I've worked with many plus-size clients, most of whom (whether they've told me or not) have had trepidation about working with me. To put it bluntly, how could someone my size know what they need or how hard it can be? I completely acknowledge that life in the wardrobe arena has been pretty easy for me. However, I truly believe that you can find the look and shape that work for you, regardless of size. With every client I work with, I learn more about available resources for all sizes. Recently, I worked with a client who wasn't sure I'd be able to help her. Since she was pretty happy with the results, I asked her to write a guest post about her experience so that you can hear it from her perspective, not mine. Here's Annie:
"Last summer, I told three of my friends that I wanted them to find me a personal stylist for my birthday. I didn’t need them to pay for anything, just to do the legwork to find the person. Looking back, it seems so silly that I couldn’t do a simple google search, but I think that shows how nervous I was about this endeavor. I could not even find the right person to help, I needed her dropped in my lap.
I have never been a girly girl. I was a tomboy growing up. My “look” was a bunch of plain cotton tops that I thought I could mix and match with any pants. I thought I didn’t care about clothes. I never thought about putting together an outfit, or having an intentional look. I can’t include pictures of how I dressed before Dacy because I avoided the camera like crazy. There are no pictures.
I told my friends that I didn’t want someone to tell me that if I lost 50 lbs I could wear trendy looks. I have always felt like clothes are designed for a size 2-6, and they just make them bigger for larger sizes. I was worried how Dacy would be able to understand that and find clothes actually made for women like me. I didn’t want a total makeover or to become someone else. I wanted to find someone who could help me be a better version of me. What I didn’t know at the time, but realized through this process, was that I wanted someone to help me like the person I saw in the mirror.
Even though I sought out a stylist, and had met Dacy twice before she came to my house for our first session, I was still pretty nervous. I have always hated trying on clothes because it made me feel fat. I don’t go to clothing stores, I only buy clothes online. Even when I get new clothes, I would often try them on without looking in a mirror. If it didn’t feel too tight, I kept it. I knew I wasn’t going to have a lot of patience for trying on clothes, looking at myself in the mirror, and talking about how I look in clothes. I thought, after a few outfits, I am going to refuse to try on more clothes, I am going to cry, and I am going to want to stop. But I didn’t. We went through every item in my closet. I never cried, never felt fat and ugly, never wanted to run and hide.
I stood in my closet, not in front of a mirror. So, big win #1 – I didn’t have to see myself in the clothes, and see the look on my face when I didn’t like what I saw. That kept me mentally engaged. But the absolute best thing Dacy did for me that day was that she made it about the clothes. It was never about my body. It wasn’t my fault that the shirt didn’t fit, it was the shirt’s fault. Bad shirt! She never said my arms look fat. She said, I don’t like the way that sleeve hangs. I don’t like where the shirt hits your waist. Instead of saying I have a big waist, she said I had skinny legs. It was never my fault. That was a new experience for someone with self-esteem issues that are very tied up in my size.
Dacy was both sweet and stern. She didn’t say why the heck did you ever buy that? She said that top did its job, it’s ok to let it go. It used to fit, it used to be in style, and that was great, but I give you permission to find something new. When I did have a shirt that I was in love with, she asked me why. I got to share my emotional connection to that shirt, how it hid my problem areas, showed off what I liked, the color was perfect, whatever. She listened, absorbed it, and took the responsibility for finding me a new shirt that would do those things for me. Because I didn’t try on clothes, or look at myself in the mirror, I didn’t know what I looked like in my clothes. I also didn’t see how those clothes fit differently over time, either because my body changed, or because they were getting stretched out or shrinking. All I knew is when I bought this shirt 2, 5, 7 years ago, I liked it. So I thought I had to keep it until it ripped or didn’t fit. If it fit, it stayed in the closet.
Dacy asked me if I bought clothes that were too small for me. I thought she meant, do I buy clothes thinking I will lose 10 pounds. I said no, I have accepted my body. But what I realized after that day, as I thought about so many things she said to me, was that yes, I do buy clothes that are too small. I got to a point where I thought pants were supposed to feel that way. It wasn’t the pants fault they were rolling at my waist, it was my body’s fault. So I bought the size clothes I thought I wore, and if the clothes looked or felt bad, I blamed myself, not the clothes.
While Dacy and I were emptying my closet, she very gently called me an organized hoarder. I was a little caught off guard. I don’t have piles of stuff on the floor, and my countertops aren’t full of collections of random things. Everything in my house has a place, and is in its place, but her comment really got me thinking. I have so much in my house that I wouldn’t buy today, but because I already own it, I keep in case I might need it someday. Isn’t that the definition of a hoarder? So, I committed to throwing away one thing a day. Every day, forever. I committed to stop buying things because it would be cute if I ever get invited to a BBQ. Now I’ll wait until I get the invite, and know that that serving platter is at Target if I still want it. I am starting to purge the stuff I have accumulated, and make much better decisions about what I do actually buy. It’s very refreshing. One more way I feel like a better version of myself.
After Dacy cleaned out my closet it took some getting used to it being so sparse. However, I knew I could wear anything that was left because we’d only kept what worked.
Next was shopping. Because Dacy said there were better plus-size options online, she sent me a link to a digital lookbook of clothes to purchase. A ton of clothes. I think it was good there were so many. I didn’t have time to really look at the clothes she chose, and pre-judge. I just had to get online and start buying. Lots of clothes I never would have picked, and there were several stores I hadn’t previously shopped at. She stayed in the price range I had been paying for clothes all along.
The sizes she told me to buy were all sizes I hadn’t worn before. That was something I had to mentally process and it took a while. I was initially a little depressed, oh my God am I really that size?! But I knew she had taken measurements, and bought clothes off the measurements, not off the sizes. So, I trusted her and just went with it. Well, she was right.
The day we had our personal shopping try-on session, I was excited. I have never been excited about clothes before, ever. This time, she made me face a mirror, and I got nervous right away. But again Dacy talked about the clothes, not my body. Because the clothes were the right size and fit for my body, I didn’t mind looking at myself in the mirror. I was smiling, standing up straight. I wasn’t poking at my problem areas or looking through the clothes to the body underneath. I started to see outfits, not just a way to not be naked.
For instance, I never knew that jackets could be part of the outfit. I always considered outer layers as a warmth layer, something you take off. But she was building really cute looks for me that involved wearing a jacket all day long! What?! We had discussed that I needed a nice dress and she found it! I tried it on, looked in the mirror and said, man, I look hot! I don’t think I have said that, or thought that, in over 20 years. I didn’t want to take the dress off. Now I can’t wait to have a reason to wear it, because I know I will look good.
(the dress Annie loved: here)
The clothes she chose for me were exactly what I wanted. Still me, just better. These clothes really can be mixed and matched. She kept the pants, shoes, and jewelry really simple, and the tops are the focal point of the look.
It did take a few days to get used to my new silhouette. I love the way I look, but it is very different from what I am used to seeing. Now, when I get dressed, I try on several outfits, not searching for one I can handle, but choosing between multiple great choices. I love every outfit I put on. I can’t wait to get dressed. I take no more time to get ready each day, but I feel so much better when I turn off the light and close the closet door. People in my life have noticed. I don’t think any of them even realize that it’s because of new clothes, they just know I look different. I think that it’s as much about the confidence I have as it is about the properly fitting clothes. I look at mirrors when I walk by now. I walk tall, and smile."