I have always loved fashion and been through an array of questionable styles in my 22 years – Avril Lavigne inspired skater chick, chavvy couture, emo, punk rocker, boho chic to whatever I am now and in that exact order. Thankfully, the beginning part of that list was during my stroppy teenage years and therefore, there is no photographic evidence. I’d follow trends whilst placing my own spin on different looks with particular inspiration to the likes of Alexa Chung and Fearne Cotton. Until recently, I lost sight of my fashion including what I liked, disliked or was inspired by. Fashion became replaced by an unhealthy obsession with food and exercise and I’d lost so much weight that clothes didn’t fit anymore and I was shopping from the children’s section. Slowly, my interest and passion for fashion is developing alongside my confidence.
Me vs my wardrobe
Clothing became my nemesis and getting dressed was and still is a predicament I find myself in every single day. If it was acceptable to wear pyjamas in public, I don’t think I’d be the first to say I would. When your body goes through so many changes, it is often difficult to understand what to wear, what suits you and above all, what you feel comfortable in. Particularly as women, we experience changes in our bodies multiple times over a lifetime as a result of biological changes such as puberty and childbirth. Inevitably, in the process of recovery for eating disorders, such as anorexia, the body undergoes a lot of changes in often a very small amount of time. Consequently, finding that your clothes don’t fit and your shape has changed can be very upsetting and catalyses a lot of feelings of guilt and shame. Putting on weight through recovery has a serious impact on your confidence and self esteem – due to the nature of the illness, weight gain and essentially going against what the eating disorder tells you is not a nice experience which is why anorexia and other eating disorders are so difficult to treat as the sufferer is understandably reluctant to doing something that will cause so much distress. The inner critic, and in my opinion, pathological liar dictate the thoughts I get when attempting to dress myself in clothes that fit much differently now I am a healthy weight. As you might imagine, this experience causes high levels of anxiety and a rather messy bedroom.
When I was severely underweight, I went through a manic phase of shopping for extremely tiny clothes to reassure myself of my weight loss. See Living in the moment. I reached weight restoration relatively quickly as a result of following my meal plan so I was only able to wear all these new and tiny clothes a few times. Other than a waste of money, I was left completely confused and without confidence on how to dress myself. I have always been a lover of fashion but as my confidence disappeared, along with my health, I didn’t have a clue on what I liked or would look right on me. As I was getting used to my new HEALTHY body, I would throw on some joggers and a baggy jumper to hide what I felt ashamed of. Getting dressed took up to 2 hours of dressing and undressing, crying and screaming and dithering in front of lots of different mirrors. It is only until recently that I have begun to accept my body for what it is now that my weight appears to be stabalising: acceptance is the first and hardest step to complete body positivity and self love.
Be comfortable, be confident
Thanks to the blessing of this sunny weather, I have enjoyed wearing shorts and dresses. I have always found these items much easier to wear than trousers as they aren’t going to cling to my legs – a part of my body I feel most self conscious about, particularly my bum and thighs. Jeans have always been a particular hurdle and I am now an owner of 2 pairs, one pair of ‘mom’ jeans and one pair of skinny jeans. Tighter trousers are also making it into the repertoire of my wardrobe after hours of deliberating in shop changing rooms. Opting for a floaty dress or my favourite wrap dress is always a safe option in which I feel most comfortable. If I am comfortable, I am confident, which makes Living in the moment and enjoying time with those I love much easier. I believe you should wear whatever the hell you want to wear no matter on your shape or size however, I have found that a wrap dress looks incredibly flattering on everyone. Likewise, I have discovered wrap skirts which are a new favourite of mine, not to mention versatile for day and night. I can be comfortable as it hides the places I am insecure about as well as not feeling too uncomfortable about bold prints. I have the same eye for the bold clothing I used to go for before my anorexia but when I try things on my brain doesn’t always interpret it in the way it used to. “The shape is wrong, it’s tight in the wrong places or it’s too bold and I don’t want to draw attention to myself.” The changing room mirrors somehow highlight all my insecurities making me think “wow, do I really look like that? Yikes!” As I become more confident in my body, I hope to wear whatever I want without assessing how it can best cover me up. Who knows, maybe crop tops will enter my wardrobe? FYI, crop tops are for everyone, size doesn’t matter.
I have always loved shopping but now it is something I often dread – I prefer shopping on my own when I have lots of time (and money…which is never) or doing it online in the comfort of my own home. Today I hit Oxford Circus and tried on a lovely red skater dress. The cut was flattering, it wasn’t too tight, the material was comfortable and in addition, it was red which I’ve always thought goes well with my skin complexion. For the first time since reaching a healthy weight, I felt extremely comfortable and instantly went to the till and became its rightful owner. I surprised myself with how confident I felt as well as making a quick decision, yay for spontaneity!
If in doubt, throw it out
A significant part of recovery for me was throwing out all the old clothes that were too small. Keeping them hidden in the depths of my wardrobe was just a form of self punishment as I’d look at how small they were and be reminded of the body I once had. This definitely gave my anorexia power to do its usual sweet talking to persuade me to starve myself. When I moved house, I brutally sorted through all my clothes – if it was too small, even in the slightest, it was out! One pair of jeans which I wore almost everyday were the hardest to part with. I remember being so happy that they hung off my hips despite them being in such a small size – those jeans were my badge of honour. I managed to get rid of half of my wardrobe, which works in my favour as a great excuse to buy new fitting clothes, and I sent the load off to a charity shop which supported mental health. My new housemate got first picks on my hand-me-downs so she was pretty pleased to say the least. A dilemma I faced whilst shoulders deep in clothes was that some clothes did fit except because I was so used to them being baggy or too big, I felt uncomfortable wearing them. The clothes fit how they were supposed to but not having correct fitting clothes for so long felt quite alien. It was just a constant reminder of how much weight I’d put on. Instead of settling for clothes which made me feel absolutely rubbish, I bought new ones which fit properly and weren’t burdened with the memory of once being baggy. New wardrobe, new life.