Hey, this took a long time to write! It’s Q2, and here I am finally putting virtual pen to virtual paper. But rest assured, I have been trying to live this, even if I haven’t been talking about it.
My theme for the year is: “Making my outsides match my insides.” Or, put another way, “wearing my heart on my sleeve.”
What does that mean?
My mother said to me once, “You just don’t pay attention to how you look, do you?” At the time I heard it as an insult, but I’ve come to realize it’s not — it was an accurate observation of my state of mind.
See, this shows in how I treat my body — as a sort of meat car for the really important stuff, i.e. my thoughts, memories, mind, etc. What does it matter what my outsides look like?
Heck, I drive a 2007 Toyota Yaris; I don’t even care what my car-car looks like. It just gets me from one place to another.
And so with my meat car.
But I’m a materialist, so I know this is false thinking. There is not separate mind stuff and body stuff. (Take that, Descartes!) The mind is the brain is the body. (Or, at least, the mind is an epiphenomenon that can’t be directly controlled except through the bo– look, I was a cog sci major, okay??)
So, yeah, I have never paid a lot of attention to my appearance. Most days I work from home wearing pajamas; if I have a meeting, I might actually take a shower and put on a bra and real clothes. This is a lifestyle the pandemic has only encouraged — and the permanently remote job I have now does not help.
A lot of my work over the past few years — with these annual themes, in therapy — has been about being genuine, vulnerable, true to myself. About putting my “heart on my sleeve” in an emotional or mental way.
Now I want to put my heart on my sleeve in terms of my physical being — my personal style, my body image, and the stuff I’m putting out into the world.
Get ready, we’re putting a party hat on this meat car.
I have always been envious of people who have a personal style. The sort of person who you see and think “gee, I feel like I know who they are just from looking at them.”
I am not like that, unless you consider my greasy face and a 10-year t-shirt to be an expression of my personality.
(I mean… I think my ripped “Rowsdower: Canada’s Brass Knuckles” t-shirt does have some personality to it).
I’ve put a lot of thought, last year and this, into what I WANT my personal style to be. I’ve put together a Pinterest board called “I want to be fabulous” with pictures that inspire me. I’ve also written out some bullet points that I think express my desired aesthetic well:
- Historical elements
- Baroque (in both senses) details — beautiful inutility. Lace, ruffles, silk.
- A bit of equestrian chic, like an eccentric noblewoman riding through the fields
- Nerdy things, ie my Tee Turtle shirts, TES jewelry
- Lushness, swishiness
- Jewel tones and blacks
- A little bit of goth
- Capital R Romanticism
- Actually, if I could look like Orly of Buckingham1, that’s right on. Maybe with more skulls and moons.
- By which I mean Orlando Bloom as the Duke of Buckingham in the 2011 The Three Musketeers. My god he’s fabulous and I’m not sure if I want to be him or I want to bang him… or, being ace, “have passionate conversations about poetic forms while brushing each other’s hair and kissing.”
I tried to boil this down to a single tagline, and what I came up with was “eccentric time-lost noblethem.”
So how does one become such a grand thing? Let’s set some intentions!
Catalog wardrobe using the Stylebook app
I downloaded Stylebook a couple of months ago, and while I’m not making full use of it yet, I already love it. It’s inexpensive (a one-time $3.99), and has a ton of functionality, as well as robust documentation to help you learn how to use it. Once you have a full wardrobe to work with, you can ask it to “shuffle” items and suggest outfits.
Basically, it helps you get the most out of the wardrobe you have.
However, it does operate on having all your wardrobe items entered in, and that is a challenge I’ve only just begun.
I think a modest goal here would be to add five items to Stylebook per week. That’s one for every week day. I assume I will be wearing more than one garment per day, and that I will wear real clothes at least one or two days a week.
Participate in Snazzual Fridays
This is a hashtag/event my friend Tegan created at the start of the pandemic last year, to get us out of the rut of the permanent athleisure lifestyle and to put on clothes that might not otherwise get worn. I’ve done this a couple of times, but mostly my snazzual days don’t fall on Fridays. That’s okay — any day can be snazzual if you feel it in your heart.
So my modest goal here is to Be snazzual 1-2 times per month, and document it. (More on that latter part below).
Continue to define my personal style, and expand (or purge) my wardrobe appropriately
As with all “stuff,” acquiring clothes is infinitely easier than getting rid of them.
My most recent influx of clothes has been a) giant bag of shirts and leggings I got from someone on my Buy Nothing group, and b) Stitchfix.
I’ve been surprised how many new-to-me pieces came out of the giant bag o’ clothes — there’s a lot of “tunic tops and leggings,” which is my go-to day-to-day style when I actually put on clothes. (It also ties in well with my “lushness” and “swishiness” elements — and I generally think the “long over lean” look is a good one for me).
Stitchfix has also been positive, but it’s also expensive, and I want to avoid getting more clothes than I will wear or have room to store. I’ll continue to use Stitchfix, but I’m still figuring out the right frequency.
I also want to expand my personal style pinboard and use it to extend the possibilities of my wardrobe.
Finally, I want to make a habit of reorganizing my closet seasonally, to rotate in seasonal items and get rid of stuff I haven’t worn in the past X amount of time.
One thing I run into pretty quickly when thinking about personal style is… the mirror.
I want to look like an elf, and I have the body of a hobbit.
I am not tall and thin and angular and androgynous. I am short and fat and squishy.
I’m not okay with this. I’ve never been okay with this.
And yet… this body is here to stay. It’s the only meat car I’ve got. I’m not getting any taller, my fat is always going to be distributed this way, and whenever I’ve intentionally tried to lose weight, it hasn’t been terribly effective.
In the vein of “accepting the things you cannot change,” here’s what I’m going to do to improve my body image in 2021.
Take more selfies
Selfies aren’t just vanity — they play an important role in accepting our body by curating how we present it to the world. If we can repeatedly see ourselves at our best, maybe it becomes easier to say “ew I’m ugly and fat and my hair is too thin” every time I look in the mirror
I’ve already created a “Selfiegeddon 2021” album on Facebook; I intend to add 50 selfies to it by the end of the year. (We’ll see if that’s unique shots or total — I’m willing to bend the rules depending on how I’m doing).
Focus on health, not weight
Do I want to weigh less? Yes — if nothing else, I want a more proportional body, so that clothes fit me better.
Do I want to focus on losing weight? Hell nah.
My solution to this is to focus on activities that are healthier — and be surprised by weight loss that may happen.
For example, since the beginning of this year I’ve been trying to eradicate my sweet tooth. Not just sucrose, either — I make ample use of artificial sweetener. But I feel like all that does is keep those cravings alive and make me hungrier in the long run.
When I get to the point where I would sell my soul for a Boston creme donut is usually where I say, “okay, it’s time to lay off the sweets.” After about two weeks without, I crave sweets a lot less and my hunger levels are less spiky.
So, in that vein, my “healthy not weighty” goals:
- Moderate my relationship with sweets, as specified above.
- Continue exercise in a gentle, non-competitive way.
- Eat more veggies. “More” is vague, I know. For one thing, more than three mini peppers with my usual lunch of meat and cheese 😉
- Eat breakfast. I don’t do this enough, because usually when I wake up the last thing I want is food. But it keeps my hunger at reasonable levels throughout the day.
Find better role models in body image
I want to look like an elf — but who says elves have to be tall and thin?
Tolkien, probably, but let’s not forget he was drawing from the poetic Eddas. And if you go back far enough in Nordic/Germanic myth, elves and dwarves are the same. (Alberich, who appears in the Ring cycle, is variously described as an elf or a dwarf, I seem to recall).
… and if there’s anything playing D&D taught me about dwarves, it’s that you can hear the clap of their ass cheeks through Mithril Hall.
So, uh, I guess what I’m saying is, I not only need to put my own image out into the world — I need to find images that represent what I am looking for and are relatable and achievable. I also want to stop having a viscerally different reaction to images of thin vs. fat people.
Earlier this year I followed some plus-size alt-fashion Instagrammers. But I’m not a heavy Insta user, so I can’t say this has done anything for me. I also try to skew my pinboard towards plus-size fashion icons, too, but lemme just say all your results change for the worse when you add “plus size” to any query on Pinterest.
So I need to do some noodling on this point. But bottom line, I want to merge “people who look like me,” “people who are being their authentic selves through fashion,” and “people who look fabulous.”
All right? All right. I think that’s enough to keep me busy for a year. Now back to my paint-stained pajamas for the night.