Yesterday evening I sat in my pyama's with curlers on the couch watching TV. It was late and by coincidence I saw a Dutch program (KRO Kruispunt, de maat is vol)about body positivity, the diet culture and how many women 30% (!) saw themselves as 'ugly' or even 'disgusting', 80% of the women think they need to loose weight or don't like how they look in general. The numbers scared me. As it turns out, we imperfect people have to get used to our imperfect body's. As Daniëlle Heemskerk (psychologist and expert in body image and eating disorders explained in the program, we need to see more normal people to consider that as normal and consequently ourselves as normal.
Not long ago I read an article about the same subject in regard to men. I thought it was interesting because it is always thought of as a typical female subject. Now i don't remember the numbers, but an astonishing amount of men have the same feelings. And it isn't really a surprise is it? Men are bombarded with the same perfect images as women, and guess what? In real life men don't look that way either.
After spending more and more time in the vintage/retro community in real life and on social media, the way I started to think about normal has changed. It is a very body positive community. For ladies wear there are models in all shapes and sizes, many brands make the larger sizes, and curvy women wear it with pride. I have changed how I view myself. I have been battling with my weight my whole life. When I was a teenager cycling 7 miles to school and 7 miles back couldn't even get me to be thin. And looking back I can only see a fine looking young woman, a bit more curvy than others perhaps, not much when I see the pictures now. But I never felt good about myself. It took me 44 years to accept me for me. And the vintage community helped me with it. A lot. Yes I am still over weight, but dieting only helps for a few months, is useless. I have exercised a lot, going to the gym 3 or 4 times a week, swimming like I was in a competition, and still i have the same size now as I had 10 years ago. So that's it. This is me. period.
What's more, what we now see as perfect has changed over the years. in the 50's a more curvy woman was the ideal. And that goes for men as well. If we look at Sean Connery as James Bond, he certainly didn't look as muscular as is the ideal for men now. That too has changed. You only need that perfect body if you want to fit in those super skinny jeans. Fashion today is designed for supermodels. To look good on the dummy's in the window. Not to make people look good. We have to stop and try to adapt ourselves to whatever fashion thinks we should look like in order to fit in their clothes. Or the little pieces of fabric they call clothes. Turn it around please. Dress the body you are given. And for that you need style, not a diet!
What better way is there to feel good about yourself when you dress your best every day? It gave me confidence and I see what it does for other women. Some start out very cautious with a dress, than a second dress, and the big victory: a pencil skirt! They find their own style, take care of themselves everyday. Spend time putting together an outfit, do their hair and make-up. All in their own way, and they are all beautiful. Not because they want to copy a perfect image, but because they have embraced themselves. To be able to dress with confidence, also means know your do's and don't s. Not because there is a list somebody made up, but because you look at yourself. get to know yourself and embrace all your perfections and imperfections.
I hope this will continue, and I am sure it works the same way for men. Men are standing more straight when wearing a suit. By making yourself seen, you have to stop hiding. The two don't go together. There is no such thing as over dressed. It might feel awkward in the beginning. Many men wear their vintage style or true vintage only for days out or festivals. Luckily many more dare to dress with confidence every day. Experiment, find your way that suits you. Combine old with new, be eccentric, be a bit strange, be yourself, at least you are somebody!
Sunny van Zijst
I am maker of vintage inspired couture. I was trained as a designer for theater costumes. Now I enjoy making vintage inspired clothing for men and women.