How to protect your body image when you go shopping

body image clothes shopping May 23, 2022

The clothing industry makes things extremely difficult for women. Have you ever noticed there's no standard for sizing between brands, styles, countries, etc? We've also been conditioned to identify as a size. Instead of saying, "I wear a size 4" we say "I'm a size 4"

This makes it feel like an identity crisis when you buy different sizes than you might be used to. Fat phobia makes you feel like a failure when you buy a bigger size, whether or not your body is bigger.

Fat phobia also makes you feel proud or excited when you fit into a smaller size, whether or not your body is smaller. These cultural ideals, along with inconsistent sizing conventions, influence your body image when you go shopping.

What should be a very normal activity has become a serious point of anxiety. You are literally putting fabric over your skin and it's cited as one of the most stressful activities for women. Let's change that. There are a few simple ways to protect your body image when you go shopping - whether it's online or in store.

 

 
 
 
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How to protect your body image when you go shopping

Rather than fighting for a global sizing convention from all clothing companies (sounds great, but a logistical nightmare) the best way to change this is stop identifying as a size. Easier said than done, but I teach this inside my workshop, Showing Skin. 

What matters is how you feel in the clothing. Also, fun fact, there was no such thing as standard sizing until the 1940's and even then, the approach to develop the standard was white-washed and biased.

Some practical action steps are always taking multiple sizes into the fitting room with you. I've even found that some items that are the same size fit differently. So I also grab two of the same size sometimes - just in case.

Keep this goal in mind: the clothes are there to fit you, you are not there to fit the clothes.

If this was an audition, you're the casting director! You get to choose. The clothes are auditioning for your body.

Here's the thing, you can't change clothing sizes, but you can change how attached you are to the ones you wear. Start by challenging the assumptions you have about sizing and join the Showing Skin workshop if you want in depth help with this!

 

Your body image improves when you feel good

Even though I fit into mainstream sizes, I struggled with beating myself up mentally if I didn't fit into the clothes I picked out. I felt like I failed. I felt like my dream of wearing that super cute outfit I saw on Pinterest was dead because I don't have the right body for it. I thought I was destined to always get stressed out every time I needed a new dress or got tired of my current bikini selection.  It doesn't have to be this way, though.

When you buy clothes that fit your body, instead of forcing yourself to buy the size "you wear" your body image improves over time. Putting on clothes that you feel good in helps boost your confidence, for real. I feel better in a size Large if it actually fits.

 

Turn the tables

Instead of seeing this experience as testing out if my body was right for the clothes, I decided to see this experience as testing out if the clothes were right for my body. 

"This dress doesn't suit my figure" instead of "I don't have the figure for this dress"

This subtle shift in perspective helped put me in control and remind myself the clothes are "on trial" not my body.

 

Make it a fun experience, even if none of it suits you

How can you make the experience of trying on clothes worthwhile, even if nothing works? Put on some music that makes you feel sexy.I mostly shop online, but you can do this in the store too if you have headphones. Since I'm trying a lot of clothes on at home, I make it a whole experience. I get the lighting right, I put on KB, Drake, or The Weeknd. I make sure my hair and makeup are done a little before trying anything on. 

If your hair is a mess, good luck having anything look flattering. This way, it's not about the success or failure of the clothes working for your body. It's a fun fashion show for yourself with no pressure for any of it to be a winner.

 

Try multiple sizes out the gate

Why do we beat ourselves up over the size of our clothes? I have some theories. Here's the thing, the size you buy should should be comfortable and correct, not consistent. I wear clothes that range from XS to XL, depending on my desired fit. Trying on clothes in the store makes this super easy, grab a few sizes from the beginning so you don't feel like you failed if you need to size up or down. This also helps give you the easy option to feel a different size and choose which one you like better. When ordering online, order multiple sizes and plan to return one (or both).

Fitting into a smaller size is not an achievement, although I've definitely fallen into that thinking and felt a rush of excitement when a size 2 fits better than a 4. But seriously, we need to train ourselves to stop thinking that matters.

 

Expect things to fit poorly

Why do we think everything we try is going to work? Nope. Expect some epic "not for me" pieces and laugh when they don't fit right. Laughing out loud actually helps you feel better about something not fitting. The less attached you are to the idea of everything making you look like a supermodel, the funnier it gets when something doesn't fit right. Instead of a failure on you, it's a failure on the clothes and it's funny how wrong it can look.

 

Be realistic about your body shape

The shape of my body is perfect for certain styles. For others, it's simply never going to work no matter how much or little I weigh. Your skeleton structure and how you body carries weight influences your body shape. One of my best friends from high school has a wide ribcage, she could drop 20 pounds and be severely underweight, and still look weird in a babydoll top because her ribs are wide.

But the girl looked great in any pair of shorts she put on. It's all about knowing your shape and experimenting with the fit, fabric, and cuts that will flatter your shape. Don't force things for no reason. Would I love to rock a cute floral sundress? Yes, but they don't suit my figure. I learned to get over that and realize other cuts flatter my shape better. I'll take a body con dress any day.

 

Give yourself a time limit 

I get overwhelmed easily. When I'm overwhelmed, I get irritated and frustrated. So I give myself a time limit, or agree to only try on a few items at a time. This helps me not get overwhelmed and enjoy the process more. I know I always can come back to trying things on when I'm in a good mood and can reset expectations.

 

Start with what you already have

You can do this with what's already in your closet, too! If you have tons of clothes, but nothing to wear, I highly recommend my Showing Skin workshop to help you sort through clothes you have and only wear things you love. This helps separate your identity from your size - and feel comfortable showing however much (or little) skin you want. 

 

 

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