My relationship with my body hasn’t always been a harmonious one. As a child I was very skinny and I always assumed that once I hit puberty I would be bestowed with glorious curves. Well, I waited, and waited, and waited some more. Said curves never materialised and I wondered what was wrong with me. In my mind, I looked like a boy (in fact, I was even mistaken for a boy once!); I used to compare myself to an ironing board. It didn’t help that people would regularly comment on my size. “Do you have an eating disorder?”, “Are you sure that you eat?”, “You should eat more” and “You’d get full up eating one raisin” are just some of the questions and comments that have been directed at me over the years (for the record I have a very healthy appetite!).
I’d be lying if I said that those things didn’t hurt, but over the years I’ve learned to accept and gradually embrace my body. Understanding my body shape and learning how to dress for it were huge factors in this. My lack of waist definition meant that wearing belted dresses and jumpsuits or adding a belt to them created the illusion of curves.
I began to pick fitted styles that showed off my body shape rather than hiding in baggy tracksuits and sweatshirts that swamped me and made me look thinner. I also started to reframe how I thought about my body. I tried to stop thinking of skinny as necessarily being a bad thing and realised that my body shape was quite athletic. In addition, I started exercising regularly to build muscle and strength, most recently through CrossFit. This alone has done wonders for my overall confidence and how I feel about my body. Every new achievement feels significant and it’s helped me to appreciate my body for what it can do. Never did I ever think I’d be strong enough to lift 90kg in a deadlift! The extra confidence helps me walk a little bit taller and feel just that bit better in my clothes.
Rather than concentrating on the aspects of my body that I'm not so keen on I try to focus more on the parts that I like and use my outfit choices to highlight them. My wardrobe is full of knee-length skirts and dresses and skinny jeans (who cares that they’re apparently no longer in fashion!) because they show off my calves.
Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not all plain sailing. I have many days when I wish those curves had materialised. But, for the most part, I’m happy with my body and I appreciate it for what it does for me. So, whatever your body shape or size, here are five tips for learning how to embrace it:
1. Understand your body shape
This will give you confidence that the clothes you’re buying are going to show off your fabulous figure. Consult with a personal stylist or use an online guide to get an idea of what your body shape is and how to dress in a way that most flatters it.
2. Show off your best assets
Think of the part of your body that you like the most and use your clothes to enhance it. For example, if you love your waist, add belts to your outfits or pick clothes styles that highlight this area (such as high waisted trousers/skirts and belted dresses).
3. Challenge your limiting beliefs
We all allow negative thoughts about our bodies to creep into our minds from time to time. For example, “I’m too big to wear nice clothes. I need to lose weight first”. In order to challenge them, first try to identify where they come from. Our limiting beliefs may be rooted in past experience and/or influenced by those around us. Once you’ve identified where they have come from, re-frame them to make them positive. For example, “Our bodies come in all shapes and sizes. I deserve to wear nice clothes no matter what size I am”.
4. Think positive!
Self-affirmations are statements that we can say to ourselves to affirm our self-worth. It is thought that they can reduce the effect of negative emotions and focus us on positive aspects of ourselves. They can be a powerful tool to help us think differently about our bodies. You can use self-affirmations to focus more on what your body does for you rather than what it looks like. For example, “My body is strong and has carried me to where I am in life”.
5. Find a confidence booster
Whether it’s taking up exercise or learning a new skill, do something that boosts your confidence. It will go a long way to making you feel good in your skin (and will have positive impacts on other aspects of your life).
How often do you open your wardrobe, see it full of clothes, but feel that you have nothing to wear? Don’t worry if your answer was, “All the time!” There are many other women who will have said the same. Apparently, most people only wear 20% of their clothes 80% of the time. That’s a huge chunk of our wardrobe that most of us are not making use of! As a personal stylist I want you to feel inspired by your clothes. I want them to boost your confidence and make you feel excited about getting dressed in the morning. So, how do you create a wardrobe that you love? Here are my top tips:
Identify your style personality
Your style personality is the style of dressing that you’re naturally drawn to. Understanding your style personality means that you can pick clothes and accessories that are more reflective of you. Sometimes we can sit between more than one style personality and our style personality can change over time. Here are some examples of different style personalities:
Natural – you like a minimal and unfussy style where comfort is key.
Classic – you prefer a timeless, elegant and understated look.
Creative – you’re drawn to quirky, colourful styles and like to push the fashion boundaries.
Dramatic – you like your style to make a statement and are willing to sacrifice comfort in the name of fashion.
Romantic – you love a dreamy style in pretty pastels with lots of feminine details.
If you don’t love it, don’t buy it!
This may seem obvious but it’s amazing how many of us don’t live by this rule (myself included at times!). It’s so easy to get sucked into buying clothes for all sorts of reasons – they were on sale, we liked them on someone else and wanted to try them too, or a magazine told us they were on trend. Don’t get me wrong, these can all be perfectly valid reasons for buying something. But, they shouldn’t be the only reason. Our clothes should make us feel amazing, and if something doesn’t our money is better spent on clothes that do. If an item of clothing doesn’t make us feel good, we’re unlikely to wear it.
Buy the correct size
It can be really tempting to buy clothes that are too big for us if we’re feeling self-conscious about our body in an attempt to hide our shape and make ourselves look smaller. The thing is, it will actually have the opposite effect. The best thing we can do to flatter our body shape and showcase our best assets is to buy clothes in good quality materials, with a good fit, in the correct size. Bear in mind that your clothes size can vary depending on the shop you’re buying from so you may sometimes need to size up or size down from your regular size.
Think of three ways to wear it!
It’s no fun buying something only to find that it goes with nothing in your wardrobe. When that happens, the risk is that you end up buying lots more clothes just to make that original item work or it ends up sitting in the back of your wardrobe unworn. A good rule of thumb to live by is to make sure you can create at least three different outfits from every new item you’re thinking of buying with the existing clothes in your wardrobe. Have fun trying out different combinations and take photos of your outfits.
Keep your lifestyle in mind
Buying clothes that are suited to your lifestyle will ensure that your wardrobe is full of clothes that work for you. Do you work full time? Are you a stay-at-home mum? Do you spend lots of time at the gym? Think about how you spend your time each week and create a wardrobe that’s reflects this.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this blog. Feel free to leave me a comment below!
I’ve struggled with my confidence and self-esteem for my whole life, and for a long time this manifested in the way I dressed. During my teens and early 20s I didn’t really know how to put an outfit together and I didn’t put much effort into my appearance. Next to my friends in their make-up and nice clothes I felt like Plain Jane, preferring to blend into the background. I remember in my second year of university one of my course mates telling me that I didn’t dress very well. I don’t think he was the most qualified to judge but it stung nonetheless!
It wasn’t until I was at medical school that things started to change a bit. As a 3rd year medical student, about to be unleashed onto unsuspecting patients, I needed to look the part. So I went shopping for some smart new clothes. I’m not sure they’d be considered particularly stylish but they were definitely an improvement. From there, I started to put more effort into my appearance. Trainers were replaced with shoes and boots, and tracksuits were replaced with denim skirts. At my graduation ball I even wore a hot pink dress from Karen Millen (who’d have thought)!
My personal style journey really took off after I graduated from medical school in 2011. The transition from medical student to fully fledged junior doctor was not an easy one. I was thrust into an environment of unrelenting pressure that left me exhausted, stressed and utterly miserable. I needed some way of regaining control and making myself feel better, so I turned to clothes. I would set myself outfit challenges – for the whole week I could only wear a dress or a skirt to work. It may sound silly but this was my way of making sure that I put some effort into my appearance. I noticed that it gave me confidence and made me feel a bit better about myself. It was at this time that I started researching personal styling courses. I guess it was a bit of escapism from a very difficult job, but I had also realised just how powerful clothes could be. If putting a bit of effort into the way I dressed could make so much difference to how I felt, maybe I could do the same for other people? Although I couldn’t afford a course at that time the idea of doing one never left me and, in 2016 I signed up to the 3-day Introduction to Personal Styling Course at the Fashion Retail Academy. I absolutely loved it! We learned some of the theory around body shape and colour before putting it into practice with some practical challenges. I was so excited to start using my newfound skills but, in reality, I didn’t know where to start. On the course I was surrounded by people who were much younger than me and who had a background in fashion. I started to question what I was even thinking! I didn’t have a fashion background and with a full-time job I didn’t have the flexibility to get any work experience. So, I put things to one side and focused on the day job.
It was 3 years later when the universe intervened and reminded me of my personal styling ambitions. I was reading a newsletter from my old school when I saw an article about a former classmate who was now working in fashion. All I could think of was that she was doing what I wanted to do and this gave me the kickstart I needed to make my dream a reality. After attending an event by The Image Consulting Company about how to make your love of clothes work for you I felt inspired, and in June 2019 I completed a Diploma in Personal Styling at the London College of Style. It was such an amazing week and I couldn’t believe that 8 years after the thought had first entered my mind I had finally qualified as a personal stylist!
It’s taken me a long time to get here but I feel as though the journey is only just beginning. I know how it feels to be a woman severely lacking in confidence, to not like what you see when you look in the mirror and to have such low self-esteem that you don’t even make an effort for yourself. I'm still a work in progress but developing my personal style has had a huge impact on my confidence and self-esteem. I trained as a personal stylist because I want to help women who feel the way I felt. I want to use clothes as a means to build confidence and help them see that they deserve to look and feel their best.