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Why shopping for a new shape needs to be rooted in compassion

It can be such an emotional time.

AS A SOCIETY, we have been urged to internalise the idea that losing weight is ‘good’ and gaining weight is ‘bad’, dropping a size is to be celebrated and going up a size is to be shamed.

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These concepts are, of course, nonsensical because there are myriad reasons your shape and size may change over the course of your life, and very few of them can ever be categorised as wholly positive or wholly negative.

Depending on the person, weight gain may be celebrated while weight loss may be concerning, and vice versa.

With lifestyle, illness, medication, pregnancy and motherhood – to name just a few – playing a role in our physicality, very, very few of us remain one dress size throughout adulthood.

And whether it’s weight loss, weight gain or hormonal changes which has caused your shape and size to change, most of us have become accustomed to oscillating between sizes dependent on various factors.

But what happens when your new shape doesn’t mean simply opting to size up or size down? What if it requires a whole new perspective, approach and – lest we forget – wardrobe?

With that in mind, DailyEdge.ie chatted with Laura Jordan of Style Savvy, a highly successful style consultant, fashion presenter and personal shopper, who explained: “The only thing I’ve any interest in when I’m dressing someone is the shape of their body.”

PastedImage-47605 Source: Laura Jordan

Laura elaborated on this approach, highlighted the emotional factors involved in navigating the retail process and reminded us that when it comes to shopping, it’s shape and cut, not size and weight that matter.

I don’t care whether I dress someone in a size 8, 18, 28; it’s the shape of their body that’s important to me. Otherwise you just pick up the size off the hanger, and you don’t need anyone to shop for you. My job is to analyse shape; it’s shape, rather than size or weight.

If you’re currently in the midst of a crisis of confidence when it comes to your collection of clothes, here are some things to remember.

1. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed

Whether your new shape was something you actively sought or was the result of factors outside of your control, it can feel overwhelming getting to grips with what feels like ‘a new body’.

From her experience as a stylist, Laura has identified patterns of behaviour that go hand-in-hand with a changing body shape.

There’s a similar pattern for both weight gain and weight loss. Whether it’s loss or gain, there is a sense of uncertainty.

“Someone who has gained weight may have a drop in confidence in terms of dressing for their new shape, and for people who have lost weight, they’re also uncertain.”

The practicalities of choosing only increases with help and guidance, but that practicality is secondary to the feeling of uncertainty.

“At both ends of the scale, the feeling is the same, and it’s really, really common, and a normal reaction to have,” Laura explains.

2. It’s also normal to feel emotional

Ostensibly, it can be argued that in order to handle a change in shape, you simply size up or size down, but we all know that it’s not as simple as that.

Acknowledging this, Laura says:

The emotional response is the biggest factor. If a person is able to be purely practical, then we could all just buy a different size on the hanger, but none of us are and that’s what makes us human.

“In my job, I have to address the emotional before I can just pick a size off a rail,” she continues.

“I think, sometimes, changing size – as well as the feeling of uncertainty – can also remind a person of a different time in their life; whether it be for better or worse. We have that linkage, like muscle memory, and you have to address that.”

I can help someone buy new clothes, but if they don’t look at themselves differently in the mirror when they wear them, I may as well sit at home and they may as well keep their money in their bank accounts.

3. It’s definitely normal to shy away from shopping

Laura acknowledges that shopping can be daunting when traversing unfamiliar territory, and much of that comes down to mindset of the individual.

No matter what shape or size, there often exists either a hope or a fear that the current body may only be a temporary one.

There is a hesitancy to invest in clothes because there is a feeling ‘I won’t stay at this shape’, regardless of the size. You’re thinking ‘there’s no point in shopping at this size because this is only a short-term thing for me.’

“The behaviour pattern in my experience is to cover and hide; whether you’ve gained weight or lost weight. The individual mightn’t have learned how to reveal and conceal,” she adds.

shutterstock_1262617591 Source: Shutterstock/wanida tubtawee

Here’s why you shouldn’t shy away from shopping

Big, small, curvy or lean: no one person is without their hang-ups. However, when the aforementioned features are only recent, hang-ups can seem almost insurmountable, and that’s where pride and self-worth come into play.

Let’s say you’ve actively sought to lose weight, have reached a ‘goal size’, but have yet to fully accept the transition, you’re not alone.

“Be proud, you’ve worked hard for this shape, and you deserve the investment in yourself! This – for so many women in particular – is a new concept,” Laura says.

Or let’s say you’ve unintentionally gained weight, and are no longer comfortable in your own skin.

For weight gain, I’m even more passionate to remind people that investing in yourself is so important, because there’s a misconception that when you’ve gained weight, you need to punish yourself; the inner voice is punishing.

“Every person deserves to feel good regardless of the size you’re buying on a garment tag,” she adds.

So, let’s talk practicalities

You feel like you’re inhabiting a new body – and whether this is a welcome or unwelcome development – you need a plan of action.

“Focus on the areas you want to highlight, what you want to reveal, what you want to conceal, and work from there,” Laura encourages.

As soon as you get into a retail space, you’re bombarded. You’re told ‘what to have’, ‘must-buys’, ‘love this piece’,’ favourite item’, and if you don’t have the research done on the shape and style that suits you, you’re actually going to become so overwhelmed.

“You’ll either leave with nothing and you won’t feel good about yourself or you’ll panic buy loads of things, none of which coordinate and you end up in trouble,” she continues.

Decide what you want to reveal and conceal

The smallest change can often result in the need to subtly alter the part of your body you want to show off in terms of the cut of the clothes you choose.

So remember…

Whether you gain or lose in the future, you need flexibility in your clothes. Women can go up and down by almost half a stone from one end of the month to the other, so look for pieces that allow for that flexibility!

And finally…

It’s important to accept that a weight loss or weight gain journey – whether purposeful or unintended – can play an enormous role in self-perception and self-acceptance.

As such, the results of such a journey can throw up multiple challenges, both emotional and practical, and it’s understandable that you may temporarily feel uncertain in your new aesthetic.

The reason someone comes to me is because they’ve lost confidence in their ability to flatter themselves or they’ve lost confidence in the retail process.

With that in mind, Laura reminds us that the following three factors will boost your confidence and ultimately aid the retail process:

  • Focus on your shape (not your dress size)
  • Decide what you want to reveal
  • Decide what you want to conceal

If you arm yourself with those indicators the next time you head to the high street, you may well have shopping for your shape sussed for life.

Or as Laura told us: “I always say to clients ‘I’ve done my job well if you never come back to me again!”

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About the author:

Niamh McClelland

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