Controversial Post: Loving Your Body Vs. Making a Change

Flashback Summer: Controversial Post - Loving Your Body vs. Making a Change

























I want to begin this post by asking you to assume the best of me and know that I mean no judgment or malice toward anyone in the following post.  This is a particularly sensitive subject for many people, and while I have not struggled with this specific area myself, I do validate and seek to understand the experiences and feelings of others on this subject, so please feel free to be honest!

It seems to be a common theme in the vintage community that most of us are drawn to vintage because it flatters our shapes in ways that modern clothing can't seem to do.  However, I know it is also a struggle for many people that vintage tends to come in smaller sizes.

On some of the selling/swapping pages on Facebook I am a part of, I constantly see the struggle women of "volup" sizes have in finding vintage that fits them.  Here are some of the kinds of comments I've seen lately:

"I would never fit into this and that makes me very very sad..."

"I can never find these things in my size!"

"Why is everything so small?!"

"It's so frustrating to try to find vintage pieces in my size."

So here is the subject I'd like to hear everyone's thoughts on today:
When do you know you just need to learn to love your body as it is, and when do you know you need to work to change your body?

Flashback Summer: Controversial Post - Loving Your Body vs. Making a Change
source
Obviously, there's no "right" answer to pick across the board on this controversial subject, so I won't attempt to do the impossible.  I will say, however, that there is a difference between accepting your body because you love it and rock it (at any size) and being resigned to your body because you feel you can't do anything to change it.  The first is acceptance based on true self esteem; the second is resignation based on hopelessness.

(And as a side note, I know health restrictions or illness can cause weight gain and can't be helped; this is not what really I'm referring to.)

I've just seen both sides of the spectrum: Some people applaud "accepting your body" and condone health habits that are increasing their risk of an early death and making their life more difficult.  On the other hand, our culture is so obsessed with being a certain size that that almost no one can be considered "beautiful" without big boobs, a tiny waist, smaller hips, and general thinness.  That's not right either.

When you've encountered body image issues, when have you decided to learn to love yourself as you are, and when have you decided to do something to change it?  Why did you decide that way?


I'd love to hear everyone's thoughts, and please keep things respectful!



Flashback Summer: Controversial Post - Loving Your Body vs. Making a Change

32 comments

  1. I think it is important for all women to strive to be at a healthy body weight. What exactly that point is is between a gal and her doctor. And certainly, there's more to being healthy than a number on a scale or a measuring tape!

    On the other hand, I'm also a proponent of the advice of Stacy and Clinton from What Not To Wear-dress the body you have. At any weight you can dress yourself well. (As an added bonus, dressing well often makes you look thinner!). I think it's sad that women think that have to wait to reach a certain weight loss goal before they feel they deserve to or can look good.

    Everyone has fit issues but with the rise of reproduction clothing companies and the availability of vintage and reproduction sewing patterns, we can all enjoy vintage!

    ReplyDelete
  2. As someone who has struggled with her weight for almost her entire life, I see where you're coming from, but in regards to the vintage clothing... even at my thinnest and healthiest (around a size 6), it can still be a trial to find vintage clothing that fits! So much of what I see is teeny tiny (like XS), and because of my body proportions (I have a large bust and sizable hips), that's still not an option for me! I completely understand the frustration of women who exclaim, "why is everything so small?!" when they're looking at vintage shops. It takes way more work to find vintage that will fit me well. It's not a bad thing, necessarily, but just a fact. I think there definitely is a difference between loving the body you have and feeling like you're stuck and can't seem to make a change. I'm sort of in between there right now. I think it's sort of interesting that you say this isn't a topic you've ever personally struggled with. I understand you wanting to open a dialogue, and I know you don't mean to come across as judgmental. It is definitely a sensitive topic though.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is true, most vintage will never fit me either. I wouldn't be healthy if I was a size 0-4.

      Delete
    2. Well, it isn't that I've never struggled with body issues, I've just never struggled with being overweight. I've struggled with the opposite, not feeling "womanly" or attractive because I'm so small. I also have trouble finding vintage clothing because I'm TOO small a size, meaning a waist size may fit, but then the bust and length don't because I'm short and petite. I have struggled with similar ideas, but not when it has come to losing weight.

      Delete
  3. I don't think it's either or. I'm currently overweight, health issues lead to the weight gain but as my health as improved (though I still have things that make it hard like Fibromyalgia, a screwy thyroid, asthma and a heart issue) I'm trying to lose weight and I'm making some progress, slowly. I am also trying to have a healthier body image, vintage clothing is helping with that because I feel more comfortable in it. Right now I do struggle to find vintage clothing in my size so I mostly stick to reproductions for now.

    Like Stephanie said I think it should be between you and your doctor for what is healthy. While I have a weight in mind, I'm more concerned with health. I've been swimming and while inches are coming off, I've lost minimal weight, clearly I'm building muscle so I need to not be hung up with the scale. :) Also I'm more active and that's the very most important thing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am a huge proponent of strength over skinny! Being strong and active does so much more than simply being thin. I know that some people are naturally thin, but it doesn't mean they can't still build muscle and be the better for it! I have a friend that is quite thin because she's a long distance runner, but she is basically ALL muscle, and it's much more impressive to me than an emaciated fashion model!
      On the flip side, you're so right, weight isn't really a super great way to measure health all the time. I think it's great that you're toning up and exercising despite the health issues you're facing. Teddy Roosevelt did the same thing! http://www.artofmanliness.com/2008/02/04/lessons-in-manliness-the-childhood-of-theodore-roosevelt/ (Although I'm posting this link to talk about TR, I in no means mean to imply that becoming strong is "manly" for a woman to do. I'd call it, well, just straight up smart and empowering!)

      Delete
  4. The best article I have read on this topic makes the point that being overweight is not necessarily a marker of poor health or lack of fitness. There are other medical markers (such as blood pressure and cholesterol level) that are a much better indicator of health. My cholesterol is a little high, which is why I have put more of an effort into eating right and riding my bike frequently. But to be a certain size or weight? No. Here's the article: http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/08/i-understand-fat-acceptance-movement/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. First off, way to go on eating right and riding your bike! That stuff is always great to do, and it takes discipline, so good work!
      That is a good article (I did read it!), and while there are definitely other markers of health, obesity can inhibit people and cause other health problems (like heart disease, sleep apnea, sore joints, etc.). It doesn't mean that everyone experiences all of these, but it is pretty accepted medical knowledge that obesity increases risk for a lot of maladies: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2879283/
      And I don't think it's wrong for someone to want to look different along with being healthier. We're women, and we like feeling pretty! Some people feel prettier at a certain size, and as long as they're still being healthy about it, I think it's a great goal! Why have to convince yourself to like how you look (in any area that's changeable, not just weight), when you can work to be what you dream? We accept changing hair colors, tanning, makeup, all sorts of things that deviate from a person's "natural" look because they help us feel prettier/sassier/more confident, so I don't see why working toward a certain size for health and happiness should be condemned as vanity or "not accepting yourself."
      Of course, that may not be what the article is actually condoning, but I got a hint of it and just wanted to share my two cents on it!

      Delete
  5. Way to breach this important subject, dear gal. Like many, I have struggled with issues pertaining to my body my whole life and have only started to make peace with some of them in very recent years (a topic that I actually just wrote about again this past Saturday), and love that through everything, (40s and 50s) vintage has been there for me, working better for my figure at any size than modern wardrobe ever could. I fully understand that things can be tough on the small and large side of the spectrum, as well as right smack in the middle (where I fall) and wish that we would all do better at loving ourselves and each other. Every body is beautiful and worth celebrating with our wardrobe choices - we only get one (body) after all, why waste time focusing on what we don't like, when we could be celebrating what we do? (Great eyes, narrow waist, elegant calves, whatever it may be!)

    ♥ Jessica

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, it is true, and beauty is definitely made of more than a physical appearance (unlike what society seems to say these days!) Everyone has things they like and don't like about their body, and that's okay. We play the cards we're dealt!

      Sometimes we do have control over some parts of how we look, and I'm all for training and working on those parts as much as possible to make them into something we love! Personally, I would like to be svelte and healthy my whole life, so I'm working toward that. I really believe it makes it easier for me to be happy with myself and my life when I set my body up to run as efficiently and as smoothly as it possibly can! I don't want to inhibit myself in any way by adding health risks through an unhealthy lifestyle that don't need to be there. I've already got enough health risks, thank you!

      Delete
  6. Hmm. Well, I don't think that loving your body and wanting to change it are mutually exclusive. Other people have already brought up some important aspects (activity/diet as a better indicator of health than weight, for example, and the idea that it's hard to find vintage or modern clothes to fit your body exactly at any size!) but I think it's also important to consider that right now there's sort of a pervasive idea that losing weight will make a person love their body and skinniness will make you happy. So I think that body positivity and loving bodies at every size (and loving your own body at any size!) is extremely important for making changes to a body, because then you can do it from a place of "I'd like to be stronger/smaller/healthier because this body is awesome and it's my home and changes will make it better" instead of a place of "I don't like my body, I'd like it more if it was a different size"
    There are also two sort of health paradigms that I think influence people's view of "vintage is so tiny".... for one, vintage ladies also grew up with a very different diet and different portion sizes than we have now, and I know it's hard for some modern people to conceive of how small meals were and how different food was in general. And secondly, people as a whole have become so much larger that a lot of women think that they couldn't possibly get any smaller and still be healthy even if it's patently untrue. And I'm not referring to particularly overweight people here, either! I've seen BMI charts (which are complete crock in a variety of ways but that's a different rant) adjusted so that the "healthy" range is labelled something like "fit" and the "overweight" range is labelled "average", and as a result of this sort of mindset I've seen women working on their fitness and size stop short of the recommended body fat percent range because they don't think they could possibly get any thinner! So I think both of those ideas also influence womens' opinions about body size versus vintage clothing.
    I personally am working on losing weight (or at least inches) at the moment not because I'm displeased with my body but because I've never lived anywhere with real winter before, and that combination of inactivity plus some life issues over the last year led to a little widening of my lower half, and I'd like to continue fitting into the dresses I already have! But I also do things to adjust my body for vintage clothing. I regularly wear a bullet-ish bra with the tips padded out with batting as I have a very flat chest (and mind you, I wear a 34A and pad out the tips. It's not like I'm doing much enhancement!) and otherwise there would be excess fabric pooling around my bustline! And often I choose to wear a girdle of some sort under a snug or slinky skirt to smooth out hips and underwear lines. Does that mean I don't like my body? No! I used to have a lot of problems with body image, but body positivity means that I can like my body and make little tweaks to my silhouette not to "hide problem areas" but to make the clothes look better!
    So... that's my long-winded ramble on the subject!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Preach! That's good stuff right there! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

      I agree, it is true that many people see things as skinny=happy, which I'm sure many high fashion supermodels, the skinny of the skinny, would say is not true!

      I do know, however, that when people are healthy (which I don't mean to say is "skinny" necessarily, but there are certain weights that are BETTER for people to be at health-wise, and it's a proven medical fact!) they feel better and are happier. Obesity has higher rates of depression, and exercise and healthy lifestyles are proven to decrease depression. It's not that skinny=happy, it's that you can't fight biology! Certain chemicals are increased or decreased due to healthy lifestyles, and it isn't a mental choice, it's a biological effect.

      Not to mention, there's something about EARNING the body you want that makes such a difference in self esteem! As my sister says, "You can't expect a Gucci body at a Walmart price tag." Working for the look you want, in any area, makes it so much better.

      It isn't fashionable to push for healthy=happier, but it's just true. It's not that people can't be happy when they're overweight or obese, but I would bet anyone a million dollars that they would be happier at a healthy weight than they are at an unhealthy weight, regardless of what size that is, medically speaking. When people feel the difference, the healthy=happier truth becomes real!

      Delete
    2. You said it, sister. Well spoken.

      Delete
  7. Here is my take (when talking about vintage clothes) I know lots of people say "OMG EVERYTHING IS SMALL!" but it is but isn't. I've come across lots of large dresses that I scuff that I can't fit into. BUT the "small" then is different from "small" now. One blogger wear vintage but is model thin. Some dresses actually look weird on her since they don't drape as designed. Lots of girls like vintage because it gives space in certain areas and not in others. Heck I still find things that fit my waist and are still too big in the bust which leaves me saying "WHAT THE HECK?!" (I'm a size D, but wear a small, so I kind-of busty)

    I think sometimes vintage has lots of smalls since people are most likely to grow out of it. Even in the past tiny was in some way desirable. So I have a feeling that a lot of what lasts are small because it is much more common to grow too big for clothing than too thin for clothing. I admit if I grow too big for something I donate it, but if I loose weight, I keep it thinking I'll gain weight again.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, that's very true. And vintage does have a lot of small WAIST sizes, but it doesn't mean it's actually made for a tiny person; it means it's made for an average person in a good girdle! (Hence the bust-waist issue you talked about, and I have the same problem!)

      Delete
    2. Yeah, there might of been some minor corsets still involved as well. I remember wanting to buy a vintage wedding dress and being afraid of being too "big." Everything fit perfectly like a glove. No alterations at all. I think I am in the most "common" size for vintage, but that doesn't mean there aren't things I see in stores that make me cry that it is too big. I could alter it, but I already have a lot of projects on my plate.

      Delete
    3. Another reason there might be a plethora of smalls (and small size patterns) is that they were the *least* used of all the clothing. Think about what survives in good/pristine condition, and it isn't what was worn a lot! And women did wear a lot of foundation garments, as noted. I'm actually on the bigger end of the size spectrum, and I have had pretty decent luck finding vintage clothing or patterns to fit me. It takes more work, but the fit and style are worth it for me!

      Delete
  8. I'm just curious how you can draw the conclusion that a person commenting that they can't find vintage clothing in a larger size means they have a self esteem issue with their body type and that it automatically means they need to change their lifestyle?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm not concluding that a person who says that has a self esteem issue and they need to change. I just wonder about women who say it so often and get so frustrated. If it's really such a hang up, and weight is a fixable thing (most of the time, barring medical issues), then why not change it and live a less clothing-frustrated life?
      And I know it's a very sensitive issue, and I'm not judging people; I'm really not. This is why at the bottom I explore both sides, "Some people applaud 'accepting your body' and condone health habits that are increasing their risk of an early death and making their life more difficult. On the other hand, our culture is so obsessed with being a certain size that that almost no one can be considered 'beautiful' without big boobs, a tiny waist, smaller hips, and general thinness. That's not right either."

      Delete
  9. "I just wonder about women who say it so often and get so frustrated. If it's really such a hang up, and weight is a fixable thing (most of the time, barring medical issues), then why not change it and live a less clothing-frustrated life?"

    Right there you are implying that a plus size woman making an offhanded comment about the size of clothing has an underlying self esteem issue. Yes, you are judging them when you think this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, please understand that that is not my intention. I am a firm believer in the fact that every person has incredible value, and that beauty is far more than skin deep and is often a used-and-abused idea in our society. It's not my intention to make anyone feel judged, just to start a discussion about a pretty vulnerable topic. My apologies.

      Delete
  10. The way I have always looked at my body is:

    Love it no matter the size. Love it for what it does for you. My strong thighs allow me to hike and cycle, my immune system is always fighting to keep me healthy, by body can heal itself. But for a few years I was unhappy with my weight, so I started working on controlling it. I lost 50lbs, got stronger, upped my immune system, and can now fit more vintage items. I have never been happier with my figure. If I gained the weight back, would I stop loving my body? No. So I agree, work to be the person you want to be, but enjoy the ride and love your body the entire way!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's awesome, Dollie! You go girl! It's hard work to lose 50 lbs, so that shows a lot of work and dedication on your part. That's really great.

      Delete
  11. I have always been and always will be bigger. When I was in high school with a tiny waist and thin as can be, I still had big boobs, big hips and I'm 5"7 so...I'm a big gal and always will be but there's a difference between curvy and unhealthy and people are starting to really confused the two. Today, I'm 213 pounds and although I get all dolled up and feel gorgeous, I know that I'm not healthy and if I want to be with my kids, I have to get healthy. I love my body. Really, I do and because I love my body, I must take care of it. I bought new sports bras and running shoes and carve out time to work out and make healthy choices when we go shopping. I am really curious about other plus sized girls on this subject too. Ive seen some bloggers who are extremely overweight and they post about how much they love their body. Using terms like fatshion and fat-kini. I don't know....feels very irresponsible to me. Its hard being a plus sized blogger too because when we lose weight we get a lot of criticism. I had another blogger go off on me for wanting to get healthy because she liked me because I'm plus sized. Wow. As for vintage being hard to find in larger sizes. I don't know about that. My measurements are 45-36-47 and I have two closets loaded with 30s-60s dresses. Maybe I'm hoarding all of the plus sized stuff! LOL!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for commenting, Brittany! I think it's really awesome how you are getting healthier for your kids and for yourself. That's really great motivation right there! That's a real reason to want to get healthy, not just doing it for society. Seriously, way to go!
      And I'm sure that can be really rough as a plus sized blogger; I can only imagine. But I think it's really impressive how you've struck a balance with your blog. When I think of you or your blog, I don't think "Oh, plus sized blogger wearing vintage." I think "Oh, flipping awesome blogger wearing vintage that makes amazing cacti pincushions." And isn't that what the "love your body" movement is about? Normalizing beauty in all its forms, not just the tall, thin ones? Not labeling people because they're different, but seeing who they really are? You're doing an amazing job! Haters gonna hate, so don't let them rain or your parade!

      Delete
    2. Brittany was the main reason I felt I * could * find vintage in my size. My proportions are different from hers, but I'm still considered plus size by vintage standards, and I was so impressed by her fabulous clothing and her sassy can-do attitude that I thought, "I can do that too!" (Plus, I was pregnant, and she had a great maternity-vintage-style series on her blog that I found super helpful and inspirational!)

      Delete
  12. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Thanks for bringing up this topic, it's certainly not an easy one. Having a healthy and active lifestyle is important for all of us I think, and not just for those with health or weight issues. While I've never had a real weight issue I have dealt with other issues regarding my appearance. I just commented on your post about excuses for not wearing vintage and mentioned feeling self-conscious. It's a confidence thing and something I've had to work on my whole life and it's only been that last few years that I've really started to feel better about my own image. Psoriasis has been a big challenge for me and I constantly have to work to control it which can make dressing a certain way difficult. It's something that will never completely go away so I have have to find ways to deal with it. I also remember a few years ago having a conversation with some gals and being verbally attacked by one larger gal after mentioning something about not being happy with my appearance. Her response was basically "you're so tiny so shut up!" I wanted to say that even as a smaller gal, I'm allowed to have self esteem issues too but I didn't. I felt so awful and her word stuck with me for the longest time.
    -Emily

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dang, this is really good insight. I agree, health is important for everybody, and these issues of loving your body and wanting to change it affect all shapes and sizes.
      I have psoriasis, too! It really is difficult to deal with, just obnoxious. And it really can grate on one's self esteem. Way to go on finding ways to deal with it and staying positive!
      I've also gotten the "You're so tiny so shut up" response as well. It feels very invalidating, like we aren't allowed to have issues or difficulties because we're smaller... which makes no sense. The world isn't tailored to tiny people either! I can't tell you how many things I can't reach in stores!

      Delete
  14. My body image journey is one where I am on the thinner side yet want to be larger. I realize that this is because the overarching standard of beauty (white/Eurocentric) is different from the ones in the global black community (Afrocentric). In nearly every black country or population, the curvy woman is celebrated. The ideal curvy woman has big boobs, a tiny waist, large hips and a prominent behind. My curves are not dramatic and so I sometimes feel insecure about my body. I am often applauded by white women how little I am because, to them, it is a compliment. Little do they know that I am cringing on the inside because it is an unintentional reminder that I do not fit the Afrocentric standard of beauty. However, I am healthy and I am thankful for that. At some point in my adult life, I want to have a personal trainer. I used to run in grade school and in the high school track team but being active in the gym would be a great investment.

    As for a woman changing her body, whether it is going to the gym or getting plastic surgery, I think that is completely her decision. It definitely is not my place to tell another woman what to do with her body.

    ReplyDelete