How Clothing Rules Equal Body Shaming

During my nightly routine, the very last thing I do is plan out my outfit for the next day. I spend minutes meticulously choosing pieces that pair well not only with each other, but also with how I want to portray myself. For many years, this process included avoiding any clothes in my closet that were too flowing or too tight because I didn’t think they flattered my body. T

his meant pushing beautiful shirts and skirts to the back of the pile because I couldn’t justify disrupting the way I wanted my body to look. I had become a victim of being told to dress to my body type. I allowed my body to be categorized and given guidelines of how to keep it looking exactly as the fashion industry wanted it to. After so long, I had forgotten my own style.

I had pushed my love of personal style to the side just like the “unflattering” clothing in my closet. As a young woman interested in fashion, I listened to every article that told me that I had to avoid some clothes because they didn’t flatter me. In other words, these pieces made me look fat. I was told, again and again, by every style source, that in order to look put-together and stylish, I had to dress to my body type.

When I first heard this phrase, I was just getting interested in the world of fashion. I would experiment with the clothes in my closet, as well as those in my sister’s and mom’s. I tried on all pieces – tight, loose, short, long. I wanted to get a sense of how clothes looked on me; I wanted to understand what I thought made me look stylish.

As I began to thirst for knowledge, I turned towards magazines and websites that specialized in not only the field of style, but also how to dress. I listened to articles that told me to avoid tight tops because my stomach wasn’t thin, and the stretchy fabrics would make me look fatter. I followed the directions to make sure that tops hit me just below my stomach, and to avoid high-waisted jeans because my stomach would stick out.

The body that was once a mannequin for style-experimentation became controlled by the ideas of an industry I longed to be a part of. I didn’t realize that the more I “dressed for my body type,” the less I dressed for myself. The more I followed the rules set in place, the less I was able to see the beauty of my own body.

The reason that I, and many women, listen to these rules is the same reason that the fashion industry creates them: to achieve the perfect body. The problem with that, however, is that it places one body type above the others. It perpetuates the idea that if a woman does not look a certain way, they are not beautiful.

I was body-shaming myself without even realizing it. I tried to hide my stomach and play up my waist because I thought other people would find me stylish and beautiful when I did; I didn’t even think of how I wanted to look, only how society wanted me to.

It’s a common occurrence: fashion publications present articles about how to flatter your curves or how to hide your stomach. They discuss how different body types should stay away from different pieces if they want to look attractive in their clothes.

When I began to grow, I learned that clothing didn’t determine how good I looked; in fact, my confidence did. As long as I felt good about what I was wearing, I would be stylish and beautiful, just as I always wanted to be. The issue with telling women to dress to flatter their figure is that they shouldn’t dress to their body — they should dress to their mind.

If someone with a stomach wants to wear a bikini, they shouldn’t be afraid that they will look fat; they should be able to wear it and feel beautiful. As long as they are confident, what’s the point in stopping them from wearing it?

When we allow the fashion industry to place rules for different body types, we take away the ability for women to be confident with their bodies. We allow body shaming to happen right under our noses. We reject bodies with curves or without them.

We say how to dress in order to portray the perfect model body. Telling women to dress to their bodies crushes any opportunity for them to be confident and accepting of the bodies they have; these guidelines give them the idea that they have to change their bodies to be stylish and attractive. In reality, it’s all about accepting your body. All body types are allowed to wear all clothes.

Dressing for your body type is just a fancy way of saying try to change your body to fit society’s standards. So, I propose throwing away the concept. I say that we ignore the fashion world’s attempt to make us hate our bodies and buy the clothes they want us to.

I stand with women who want to wear the clothing they were always told not to, the women who love their bodies in whatever clothes they want to wear. I support them as I myself am learning to follow in their footsteps. I think of the women who are tired of the fashion world body-shaming them as I pick out my outfit for the next day.

I will wear the tight shirt. I will sport the high-waisted jeans. I will stop “dressing for my body type” and instead dress for myself. I will love my body and how it looks in the clothes I decide to wear.