A Bit about Body Image (and I'm having a Sale).

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

I am having a sale through the entire month of July.  Take 15% off your entire purchase - excluding custom orders - with coupon code ShowOff2013.

I am running this sale in conjuncture with Kristen from Sew Classic and Ashley at Craft Sanctuary, who are running the "Show off your skivvies challenge." They are creating a body-snark-free venue for sewing-enthusiasts to post their handmade lingerie and swimsuits, talk about fit adjustments and issues, and sewing in general.  The fun part for sewing-bloggers is showing off a finished piece, but if what you've sewn is something more intimate, showing off can be scary.  Let's face it, the world (and especially the internet) is a highly critical place.  No matter what your size, shape, or figure, it is impossible to not be effected by the way and tone in which we speak about each others bodies. So, please feel free to use the coupon code ShowOff2013 to purchase any pattern from my shop and join in the fun. As someone who has proudly shown their perfectly-imperfect derriere on the Front Page of Etsy, I whole heatedly support this challenge! 


View my Shop HERE

I have been wanting to talk about body image for a while, but to be honest, have not know how to go about it.  I am a petite woman.  In my early to mid twenties I was very, very thin.  In my late twenties to now, I have gained a good amount of weight and now have what I like to call an "ample bosom" and hips, but am still a relatively small person.  I also am short (5'1").  Having never been a plus size person, I can't talk about that side of the body-image story with any experience.  I can say I am glad to see the fashion industry starting to include more variety in body size.  Just yesterday, Etsy posted this great article about Plus-Size Clothing. Still, there is definitely an under-representation.  I understand that.  I wish I could cater more to larger sizes, though being an independent designer with no training in plus-sizes, it is something I rarely delve in to... That is something truly amazing about the human body - it comes in so many shapes and sizes.  A real challenge for designers, especially little guys like me. But, that's another blog post entirely.

So, I'm just going to talk about what I know. 

What I wanted to say is, no matter what your size is or your weight or appearance, you are always open to body-criticism.  I think that the body-image discussion often becomes a "you against me" debate - just look at all of those images circulating the internet with phrases like "Only Dogs Like Bones" referring to thin women, and that kind of thing.  I get where these images are coming from, but there are far more constructive ways to feel better about yourself than to put others down. The body-image discussion effects everyone, no matter what you size, figure, gender, age, and it is something we should talk about together, without judging one another.



No!

(As an aside, it also bothers me what this image implies about men.  The men in my life love me for who I am, not for how I look. The men in your life probably feel the same about you).

When I was very thin,  I was no more confident that I am now.  When I was very thin, I was still open to criticism - "Go eat a hamburger," that kind of thing. Those comments are uncalled for, and just plain rude. 

Now that I am a heavier weight, I don't get any outward remarks.  I do, however, feel it more from the media.  My tummy pokes out a bit, in a way it never did at 21. I definitely would never make it on a "Best Bikini Body" List.  But having seen my body change, I realized something really important: no matter what my size or weight, it doesn't influence my happiness. Happiness is determined by something else entirely. My body doesn't change who I am.  No matter what my weight, or body type, I will still have to put up with the same societal bullshit.  It's nothing wrong with me, it's something wrong with us, and the way we treat each other and speak about each others bodies.

A few years ago, I found this amazing trick that helped me have great body-confidence.  I cut off my cable TV.  I stopped reading fashion magazines.  I didn't visit fashion or celebrity gossip websites that made me feel bad about the way I look.  In no time at all, I felt great about my body and how I looked. Without ads pointing out my barely-there crows feet, and hardly noticeable cellulite, and that one acne scar that won't fade, without being bombarded with images of perfectly sculpted (by scalpel or personal trainer) celebrity "bikini bodies," I felt pretty darn good about myself.  Now, on the rare occasion that I watch TV with commercials, they are almost comical, the "scientific" jargon, the unrealistic expectations... But back in the day, I know they really had an impact on me. You are never going to live up to the expectations placed before you in an ad. If you did, they would have nothing to sell you.  These days, it gets a little harder with Pinterest and Tumblr, and that kind of thing.  But to be honest, when I see something I don't like or that gives me that twinge of body-insecurity, I just un-follow it, block it, scroll past, hide it, or turn off the computer. You can control a great deal of what you see online.  Problem Solved.

Being a lingerie designer, has made things a little more tricky.  You look at lot of bodies throughout the day, trying to stay current on trends, etc. Something else I have learned that is very important is that you can't judge yourself against a picture. I wonder why we do that...?  Pictures and models are manipulated, they are wearing a lot of make up, there's photoshop, lighting, etc. We all know that. It's a models job to be beautiful. Plus, she may be beautiful, but can she create some really pretty lingerie, or talk to you at length about Bigfoot, or cook a mean vegetarian shepherds pie? She isn't all of those amazing, unique, quirky things that make you, you.  Judging yourself against a picture is ridiculous.  You know nothing about that person, other than what they look like.  And there is so much more to life than just looking good. I have so many other things to do than to obsess about how I look. 

I worry that our obsession with bodies is making us forget what is really important in life.  It's who you were, the things you did, the way you treated people that will be remembered when your body is gone.  It's highly unlikely that you will be remembered for how smokin' hot you looked in that bikini during the summer of 2013, but you probably will be remembered for being a kind, helpful friend, for sharing of yourself, for contributing to the world, for being an amazing mother, a great father, the best aunt or uncle, a caring daughter, a teacher, an artist, a volunteer, a great intellect, a wonderful sense of humour...  I think in a world where our outer shell is placed in such high regard, it is important to take perspective like that.

I don't know when we decided it was ok to start judging people's bodies, or how that became socially acceptable.  Especially now on the internet, we have a whole new venue to anonymously judge each others appearance, which is incredibly shameful of us. We should all be so grateful for our bodies, especially our healthy bodies (and healthy bodies come in many shapes and sizes). Bodies provide us with a vehicle to navigate us through this wonderful, beautiful, at times painful life.  Bodies can be so much fun when you feel good about them, and you have no reason not to.  


29 comments:

  1. Thanks - that was just what I needed to read right now.

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  2. Great post Sarah. This is something I've given a lot of thought to lately, particularly as I get feedback from women on the Bombshell and how it makes them feel. A healthy body image is so difficult yet crucial to maintain. I turned off the noise like you did (but I will occasionally cave and buy a Vogue) and its helped immeasurably. Being in a good relationship with a partner who loves your body doesn't hurt either!

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  3. I decided long ago that I have a great body. Though that went down the drain when an ex-bf told me in a course of several years that I was imperfect. Ruined my self-image and confidence. I am still scarred by it. Having two kids meant I won't have flat tummy, or the tiny waist, but you know what, even with the media telling me that I am not perfect, I have people who love me the way I am. For me, that is all that matters.

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    1. Absolutely. One persons thoughtless comments can have such a big impact. Finding happiness within yourself is a great feeling - having supportive people around you makes a big difference.

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  4. Well said! I think it's really important to mention that all women have things they may want to change, no matter their size, and we don't need to put others down because of the way that they look.
    I, too, make a mean vegetarian shepherd's pie, and I'm way more proud of that than of what my butt looks like in my undies!
    In response to Lissa: we ALL have great bodies! They take us new places, help us experience new things, and can create new life! I can't think of anything greater :)

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  5. Thank you so much for this, Sarah. As a naturally thin person, I feel like I can't ever comment on my own size without people hating me. Being really thin is not everything it's cracked up to be first of all, and I HATE seeing those "real women have curves" memes. One of my friends, who's been battling an eating disorder her whole life, befriended me because she thought I also had one. I definitely don't, and I think our friendship sent her into a relapse from her recovery. I've always felt guilty because of that. People don't realize that being thin is as much a "curse" in this world as being overweight. Something has got to change! I too have turned off my cable TV and have shunned magazines and tabloids. It's so amazing to have a sewing community where women can be themselves, no matter what size, and feel welcome. You are amazing for shedding light on this issue. xo

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    1. I agree, people often think when you're thin you have nothing to be self-conscious about. I work with a lot of petite women who are very thin, and as a result have a smaller bust size and THAT alone can cause a lot of self-worth issues as a woman, which is really sad. Just goes to show, that at every shape and size, we all face pressures, so it's time to tackle the issues together and take perspective over what is really important.

      I hope your friend has since gotten help, and wish her the best! What a hard struggle.

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  6. By a strange quirk of fate, a friend of mine has written on the same subject today - a piece called Tootsie Talks - Beauty, Body Image & the Feminist Ideal - for the Huffington Post. If you go read & comment there, too, it will raise the profile of the issue even more. And heavens knows we need to do something!

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  7. Great post!! I've always been on the thin side. I also have gotten the mean comments of "go eat a hamburger" and not from strangers, more from friends. It gets discouraging for sure. I am 5'8" and have a long waist, I "appear" to be a size 0 to some people, but I definitely am not! My husband loves my body and that's all I really care about. Sure I'd love to change some things but it is what it is!!

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  8. This body image discussion so very rarely includes notions of a HEALTHY body. There is this media driven and erroneous idea that thin equals healthy and this NOT always the case. With out proper nutrition and aerobic exercise (something as simple as walking briskly for 30 minutes a day), a body can quickly become unhealthy regardless of its shape or size. There's also never any talk about how genetic heritage can shape a body. Some people--myself included--are tall and more round in certain areas than others. We have Germanic, Slavic, and Native American heritage. All the women in my family--both mother and father side--are built this way with very little variation.

    Add to this the fact that women need to start acting more sisterly towards each other. Some of the worst body shaming offenders are other women. It's hard enough to fight against patriarchal notions of beauty and self worth let alone also having to combat women who, in all likelyhood, are suffering too. Celebrate your uniqueness, I say, rather than striving for cookie cutter conformity.

    Above all BE HEALTHY.

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    1. really good points, each deserving of their own posts!


      I recently heard the term "orthorexia," which is basically an obsession with eating right and being healthy. I think our society actually has an obsession with health, but it is a very narrow, skewed definition of health. To many, healthy is the pursuit of thinness and a certain body type, which is completely unrealistic and missing the point of true "health."

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    2. I couldn't agree more. "Healthy" is talked about in terms of shape, and that shape is dictated by media. Very rarely do you hear talk about being healthy in terms of BMI, cholesterol, arterial build up, ect. unless we're talking about the morbidly obeses. Every day health is rarely talked about and when it is, it's always about achieving a size to look like XYZ Hollywood body type.

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  9. This is a great post! It's so unfortunate that even though we tend to idolize one specific body type in the media, it doesn't mean anything for those of us actually in the real world because everyone gets pressure to change and it's exactly as you said: women begin to think their only self-worth is in their looks which is so sad and so wrong. Shutting off most media, commercials, a lot of tv shows, and shutting magazines helps significantly. I did that purely by accident as it was more of a money thing and now I'm genuinely shocked when I come across some snarky blog post or I see some thinspo crap on pinterest. Turn it off and feel better!

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    1. I think it's interesting to see how the ideal body type changes over the generations... just an aside.

      When I first cut my cable, it was because I was broke, but it had even greater savings to my sanity!

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    2. This article sends a great and positive message <3 Will you be offering larger sized patterns one day? I loved the Ginger pattern but wish it would have come with an alternative sizes option.

      Your work is so lovely!

      Rhy Hall

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  10. You just inspired me to climb on my soapbox for a related post! http://sewsewvintage.blogspot.com/2013/07/body-image-clothes-sewing-and-elitism.html

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  11. This is such a wonderful post. This is something I've struggled with since I was a very thing preteen and it still rears it's ugly head now that I'm in my twenties. Every body is different, and I will take care of mine as best I can, but that doesn't mean that I will look a certain way, and that's okay. :)

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  12. Amen! I hate the way that we're so critical of our own (or worse, other people's) bodies. I agree with you completely-- there are so many things that are more important than appearance, and I think that other parts of our lives suffer when we're so focused on what we look like and worrying about what other people think of us. It's really sad. I was really skinny growing up, too, and people frequently made comments about how I looked like a boy or must have an eating disorder. I started wearing loose, baggy, unisex clothes because I didn't want anyone to know what I really looked like. I hope that one day people will become a bit less image-obsessed and will instead work on being kinder and developing character traits that will last, unlike physical beauty.

    As an aside, I work in film production, and nearly all of the big actors that I've worked with are on really, really, REALLY stringent diets. I feel bad for them-- while we're idolizing their bodies, they're counting every single calorie and working out for hours every single day to keep their jobs and avoid unflattering paparazzi photos. If these "perfect" people live their lives under so much scrutiny and pressure, how can normal people possibly keep up? It's so unrealistic and sad!

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    1. Interesting about the actors... Must be hard to have your appearance be such an integral part of who you are.

      I think it's really dangerous to compare ourselves in anyway to celebrities. They have personal chef's, personal shoppers, personal trainers, they have every resource available to maintain that "perfect" shape. Most of us don't even have the time!

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  13. Hear hear! As a fairly small and curvy woman, I often get really confused by a lot of the weird body image things floating around the internet. Like, all of the "thigh gap" anger. Extrapolating from the anger, I guess that advertisements showcase women who have a gap between their thighs? And much self-righteous anger has been spent in claiming how unrealistic that is, and real women aren't shaped like that, here's how to fake it, etc. etc. Well, I'm hardly a stick, yet -I- have a "thigh gap". It just happens to be my body fat distribution. And I find it really hurtful that people consider that "unnatural".

    Or a recent thing about a "real" Barbie, where one of the notable things was that this "average" 19-year-old body didn't have a noticeable waist. Yes, folks, some people (me!) ARE actually shaped like that! It's not just photoshopped and corseted and an illusion.

    Can we please just recognize that we are all shaped differently? And that they're all real bodies?! I dislike being told that I'm not "real".

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    1. Each body is different, that is what is so cool about people! It's time to see that different is ok and should be celebrated.

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  14. I so appreciate every word here. I have been plus-sized my whole life, and it's never been easy. Only in the last couple years have I come to love my body for it's uniqueness.

    As Tina posted in the comments, genetics have a huge part to play in "shape" & how people gain and carry their weight. My father's side is all taller and bigger, and I happened to get that genetic in me. I've eaten healthy my whole life, while my friends pigged out on junk food; yet they remain thin.

    This post is nice because it shows that healthy body image is for everyone. Thanks for posting!

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  15. Fantastic post Sarah! I could not agree more.
    I don't know who took it upon themselves to write the rule book on "perfection" and to come up with the erroneous list of requirements for beauty and desirability that we, as a society, have somehow held on to for dear life.

    There's no need to put down one group of people to elevate another or to feel better about ourselves as individuals. Whenever we, as women, criticize and put down other women based on things like their looks, size, etc, we are doing a great disservice to ourselves and our gender, fellow girls and women, by perpetuating these crazy standards that are completely ridiculous and impossible to live up to.

    It makes me really happy to read posts like this one and to see initiatives like the "Show off your skivvies challenge". Additionally, I think it is absolutely great to have women like you behind lingerie and swimwear brands promoting this kind of message instead of a more harmful one like some big-time brands do. It should, actually, be the norm across the board and not the exception but, well, it's a good starting point.

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  16. Great Post! Like you, I was skinny for many years and tried to put on weight to look like the curvy models it was difficult. Now I am over 40 and have two teenage daughters I am more rounded.The thing that is important is that I have a healthy capable body that allows me to do so many things I love. Thanks for the discussion.

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  17. I hate that these expectations have made us strangers in our own bodies, when we should be loving the vessels that carry us around. But the more posts like this I see about body image, the more I feel like there's a real revolution coming with regards to how we see ourselves. :')

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  18. Interestingly, there is evidence that no all cultural groups buy into body obsession - especially those less media dependant. I think body image and commodification are all part of the consumer mentality - the person becomes commodified and reified, becomes an object or image - and tries to construct themselves according to images around them. Part of our psychological makeup is learning by copying - so if all we see is airbrushed images of perfection, we may well try and copy them. Impossible of course. I'm old enought to be fairly impervious now - but it can't be good for young women.

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  19. Great post Sarah! How apt to be reading this when I myself was fretting over putting on weight etc since i'm preparing for the wedding. This serves as good reminder that we should not be obsessed with weight or body shape and neglect the rest of the things that is going on. I think what is important is to maintain a healthy diet and healthy lifestyle.

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