- Sources of Inspiration
- The Fine Print
- And Whatnot
- Polka-Dot Tunic: Japanese Weekend via eBay
- Red Cardigan: Vintage Michael Kors, mommed
- Nude Cork Wedges: Jones New York via DSW
- Black skirt: induetime via eBay
- Necklace: David Yurman, gifted
Here’s something that isn’t news: I have pretty pale skin. Even in the summer, when my upper body at least manages to get a little tan, I’m still pretty lacking in the pigment department. It wasn’t always this way, actually. When I was a kid, I was one of those people who never burned despite some somewhat lackluster sunscreen habits and a great deal of time outside. Then, sometime in my early twenties, around the time I started expressing more of my mother’s genes for no apparent reason, my skin just . . . got lighter. I got a sunburn for the first time, decided I’d really rather that never happen again, and started being, well, rather aggressive with the sunscreen.
For a while, this bothered me, and admittedly there are still moments in early spring when I’m, well, rather stunned by my own paleness. But like my shoulders, my quirks and my unusual name, this too is something I’ve grown into with age, and something I’ve come genuinely to embrace as time has worn on. My pale, sunburn-prone skin is a constant reminder to be more careful (or at least, as careful as I should be) with my skin in the sun. It’s led me to experiment with garments that wouldn’t ordinarily be high on my list (read: sunhats). And unexpectedly, I’ve found my pale skin to be . . . somewhat dramatic. Today, I’m highlighting that drama in an outfit that breaks all the rules for pale-skinned gals (and particularly, those of us who also have dark hair): I’ve gone black and white and red all over, anchoring the look with nude pumps that allow all the visual “weight” of the look to remain above the knees. It flirts a little with Dita von Tesse for summer, but the relatively airy fabrics and nude shoes keep the look from seeming too out of season. And as with all my attempts to “dress my best” this week, it reframes and celebrates something that’s sometimes been a struggle for me to embrace.
Do you dress your skin tone? If so, how? How have you experimented with or challenged the “rules” for someone with your skin tone?
- Peach/Orange Tunic: Japanese Weekend via eBay
- Navy Abstract Floral-Print Skirt: induetime via eBay
- Nude Cork Wedges: Jones New York via DSW
- Necklace: Filene’s $4 bin
- Oatmeal Long Cardigan: Halogen via Nordstrom’s, gift from mom
Both E. and S. of academichic have spoken eloquently this week about the many (many!) changes the pregnant body goes through, and have touched on something I’ve also been struck by: the almost-total way pregnancy has changed the list of things I love (and don’t love as much) about my body. Just as I’ve been surprised by the things that have and haven’t changed, I’ve been surprised at my own responses to these changes, at the way things have fluctuated from being on my own internal lists of welcome and less welcome alterations.
Today, I’m celebrating two such situations, only one of which would have made a “best” list a year ago: my chest and my legs. Pre-pregnancy, my general view of my body was more or less, top half good, lower half bad. Even though I could admire and appreciate (or try to) all the things my legs have helped me do in life (running, cycling, backpacking across the desert of Western Australia), my lower half has generally been a body image no-go area, for pretty much as long as I can remember. My strangely-proportioned lower half has led to numerous awkward pants-fitting experiences, abundant late-adolescent deep-sighing, and a lot of miles, but not a lot of warm, fuzzy feelings. Conversely, I’ve always felt relatively positively about my upper half, which feels (once I embraced my shoulders) properly proportioned and well contained, and comprises some of my most powerful (forearms, shoulders, upper back) and delicate (waist, wrists, collarbones) bits.
But pregnancy has more or less upended this perception: all of a sudden, my legs seem oddly normal, proportionate, even dare-I-say shapely, and I was overwhelmed by the rapid, er, chest expansion that began almost immediately in early pregnancy. (As always, when I talk about body image issues, I’m using subjective, what-it-felt-like-for-me vocabulary, so YMMV.) While I’ve been thrilled that my legs have felt like an anchor of normalcy and body positivity, finding a way to embrace my distorted chest (all puns intended) has been more of a challenge. But I’m working on it, and on finding the things to celebrate about even this strangest of pregnancy-related body changes: after all, even this change has a truly miraculous purpose. And of course, there are other, more sobering reasons not to bad-mouth my chest: in a world where breast cancer still claims the lives of too many women, breast health is nothing to take for granted. And as with the many body-image lessons I’ve been learning as I’ve come to live with this ever-changing pregnant body of mine, I’m working on figuring out ways to take these lessons with me after our little one arrives, and in particular, to embrace the beauty in the functionality of my body, of what it’s been proving every day it’s capable of.
Have you had a major life change or experience change your relationship to a body part or your body image in general?
- Coral Draped Top: Joie via Nordstrom’s
- Abstract Floral Print Skirt: Induetime via eBay
- Brown Peep-Toe Wedges: Naturalizer via amazon.com
- Pearls: gift from mom on my wedding day
Today, I’m celebrating something a little less culturally loaded than, well, the fact that my body is, er, not alone: my shoulders. You know, the broad, slightly aggressive ones. The shoulders I got from my mother: the ones so apparently distinctive that a former colleague of hers, upon meeting me for the first time, exclaimed “Oh my goodness, you look just like her…your shoulders…” despite the fact that my mother is shorter, thinner and blonder than I am. The shoulders that have been through the proverbial wringer of many years of rock climbing, a few years of white water kayaking and too many years of carrying overlarge bookbags. The shoulders that survived one very high tech, very painful arthroscopic repair and returned to be even more useful than they were beforehand. Those shoulders. The kind of awesome ones.
While I’ve always loved and appreciated the things my shoulders have enabled me to do physically, I haven’t typically drawn attention to them. As I, er, mature, though, this has changed: like some of the other more distinctive aspects of my appearance and personality, I’ve grown into them as time has marched on. Today’s outfit is probably the sartorial equivalent of screaming that my broad, decisive shoulders are here to stay: not only am I naming and claiming them, I’m naming and claiming them with ruffles. And points. And eye-searingly bright coral. And even on a day when it was 97 degrees and I felt like the cautionary whale, I’m having quite a bit of fun doing it, as a matter of fact! Because whether or not they’re feminine or typical, my shoulders are, well, me. I’m no shrinking violet, and neither are they.
- Cropped Tweed Blazer: Tracy Reese via Nordstrom’s (2004?)
- Navy Tee: Gap Maternity
- Black Trousers: Gap Maternity
- Black Flats: Bandolino via ShoeWoo
- Necklace: David Yurman, gifted
I’m so happy to be participating in Academichic’s Dress Your Best weeks this year! For the next two weeks, I’ll be featuring outfits that feature my best, well, features, as well as some that reframe those I’m less sure about in morebody-positive ways. In a time of personal, professional and physical flux, I’m looking forward to this opportunity to celebrate the state I’m in—where I am in my body-image journey, and the ways that clothes (and blogging!) both mediate and perform aspects of my relationship to my body.
To start out this process, I’m,well…cheating, and starting with some low-hanging fruit: my baby bump. I’m thrilled to be pregnant, and D. and I can’t wait to meet our daughter in September. It’s fascinating to watch my body change (often seemingly by the hour) to nurture this new life, which seems to announce itself with increasing volume on a minute-by-minute basis (why yes, little bean, I suppose that is your…foot?…i can see kicking through tight tee-shirts?).
But loving the state of affairs and springing into being with an innate understanding of how to dress a body that seems to change almost too rapidly aren’t the same thing, and I haven’t necessarily been a model of how to integrate my changing form into my self-concept smoothly. Initially, I struggled to navigate dressing a bump that was big enough to seem to make all my clothes refuse to fit, but that didn’t “read” as obviously pregnant. As time went on and my pregnancy became more obvious, I became more aware of the assessments some people made as they read the shape of my body against their own expectations of what a woman at stage X of pregnancy “should” look like. When I started a new (summer) job more than five months into my pregnancy, I grappled with the appropriate way to dress the pregnant body in a professional environment surrounded by people I’ve never met. I’ve tried (not always successfully) to balance “cuteness” and professionalism, between “coming out” and passing. Like so many things about my life right now, this is all still a work in progress.
But today, I’m not passing or even balancing, I’m announcing. I’m speaking and removing all doubt, rather than remaining silent and being thought a fool, so to speak. Does it affect people’s perceptions of me? In some way (for better or for worse), of course it does. But bodies are never neutral, and this body—with everything it “says” or appears to say about my private life, my goals, my personality or what have you—is the one I have right now, and the things it says—to me, anyway—are pretty darn worth celebrating. So good for you, bump. You’ve got kind of a lot going on—and it’s all stuff I’m pretty proud of.
Just for the sake of amusing comparisons, here’s nearly the same outfit at the beginning and end of my second trimester:
Time flies, doesn’t it?
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