How many times have I heard a variation of this phrase, coming out of my mouth or a girlfriend’s?
“I can’t wear dresses, I hate my legs.”
“I can’t wear button-up blouses, my boobs are too big.”
“Skinny jeans? No. Not for me.”
In my case, it was sleeveless. Of course I’d bare my arms at the beach, but I’d never have dreamt of going sleeveless to a dressy event.
Do you know how many cute cocktail dresses there are out there with sleeves? Ones that don’t look like grandmother-of-the-bride dresses? Not very many. So those of us who are insecure about our arms are relegated to the land of shrugs and shawls. I don’t like this land. It’s a fussy place where you’re always tugging at things around your shoulders, you’ve got extra bulk around your boobs, and the colors never match quite right.
Then something happened. I’d lost a few pounds so I was feeling better about myself than usual, I fell in love with a little black lace-overlay cocktail number, and my company’s holiday party was coming up.
“I’ll just try it on,” I thought. “I’ll see what it looks like.”
I don’t even know if Adrianna Papell is a real person, but if she is, bless her heart, because apparently she understands my body perfectly. This dress is cut to accentuate the smallest part of my midsection, it fits great in the bust, and the way arm holes are cut is perfect for me to go sleeveless: no gaping, no bra showing, no tugging.
(This dress is several seasons old, but I’ve since bought other Adrianna Papell dresses at Nordstrom, and those fit great and are flattering, too. This one , available now, is similar to my Breakthrough Dress.)
I realized, there’s really nothing particularly wrong with my arms. They’re plump, sure, but they’re in proportion to the rest of my body. I have keretosis pilaris, but so do lots and lots of other women, and I can keep that in check with exfoliation and good lotions. My arms aren’t chicken-wing flappy, I don’t have cellulite (there, anyway), and I’ve decided there’s really not a good reason to limit the way I dress because of them. Just like with a bathing suit on the beach, if someone looks me up and down, sniffs, and says “She shouldn’t be going sleeveless,” that reflects a lot more negatively on them than it does on me.
Plus, let’s face it. The cap sleeves I wore like a security blanket really only cover up like 3 inches of upper arm, and it is not the most unattractive part. Oftentimes, a sleeveless dress will make your arms look smaller than the wrong sleeve.
When I got engaged, I looked at a lot of styles of wedding gowns. I tried on things I never would have picked and was surprised at what looked pretty good, like a slinky chiffon one-shoulder goddess gown. Ultimately, I went with a custom-made gown with bodice very similar to my cocktail dress. I felt comfortable and pretty all night. (Whether you’re a size 2 or 22, I can’t say enough good things about the ladies at Cicada Bridal in Seattle. I plan to write more about my wedding dress experience later, but in the meantime, if you’re in this area and shopping for a special event, do yourself a favor and check them out.)
Since then, I’ve tried other things I thought I “couldn’t” wear. I found some button-up shirts that fit over my boobs but aren’t too boxy around the middle. I found the perfect “skinny” jeans for my body (for me, there will always be air-quotes, but the pants look good). I’m trying out a maxi dress.
Sure, there are certain things you’ll probably never see me in. I can’t picture myself in a strapless dress any time soon, but if I found one I really loved with a robust enough infrastructure, it could happen. Booty shorts? No, I will likely stick to Bermudas, thanks.
The moral of the story is: Don’t rule out entire categories of clothing. Rethink, and look for versions of that item that work for you. It can be done; it’s more important to try things on and evaluate each item of clothing individually.
Wearing something from your “Oh, I can’t wear that!” list makes you feel really great about yourself. I’ve gotten more compliments on my skinny jeans and my sleeveless dresses than items I bought that I felt perfectly secure in. While my head has yet to swell up to match my upper arms, it has been a much-needed self-esteem boost.
How about you? Is there an item of clothing you just won’t wear? Is there something you’ve rotated back into your wardrobe? Anything you are thinking about giving another try?