Depending on what source you're looking at, between 70 and 90% of women in America express dissatisfaction with their bodies. Many of them turn to fad diets, body-shaping garments, or even cosmetic surgery in order to change their appearance. It seems like every week, there's some tabloid cover with a smiling celebrity celebrating their weight loss, or cruel speculation about how someone's gained weight and now no one loves her.
I usually feel like I have a pretty positive body image. I've always been a fairly confident person, and my body type is considered acceptable, even desirable, by society's standards - tall and fit, with a small waist and a big butt. I know, intellectually, that I have nothing to complain about. No one discriminates against me on the basis of my size. People don't make comments about what I eat, and it's wholly unremarkable if I exercise in public. No one's ever told me that "some guys are into women like me," as if I could only ever appeal to a niche market.
It can be uncomfortable to talk about how I think of my body because, as a thin person, no one really wants to hear me complain. I want to be clear that I'm not trolling for compliments, and I'm not trying to ask for anyone's sympathy. I fully acknowledge that any issues that I have are relatively minor, but I think they're issues that a lot of women have, and I think it's important to talk about them, particularly in the context of blogging.
The world of fashion is populated by thin women. This is just a statement of fact, and is not intended to denigrate them in any way. There is a very particular body type in fashion (at least in high fashion; I will get to pinup and retro styles in a bit) - tall, slim hipped, small breasted, with the long, slender limbs of a gazelle. Toned, but not muscular, and very lean. That's the typical model body type, and the most popular fashion bloggers tend to look to have the same look. Not as tall, perhaps, and maybe a bit softer and rounder, but it's still all about slender, graceful bodies that the clothes can hug and hang off of just so. Of course, it's also unusual for anyone to acknowledge how difficult it can be to maintain that body type. I'm sure that for some people it's natural, but most people have to be on a pretty strict diet to get to and maintain a size two. There's even an Instagram account called You Did Not Eat That, which capitalizes on the phenomena of very slender fashion and lifestyle bloggers posing coyly with macaroons, slices of pizza, giant burgers, and ice cream cones mere inches of their lips.
Although others usually see me as a relatively thin person, it can be hard for me not to zero in on what I think is wrong with my body when I look in the mirror. I said before that I usually feel pretty good about myself, but sometimes if I haven't been eating well or am just going through a rough patch emotionally, I look in the mirror and all I can see are legs like tree trunks, flabby thighs, and cellulite. My boobs look too small, my ass looks too big, and where the hell did these bingo wings come from? My weight rarely flucuates by more than five pounds either way, but the way that I see myself can vary widely from day to day.
When I take photos for outfit posts, I'm always conscious of how I pose. Hands of hips to make my waist and arms look slimmer, head tilted to elongate my neck, up on tip-toe if I'm not already wearing heels to make my legs look longer and slimmer. I try very hard to be conscious of any bias that I might have, and that includes being biased against heavier people; still, I work very hard to make sure that I, myself, look as thin as possible. I'll take photo after photo trying to get everything just right.
I don't wear pants that often, and I almost never post photos of myself in them, mostly because I really don't like the way my hips and legs look in them.
I have mixed feelings about the influence that the vintage fashion world has had on me. On the one hand, size acceptance seems to be one of the core tenets of the scene, and the body types that you see are far more diverse than in mainstream fashion. The message that women of all sizes are beautiful is widely distributed, and popular clothing brands work to make sure that they can accomodate a variety of sizes. Practically speaking, there's also greater acceptance of using undergarments to reshape your body. Don't like your waist? Wear a corset! Don't like your ass? Girdle, she wrote. It's kind of refreshing to hear that you don't have to achieve physical perfection all on your own - just go out and buy this thing to put on under your clothing and problem solved. Vintage fashion generally acknowledges the articfice involved in nipping waists and cantilevering breasts, which creates more realistic expectations.
On the other hand, much of the media that we draw inspiration from features women who are almost as slim as today's fashion models, and if you prefer to buy vintage rather than reproduction, good luck finding larger sizes. I'm often annoyed by how much cheaper really beautiful items can be in very small sizes. I'll stumble across something on Etsy and think, "Oh my god, that dress is amazing! And it's only $60? And it's... 32-24-32. *sigh*" It just makes me think that I'm a medium now, and that's ok, but what if I were a small? Or better yet, an extra-small?
I've never had an actual eating disorder, although I am prone to disordered eating. It's gotten better, but there was a time, not that long ago, when I would count every calorie, obsess over how much I was working out, feel extreme guilt if I slipped up a little bit, and then have a down moment and eat until it was painful. On a couple of occasions, I would take laxatives afterwards to "get the food out of my system," as I thought about it. It's behavior that I recognize now was deeply unhealthy, and could have led to something much worse. I have to be careful about how I think about dieting and exercise and my body, because even though I recognize how terrible some of my choices were, I still find myself falling into that mindset sometimes.
I'm going to keep blogging, and I imagine I'm only going to become more deeply immersed in the world of vintage fashion as time goes on. I want this blog to be successful, so I'm probably going to continue to take dozens of photos every time I want to post an outfit to make sure that I'm presenting the best possible version of myself and my clothes. I want to be honest, though, about how I feel about myself, and the struggles that I have had and continue to have with my weight and with my self-image. I would feel like a fraud and like I'm doing a massive disservice both to myself and those of you who read this by doing anything else.