and feeling worthy of clothing yourself accordingly.

I went to a department store the other day to take advantage of their end of season sale and I asked one of the sales people for help. I’m not sure what possessed me, but I launched into a soapbox speech about how I was sick of not knowing how to fit myself with clothes, tired of negative body image getting in the way of craving style, and how I wanted to know how to deal with this for myself, but also for my clients. “Of course!” the young woman said, without skipping a beat. “I’m Ashley.” She was   wonderfully receptive to what I was talking about.

I told her some pieces that I thought were missing from my wardrobe and she went and got some for me to try on. Somehow, she must have intuited that one of these pieces was a dress, so a lovely print sheath ended up in my dressing room as well, and I realized that yes, indeed, I needed a new dress in my wardrobe! I tried on a few pairs of jeans. Nothing was working for me. I landed on one that was…better, and when asked how I liked them I said, “I dunno. I feel like I can see things, like I have x-ray vision or something.” She replied, “That’s in your mind, ‘cause those look great on you!” Her eyes widened, “You’re talking to me about body image, so you need to work that out.”

“You’re absolutely right”, I replied sheepishly.

I realize that sales people can push shoppers into purchases, but that’s not what was going on here. I left with a pair of jeans that fit me well, and a dress that I would never pick out for myself because of some inner-critic-mind-meld that would verbally abuse, “Are you kidding me? It’s a sheath! It doesn’t hide anything! You can’t wear that!”

Oh, but I can. And I think Stacy London would be proud of me!

We all need to clothe ourselves (well, most of us), so how about making it a better experience? Not all stores have Ashley’s, I realize that, but finding some support is a good start. There may be someone in your life whose style you admire and would trust to help you find yours. There are also some nice online style guides out there, or you might consider a personal stylist, but no matter who it is, make sure they understand how to style all body types.

Some Real Beauty Guidelines:

  1. It’s not you, it’s the clothes! If something doesn’t look good on you, that’s not your fault! There’s more to choose from! And by the way, Super Model and Activist Emme is making sure of that.
  2. Forget about what size it is. That’ just crazy-making! You can count on being different sizes depending on brand.
  3. You’re neither covering yourself up because you’re ‘fat’ nor dressing yourself to look ‘thin’. Both of those labels entertain the shame gremlin, who’s more than willing to sit in the dressing room with you. You’re dressing yourself to feel good, right now, as you are. Because there is no other you right now. This is a huge, positive message to yourself of acceptance, not resignation.
  4. And oh, those darn dressing rooms! Remember that shame is not allowed in with you. Easier said than done, I know, but this is what we’re working towards—self-compassion. As you’re trying your clothes on, think about one amazing thing that your body has done for you today: The deep breath that helped you to relax; the legs that take you where you want to go; the vision that brings you color and brightness in your life…Now, you get to choose if the clothes work for your amazing body, or not.

Real Beauty Means–No matter what my size and weight:

  • I am worthy of wearing clothing that fits well and feels comfortable, including  under garments and shoes.
  • I find clothing that reflects my personal style, and if I’m not sure what that is, I promise to find out.
  • I choose colors and textures that I love to wear–this is a creative process!
  • I choose clothing that makes me feel beautiful!
  • I focus on what’s right for me and my body type.
  • I make it my personal crusade to shop in stores that listen to the needs of all women and provide a selection that pleases me.
  • I purchase clothes I love because I care about how I look and feel now, not when I  am a different weight or size.
  • If I am having a world of trouble figuring all of this out, I can ask for help.


This month, the Real Food + Real Beauty group I run in Seattle is working on dressing to feel attractive. They are each asking —“What is me when it comes to style and clothing?” and “How do these clothes make me feel?” It’s a wonderful topic, and with much compassion, we enter into rich discussion.

 Here’s your Journal Prompt for this week:

 My favorite thing to wear is:   When I wear it I feel:

 If you don’t have a favorite now, how come? How do you feel about this?

Be well, be gentle with yourself, and have a wonderful week.