Dear Concerned Mom,
I honestly believe you had good intentions calling me about your daughter. I completely trust you have her best interest at heart. You said your 20-something girl is quite overweight and wears clothes she ought not to wear. She tries to dress like her thinner friends, but you think she looks trashy. Even though you’ve told her umpteen times, she refuses to listen. You asked if I could intervene but then hung up before I finished explaining why I won’t. I’m telling you because I was guilty of this in the past. I’m calling you out, Mama, because you’re body shaming but its disguised as caring.
Unlike some popular reality TV shows that ambush unsuspecting, uniquely-dressed people, embarrass them and then bribe them into making changes to their wardrobe, I do things differently. (To be completely transparent, I was a super fan of WNTW.) Followup interviews with the coerced participants from those programs show how despite appearing delighted at the end of each episode, only a few of them were able to sustain the changes they went through for the audience’s entertainment. They didn’t have time to psychologically or emotionally process the changes imposed on them. So much of our self-identity is wrapped up in our clothing. To take that away when a person is not ready can create inner turmoil.
Change Comes From Within
When a client approaches me about personal styling, it’s because THEY think their wardrobe or image is holding them back from having the life/love/career they want. It is an issue THEY (and occasionally HR) have identified and want help getting results. I’m certainly not the fashion police, and neither are you.
When we are in our 20’s, we are figuring out who we want to be in the world. There is a lot of self-discovery and experimenting going on. As women, we are up against scores of negative messages from mass media and social media reminding us we don’t measure up to beauty standards. You don’t need to be another critical voice. If your daughter has a strong sense of self-esteem, let’s not mess with that. She hasn’t asked for help. How she dresses seems to be your issue, not hers.
Your daughter has two years left of university and has not started her career yet. She likely hasn’t begun considering her professional image, and that’s okay. She’s busy having fun being a student and discovering who she is. She is obviously not letting her size stand in the way of what she wants. Nor should we. If she wants to wear sexy, youthful clothing, who are we to stop her? Denying anyone the right to express themselves or their sexuality through their clothing because of their body size is a form of body shaming. Many women would give their right arm to have an ounce of her confidence. Self-expression is freedom.
Love and Support
You asked for my help, and my advice is this. Back off. Be her cheerleader and remind her of what an amazing young woman she is. Recognize the strong, determined and outgoing person YOU raised and let her know, no matter what, you’ve got her back.
IF the day comes when your daughter wants to shop for a new and more sophisticated, professional wardrobe, I’m ALL in! In the meantime, I’ll be over here with the rest of us wishing we had spent more time living our best lives instead of obsessing about the size of our thighs.