Saturday, August 31, 2013

Setting Beauty Free

Thin is beautiful. Voluptuous is beautiful. Baby got back and that's beautiful. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Healthy is beautiful. Beauty varies between cultures and times. Youthfulness is beauty.

Everywhere you look, someone, somewhere is telling us what we ought to think is beautiful. Recently, Verily Magazine tweeted expressing they were receiving "pushback" for using "average women" as models. First, I'm not even sure what that means in the fashion world. Average weight? Average lifestyle? Non-professional models? However you slice it, though, Verily felt they were getting some criticism (which is my own interpretation of pushback).

I, for one am happy that Verily is using "average" women. I don't think this means that the average woman is just bigger than a fashion model. I think it means that average women are all across the spectrum of body size and shape. Even more than that, I think it means that beauty encompasses something  more than size.

As my body has changed in shape and size between wedding diets, marriage comfort, babies and postpartum blues, I have gone through many phases of fashion. The smaller me tried to keep a more precisely tailored look that got less and less tailored as the curves seemed to get bigger and in all the wrong places. Through my first pregnancy, I wore clothes that were likely bigger than I needed. Most of my pregnancy I just felt fat, and not pregnant, so I didn't want to show off my belly or any other growing part of me. While I did okay getting some of the baby weight off, mild depression following baby one didn't exactly lend itself to motivating myself to eat well and exercise, never mind the empty sleep bank.

Before we knew it, I was pregnant with our second shortly after our oldest turned one. This time I watched what I ate a little more - there was no more month of the Taco Bell only diet. I showed off the belly a little more, but was still fairly self conscious. I was learning to flatter the curves, but still didn't really know how. When you see a fat girl through your eyes, you see a fat girl through your pregnant eyes too. And we all know fat isn't beautiful, right?

While the blues didn't hit the same way with baby two, other mind games crept up. I got a lot of weight off, only to have it return with some friends. Notice a trend? Weight and waistline became an obsession instead of healthy patterns. Let's be real, though. We can talk in terms of being "healthy," but that really has become code for "skinny" hasn't it? Can you imagine a healthy not-so-skinny woman?

Turning to fashion, clothes shopping off the rack, pregnant or not, has always been difficult. My body is not the fashion average. My curves are too big and my torso-to-legs ratio is not symmetrical. Finding affordable clothes that flatter and fit is challenging. As I have begun to accept that my body at any size is not in isolation a definition of my beauty, I've found places that allow for my wonky shape. Truth be told, I think most of us women have wonky shapes that shift through the years. While I see a fat girl, I have friends that see themselves as skeletons. Their struggle is no less valid, though both may be grounded in visions and fear not based in real reality.

I ran across this feature in a local fashion magazine while
waiting for an appointment today. I thought this perfectly
illustrated the plight of the average woman when it
comes to fashion, beauty and self-image

When we embrace that beauty is eternal, that it is borne of God, that it flows from the Spirit within, the reflection in the mirror begins to change. When we realize that healthy belongs in a discussion between woman and doctor, we stop thinking of health as a weight and waistline. This is not to discredit that there is such a thing as unhealthily under- or over- weight, but rather to acknowledge that these categories belong in the health professions and not popular opinion. When we free beauty from the tides of social construct, we allow our eyes to align themselves with an eternal vision free of the fashion trends of the day. We can see beauty beyond size. Magazines that use "average" women, instead of a created ideal, might receive praise without repercussion. Maybe, just maybe, we as women would begin to see ourselves as more than the reflection in the mirror, but rather as a reflection of the Holy Spirit that dwells within us. How much more beautiful the world might be!

Keep fighting the good fight, Verily, and be beautiful, ladies - remember that real beauty resides with Truth which goes far beyond skin deep.

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  1. I love this. It's weird, with the kids- for the first time I have had 'body issues' meaning I am really not happy with how I look. I have always been a bit on the fluffier side (my dear friend paul's word) but it never really bothered me until after joey, when my body shifted in ways I found unattractive. We'll see what happens after baby number 3 but I think you are right, accepting intrinsic beauty is essential!

  2. This is so true! I had heard that about Verily too, I love that they are using more realistic images of women...that magazine sounds so good:)

  3. I've recently started to dress for the body I have, not the "ideal" body the world tells me I should have. I'm done listening to the media telling me my body is "bad". Too short, too heavy, too broad shouldered, not feminine enough... etc. My body is strong and resilient- it nurtured and carried a precious baby boy. Not to mention the fact that a woman's worth is in the generosity of her heart and soul- and her beauty is measured in the eyes of those who love her, not her waist size.

  4. For the most part high style clothing is more expensive then you’re typical off the rack stuff, but it does not have to be. If you be familiar with a designer, or maybe even are a designer yourself you can make outfits or have them made fairly reasonably.
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