how to dress for my body type
(Via Instagram/sasheonline)

I’m a size 12 with big hips, big boobs, and a cushy stomach–so, not a straight-size model. But that doesn’t stop me from wearing what I want to.

Once upon a time, I did not like my body. Well, once upon most of the time, actually, because I spent the better part of a decade considering my body to be a heinous demon monster unfit for visual consumption. While I acknowledged that my body would allow me to do fun things like dance and write and run (okay, fine, I don’t actually thinking running is fun, but I couldn’t think of a third thing), I also knew that according to what I perceived as most standards, it was not pretty; this inexplicably and overwhelmingly mattered more to me than anything else.

Long story short, because this is not the point of this post, I was bulimic for a good 10 years. I’ll skip the gory details–though you can read about them here, in a piece I wrote for The Gloss way back in 2012–but they were disgusting and scary enough that I was eventually given the ultimatum from multiple doctors that I either stop wreaking havoc on my body or I could die. While I’ve admittedly relapsed a few times since, I am, for the most part, very kind to my body nowadays, with the exception of occasionally drinking too much whiskey. That said, there’s a difference between not harming your body and actually liking it.

The past year has been a true turning point in not only how I see myself but also how much I care about what others see. Being an editor who attends Fashion Week yet doesn’t look like your typical idea of what a fashion editor looks like–let alone a model–can be daunting, but it has also conditioned me to focus far more on how much I know, what I am capable of, and the job I need to do than what I look like or how other people are seeing me. Fortunately, this also led me to stop wearing outfits simply because they looked the “most flattering,” i.e., thinning, and instead focus on wearing the clothes I actually like. I no longer accept “you look so skinny” as a compliment; I no longer think of “you look like you’ve lost weight” as the ultimate kind words.

So, that brings me to what I’m focusing on today: not needing to dress for your “body type.”

Just to be totally straight with you guys, here are my stats:

  • 5’7″
  • 165 pounds
  • 36DD
  • Size 12 dresses and pants (or XL)
  • Size 10 shirts (or L)

For years, even when I was quite thin, I avoided wearing certain styles because I felt like they weren’t “meant” for my body type–as though, even if I literally could put an article of clothing onto my body and it fit, I should simply reject it based entirely on the idea that a human with my shape “can’t” wear it. Stripes? Nope. Short shorts? Hellllllll no. Crop tops? LOL nah. I saw all these thinner, less curvy women wearing those styles in college and just thought to myself, Well, maybe in the next life. It sounds a little pathetic when typed out like that, but I am 100% certain I’m not the only person who has ever felt this way.

(Related: 13 Styles Plus Size Women Are Told Not To Wear, But Should Anyway)

Fast forward to 2015: the fashion industry is finally learning, acknowledging that women above a size 4 and below 5’9″ exist, and we want to buy clothes, too. There are size 22 models and size 10 models and bikinis that come in sizes 12 – 24. And now, one of the biggest online retailers in America has been running a campaign to improve honesty and diversity in advertising.

Introducing #FashionTruth by ModCloth, the revolution that is actually making a difference in how women shop. The e-retailer of all things adorable released a report called “Truth In Fashion” that revealed (and confirmed) stats about advertising and how women respond to it. Some important highlights:

  • 68% of women are more likely to buy from a company that uses models of varying sizes.
  • 47% of all women feel excluded from the fashion industry; that number rises to 65% when looking at exclusively plus size women.
  • 58% are more likely to purchase from a brand that uses models of varying ethnicities.
  • 71% of women feel there should be more diversity among models in fashion.
  • Two-thirds say they would be more likely to buy from a brand that uses limited Photoshop and retouching.

Basically, it’s in companies’ best interests to utilize women besides the majority of models, who are most often tall, size 0 -2, white, and have narrow hips and busts. These brands will literally make more money by diverging from the pack, which is what I think is the point of having a company–making more money and getting as many customers as possible. Considering so many have been failing lately, one would hope that others might take notice and attempt to modernize themselves.

As a result, I decided to model some clothes for ModCloth that I never would have worn back when I felt too insecure about my size and shape to put on anything I didn’t feel made me look slimmer and taller.

First off, here’s my new favorite dress:

Aisle Be There Dress in Dragonfly
Aisle Be There Dress Dragonfly ModCloth FashionTruth Campaign DEFY Media

Remember this one? I put it in my post about the burlesque poetry show I did last month. When I was younger and more stressed about how other people saw my body, I would never wear dresses like this because I’d be scared of how my arms looked, how tight it is on the stomach, how turquoise isn’t necessarily a “slimming” color–the list goes on and on.

Nowadays, I absolutely love this type of dress. It makes me feel like Betty at Mad Men attending a tea party.

(Related: Why Bikinis Are Good For Plus Size Women)

I also used to believe that I couldn’t “pull off” short and tight clothes because of my wide hips, but oh hey, meet the romper I’ve been basically wearing nonstop.

Til Nest Time Romper
FashionTruth ModCloth Til Nest Do Us Part Romper standing

The odd thing about having large breasts is that society simultaneously values and condemns them. It says, hey if you’re Kate Upton, feel free to bare ’em for our amusement and gaze–oh, but if you’re not Kate Upton, please cover those up, you dirty, dirty slutmuffin. And statistically speaking, there’s only a 1 in 7 billion chance that you are Kate Upton, so this just seems silly.

Instead of skipping out on fun styles like low-cut rompers or crop tops that show some side boob, find the perfect one in your size and wear it out—got thick thighs? Who cares!

Show off your legs and, if this happens to apply to you as it does for me, tattoos! Even though it’s not warm right now, the second summer humidity hits, you’ll be really glad you stopped sacrificing comfort over what other people think of your cellulite, spider veins, and skin texture.

One of my favorite styles people say women with big hips “can’t” wear: high-waisted jeans.

I’ve always been a huge fan of these because they make me feel like a pinup girl. Plus, they’re the least annoying type of pants for me to wear. As so often is the struggle when you have big hips, most jeans–unless they fit like a glove–have to be constantly pulled up and adjusted. High-waisted pants don’t, thank goodness, and also look great with crop tops, blouses, button-downs, bikini tops…just about anything you can put on; these look great with.

(Related: 14 High-Waisted Jeans To Make You Look Like A Cute Pinup Girl All Winter Long)

These aren’t the only styles I now wear that I wouldn’t before. I’ve now added to my previously limited wardrobe:

  • Crop tops
  • A bikini
  • Boyfriend jeans
  • A one-piece bathing suit without a skirt
  • High-waisted shorts
  • Non-high-waisted shorts
  • Cropped ankle pants
  • Riding pants
  • Giant hats
  • A bandage dress

Oddly enough, being less stressed about wearing flattering clothes has actually led to more compliments on my outfits than ever because I’m wearing styles that look good together and that I love. When you limit your own wardrobe to what you think other people want you to wear or what the fashion industry wants you to wear, you close yourself off to all the wonderful options available to you.

So, ladies with small breasts, don’t let anybody make you feel like you don’t deserve to wear that cool retro dress. Petite women pop on a maxi skirt for spring. Plus size women, wear some high-waisted short shorts with your bikini this summer. Girls with wide hips and cushy stomachs ignore magazines that relegate your shape to tankinis. Put outfits together that you love–after all, you’re the one who has to wear them.

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