I had hoped to write this ahead of time, as I did with my monthly bicycle post so it could be posted while I was out of town last week, but alas – I couldn’t get it all done! And maybe I’m glad of that – because this lesson is different than the one I had in mind before my trip. This lesson is truly going to be a challenge for me.
As many of you know, though I love fashion, I tend to dress for comfort above all else – and finding a balance between comfy clothing and pretty clothing is often hard for me to strike. I’d prefer to be comfy and able to ride my bike and play with my students and walk around town and get sweaty and dirty and not worry about high heels that make my feet hurt or silk blouses that would be ruined by sweat or fancy dresses that might get caught in my bicycle chain. And yet, when I dress the way I feel like dressing, I often end up regretting it. I go out in public and feel frumpy, fat and/or downright ugly and it robs me of my confidence.
This lesson was never more apparent to me than when I was in Portland last week for an educational seminar. I knew it was going to be long hours, hard work, never-ending commutes and hot days, so I did what I normally do: defaulted to my comfy, but ugly clothing items. I had my classic sage green cargo pants which are super comfy but aren’t very flattering, clunky sneakers, and an array of loose, unspectacular t-shirts. I didn’t bring a single accessory that I’m famous for at work: scarves, necklaces, etc.
When I arrived at the first class, I was instantly ready to sink back against the wall. Though everyone was dressed pretty casually, they all had lovely outfits on. Cute flats with a pair of jeans, a pretty skirt with sandals, scarves and tank tops, and the like. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I looked fat and ugly, which affected how I interacted with everyone there.
On Friday night, after an entire week of trying to avoid talking to my classmates or drawing any attention to myself due to my embarrassment by how frumpy I looked, I attempted to dress up for the First Friday event on Clinton, where my sister-in-law has a store (Tangible Gifts). Being as my products were going to be featured there, I attempted to dress up as much as possible with a skirt I bought just for the occasion. Yet still, in my not-so-pretty sandals and droopy shirt, I felt fat and frumpy. It was hot, too, which was making me sweaty and thus, even more self-conscious.
When my brother and I were standing outside, trying to get people to enter a giveaway for a free tonka lip balm, I saw a beautiful young woman in a white dress walk by with one of the most self-confident attitudes I had ever seen. I’m pretty sure it was Christa Taylor, a Portland-based fashion/Christian blogger, which absolutely cracked me up – in a big city like Portland, what are the chances that I would cross paths with (and recognize) someone I’d only known from a blog?!
But the point is, Christa is one of those bloggers who writes about the importance of dressing well and projecting a confident, beautiful exterior to the world, both for oneself, and, in her case, as an expression of the standards of her faith. I have to say, I was struck by this sighting (whether it was Christa or not – and I’m pretty sure it was). Just a few feet away from me sat dozens of stunningly beautiful, classic Portland “hipsters.” The difference between them and Christa was palpable. I wouldn’t have taken notice of any of the young women sitting at The Press Club tables next to me – they looked like any other young woman in her twenties – youthful, stylish, super thin, and emitting that oddly paradoxical combination of arrogance and insecurity. Christa, however, was wearing a classically-cut dress and the most exceptional thing about her was her attitude – confident but open without a hint of false bravado or forced style. Her outfit seemed like a reflection of her inner self.
There it was: that darned truth staring me in the face. Maybe it really is important to dress in a way that uplifts us and makes us feel confident. You can’t imagine how much I hate even thinking of this. I want to be able to wear ugly, old, ripped corduroys, t-shirts and sneakers and feel beautiful and confident. But I can’t. I can’t feel pretty when I see “frumpy” looking back at me in the mirror.
So the challenge this month may be easy for many of you, but not so much for me. Even now, I’m sitting here writing this wearing an old t-shirt, fleece shorts and flip-flops. No makeup, no jewelry. And that’s fine – you know I’m all about embracing ourselves without such embellishments. But maybe it’s time to make the effort to spruce myself up, even on the days when I’ll be home working. Maybe it’s time to extend the boundaries of my “taking myself seriously” project to encompass my closet…
So don’t wear your fat pants cuz they’re the only things you feel comfortable in. Don’t limit yourself cuz everything in your wardrobe is waiting for you to lose weight, or because you don’t feel good enough about yourself to dress up a little. Go buy some bigger clothes (and don’t judge yourself about it). Get up and put a little eyeliner or and a nice skirt or pair of pants. Respect and love yourself and dress accordingly.