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Shopping, Clothes & Body Image

March 7, 2012

Hello! I hope the week so far is going well for everyone. The past two days have been absolutely manic for me at work. I hate being bored at work, but sometimes it seems like everything comes at once! I did 45 minutes of much-needed yoga when I got home this afternoon. I needed it to de-stress after a crazy day, but I also felt like I needed a really good stretch. My hip flexors are feeling particularly stiff at the moment. I had another tough running session last night. It was the running club 5k time trial, which I absolutely hate because I can’t do it without thinking that I’m going to die. At least I knocked another 15 seconds off my personal best to finish it in 24:27. I’m getting closer and closer to my aim of finishing in 24 minutes by the end of the year.

I mentioned that I went shopping with my Mum over the weekend and it got me thinking about my relationship with clothes and what it says about my body image. I’ve never been particularly interested in fashion as such. I wasn’t one of those teenagers who had to have the latest designer logo or follow every trend. I think I wanted to be fashionable, but I was very overweight as a teenager and I had to make do with whatever I could buy, which was usually from plus-sized high street shops. Being overweight and shy also meant that I wanted to hide myself away, I didn’t want to stand out. I never really wore makeup or made too much of an effort with my appearance.

When I lost weight from the age of 16 I was delighted when I could get clothes from normal high street stores like everyone else, and I did want to look good. For those few years I loved finding out what suited me and becoming more like girls my age, but I don’t think that I ever really developed a sense of fashion. Plus, on a subconscious level I wonder whether my desire to hideaway and not be noticed was still there, and is still with me today. I have never been particularly daring with what I wear.

My wardrobe got even more boring when I put the majority of the weight back on. There are fashionable clothes for larger women, but I was just so annoyed with myself and hated shopping so much that I couldn’t be bothered to find them. I’m sure plenty of women know the feeling of going on a shopping trip when nothing that you try on fits or suits you. When all you can focus on is the muffin top spilling over the top of your jeans or how the sleeves cut off the circulation in your arms.

Now that I’ve maintained my weight loss for several years I am more comfortable with shopping and I don’t take it as personally when something doesn’t fit or it doesn’t look good on me. I even accept the enigma of why sizes vary so much store to store and style to style. At the weekend I tried on a pair of khakis in GAP that were a UK size 10 (US 6 I think). I normally take a 12, but they were sold out. The size 10 trousers were hanging off me, whereas I can barely get my foot in some pairs of 12s.

However, my Mum, who is my long-suffering shopping partner, will testify that I get bored quickly and quite easily annoyed when I’m shopping, so it’s best to do it in short bursts. Despite not being that interested in fashion I do like the trend of coloured skinny jeans.


I tried pair after pair on, but in the end I have to come to the conclusion that they only look good on other people. I’m not criticising my body, but I can objectively say that I have short legs with fairly chunky thighs. I’m not unhappy with them because they’re fairly toned and I’ve worked hard for them to be so strong, but they do not look good in skinny jeans.

I guess what I’m trying to say in this post is that just because I’ve lost weight, it doesn’t mean that I’ve suddenly developed an innate sense a fashion. I would love to be more stylish and to know what I should be looking for, maybe I need a visit from Gok Wan. Also, a part of me still doesn’t want to draw too much attention to myself, whether that’s because I’m shy or because I’m still not 100% comfortable in my own skin I’m not sure. However, the skinny jeans have taught me that I don’t mind if I don’t look good in something, and I can accept that and move on. I can’t radically change my body shape – I will always have short legs, sturdy limbs, narrow hips and a thicker waist.

Do you like shopping for clothes and how is it affected my your body image?

Are there any fashions that just don’t suit you?

16 Comments leave one →
  1. March 7, 2012 7:17 pm

    Well over the past few years, my weight has changed and so was hard to buy clothes as I actually never knew what size I would be, and not many clothes fitted me because of the eating disorder. Now I do still find it hard, as different shops have different fits. One clothes item I rarely wear or buy is jeans, I still have distorted body image and do see my thighs as big, I feel more confortable in dresses and skirts.

    • March 7, 2012 7:43 pm

      Jeans shopping is a really emotional experience for me – they are so unforgiving. I have one decent pair that I got properly measured for at Levi’s. They were more expensive than I usually like to pay, but so worth it!

  2. March 7, 2012 7:35 pm

    This was a really interesting and touching post to read Sarah. I was so happy to read that you can now go shopping and not mind if your usual size doesn’t fit you or if a particular fashion suits you – this is something I really want to achieve one day. And you know, to be perfectly honest, I think coloured skinny jeans can look cute but they’re so impractical! 😛

    I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with shopping, for me my emotions completely rule the process: if I find several things that fit well and suit me then I’ll love it but if more than two things don’t fit it usually goes downhill… My poor body image and distorted view of how I look just get in the way and it makes me sad because I used to love shopping!

    • March 7, 2012 7:44 pm

      Thank you 🙂 I know what you mean about shopping being emotional. I’m the same – I come away skipping if I find nice things, but I can feel a bit deflated otherwise.

  3. March 7, 2012 7:41 pm

    So honest! I have a lot of problems with clothes because of my height (5’1″). I am fairly well proportioned but being short means that everything just fits a little weird. I can certainly empathize with your plight.

  4. March 7, 2012 8:06 pm

    Very interesting post, I’ve always loved fashion and one of my big motivators to lose weight was so I could really express myself with the clothes I loved from shops that only sold up to a size 14. I did notice a big difference in my body shape when I lost weight and became more boyish – the clothes that had suited me didn’t any more. I’m glad I’m regaining my curves now though! I do know there’s some things I just don’t suit, anything with a gathering under the bust makes me look like I’m pregnant! I also try not to worry to much about the size label as it does vary so much from shop to shop which used to depress me!

  5. March 7, 2012 9:23 pm

    I think you’re right in that everyone has to accept what suits them and what doesn’t and different things suit different types of people. Having said that, I don’t think many people look good in skinny jeans!
    I get bored shopping which is good in one way becuase I don’t spend much on clothes but bad in another because my wardrobe could really do with being updated!

  6. March 7, 2012 11:17 pm

    Hmm, I’m not sure about my personal stance on this one: on the one hand, I can’t stand clothes that I feel constrained in – I need to be able to run/jump/climb trees in whatever I’m wearing or I’m not interested 😉 I was a tomboy as a kid, and never really interested in fashion except during my ‘must fit in phase’ during my teens, when I was a total brat addicted to designer labels because I thought it would make people like me.

    I appreciate style and fashion on others, but feel like a kid falling into her mother’s dressing up box when I wear ‘stylish’ clothes myself. But there is also an element of ‘why bother – I look so fat/ugly/stupid in everything anyway’ and depression going on. I also feel that I’m being ‘dishonest’ with the world if that doesn’t sound too weird, as if I have to present myself with no-make-up and regular running clothes because that’s how I really look. Kind of the same way I ‘bear all’ on my blog, I suppose. Being made up might make me look better, but it’s just a deception because once all the slap comes off I’m still the same person underneath.

    I also cannot wear skinny jeans! Maybe 2 years ago, but NOT now. Runners’ thighs and skinny jeans on a 5ft 3in person do not go together. I do think you could carry them off though – I thought you had great, long legs 🙂 But it’s all about what you feel most comfortable in. For me, that will always be running/gym gear or combats!


    • March 8, 2012 9:48 am

      Thank you, but I assure you my legs are short! My Mum bless her, turns up nearly all my trousers. It’s not like I can stretch them though, so no point in stressing!

  7. March 8, 2012 1:09 am

    Such an honest and interesting post Sarah, thank you for opening up about this! Shopping can be very difficult for me.. depending on my mood. I did write about how last weekend I tried on a new pair of pants that were larger than normal, and it scared the crap out of me. But then I think, who caressss about the size?! And like you said, it is so different depending on the store!
    Oh and I get bored shopping pretty quick too! Mom is a trooper with me, like yours 🙂

  8. March 8, 2012 11:42 am

    I used to be awful in that if I did not fit in my regular size and needed the size up, I would not buy it because it seemed that I was admitting that I was getting fatter. But not even the same shops I might need different sizes- I have 3 cardis from Dorothy Perkins, one is 8, one is 10 and one is 12. All bought fairly close together! But I try to choose the ones that look best now- because I am small if things are too baggy they totally swamp me and make me look huge, and I also do not suit the skin tight look so I have to find the ones that fit the best. I know that v-necks do not suit me, but mostly I just try things on and see. Although I am not into fashion either (like you, I don’t want to draw attention to myself) and don’t go clothes shopping- I might pop in to one shop if I am in a town centre/ shopping centre, or order things off the net. I get bored with it too!

  9. March 8, 2012 12:14 pm

    Sarah, I know how you feel. I’m a rather boring dresser, but I do like having jeans that fit comfortably and look good. I have a terrible time finding them. I have always liked my jeans to be at my real waist, not my hips. They are nearly impossible to find. I know they’re not the style, but that’s what I like and I should be able to find them. I say no to skinny jeans on me as well!

  10. March 8, 2012 8:14 pm

    It’s incredible how much the sizes vary from one shop to another. In M&S, I easily fit into a size 10, in New Look even a size 12 trouser is tight, and in Top Shop I can’t even get a pair of size 12 trousers over my thighs!
    When I was young, I was obsessed with following the latest fashions and all my clothes had to have the right designer label (I’m an Essex girl after all!) but I feel that in the past couple of years I’ve truly found a style that’s “me” and one that I’m comfortable with. This style mainly consists of skinny jeans/jeggings, long funky t shirts (that cover my bottom and thighs), long cardigans and funky scarves. Mind you, as soon as I get home, the skinny jeans come off and the fleecy pyjama bottoms come back on. They are so cosy! 😉

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