HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Latebloomer’s blog Past Tense Present Progressive. It was originally published on July 8, 2015.
As a former fundamentalist homeschooled kid, one of many aspects of life that I’ve had to do a lot of catch up in is fashion.
I grew up choosing clothing based solely on modesty, which in my circles meant that I was shopping in clothing sections meant for the elderly and basically wearing fabric sacks. Often, I had to make things for myself when even the grandmotherly clothing options failed me. Everything I wore was at least 4 sizes too big and several inches too short, and I had no idea about choosing colors that complemented my skin tone, no idea about hair, no idea about makeup, no idea about skin and nail care.
There are many wonderful people in the world who spend their time/energy/money on more important and lasting concerns than on their appearance, and I have a lot of respect for them, but this wasn’t a choice that I had made for myself. I had no choice in the matter, because my family and the fundamentalist homeschooling culture around me told me that trying to look attractive was vain, selfish, and worst of all, would cause men around me to sin. So I continued to hide in my sacks, feeling like one of the least attractive people on earth, and feeling shame for caring about being unattractive.
During some particularly low times in my late teens, I felt that my hideousness was a punishment from God because my dad wasn’t a “godly” man according to the standards of the homeschooling church we attended in my teens. I kept running into verses in the Old Testament (Job 42:15 as one example) about how God blessed godly men with beautiful daughters, and I couldn’t help but wonder if it was my dad’s fault that I was so ugly.
So, when I finally started to escape from these soul-crushing beliefs in my early twenties, one of the first hurdles to overcome was my belief that it was wrong to put effort into looking attractive. As I spent less time with people in our homeschooling church and more time with “worldly” people, I started to realize the irony that my “modest” clothing was actually drawing far more attention to me than “wordly” clothes would. Step by step, through practice, I started to get more comfortable wearing more fitted, age-appropriate clothes with more skin showing. I started to feel more at home in my body instead of wishing I could jump out of it and run away screaming. I started to feel a small mood and confidence boost when I made an effort to be pretty, instead of a constant sense of shame.
It just takes a few sentences to describe it, but this process took many years.
And that was just to alter my perspective! Over a decade later, through the body ups and downs of two pregnancies, I’m continuing to try to fill in the gaps and learn how to dress for my body and skin type, how to style my hair, how to apply makeup, and how to accessorize.
Something I never imagined that I’d do, but that I now absolutely love, is using a personal stylist through a service called StitchFix. I’ve signed up to receive a box of 5 clothing items every few months, chosen for me by a stylist based on my size and tastes and needs. I was very skeptical at first because I have so much trouble finding clothing that I like and that fits me well, but I decided to give it a try because the most I had to lose was a $20 styling fee if I decided to return everything. I’m so glad I tried it, because every box I receive has hugely improved my wardrobe, helped me learn more about dressing my body type, and taught me more about what pieces pair well together. I’m particularly impressed with the jeans my stylist has sent me–after many frustrating hours trying on probably over a hundred pairs of jeans in the last decade, I just pull these jeans out of the StitchFix box on my doorstep and OMG PERFECT FIT!!
I know there are many of you who have also had to learn so much very late in life about taking care of your appearance, and I wish we could high-five each other about how far we’ve come. If there are some of you that think you might benefit from StitchFix as much as I have, so here’s my referral link if you are interested in trying it: https://www.stitchfix.com/referral/4805456. (Thank you in advance if you use my link to sign up–I’ll get a $25 referral credit to feed my new fashion habit).