Friend Friday is run by ModlyChic. To participate email firstname.lastname@example.org. This week we are talking about body image.
Recently I have been rehearsing in a local hall and I start my session by undressing and hanging up the elements of my daily uniform on a rail of clothes hooks arranged like this. My cashmere jumpers, alpaca coat, Mongolian fur gilet, wool hat, cashmere snood, and jersey harem trousers. Seeing and recognising this shapeless, lifeless, skinned version of myself prompted me to get my camera out and take a picture. The shell without the body so to speak, sullenly watching me (and I, it) the whole time I rehearse. A deflated and dissected being silently awaiting reanimation on reunion with my limbs, torso and head.
Somehow this ghostly representation of the living, breathing, conscious me, formed by this orderly alignment of my clothes suspended on the wall, strangely reflects what I was thinking when I got dressed in the morning, my state of mind, how much time I put into selecting what I wanted to wear, my inability to acclimatise to a cold climate, my preference for certain fabrics and my predilection for wearing black. This phantom self will retain the warmth of my body heat for some time after undressing. Its scent would tell an amateur Sherlock Holmes whether I bothered to wear perfume today and if so, which one. He could also deduce how often I wear each piece and what I habitually do wearing them from the signs of wear that scar them.
So much of the essence of me infused into the fibres even when I am not in them. It made me reflect how wearing clothing is strangely like puppetry. It is funny how our body image can be so deeply affected by how clothes fit and how we look in our clothes, and yet our garments are just inanimate objects which only come to life when inhabited by our bodies.
I'm rehearsing with a bata de cola these days, a long trained skirt that needs to be brought to life with the technical skills of my body. Another act of puppetry with a garment. The skirt has to dance. Sometimes it has to fly, sometimes it has to appear to float and it always has to fall in time with the music. It must not be allowed to flip over and sometimes it has a will of its own if you let it control you rather than controlling it. Some dancers will tell you that dancing with this skirt is like dancing with another person, a partner. Mine happens to argue with me a lot!
Clothes should be more grateful. They would have no life if it wasn't for our bodies!
1. Since you started blogging has your image of yourself changed?
I assume this is referring to body image but my image of myself (body or otherwise) has never really been affected by the blog.
I've been a very physically active person for the last two decades and I would say my body image has a lot more to do with being a dancer and the requisite number of hours spent in front of a mirror scrutinising what your body does and how it looks. I studied ballet for years and now dance flamenco and I always notice how much muscle loss I suffer and weight I gain when I don't dance as much. Your body is what is on show when you are on stage and that makes you acutely aware of how it looks in costumes, under lights and in photos. I have been photographed on several occasions for promotional purposes as a dancer and it never fails to amaze me how much lighting and film can visually add in pounds.
When I started the blog I had actually put on a lot of weight after working horrifically long hours for months on a contract job and I was struggling to fit into half my wardrobe. Although it gave me a good excuse to go shopping for new clothes, I found it very frustrating that many of my favourite clothes were suddenly off limits. I went to Spain for three months shortly after starting the blog and lost a lot of weight while dancing over there. Since I've got back to England I've put on at least half of what I lost in Spain back on again due to comfort eating in the winter (curse those crumpets with jam and clotted cream) as well as not walking and dancing as much. So changes in my body image over my time blogging has had much more to do with things going on behind the blog rather than the act of blogging and doing outfit posts.
2. Are you self-conscious about any aspect of yourself? If so, do you go out of your way to avoid it or do you post it/talk about it anyway?
I'm self conscious about lots of things but I don't think it makes for interesting blogging to moan about it. I will say that I don't think I am particularly photogenic and don't like looking at pictures or videos of myself and I have to do enough of that outside of this blog for dance related things. It not actually the reason I blog anonymously but I certainly save a lot of time doing outfit posts by not showing my face as that would just mean having to spend even more time filtering out photos with facial expressions I find annoying.
My blog is about my passion for clothes and even though issues of fit, cut and what I find flattering on me is going to be affected by my body image at the time, I wouldn't usually discuss that thought process ad nauseum in a post unless it was the sole reason I chose what I wore. Poor old Mr V gets the job of dealing with the "does my bum look big in this" questions, nobody else!
3. Based on how you are feeling now, what do you think the future holds in the evolution of your body image?
I'm thirty eight and suffer from all the run of the mill age related things that everyone suffers from when it comes to body image, but ironically I'm probably far more comfortable with my body now than I ever was in my cellulite free teens and twenties when I had much less to complain about. People have been kindly advising me for at least two decades every time another birthday comes around that "it's all downhill from here!" and I'm sure they will continue to tell me the same thing for years to come. I've found its best to stop worrying about it so much and enjoy what you have, now!
4. Do you photograph yourself for your blog? If so, how do you feel about the experience when you're having your picture taken? If you choose not to post pictures of yourself, what prompted that decision?
I usually take photos of myself for the blog. I generally feel a little bit silly doing it which is more to do with prancing around my kitchen in front of a tripod and camera than anything to do with my body image! In blogging anonymously I also spare everybody my corny facial expressions. I look for photos that are the best at showing off first and foremost the clothes and that usually coincides with what looks flattering on me. Certain poses and angles can make anyone look a bit strange due to foreshortening or other effects so it is really about finding something that looks good.
5. What would you want every person who struggles with body image to take to heart?
It is the rare person that is not insecure about something in terms of their body image. If you have body image issues you are in good company. It shouldn't stop you enjoying from getting dressed every day and if anything clothes can be your best friends if you are feeling self conscious about your body. It is a question of wearing clothes that fit well and flatter you. But speaking from my own experience it is amazing what even a moderate amount of regular exercise can do, not only in terms of toning up but also in terms of feeling healthier and more positive in general.
The body is an amazing machine and I firmly believe it was built to be active. I love putting mine through its paces physically and you get out of it what you put in. I'm actually one of those people that doesn't like going to the gym but I found a form of exercise that I love and enjoy doing which I think is key. I would also say that you shouldn't approach exercise with the expectation to fall in love with your "new" body afterwards. Rather, just show your body some love by giving it some exercise! In the end its health is far more important than the clothes you put on it.
My first protest sign
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