For the last 4 years, I have worked as a Personal Shopper along side my role as Co-Editor & Founder of tabitha magazine. In that time I have seen possibly hundreds of women in various states of undress. I have also seen just as many different body types- from curvy, petite, tall, new Mums , to cancer survivors, ladies in wheelchairs, people who have been recently bereaved ( believe me – that is a body type) to trans gender ladies, and sometimes just boys who like to dress as girls from time to time. Every person is completely different from the next. Something I have learned from spending so much time with all these people, in their underwear, is how differently they view their own body compared to how I view them. It’s amazing how focussed everyone gets on negative aspects of their appearance, and completely ignore the positive.
I once shopped for a model who had landed in Dublin for the weekend. She had previously spent the week in Paris on a shoot and was returning to New York where she was from. Her skin was the most perfect coffee colour, her legs were about 50 miles long, and to be honest I was a healthy mix of jealous / mesmerized / in love.
What struck me about this amazing beautiful woman, ( who had a great personality and was loads of fun) was that she automatically zoomed in on her flaws. I couldn’t believe it. How could someone, who in my eyes had physical perfection, be in any way unhappy with her looks. It hit me then. Happiness can’t come from the outside, you have to be content with what’s going on inside your bag of bones, and in turn that will help you be happy with what’s going on on the outside.
I guess seeing that everyone has body issues has definitely helped me become more confident as a person. Obviously I still have days when I’m looking in the mirror and all I can see is a Mrs. Potato Head looking back, but I try and outweigh those days by not dwelling on them. I have some ideas that I tend to stick to while shopping with someone, so I have decided to share them here…
1. Dress for yourself now, and not “when I lose a few pounds….”.
This is the biggest no- no I can think of.
As a rule of thumb, I refuse to let people mention weight in Personal Shopping appointments. The reason for this is because, once they do -their mind is automatically drawn to the negative, and thinking of losing some of themselves, rather than focusing on how good they can look and emphasizing their best parts.
2. Don’t listen to what you should be wearing and wear what you want.
I am sick of women coming to me saying things like ” I’ve been told to stay away from reds , greens and blues”. For the love of god, there is such a range of colours out there, that green for example cannot just be reduced down to one shade. There’s warmer greens, cooler greens, so there is bound to be a shade that suits your colouring. I find that these colour classes ( and shape classes ) reduce people down to few options and take the fun out of shopping. Seriously.
3. Size DOESN’T MATTER.
Another thing I don’t mention while Personal Shopping is the size of the garment I am trying on someone. There is no standardized sizing , especially in highstreet. Sometimes, even in the same store, you could wear a small top medium coat and large trousers. This is due to clothes being mass produced , and not tailor made for the individual. Always bring a bigger size with you into a fitting room to try on because more often than not, this is the size that will work better, and if it doesn’t , there is more chance that you will ask the store assistant for the size down.
4. Don’t compare yourself to anyone.
Just because it’s fashionable to wear a certain thing doesn’t mean you have to wear it. Just because someone you know wears certain things doesn’t mean that you have to. What suits you and what you like to wear are very personal choices and shouldn’t be influenced by anyone (Personal Shoppers included!)
5. Never apologize for liking the way you look.
There have been times where I have shopped with some Mums and Daughters. The daughters might not look the exact way that the Mums think that they should look, even though the daughters have seemed to be happy with their appearance. So instead of celebrating their daughter’s body confidence, they have turned and whispered to me to tell them that I don’t think someone with (such wide shoulders / a big belly/ short legs) should wear what they are wearing. I flat out refuse to do this. If someone is happy with how they look , then I consider that a triumph.
We are all trained to think that we need improving. If you’re curvy and not on a diet? We’ll then , there is something wrong with you- isn’t there? You don’t want to do a sunbed? You must be a pasty weirdo. Not wanting to change yourself is more shocking nowadays than openly taking part in conversations that dissect your entire body and how you want to change it.
Thanks to “inspirational quotes that actually belittle you” phenomenon on sites such as instagram and tumblr, liking yourself – just as you are – is a tough battle. So when I come across someone who does I am not going to be the reason that they change.
Words: Una O’Boyle, Tabitha Magazine.