Getting Out the Door When I Know I’m Not Going to Fit In (and Filling the Gaps in my Wardrobe)

One reason you’re not reading about new year’s resolutions from me this month is because I went through a spate of goal-setting in November and December that had me updating my LinkedIn profile (almost done), cleaning and organizing my basement studio (done!), and attending networking events once a week so that when my shirt issues are finally solved, I can reach out to the women I meet who need them (ongoing). That last goal is the reason for my underdressed uniform fail.

The week after that experience, I ventured to hear a panel of female creatives talk about their work in digital media. Having learned my lesson to look like you’ve just come from work, I came up with the following combination, hoping that my polka dot blazer and tights would somehow say “creative”.

overdressed uniform fail

Instead, my outfit said “overdressed outsider.” Here’s what everyone else wore at the Razorfish offices that night.

overdressed for creatives at razorfish

Fortunately, I’d already met my greatest challenge that evening: getting out of the house. I doubted anyone at the event would be part of my target market, and it was so comfortable at home, that I could easily have sat under a blanket in front of our television all night. I persuaded myself to walk out our front door by looking at the evening as a research project.  I would find answers to questions like, What do creatives wear? What do they do at their jobs? What do they care about?

With this plan, I no longer had to worry about blending in! When other attendees asked if I was also in advertising, I just said, “No, I’m in the garment industry, and I’m here to find out how women in your industry dress and think.”  It led to some pretty interesting conversations even though the night confirmed my suspicion that my shirts aren’t a priority for busty women in digital marketing.

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My next event was on waaaaay more familiar territory because it was sponsored by women lawyers. Up to this point, I’d made do with the uniform I told you about yesterday, but now I went into high shopping gear looking for a black pencil skirt. I decided on the Sloan pencil skirt from Banana Republic and found it on sale for $35. The heavy stretch cotton makes it versatile for dressing up or down, but the color keeps it serious. I wear it all the time, including yesterday with my Lord & Taylor tee shirt and my new rain/snow bungee boots that I adore–now this is an outfit I could have worn to Razorfish!

blue tee black skirt bungee boots

Yes, I desperately need to accessorize. Maybe this will be the Year of Accessories. More on that in another post.

When I walked into the lawyer event, I knew I’d nailed the look: pearls, white shirt, black and brown woven blazer from my law firm days, black skirt, black tights, and black shoes. It’s a good thing I felt comfortable in my clothes because I didn’t necessarily feel comfortable in my skin. The event was a clothing drive and holiday party hosted by the Association of Black Women Attorneys, and I worried that I’d be seen as forcing my way into a support network where I had no business. This time “research project” didn’t give me any courage. Now as I waffled over whether to leave our house, I remembered advice I’d read recently about how to introduce yourself: instead of focusing on what you DO, focus on WHO you HELP. That was all I needed to overcome my shyness because I’m passionate about how my shirts help busty women. The event was a success for everyone, and I met some amazing women. I even helped another busty woman that night!

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This post is turning out to be more about how I’m learning to approach events where I’m unlikely to blend in than it is about filling the gaps in my uniform that I promised you yesterday. So far I’ve only told you about my new black pencil skirt. It filled the biggest hole, but I also needed a few pairs of dress pants to give my khakis a break, and I didn’t have even one pair of jeans that fit. I also wanted a nicer pair of black shoes to wear with skirts and dresses.

You never know what you’re going to find at thrift stores, but I hit the gold mine for these basics in Florida last month. Here are the shoes ($4 each) and belt (99 cents!) I scored at my favorite Goodwill. (Shoes are always a major challenge for me, so finding these was a big deal.) I also got two pairs of jeans that fit perfectly for $4 each that I’m sure you’ll be seeing in later posts.goodwill accessoriesNext up was the thrift store beside my sister’s art studio–the one where she found my purple dress in November. There I found tan and charcoal dress pants for $2 each. You’ll definitely be seeing these in future posts. I’d like to brag and say that I created my own luck by being so aware of my uniform and what I needed to complete it, but I’ve searched for these things before to no avail.

Before flying to Florida, I also found a pair of Donald Pliner kitten heels on eBay for $60.

leopard

I’ve been wanting a pair of leopard print shoes for more than two years. I’d like to say that it’s better to invest in the hard-to-find accent pieces since inexpensive basics are easier to find, but I know that’s not always the case either. Sometimes it’s the perfect basic that’s expensive and the trendy accent piece that’s cheap.

I guess it’s the not knowing that keeps things interesting. I love seeing how the other Hourglassy writers approach their wardrobes (Leah and I couldn’t be more opposite!), and I’d love to hear what you do. Also, be sure to check out Astrid’s latest post–The Busty Gal and the Accidental Capsule Wardrobe. I have a feeling we can all relate!

 

Not Like the Others: Danielle’s Stand Out Tips

Our final post in our series on how to deal with standing out. I hope Danielle’s post inspires and encourages you as much as it did me!

I was a theatre kid growing up, and feel very much in my element in front of a crowd. As long as I’m being true to myself, I’m happy to stand out and be the center of attention. I’m also generally pretty good about accepting constructive criticism – as long as it’s focused on my actions. Criticism about my appearance, on the other hand, tends to cut me to the core.

Several years ago, I had a co-worker tell me that I needed to cover up my chest because my breasts disgusted her and “showing them off” was inappropriate. I had always done my best on a limited budget to find wrap tops and v-necks that I could pair with camis to cover my chest and flatter my figure. Nothing that I wore was ever inappropriate. In fact, I usually showed less skin than this straight-figured co-worker who was so repulsed by my decolletage. Can you say double standard? I have struggled with my weight and accepting my curvy body for years, and so these body shaming comments played perfectly into my old insecurities. Rather than realize that this was just the latest tactic in an ongoing bullying campaign, I was suddenly back to elementary school when I started developing before most of the other girls, and to high school when I was told that it was inappropriate for me to wear the tank tops that the other girls were wearing. I gave way too much mental energy to the whole situation. Then I went out and bought baggy crew neck shirts so I could just blend in and avoid further unwanted comments. I spent a season wearing frumpy clothing that did not flatter my shape and did not reflect my tastes or personality before realizing that something had to change. I hated hiding, and refused to do it any longer.

And so, I started researching clothing options for women with hourglass figures, and stumbled into the wonderful world of big-bust-friendly clothing and bra blogs. Wearing clothing that actually fits properly and is therefore comfortable and flattering is a major confidence boost. Rather than tugging on my clothes and doing constant cleavage checks, I can walk into a room with my shoulders back, head held high, and feel comfortable that my clothing is a positive reflection of myself. It has been so much fun discovering new companies and checking out the growing variety of options that are available to curvy women in this expanding global niche market. And it has been a revelation to connect with other women who have struggled with similar issues and are developing a positive online community where we all can vent, celebrate, learn, and be ourselves. I even have some friends who are jealous that I can order clothes online and have them fit like a glove straight out of the box. I certainly never would have predicted that 5 years ago!

During this time of growth and empowerment, I also worked on learning to love my unique, curvy body. One of my biggest revelations came during a group exercise class. Before each class began, I used to scrutinize myself in the mirror – making sure my underarm flab was tucked properly under my tank top straps, seeing if my tummy, hips, and triceps looked any skinnier than they were a few days earlier, and so on. On this particular day, I was not pleased with what I saw. Mid-way through the class, I glanced around the packed room. I saw women of all shapes and sizes and skin tones. And every single one of these women was beautiful. It didn’t matter that we were all coated with sweat and that half of us were flushed. All of these “regular” women each had a completely unique shape, and each was beautiful. I would never dream of disparaging any of their bodies, so why was I being so critical of my own? I’m still working on loving myself as I am – it’s especially difficult when I see photos taken from a particularly unflattering angle. And I still do the occasional pre-workout figure check. But now I make a point of stopping negative self-talk as soon as I notice it happening, appreciating what my body does for me as I move through the day, and working towards becoming stronger and healthier.

One thing that has always given me confidence when I worry about how I will come across to others is understanding that most people are so worried about themselves: how they look, what they should say, whether or not others are judging them, and so on, that they don’t have much mental energy left to judge me (or you, or anyone). So why not wear whatever I feel like wearing and do what I want to do (within obvious ethical and legal bounds)? Chances are no one will pay me any particular attention anyway. And frankly, as long as I’m happy, comfortable, and doing things that I enjoy and am proud of, then it doesn’t really matter what others think. The times that I have been judged by others, especially about my appearance, it spoke more to the insecurities of the person judging me than it did to my appearance. And it’s certainly not a reflection of my value. If someone judges me, then it’s on them. If someone likes the way I stand out, then all the better! I’m making a point of focusing on developing my potential and being the best version of myself that I can be. And let’s be honest, the kick-ass woman that I strive to become is bound to stand out in a crowd!

Not Like the Others: Tips for Standing Out from Anna & Piper

It’s a twofer Tuesday today as we continue our Panache giveaway-inspired series. Today’s tips come from two women who are accustomed to being the center of attention.

From Anna

I’ve always been a person who likes to be the center of attention, so for me, standing out is usually a good thing. I’m usually the brightest (and biggest) person in a room, and I know now that taking up space in the world isn’t a bad thing. Women are conditioned to take up as little space as possible, by staying small and thin, by pressing their legs together on public transit, by apologizing for just existing. I don’t have the option of making myself small, so I embrace it. I’m going to stand out anyway, so why not do it with a little style (and perhaps a rainbow raincoat and some hot pink boots)?

If you stand out accidentally, think about why it’s making you uncomfortable. Is it because of the way people are reacting to you – or the way you THINK they are reacting to you? I have come to realize that even though I try to stand out, most people are focusing too much on their own business to worry about what others are doing. If you’re feeling weird because you’re the only one in stripes when everyone else is in solids, take a second and really think about whether they care or not. They probably don’t! And if they do – that’s their problem, not yours!

From Piper

How do I deal with standing out?

I have never had a problem standing out because of who I am on the inside. I was that smart girl in class that talked a little too much. I like being in charge and leading groups. As long as people are focused on what think or what I am doing, I am happy and comfortable, and I don’t mind the attention at all.

I am still working on being comfortable with the attention I get from my body. I have large boobs (usually 34HH), and this is almost always the first thing people notice about me. I wanted people to take me seriously and listen to what I had to say so I used to always try to cover up or hid my boobs. But, I was not happy with how I looked. I almost never ever wore dresses because I could not find any that fit properly. I felt fat or frumpy; never polished and put-together.

Over the years I have discovered clothes designed for large breasted women (YES!). I can now look fabulous, sophisticated or sexy. I love these clothes. I love how they make me look. I love how I feel in them… most of the time.

Sometimes I still struggle with the attention I get, especially when I am wearing a more form-fitting outfit. I love walking down the street knowing that I look good, but I am also constantly bracing for the unwelcome comments from strangers. I will never understand why a stranger thinks they need to comment on my boobs. My “favorite” comment is someone telling me that I have large boobs. Geez thanks for pointing that out; I had no idea because I have never looked in a mirror before.

Still, I won’t let random strangers dictate what I wear or ruin my day. I will still walk down the street with my head held high wearing some awesome outfit, and if a stranger makes some inappropriate comment… screw them. If they can’t see past my looks to see what a fabulous person I am, then they don’t deserve a second thought. And while I don’t always follow my own advice, I will keep trying until I get there.

Not Like the Others: Celia’s Tips for Standing Out

Continuing our Panache giveaway-inspired series with this fresh perspective from Celia.

My best advice for standing out? Own it. I’ve definitely had situations in which I felt as though I might be standing out in the “sore thumb” way instead of the “extra glittery star” way. But in situations like that, I still plaster on a smile, throw my shoulders back, and repeat my own personal mantra to myself “I’m awesome, forget them.” (Note: the mantra actually uses a more adult word starting with F, but I’ll just keep this family friendly.)

This might not work for everyone but I’ve generally found if you tell yourself that you’re great, it helps combat the stupid voice of internal cringe if you find yourself feeling less than confident. I also find that the people around you accept whatever you’re dishing out so long as you do it with a smile and a wink.

Also want to give a quick shout out to how much I love Panache’s line of sports bras. I play roller derby and have two of them to play in, and they’re fantastic. The foam shaping actually provides my ladies a little bit of extra protection against chest hits. And they look great too! So well supported!

roller derby panache protection