I think I first learned the power of clothing as a young teen, when a group of my teen peers descended on my house after a long bike ride in the New England summer heat. I offered cold juice and water and a few pairs of shorts to the girls, an innocent desire to share refreshment and clean clothes. One of the girls accepted a pair of my shorts, folded them in half and then laughed and said something along the lines of, "I'd have to fold them in half for them to fit me."
Just like that, every negative voice in my life that had told me I was overweight, ugly, disproportionate, pudgy, fat, etc, came swirling together in confirmation, in the voice of a 13 year old girl. I'd heard it a million times from my father, a few bullies at school, some members of my extended family, but this was different. My shorts were a flag of fatness. My clothes were a mockery, twice as big as the clothes of my peers.
For many years after that incident, I found excuses to avoid wearing shorts. I was too warm or none of my shorts fit right. For every reason someone could suggest I bare my legs, there was a reason not to. And it wasn't just my legs, of course, it was everything, sometimes even my neck. I hid in clothes that were baggy and ill-fitting and far too mature for a teenager. For years I drowned in turtlenecks and baggy pants, long skirts and shapeless tops.
Many years later, after much soul (and clothing store) searching, I dared to wear a short dress with tights. It felt frightening at first, but it was just one step of many. And then it happened... some miraculous combination of style liberation (great cuts, great colors, great FASHION!) and bravery and a bit of extra spending money allowed me to buy clothes that I looked great in. I experimented with colors and shapes and styling, borrowed from various eras long past and created a few pieces all of my own.
Shockingly for someone who had gone though a painful 6 or 7 year period of hiding under unflattering clothes, I had good taste, daring style and original ideas. Unlike the years of disappearing into a crowd, I suddenly stood out of a crowd- and received positive feedback! People liked it!
Fashion is far more than pretty clothes on skinny people. Clothes have the power to make or break your day, your year, your era, your life. Clothes can drown you or they can announce your entrance. Clothes can help you blend in or they can turn you into a star. Glitter, fringe and feathers can tell the world that you're a sparkly and daring person inside, whatever size you happen to be. Clothes can make you feel taller, thinner, curvier, more powerful, whatever.
If you've ever found yourself drowning in unflattering, boxy, oversized clothes for the sake of someone who might ridicule you... there's a dress out there to change it all. Or a pair of jeans. Or a crazy great shirt. A hat! A chunky necklace. A short skirt.
Don't give up. Don't drown. If you're a warrior princess inside, buy some more studded jackets. If there's a Carrie Bradshaw inside you just dying to get out, wear that fluffy pink skirt and feathered headband. Find the clothes that make you feel how you WANT to feel, not how you think others see you. The more you dress like yourself, your true self, the more you'll see your true self.
And so will everyone else.