Style Sessions is a beautiful book, full of gorgeous clothes and imagery. It is also full of the no-nonsense advice we want from books on how to dress.
The traditional advice is all here: don’t shop when you’re busy, buy high quality natural fibres and invest. There are also the usual tips about dressing for your figure. Interestingly, this advice is founded on a less traditional sentiment – that it is in finding and celebrating our best assets rather than concealing what we don’t like, that true style is born.
In Style Sessions’ “Dressing for Your Body” section Todd writes:
“Looking at yourself every day in the mirror from a negative viewpoint damages the relationship you have with yourself… I have come across too many women who cannot admit they have assets, and are the first to admit they have flaws.”
Todd is keen to emphasise that understanding your assets it the key to dressing well. She insists “your flaws are, by far, inferior to your assets. Your assets are your diamonds.”
Reading these words I tried to think of my assets, and found myself stumped. While I don’t consider myself to be someone with poor body image every time, I settled on a part of my body I liked. Rightly or wrongly, my mind supplied an image from social media of someone who I felt looked better. It can feel ridiculous, when you are inundated with imagery about beautiful bodies, to say you love your legs or your waist, knowing that there are so many people out there whose legs and waists you love better. And sometimes the images you’re competing with are your own – either digitally edited or imagined.
Todd alludes to this phenomenon when she asks “What if you made a stylish statement for yourself today, now, and not for the future? What if your external layer, aka your outfit, delivered more joy than a cosmetically modified version of yourself?”
Shopping for “Now”:
Often when I am thinking about future purchases, I imagine how my body might be with a few more sessions of Pilates. Toned arms, slimmer thighs and a perkier buttocks. And when I dress myself in my mind’s eye, it’s always with a view to this future, the perfected me. Frequently I’ve bought items that don’t flatter or fit with a view to this imaginary self, and invariably the money has been wasted.
My usual strategy to avoid poor body image is simply not to over think it – I have long rejected the often preached notion that you should “love your body”. Love is a tall order, especially for women who can have such complex relationships with their bodies.
I try to respect my body for carrying me around and I try to listen to it. When it’s sore I do yoga or pilates, when it’s hungry I feed it. Some of these things, incidentally, change the way my body looks. I do my best not to notice these changes, less I become too absorbed by them. This deliberate lack of attention is why I have always preferred makeup to fashion. Makeup is something that can change your face momentarily and then be washed away.
Great style requires a certain attention to the body. My best dressed friends have an understanding of the way things hang, an eye for the small details of fit. Often they’ll be the friends who can grab something of the rack and say “this will look good on you”. Invariably, it does. However, that moment when the precise “fashion” eye rests on me always makes me feel uncomfortable. Because ultimately we can take off an unflattering dress, but we can’t wash away the memory of it and the implication that maybe it wasn’t the dress but the body that wasn’t quite right.
More than our bodies:
I feel like I am not the only person out there who avoids shopping for clothes or exploring their style because they’re, if not unhappy with their bodies, uneasy with their body image. In the age of social media fostering and maintaining a healthy body image is harder than ever.
The argument Todd puts forward in Style Sessions is that style and fashion is about more than our bodies. It’s an expression of ourselves, a method of communication. We need to shift our thinking from concealing what we don’t like about our bodies. Instead, lets celebrate what we’re proud of. So let’s cherish our assets and the clothes that make us feel like who we truly are. As Yves Saint Laurent famously said “…I have learned that what is important in a dress is the woman who is wearing it.”
Style Sessions by Kristen Todd, RRP $32.99, available from all good retailers or online at newhollandpublishers.com