September 18, 2007

Oh My God, Becky, Look at Her …

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As summer turns to fall and the temperature drops our wardrobes shift from bikinis and sundresses to jackets and scarves. The more we cover up, the less we show off our smokin’ bods. Yet, our bodies and outfits elicit some serious criticism regardless of the season.
It goes without stating that we live in a society where thin is in. However, it seems impossible to have an ideal body because no matter what a woman looks like, disparagement ensues. Somehow nearly everyone is too boney, pudgy, muscley or scrawny. Despite these conflicting notions of the healthiest or most appealing female physique, well fitting clothes may outweigh the struggle to attain the ultimate body.
Professional models epitomize the glorification of skeletal figures. Although they are the supposed ideal, they have been repeatedly condemned for being far too thin, as I discussed in a column last fall. In contrast, full sized women, like Monique, make careers out of their size and encouraging others to accept their rotund statures. However, it is seriously unhealthy to be either emaciated or obese. These are not ideals that women and girls should not strive to attain. Instead, women should accept their natural frames and dress in order to enhance what their mama gave ‘em.
Britney Spears, despite being in great shape for the average mother of two toddlers, has been harshly criticized for her body and performance at the MTV Video Music Awards. Although Britney’s stylist definitely made a critical mistake by selecting a bikini for Brit’s failed comeback, it is outrageous to criticize her body. The critique should instead be targeted at her outfit selection (or her inability to dance or even lip-sync adequately).
The same issues apply for the average girl or woman. A simple trip to the beach results in most women being humiliated for their bodies, either by their own self-criticism or by the criticism of others. Most women are not in “bikini shape” as idealized in Sports Illustrated. Thus, women are scorned for wearing bikinis despite their tummies, tushies, cellulite, curves or other assumed bodily flaws.
Yet, these same women are often praised for having the confidence to wear a bikini or bathing suit (or mini skirt or revealing dress or leggings or cropped t-shirt etc…) regardless of how their body looks. Are these women truly confident and carefree or are they misplacing their confidence in a body that they simply don’t have? It seems like an unnecessary embarrassment to stroll along the beach in a bikini and jiggling cellulite. It would be wiser to select a flattering one piece with a trendy cover-up.
Bikinis are exceedingly revealing, but even in more conservative dress the same problems occur. Button downs, trousers, jeans and even tee shirts can all affect how a woman looks. Women need to find attire that suits their body. It is important to wear clothes that fit in a flattering manner to enhance what a woman naturally looks like. No one wants to be that girl with those muffin tops.
So what are women to think of their bodies in a society that sends such conflicting messages? Women are told to eat healthy, exercise and be “thin”- which is often difficult to do given how busy everyone schedules are and how divergent women’s body types are. Perhaps it is worth considering that what we wear and how we wear it may be far more important than the type of body that we wear it on.
A wide variety of companies are now embracing the concept that one cut won’t fit every customer. Even Old Navy has been offering their jeans in a variety of styles and lengths. Buying the right size and right style is important and requires enough time and patience to try on a variety of options. Any woman can go from looking mediocre to looking outstanding simply by dressing to accommodate her body. Nicely fitting, sharp, fresh clothes will say more than the six pack or tummy roll beneath them.
Beyond appearances, most women feel better when they are in a well fitting and flattering outfit. By looking good, women will have increased confidence in other aspects of their life. It is far easier to make a presentation or go to an interview in an appropriate outfit that fits well and doesn’t require constant adjusting.
Arguing for what a woman’s body should look like is futile. Instead, women should maintain a healthy lifestyle and flattering wardrobe. Even if women are bitches, we don’t have to give in to their criticism.