“Style is a way to say who you are without having to speak.”- Rachel Zoe
It was the year 2000.
I looked in the mirror and sobbed.
I remember it so vividly.
I asked myself…..
What had happened to that girl who dreamed of wearing beautiful clothes and exquisite shoes?
The one who was excited about life and felt ready to take on the world?
The one who was carefree and didn’t have a worry in the world?
I stood there in khaki pants, a big white loose shirt, white sneakers and an extra 60 pounds. Tears were rolling down my cheek.
Tears made up of sadness, frustration and hopelessness. I was sad because I didn’t recognize myself. I was angry that I had let myself go. I was hopeless because I felt so out of control.
There I stood, feeling frumpy, dumpy and grumpy. You see, my clothes were just an expression of how I was feeling inside — like I didn’t matter, that I wasn’t worth the extra effort.
Here’s where I was at in my life:
I would come home from working a 12-hour shift in the operating room and tear open a bag of Cheetos, sit on my bean bag (because I didn’t own a sofa) in a tiny apartment and watch George Clooney on ER.
I’d sit there and daydream, “If only I could have a man like that, my life would be SO much better.”
I quickly realized, as I looked down at my cheesy fingers and crumbs all over my sweatpants, that a man like George would not be interested in a woman in my desperate state.
One night, while I was dreaming of George and mindlessly snacking, my daughter (who was around 2 years old at the time) called out my name. I’ll never forget it. I licked off the cheese dust from my fingers and walked into her room. The light from the full moon illuminated her beautiful little silhouette.
“Mommy, are we gonna be okay?” she asked.
Her words were like a dagger in my heart.
I took a deep breath, mustered up all the courage I could find and said, “Yes, honey, we are.“
I walked out of that room with tears streaming down my face.
I cried because my little girl needed a strong mama, not one who found comfort in Cheetos and dreamed of a man saving her. Knowing that even a man couldn’t fix it, I became overwhelmed by all the work I thought I had to do to get back to myself. Deep down, I knew that I wanted life to be different, but the life I truly desired felt impossible to create.
When I just a young girl, I dreamed of fashion. I was raised in a humble home from a humble family, but I would sneak to the magazine section in the grocery store while my mom was shopping and devour the latest issue of Vogue. My soul deeply desired to express myself through style.
So, years later, when I found myself so large that I couldn’t shop in the regular size of the department store, I was heartbroken. My childhood dreams seemed to be blown up by my inability to put down the fork and deal with myself. I had been relegated to the plus size section. And, the shame led me to eating even more.
But, that one question from my little girl sparked something inside of me. (I have since decided that my daughter is my greatest teacher)
Call it Mama Bear energy or Queen mentality, but I decided that I was NOT going to drown in my own misery, eat my emotions and spin further out of control. I made a conscious decision that I was going to dress the body I had right now in this moment.
I was going to stop waiting to be saved and do the work myself, one outfit, thought and action at a time.
My old way of thinking sounded like this (and perhaps you can relate….)
“My body doesn’t deserve to dress beautifully.”
“When I change my body, then I’ll take pride in the way I dress.”
“I don’t even know where to start with being stylish.”
“I don’t have time. I’m a new mama.”
“Clothes don’t look good on me.
“It’s not going to make a difference.”
“I’m not worth the effort.”
But, I knew deep down that I couldn’t afford to let my mind run the show. My soul deeply desired to express the woman I desired to BE, not the woman who I had been. I desired to BE elegant, stylish and confident. Now, I needed to dress like that woman, in the body I had.
The next day, I woke up and put on a simple, but lovely little black dress that I had purchased on sale for $35 at the local department store.
It was a size 16.
But the size didn’t matter.
The dress made me feel fabulous.
With this very small gesture, I felt a glimmer of hope. That night, I felt that something had definitely shifted. I didn’t come home and eat Cheetohs. Instead, I cooked a lovely dinner and shared it with my daughter at a little table in the corner of our kitchen.
First, I began saying “NO” to the frumpy clothes that screamed, “I’ve given up,”
Then, I chose to wear clothes that said, “I respect myself.”
With each outfit that I consciously chose and wore because it represented how I desired to feel, I felt better, more inspired, more hopeful.
But there is more:
I must admit that even today, when I share this belief publicly , on occasion, I am confronted by other women: Colleagues, friends, family members, acquaintances, the passive blog reader….
“Tonya, style doesn’t matter. It’s what inside that does,” they chime in.
On one hand, I completely agree. Absolutely, what’s inside is indeed very important. (check out my video series The 3 Truths of Elegant Women to learn more)
On the other hand,
I am 100% certain that….
Style DOES Matter
And why? Because . . .
If your home is a mess…. it’s probably because you’re feeling messy internally.
If your wardrobe doesn’t feel beautiful to you…. it’s probably because you’re not feeling so beautiful internally.
See what I mean?
Living and committing to this belief has become my purpose.
I adore inspiring women to cultivate beautiful inner and outer worlds.
As I discuss with the ladies in the French Kiss Life Community, I believe that it’s the small, daily things we do that lead to a beautiful life. When we tend to the details of our lives — from the candle we light in the morning to the shade of lipstick we choose for the day — we are honoring our lives as women. And, many days of tending to the details of your life lead to a life well-lived.
So, I want to challenge you right now.
(1) Look down at what you’re wearing. Yup, right now.
(2) Ask yourself this: What do my clothes say about me?
(3) If your answer is anything less than “I’m fabulous,” I challenge you to go change your outfit right now and dress in a way that expresses how you desire to feel about yourself.. (And, if you’re reading this from work, make a commitment to wake up tomorrow morning and dress with intention)
(4) Please put your experiences and thoughts in the comments section below!
And, trust me, the details of your life DO matter….
…..Which includes how you dress yourself.
In Love & Style,