A story about George Clooney, Cheetoh Fingers, & the “Little Black Dress”

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“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….

Yes.

Style DOES Matter

And why? Because . . .

 Everything around us is an expression of how we’re feeling inside. (tweet it)

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.

You ready?

(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,

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36 Responses to A story about George Clooney, Cheetoh Fingers, & the “Little Black Dress”

  1. I decided long ago that I would reject the yoga pants and ponytail mom uniform. I have 7 kids but despite frequent weight shifts and the complicated wardrobe demands of nursing, I’ve always left the house looking presentable. I’m taking the kids to the farmer’s market this morning. I have on dark rinse jeans, a cute grey button down top and my thrifted grey snakeskin flats.

    • Carrie, what I’ve discovered is that it doesn’t take a lot of effort to put your best foot forward. Having a few staple pieces and my go-to accessories makes it easy to grab and go. And, let me also add, if you can do it with 7 kiddos, we all can! Muah!

  2. Oh my goodness I couldn’t agree with you more! I find that the days I put on a pair of sweats, (they are getting thrown out after this baby is born!), or (God forbid) I stay in my PJs, I am less productive around the house, I eat more, and I just feel all around worse. It is easy for me to get sidetracked chasing my other two little ones around the house, so I have to make sure I get dressed right away before anyone else is up…or it is not going to happen until noon!

    I can’t wait for the Soiree and the Slim Chic and Savvy program!

    Thank you Tonya!
    xoxo
    Clarissa

    • Oh Clarissa, I hear you lady! On those rare days when I don’t make the extra effort to feel my best, I find myself dreaming of Cheetohs…LOL! Cannot wait to support you in Slim, Chic & Savvy. We are going to have a fabulous and fun time!

      • I have a question for you that does not have anything to do with the way you dress, but it is one of those outwardly things. Do you have any thoughts when it comes to house cleaning and cleaning schedules and all the home management stuff out there and it French Kissing Life and living Slim Chic and Savvy applies to those areas?

        • Clarissa, everything is applicable to the French Kiss Life-style, as it’s all about living with ease, elegance and joie de vivre, from cleaning your toilets to shuttling the kids around. It’s a state of mind. However, I’ve learned in the past years that structure and routines offers more room for play and adventure. Hhhmmmm…maybe a blog post is needed for this one :).

  3. Well I did look down and while I’m not dressed expensively, here’s what I saw and thought. 1. Makeup fully on and looking good. 2. cool glasses that make a statement (turquoise blue covering blue eyes and framed by red hair) 3. T-shirt and matching skinny jean. 4. Barefooted with Bobbi Brown ‘navy’ pedicure!
    The style casual work at home on a hot day by the beach. I’m allowing it to flow and change constantly. Feels good

  4. This is one of your best posts ever, Tonya! I couldn’t agree more that the outside is a reflection of the inside whether it’s the state of our house, car, clothing, finances, relationships, food, etc.. Yet I must disclose that as I type this I’m in running shorts, running shoes and an athletic top so not super elegant. I’m cleaning today to get ready for guests for our son’s high school graduation. So, I’ll just rock this as elegantly as I can while I listen to music and clean! 🙂

    • AND Pat…first and foremost, elegance is a state of mind. I’m in my yoga pants right now and feeling fabulous, because I chose them with intention! Love you lady!

  5. Amen and amen! I have been in that slump for almost two years until March of this year. Relationship stress created by outside parties and a horrible job with a horrible commute landed me in that position.

    I finally started to take control of the situation mentally, emotionally and physically. I made sure that I would put on my chicest clothes whenever I woke up in the morning no matter where I was going.

    I am still working to get back to where I was prior to my divorce but I am feeling like I am getting back to who I really am. I know this is a long and arduous process but I am grateful for your blog and words of encouragement 🙂

    • Desiree, life challenges go throw us for a loop, but it sounds like you are getting back on your luxurious saddle. Be kind to yourself and remember: every moment is a chance to begin again! Muah!

  6. I looked down and said — yes, I look great, super-fabulous! That made me happy. I do try very hard, and I feel great in what I wear — always! Some days are crazier than others, but I always plan something put-together and occasion-appropriate.

    One thing I have noticed is that my coworkers haven’t asked me how I am (I was diagnosed with cancer this year) — not really. Part of that has to do with me always putting my best foot forward. It’s a blessing and a curse, not looking like you need someone when you really, really do.

    • Mei, what beautiful courage you have. And, you know what? I think you can put your best foot forward and still be vulnerable enough to ask for support. Much love!

  7. So I looked down…. And – I am wearing a dress that survived a recent wardrobe cull (as it is smart and sophisticated – what I thought when I did the cull), BUT I have had this dress – as a hand-me-down from my little sister – since I was 24! (I am 39 now). And it’s too tight. And no-one compliments it (it is way too old in dress years and has become dated in hindsight). So, thank you for this – because just when I think I am doing okay in the self improvement stakes, I dig a bit deeper with questions like these and have a re-think – why am I wearing too-tight clothes that were second hand in the first place and over 15 years old? Sometimes it takes a while to push past those deep-held beliefs, that you don’t really see the first time you challenge them.

    • Lazurus, it’s all about how you feel in the dress. And, if you’re not feeling fabulous, change the thoughts or the dress or both. But, at the end of the day, I want you to feel absolutely beautiful! xoxo

  8. Lululemon top to bottom 🙂 cause even when I work out I want to look good. Yes, it’s expensive, but when I feel good about myself, even my workouts are better. And yes, I wear make up to the gym, as well. The other day before bodycombat someone commented on how well I always am put together for working out and it made me feel good 🙂 it took me a long time to think this way, I would always cut myself short by buying things that were cheap or on sale – I guess I didn’t feel the self worth. Now I am making a conscious effort to change all this and be the woman I want to be – inside and out 🙂 thank you for this awesome article – it is so right on and speaks to me 🙂

    • Petra, I had to laugh, because I put on a bit of makeup before the gym too! And, I am SO with you…when I’m rocking a great outfit at the gym, I’m inspired to work out even harder.

  9. Last year I travelled to the U.S. and had an afternoon shopping, I wanted to see the Salvatore Ferragamo store and try things on. Little did I know how high end it was! The brand has stayed with me though and I have been sourcing second hand handbags online – they are my joy!
    This last year I also ‘gave up’ on a complicated wardrobe. I wear three colours a season plus denim, so black, camel and burgundy for this winter in Australia. I have over indulged on style books and advice in the past and now trust that I can dress myself well, but it was a long process.

    • Hey Nic! Personally, I believe the most beautiful wardrobes are the least complicated. Simplicity + Style = Elegance. But, that’s just my opinion. xoxo

  10. It is 10pm where I live so when I looked down, I was happy to see that I was wearing one of my favorite negligees. Haha. There’s progress. I have tried to apply this to all areas of my life and it’s great to see what a difference a little thought and action make.

  11. I have to admit this is one of my greatest areas of opportunity. My recent weight gain has left me with the challenge to find work-appropriate clothes that both fit and flatter (I’m a curvy petite) and my casual wardrobe is down to one pair of jeans that hasn’t sprouted holes plus a few yoga pants and t-shirts. I keep telling myself that I’m not in sweatpants yet, so things could be worse, but I really need some help getting back on the style wagon.

    • Regina, I challenge you to dress the body you have right now. Have fun with it and just notice how it feels when you care for yourself right here, right now. xoxo

  12. I completely agree with you, when you say that clothes reflect how you feel inside.
    I have been overweight as long as i can remember.But I was always stylish and loved dressing up. I had an extensive collection of funky jewelery and my nails were always painted a new color each day. One of my earliest memories as a child, is me agruing with mom that a pink dress needs pink shoes, a yellow dress needs yellow shoes,…I must have been three.

    And then things changed. During my college years, all it took was a few casual comments from fellow classmates to tell me i didn’t look good. I took it to my heart. I believed them. I started dressing frumpy, lost all confidence in myself. Completely avoided mirrors, photographs, and anything which reminded me of me. To add to that I piled on the pounds.20 to be exact. My clothes went from variety to a uniform of ill fitting jeans and oversized dull dreary tees and tops.
    Until quite recently i dressed like this because i felt i deserved nothing better.
    But then at one point i realized that i was hurting only myself with this. I didn’t need to look good for someone else to like me. I didn’t need a third persons opinion on how I’m supposed to look cause the only opinion which mattered was mine. And in my opinion i wanted to be awesome.
    So i made a change. I started dressing better. I hadn’t lost a pound but i felt better. i felt like someone who deserved a better body and am currently working towards getting there.
    This just with clothes.

    • Hi Venessa,

      Thank you for sharing.

      And, I’m so happy that you are honoring you. The results will come.

      I believe that a woman should dress and live to impress herself, not others!

      Cheers,

      Tonya

  13. Hi Tonya,

    I LOVED this article and I can TOTALLY relate to your story. I was a diet addict and I understand what it’s like to obsess for years over calories and have that mind chatter that doesn’t stop that steals your joy. I always struggled with my weight as a teenager and I did an extreme diet and lost it all, going from 180 lbs-130 lbs.. All the while for several years I was very much under-eating and was dealing with an eating disorder and it completely took over my life. The only way in my mind to maintain my weight was to semi-starve. I wanted to put an end to it. I recently saw a nutritionist and unfortunately, I’ve gained back 60 lbs despite clean eating/active lifestyle (walking 5 + miles a day). It was a 20 gram carb diet. I am struggling with my body and accepting my newer weight. I have such a fear of gaining weight. I have to learn to love myself.

    My question is, I have invested in lots of clothes at my thinner weight and they no longer fit me. I don’t want to throw them all away but it IS creating clutter. There are some pieces I LOVE and don’t want to toss, but hope to fit in again some day. I’ve been “punishing” myself by wearing the same baggy dresses (only two of them over and over again) and I don’t feel fabulous in them. Like I’m waiting for myself to get thinner to fit back into those clothes. Although I feel confident about my beauty (I wear perfume, makeup, have my hair nicely done) I still don’t feel good about my weight. I am going to try to donate some clothes I don’t absolutely love and gradually build up a wardrobe. I like how you talk about not doing things out of fear. I’m thinking of donating a lot of the clothes since they no longer fit to give back to those in need.

    I notice there was a time where I was really implementing the beauty of what you encourage- having fresh flowers at home, buying luxurious chocolate, candles lit at dinner, having fine wine with dinner, eating in moderation of things I WANT to eat (as opposed to being prescribed a plan), I went shopping for clothes, and would indulge in small portions of French pastries. Ironically, that was when I was at my thinnest! But eventually I stopped doing that and got in “productive” mode and that’s when I feel like I lost that Joie de Vivre.

    I was curious what your advice is Tonya? I’m really trying to start this week treating myself to a spa treatment every week, a nice haircut and pretty hair extensions, new clothes, flowers, and I’m going to start cooking Julia Child’s recipes, and maybe taking little trips to see my friends (LOVE TRAVELING). I’m also seeing a therapist. I notice I’ve been eating way less food when I go out and celebrate with friends, and eat delicious French food that’s homemade and not focused on “Calories”. I hate to throw out those certain dresses I’m really fond of, but I was curious what you thought. I believe if I can rediscover that “diet” of love and French beauty, the weight will probably come off and everything will fall into place. Love is the key– you are so right!

    It’s hard when I felt so much more confident at a certain weight and clothes look so much better and it hurts to see my body put on this weight and feel like “nothing” looks good in stores.

    • Hey Lisa! So glad you shared here.

      Confidence, like any emotion, is created from your thoughts. So, that’s the best place to start. It’s up to us to manage our minds and direct it towards how we desire to feel. Everything else follows.

      As for your clothing, I always think about how I feel when I look at anything. Does it cause fear and frustration or possibility and excitement. It’s not about the clothes (or your ability to fit into them). It has everything to do with what you project onto them. If you want to keep a few pieces of clothing, then it’s up to you to decide how you feel about them. It doesn’t serve you to feel less than or not enough when you look at clothes. So, how would you rather feel when you’re looking at pieces of material hanging in your closet.

      And, PLEASE…go out an buy a few pieces that fits you RIGHT NOW that you love.

      • Hey Tonya,

        So sweet and generous of you to reply back to me. You’re SUCH an inspiration to me. I’ve been watching your soiree’s and getting some ideas how to change my life. Thank you so much. You’re so right! I can try building up my confidence with some positive affirmations and work on that. You inspired me so much to get back into the French lifestyle that I was originally going for in late 2013. So far this month, I’ve been feeling a lot brighter, and trying to update and improve myself with the little luxuries. I was feeling a little out of touch with my femininity and not spending any money on myself and being so cheap for the past 6 months. I think it really wore down my confidence.

        But this month, I’ve been inspired by you:
        -bought a Chocolate Truffle Candle that I light at every meal
        -bought fresh flowers
        -painted my nails with Guerlain Nail Polish I just bought since I had none
        -started wearing heels again
        -bought a nice Ralph Lauren Dress that makes me feel good so now I have one piece I really like
        -bought pink glitter eyeliner
        -got a nice comforter for my bed
        -bought a beautiful L’Occitane Shower Gel
        -new hair extensions since my were getting ratty
        -lace panties,
        -beautiful French plate that makes me feel like I’m fine dining
        -Pink Moscato that I drink a tiny bit at meals
        -beautiful eyeshadows
        -Paris Nights body lotion from Bath and Body Works after showering that makes me feel luxurious
        -a tea kettle at work for drinking tea
        -pink champagne glasses
        -I’m trying to plan one spa day a week with a little treat (whether it’s a blow dry, hair cut, eyebrow waxing, facial, massage, etc.)
        -planned an impromputu trip to San Francisco this month with my best friend
        -indulged in gelato & pizza one night with some awesome girlfriends without feeling guilty or overeating, just elegantly satisfied.
        -listen to French pop music
        -opened up my French Rosetta Stone again

        Honestly, just this month I’ve been feeling so much more alive and pretty and I’m eating less too and think my clothes are a little looser? I think I just feel a lot more happy and I’m focusing on celebration not dieting. I think I was long overdue with treating myself right and need to get out of the self punishment mode just because I gained weight.

        I also recently planned on studying music online in the Fall and pursuing my dreams 🙂 and taking piano lessons which I wanted to do since I was a young child.

        Thanks for everything Tonya! I think you’re the BEST <3 <3 <3 and I'm telling my friends about you too 🙂

        • Dearest Lisa,

          Remember this: when you celebrate life, it celebrates you.

          So proud of you.

          Can’t wait to hear about your music and where it will take you.

          Muah!

          • Hi Tonya,

            Oh my goodness that’s so true. I’m going to make that my mantra. Thank you SOOO much for inspiring me. You are the most special person. Sending you lots of love!

            xoxox Lisa 🙂

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