WHAT DO YOU SEE WHEN YOU LOOK IN THE MIRROR?
What do you see when you look at yourself in the mirror? This question has been on my mind lately and I wanted to chat to you about it.
It all started when I went shopping with a very good friend, searching for dresses she could wear to work and also on the weekend with a different shoe. So, we headed to one of my favourite Australian designers, Zimmermann, to find what we could find. I sat on the “boyfriend” chair in the fitting room, mainly to keep myself away from all the tempting racks of fashion heaveness, while my friend went into the fitting room with five items.
The first dress was a long style; black silk georgette with ruffles cascading down the front – ideal for work belted and a heel, or for a casual dinner back with a sneaker. My friend walked out and took a quick look in the mirror before turning to head back to try the next one on. What just happened? Next up, a navy and white floral with a high neck and oversized sleeve – “divine”. I shrieked as she walked out, but again she didn’t even look at the dress before spinning on her heels. Ok, this is getting weird. On the third dress I could tell that her energy was gone and that she was getting more and more depressed. Again, she didn’t look at the dress.
Enough already! I stood up, grabbed her hands and asked, “What is it?” She lied and said, “OMG nothing, nothing this is so fun!” I sat down and asked, “What are you looking at in the mirror?” Again lying, she replied, “just trying to work out which dress looks the best”. I said, “No, no, what are you looking at every time you look in the mirror”? With teary eyes she finally said, “I just see my fat stomach. Every dress looks terrible on me as my tummy after having kids is just so flabby and gross”. So, I finally got to the truth. In her mind, she sees imperfection when all I see is the opposite. She can eat anything, she can wear anything. She’s perfect!
How the mind plays tricks! Do you remember the answer to my question, how do you feel when you look in the mirror? Well, truth be told, I sometimes feel the same way as my friend. For me, I focus in on my arms, which I like to cover because I just don’t like them. I know there’s no issue really, but it’s my secret dislike about myself. Most of US do this. You are nodding aren’t you!
Since then, I’ve noticed so many other people (clients, family, friends even my kids!) do the same thing. It could be a facial feature, a body part, your skin, a bump here, a roll there, your age - really the list goes on and on. And even though there is no sense to what you see, it’s your reality. And to be honest, as long as it’s low level and not stopping you from being happy most of the time, you’ll probably put up with it. If, on the other hand, you are unhappy most of the time, I really urge you to seek professional help.
So with me, it will probably come as no surprise that the way I cope is using clothes. Yes, I’ve found that I can work around my “thing” and ignore it using my antidote, clothes! Here are a few tricks I use on my clients, my friends and myself. These can really get you dressed and out the door without a daily mirror meltdown.
- Buy a bigger size than your normal size. Clothes feel better and look better when they are bigger on you. There is nothing more unflattering (and uncomfortable) than when clothes fit so snug that they almost are cutting into you! This doesn’t apply to all styles, but it’s something to consider. If clothes are tight when you buy them, just with body fluctuations depending on what day of the month it is, or how much food you ate for dinner, allows no room for any changes in your weight. It can be depressing getting dressed when clothes are too small. Buy clothes for the size you are, not the size you wish you were and forget about what “size” is on the label.
- Don’t always wear what you have always worn. Step out of your comfort zone and try different silhouettes and styles. What you wore 10 years ago may not work on you any more and might be part of the problem. Allow your style to grow up with you.
- Buying something new for every occasion is not the answer. Just because it’s new doesn’t mean you will look at yourself differently. Instead, style your outfits differently; by adding a different shoe, a belt, or leaving a few buttons open. New clothes won’t change what you don’t like about yourself.
- Stop hiding in your clothes. I see so many women wearing beach style kaftans to black tie events. I get it, you are comfortable, but there are some styles that don’t work for all dress codes. It will take effort to change your mindset but once you push yourself to get past what you see versus the reality, it can be ground breaking for your style. A kaftan can also make you lazier about dressing. I know you love them, but you may need to break up with them to start feeling good about yourself (sorry).
- Ask someone you trust for his or her honest opinion about what you see. Even take a few photos and work out what angles work for you. I know that feeling when you see a photo of yourself and hate the photo so much you vow to burn the dress. It may not be you, or the outfit, or your body, just the angle of the photograph.
- If you want to feel comfortable while hiding things you don’t like about yourself, try wearing dark colours, as this helps the illusion. A lot of women wear prints to hide things – and choose the wrong prints. It can actually accentuate the problem rather than camouflaging it. Subtle is a better option.
- Don’t listen to salespeople (sorry, if you are one!). So many people feel pressured to buy things in the wrong size or colour because a sales person says its looks great. Remember to believe in your own intuition. 100% of the times if someone convinces you to buy something you know deep down you hate, it will stay hanging in the cupboard…with the tags still on it!
- Grooming can really help. With my, “I hate my arms” issue, when I’m tanned, the issue goes away. Or if you are not feeling great about yourself, a fresh blow dry, a new lipstick colour or even treat yourself to getting your makeup done, can really help. Also, choosing clothes that look dressy will make you feel dressed appropriately. For example, if I have ‘nothing to wear’ (yes, that happens to me too), a blazer is my go to. It gives me confidence and makes me feel “done” just from one item of clothing.
- Some styles can highlight flaws. Ballet flats are your friend. Flat and comfortable and easy. But if they have a round toe (as most do) they can make you look very, very frumpy (and grumpy). Try a ballet with a pointed toe, as these are a more elegant option. Boots that finish mid-calf make your calves look chunky. Go for an ankle boot, or over the knee style as these elongate your legs. “Mom” or high waisted jeans are great if you have the body of a teenager, but normally accentuate your belly…and after a while are soooo uncomfortable.
- Use underwear to help smooth and shape. Large bust, small bust, bumps, ripples, rolls – there are incredible undergarments that target all of these areas. And if you invest in good quality styles, they will transform how you feel. Don’t tell anyone, but I love a good double Spanx (2 pairs for extra firmness) every now and again!
- And lastly…buy a good mirror. Some mirrors make you look bigger or different and distort reality. Hang the mirror correctly so what you see is you. If they are tilted slightly, or are bowed, this could be the problem.
To conquer your flaws, you must first accept them. Using fashion to help you find a solution to your problem areas will really help you disguise them. Everyone will say to you, “don’t worry, no one notices”, but only you know deep down how they make you feel. They are “real” for you. As long as you can confidently get dressed, only you need to know what tricks you have up your sleeve. And remember...we all have similar issues. You are not alone!
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