Have you determined your body shape yet? Did it surprise you?
And what about your proportions? Was that a revelation too?
Now dear Reader, before I go any further, can I just say this. If you are perfectly happy with your appearance and your wardrobe, perhaps what will follow over the coming weeks and months with my New You posts, will not be for you. I promise to continue to post on gift creation, and my other favourite topics, regularly and often. If you are fortunate enough at 'a certain age' (usually 40+), to be the same size you were at 20, then I'm thrilled for you. But what will follow over the coming weeks and months, may not be useful for you either. What truly saddens me though, is that so many of us lack self esteem for whatever reason, and I can assure you that nurturing our self-esteem will figure largely in the discussions here as well.
It goes without saying though, that at least initially, I'll be focused on we ladies, who were once the well presented type, and now we're not, or at least not as well presented as we'd like, so that's where we'll start.
So...I had this idea for years, that I was an Hourglass shape. That was the closest I could come to with my unusual petite plus sized figure. I had a bustline, hips and a little kink in my sides, where my waist used to be. Then I wondered why oh why, the recommendations for Hourglass figures didn't suit me. A belt to accentuate my waist? Goodness, no. What waist? Sure I had one 30 years ago, but my tiny waistline is no more. Dresses a la 1950s with full skirts and tight bodices...eek! Awful for me, just awful. Ditto to the advice on wrap dresses, ruched bodices (supposedly to trick the eye into thinking my middle was ruched, not fat...nobody is fooled by that!), and padded shoulders to balance my silhouette. What??
So I did what we all do when we are lost and frustrated. I gave up. Not completely. There was still a little of the Glamour Girl in there, and she wouldn't shut up. Instead I refused to indulge in the hideous prints and ugly nightgowns found in the so-called 'Plus Size' specialist stores, and haunted thrift stores for special finds, whilst hiding in my sewing room with miles of fabric, praying for inspiration.
Then a couple of years ago, I started to think I was more of an Apple shape. I recalled my Mums figure being more of that ilk, and figured, that surely genetics would be playing a part in this game. I forget who introduced the Apple shape into the mix. Maybe one of the reality TV gurus. That piece of information has flown the coop, I'm afraid!
I attacked Pinterest and Google with a vengeance. Sadly, advice for any Apple shaped lady (and I do mean 'lady'), of a certain age, is thin on the ground. Some of the recommendations by Sweet Young Things on how we more mature and wise women should adorn ourselves, were, and continue to be, utterly laughable. What's one to do? I was back to being exhorted to wear belted dresses with full skirts and wide legged pants. Both of those on me, just made me look like I'd forgotten I was fat!
One course of action was to enter into the never ending cycle of weight loss and gain, that so many of us fall prey to once we've entered and exited the Menopausal years.
As you may well know, that in itself is exhausting and demoralising, and can severely impact how you feel about yourself. I, for one, focus now on being healthy and fit, and if that ultimately means that I am several kilos heavier than I was 30+ years ago, then so be it. That's not to say you should take risks with your health....no, no, no! This idea does not mean it's a free-for-all and you can eat and drink what you want, and not exercise, all under the umbrella of 'accepting yourself'. That's a copout too.
Embracing a healthy lifestyle, with a clean diet, an occasional treat, and a daily gentle walking, swimming or yoga programme, will work wonders for your internal wellbeing, your cardio health, your skin, and your general attitude.
I'm saying though, that the focus shouldn't ALWAYS be losing weight. To a certain degree, I believe it's empowering to embrace how you look NOW, and learn to make the most of that picture, no matter your dress size.
I am doing this very thing. Sure I'd like to lose 15 kilos (about 33lbs), but I'm not going to live my life based on some point in the future, that I may never reach. I want to reclaim my Glamorous self today, now, not tomorrow or next year.
If this sounds like you, then welcome. I hope we can enjoy this journey together.
Having made that decision, I searched for resources, to enable me to make the most of me as I am right this minute. Not next week, next month, next year, or when I lose 15 kilos. Now.
I finally found some advice that went like this....
"Apple shapes can wear empire line, wrap tops, and A-line skirts...BUT...not if you are a plus sized Apple. These styles will only emphasize your round tummy."
"Apple shaped women with round tummies should not wear belts at all".
Because you see, there are Apple shaped women out there who are slender enough for the belts, the wrap dresses, the A-line skirts and the fitted bodices and flounces. But they are not short waisted petite plus size Apples, like me.
Light bulb moment! So really, the rules DO change if you are plus sized, and even moreso if you are petite and short waisted. Honestly it was like a weight off my shoulders....no pun intended.
Here's another thing. Have you ever admired an outfit on someone else, be it a friend or a model in a magazine, bought the same outfit, and then wondered why you don't look as fabulous? There could be a number of reasons for this. First and foremost, your body shape and proportions are completely different to theirs. Secondly, perhaps there are elements in the outfit that are not to scale for your figure. Thirdly, is it possible that the style is actually a little complicated in design, fabric, colourway, or fit, and that it was only ever going to look good on a model? I'm thinking number three is the most likely. This has happened to me often in my life. You too?
Over the next couple of weeks, we'll talk about this more. As I said, I have now discovered that I am a Petite Plus Sized Apple shape, and most of my posts will be dedicated to this most neglected body shape. I know there's more of you out there, so hi!
Let's learn something new about ourselves this year. I am currently studying Marie-Anne Lecouer's e-course, titled The French Chic Academy, and I'm astounded at what I have already learned. If you can find the dollars in your own budget, I can highly recommend the course to you. For me, now that my daughter has scaled back her extra-curricular activities to focus on her final year of school, I find myself with a little spare cash to invest in self. So I am fortunate in that respect.
Marie-Annes recommendations have also led me to create a new Pinterest board, solely dedicated to Petite Plus-Sized Apple shape women like myself. You can find that here.
If you do not find yourself currently in a position to join Marie-Annes French Chic Academy, do at least read her blog, and also investigate another blog that is an eye opener for we, the style deprived, called Inside Out Style. Whilst Imogens advice is not specific to French Chic, and her blog takes a little more effort and energy in seeking what you need, there is still much helpful information to be found.
Meanwhile, knowing now your shape, and your proportions, I am going to ask you to do something that may help you appreciate how lovely you already are.
Each and every one of us, has many qualities that are beautiful. Yet as we age, and perhaps gain weight, we forget what those qualities are. Instead we worry about our lost youth, and settle into a premature old age, dressing and presenting ourselves to the world, likewise.
When you shower or bathe tonight, stop and look at yourself in the mirror. I mean really look. Don't give a cursory glance (possibly cringeing as I do), and race to dress in your nightgown. Take a moment. Love the body you're in, and thank it for what it does for you. It breathes, it loves, it gives you the ability to care for yourself and your family, it mobilises you.
Is your skin particularly lovely? Are your eyes the most beautiful shade of blue? Do you have especially long eyelashes, or elegant hands, or beautifully manicured nails? Maybe your ankles are particularly pretty, or you love to show off your wrists with bangles and bracelets (we often unconsciously adorn ourselves to draw attention to our best features without even realising it!), or you have enviably long fingers that you use to play the piano beautifully or curl your childrens or granchildrens hair. Is your own hair your best feature? Perhaps it's an unusual colour or you use a shampoo that makes everyone think of sunshine or apples. Do you have a signature scent, perfume or body lotion, that instantly makes you memorable? Are you proud of the condition of your skin, facial and body-wise? Do you have athletic shoulders, or well defined calves, or sweet earlobes that you like to adorn with pearls or other pretties? Is your décolletage` smooth and glowing, or are your particularly proud of your toned upper arms, made that way through gardening, or caring for your loved ones? Do your eyes crinkle at the edges when you smile, or do you have sweet dimples? Maybe you're proud of your stretch marks or your Caesarean or other surgical scars, as they are evidence of a life well lived and children gifted to you and your husband. In this day and age, it's not unusual to have a special tattoo that celebrates a date or a person or other significant event in your life. I'm not a tattoo person, but I make no judgement of those who love them. Acknowledge each of your special features, one and all.
Get out the journal I suggested you have at the start of the year. If you don't have your journal yet, just use a slip of paper, but make sure you keep it! Note down as many positive features as you can. LOOK for things to write down. Don't be shy! This is not vanity, and is not for viewing by anyone but yourself. It has nothing to do with being fabulously good looking or not. This is about giving thanks for what you've been gifted in this life, and moving forward from there.
Here's a sample of my list...
Well moisturised skin
Long slender hands
Naturally curly hair
Well looked after fingernails and toenails
You get the idea. It's not about blowing my own horn, or gloating about what I have compared to someone else, or conversely, lamenting what I do not have. It's about consciously seeking those elements of my appearance that are a positive.
You can do this too.
Let's start on this positive, and stay there. Even on our worst days, let's open our journals, look at our lists, and remind ourselves that whilst we are not perfect, (and who is!), we have much for which to be thankful, no matter our financial status, age or stage of life, or body shape.
Let's learn to love ourselves. Whether for the first time or the second, third or fifty-third. Let's be comfortable with who we are, and how we arrived there. Let's celebrate our curves and crinkles, and make the most of them. Most of all, let's find our inner joy, and let our most beautiful selves, glow from within. That alone is better than the most expensive designer outfit.
See you Monday with your body shape and proportions in one hand, and your journalled loveliness in the other.
I'll be offering inexpensive ways to pamper yourself, and a routine for self care that anyone can implement.