oh you don't know the shape i'm in

As I was dashing thru Spitalfields market last Friday, late to meet Jennifer (fish finger friday) I got one quick shot of this beautiful, vibrant, glowing with life, bursting at the seams, mother-to-be, proudly showing her shape to the world with what I assume was the father. I didn't stop to ask her name, or even her permission. And she wasn't the only pregnant woman I saw that day, proudly wearing form fitting clothing.

One of the things we were talking about is the vastly different types of people - and thus, style - you'll find on a lunch hour in Spitalfields Market:

City types on their lunch breaks, like this girl doing a feminine play on the traditional, male, City suit:

..and tourists, and the stylish locals. I also noticed - and have been noticing all season, actually - that there's a wild difference in how we're dressing right now depending, not on our ACTUAL body shape, but our perceived one.

In short: women who think they're fat are wearing maxis, and women who are happy with their bodies are flaunting them.

I mean, take this woman on the left: she's probably gone to great lengths (no pun intended) to look her best that day. By anyone's standards, she would be considered average weight, or even under weight. And yet.. I'm sorry, but everything about her and her friend's posture, tells me they are not proud of their bodies. And I feel that is a terrible, terrible shame. What has our culture, the media, the 'industry', done to us and our self worth? Or more to the point, what have we ALLOWED 'it' to do?

If you have time, please take a look back thru the comments on lace, and let's romp. I'm really grateful to Louise, formerly Anonymous, and also Awesome Boobs, formerly Disappointed in Detroit, for opening up a really important and, I feel, timely conversation. Why AM I posting mostly young, thin, attractive women?

When I'm out with my camera, it is quick impulsive instinctive moments that make me push that camera shutter at the moment I do. I often see someone I think might make a great post, but don't catch them in time. I also get turned down. And I have to agree with the Sartorialist on this one: most women who are remotely normal in weight, i.e., not thin, or anywhere veering over what is considered average weight, or, heaven forbid, 'fat',DO NOT WANT TO BE PHOTOGRAPHED. When I am turned down, it is always because the subject - always female -does not consider themselves 'photogenic'. And that usually translates with 'I feel fat today'. At times, I try to change their mind, (once I had to stop myself from saying 'but I already shot you, before you knew, and you look gorgeous!' but instead, I didn't post the shot).

I mean, I practically had to beg this gorgeous girl at ASOS to let me shoot her. (I think her name is Stephanie). I feel she's got it just right, in every sense. The first few shots, she happened to have one hip jutting out, and when she saw those shots, made me promise I'd delete them. This one, thankfully, she's approved. And she's beautiful! And totally stylish. She's not overweight, she's just not anorexic thin, and thank God she's not.

Those of you who have been around the block a few times might be familiar with a band who called themselves The Band. They used to play in Woodstock, with people like Bob Dylan. They made a film called The Last Waltz, about their breakup and last show, before most of you were, well, temporarily distorting your mother's bodies like the woman in the Big Blue Belly shot. If you can see the film, do so, but til then, sing along with The Band:

This has been an interesting few days for me, just at a point where I was getting psyched for holiday, and kind of feeling flat about my own blog (it happens). And Louise, and Awesome Boobs, shook me up a bit. One thing I've learned in my many years on this green planet is, if I'm open to being wrong in any given situation, I will be a lot happier. And as long as I learn from any experience, as long as I grow, I'm in with a chance.


Anonymous said...

lovely images! a girlfriend of mine is just pregnant with your fist baby girl, reminds me! what a blessing...

ha, fun music, never heard of them!

lovely greets!

JessMidge said...

i do have a lot of love for 'the band'. brilliant choice of song.
i think body image is a big thing in our society today, beauty is incredibly subjective and perceptions are constantly changing. you've wrote some incredible words here.

Kazuko said...

gorgeous belly! and gorgeous dresses (especially love the green one on the redhead). and yes, women are so self-critical (me including). keep on convincing all kinds of beautiful women to have a pic taken for your blog. no matter if under- or overweight - it's all about the attitude!

Style At Every Age said...

All the girls look gorgeous and I love all the Maxi Dresses.

jill said...

I love them too, by the way. Somehow I was typing such a long post that I must have cut out the paragraph about how this is not a criticism of maxi dresses as a trend: I love them, I've had several from past years that I hold onto an wear: they're so luxurious and sexy, especially at night, on a boat, in the summer, like wearing a robe.

I'm just throwing it out there, basically: when we wear any loose trend, bubble skirts, harem trousers, whatever.. are we trying to hide something? And if so: is it working?

Anonymous said...

I've never commented before and I'm not too sure what to say but reading this post I feel have to comment. I agree completely with you.
Body image has been so contorted by the 'industry' and it saddens me. In my opinion its about reaching a happy medium.

I don't want offend anyone, and I don't think there's anything wrong with being overweight, except when its due to overindulgence. We live in such a flawed world where some people live in such extreme poverty and I think that allowing oneself to overindulge is wrong and damaging to our planet. I think to lead a healthy green life is very important. That said I would rather be more curvy rather than having the boys figure I have.. But oh well!!
On the other side of things, being under weight is also very unhealthy. Yes, some people are naturally very thin. But having had a very close friend of mine go through severe anorexia and become a completely different person due to her mental illness it is something I feel quite sensitive to and has affected my perception of body image a lot.
Oh my this is becoming a rant! Apologies! But its something that I have been thinking about a lot recently. I want to feel comfortable in my own body and most days I am.
Clothes should be an expression of oneself, a statement about your personality or what you are feeling.. Not a means to cover up 'flaws'. Getting dressed in the morning should be fun and not a criticism of one's body!
Anyhow, that was a lot more than I intended to say! Love this post, they all look great. Love your blog, you always inspire me! :)
Much love

EML said...

This post is brilliant because a) those girls look fabulous in their maxi dresses and b) what you said about body issues really, really nails it.
being a teenage girl myself losing weight and having a nice body is kind of a big deal all year round but now that it's summer - and i'm currently on a language stay in a beach town in the uk - I can really see how people get obsessed with their weight and how ideals are created. to be perfectly honest though I like the rather skinny type myself. but then again I can asure you that our culture has brainwashed me completely. for the past three years I've tried about every single diet trick and done loads of really stupid things in order to loose weight. (even though I would call myself normal, maybe skinny. whatever.)Only this year I slowly came to realize that maybe these weren't the healthiest things to do. and that it only happend because I didn't feel confident enough and maybe even a bit pressured by everyone around me being on a diet....
I dont know...I think we should just really be aware of our body image and try not to become obsessed with it. I can asure you it won't make you happy. i doubt that we can ignore that ideal that todays society - which everyone of us is part of - has created. it is omnipresent. but I just think that young women should look for happyness and beauty in other places. it is of coure ok to be aware of what we eat but it shouldn't become to extreme. being skinny does not make you a better person.

alright enough bla now, I have to go to lessons now! I just wanted to let you know that I really like your posts lately. You really have something to say and the way you bring it across I think is just great!

Style Odyssey said...

The 3rd pic down (two girls in their maxi dresses): I, too, noted right away that they are either uncomfortable in the dresses (but how? maxi dresses are comfy), OR more likely they are uncomfortable in their own skin. It's the slumped posture that's a giveaway (particularly with the girl in white). And I wonder why would any lovely girls want to slink down in such a way? Makes me almost sad.

Society's influence on body image is such an interesting topic, Jill. I'm glad for the conversation. (And by the way, I came back last night and read further comments on "let's romp" and "lace". I'm glad Anonymous/Louise came back and opened up about the offending comment and more. Bravo to her for that.)

I want to clarify my own comments on the two posts (in case they didn't make sense contextually) in which I was referring to taste and style being subjective and symbiotic. Taking it further: Taste and style are of course related to body image, and societal and cultural norms. Let's remember that beauty and cuteness, and age-appropriateness, are in the eye of the beholder. As you'd say, Jill, it's all connected!

As for why you mostly post young slender types (apart from the fact that other body types say "no" more often to being photog'ed): I suppose you have to ask yourself what you hope to accomplish with the blog, and what image you want it to convey- if any. Just some thoughts...

And I don't know about others here, but I enjoy a style blog that's intelligent, provocative and relevant like yours is; I enjoy finding beauty in the unexpected- in the mundane, the plain and sometimes even the "ugly".


Cathy said...

Off topic a tad, but Marty Scorsese sure had a mancrush on Robbie (of course who didn't!), but Richard sings lead on that song and he was filmed in the worst possible light. Garth has a stinging organ riff or two in that song and he barely shows up. It's this way throughout the whole film. Shame on Marty for that.

Anonymous said...

I'm short (1.60 m), and I have a couple of extra kilos (really a couple, personally I think I'm healthily fit because I exercise, but definitely not skinny). I wear everything I like and feel good in. I don't wear maxi dresses because I don't like them nor would I feel good in them. However, I often have a "slumped posture" (especially when I'm sitting), not because I feel uncomfortable with my body but because I feel relaxed, tired after a long day, too hot in the sun, too stuffed after a big meal, etc. etc. there are a billion reasons for it so I personally think you're wrong about the girls. To me they look like they are really relaxed, not thinking how they look to the people around them. In my opinion, the fact that they were not sitting upright with their heads high like they were posing for a photo (they surely weren't expecting to be shot) makes them comfortable with their bodies. they just don't care if their shoulders are slumped, if their boobs are hanging, their tummy showing - they don't care if their posture is not feminine or sexy. this is what these pictures are telling me.
ps - English is not my mother tongue so I apologize if I sound a bit off/ incomprehensible.
Best wishes,

jill said...

Hi Mirjana, and everyone else, thank you SO MUCH for writing!! I'm reading all of this and just feel so honoured that you're giving your opinion. My husband (Mr. Dot) is calling me from the living room to watch the Spanish vs Germany game this minute, but I wanted to thank you all.

Mirjana especially I kind of agree: I ALWAYS sit slumped, in fact I'm doing so right now. I've got terrible posture, and the more relaxed and happy I am, the more slumped I am. A photo is a split second caught in time, in movement, and we can read anything into it: I mean, look at all the photos analysing are Brad and Angelina splitting. And especially as English isn't your mother tongue, I feel you write beautifully, and make a lot of sense.

One thing people who have read my blog for a while are starting to learn is, I am very wishy washy when it comes to opinions. I can say something with total conviction one moment and the next day, hold as equally strong an opinion on the opposite. Look at my stance on clogs!! (Altho the jury's still out on that one. I've yet to see Jen the Style Crusader wear hers recently ; )

Cathy at first I didn't know what you were talking about but I think you're right! I really need to see that film again, it was so long ago. I totally forgot that Scorcese made it. Have you seen the one he did on the Stones?

Oh, damn, he keeps calling. He's not gonna give up til I go watch football with him. More later... I really want to reply to each of you individually. THANK YOU. This is what makes all this time blogging worthwhile: I love a good meaty discussion!! xox

Sarah said...

I don't know any girl/ woman that isn't self conscious about some part of her body!! but apparently curves are back!! yay for Lara Stone.

and don't judge yourself for shooting slim pretty people- we all know that you're not a biased person- and just have an amazing eye for style! sometimes its just that the confident people are the ones that stand out more on the busy streets- those of us that are so self conscious tend to 'hide'- just by posture alone!

i love that you posted the preggy belly- so sweet!!

I'm having a blog giveaway, check it out if you'd like to win a See by Chloe coin purse xxxx

ree said...

What a gorgeous post. I had tears and I'm not sure why?



Martine : D said...

This post is really great! I like your blog a lot! I love it to discuss on such topics. So I'm a teenage girl too and I think I'm also brainwashed by the fashion world. I'm often dieting and last summer I almost became anorexic. This came since I'm intrested in fashion. Cause it's the case that when you want to look good in fashionable clothes you're supposed to be skinny. I think this is really bad for your health etc but there is that pressure and nowadays when you want to be part of the fashion world you have to be thin. I haven't come to the point yet where I realize that all this is nonsense and that other values are a lot more important. But I hope to get there some day. And I suppose these women are not sitting there in such position because they are not confident about there body
I think it's just - as said before- because they want to sit there in a comfy position..
Nowadays everywhere is said that curves are back but you don't really see that evolution yet. I hope it will come one day so that I stop being so obssesed with my shape. Oh god this all sounds like a real victim of the brainwash. But I must admit I am. And I don't like that..
( Hope my english is not too bad)

Anonymous said...

Hi there,

Never posted before but been following your site for a while....

I've only really recently come to accept my body for what it is (a very curvy size 14) and stopped trying to fight it... as a teen I always used to get so depressed about my weight - I was a size 18 from about 17 - 21 years old - and I used to wear really frunpy clothes - I loved fashion, but felt that it couldn't apply to me because I was fat. It took external circumstances (my sister's illness)for me to shift the weight - I went down to a size 10/12 and I still wasn't very happy. Strangely, my weight has increased slightly as I have become happier in the rest of my life, but I'm not worried.

But blogs like yours, Karla's Closet and What Katie Wore (which rock, btw) have in a way encouraged me to experiment and have fun with clothes! I wish there were more normal & plus size girls who wanted to be photographed as I think that for me, beauty is all about having confidence in yourself and your style... if any of you haven't seen the Young Fat and Fabulous blog, check it out, it's full of girls who aren't thin and look great!

I'm turning 26 tomorrow and I'm so happy that I have an amazing life and a wardrobe that the 17 year old version of myself would be proud of. OK, rambling now but felt compelled to comment! x

Anonymous said...

Hello... I'm very thin but I like maxi dresses and shorts. I'm not sure if the women I see in those photos are shamed about their bodies, how can anyone be so sure about it if you don't ask them... Anyway, I really like your blog and this is the first time I write a comment...

Anonymous said...

that's a great thought... although I take a little issue with the person who said their only problem with overweight people is when it's due to overindulgence. I don't think any of us who are concerned with fashion have the right to talk about overindulgence. In fact, most of us who live in western culture are major hypocrites to say that sort of thing. what do you think fashion is, exactly?

most people are fat because of overindulgence, that's just true, so you're saying essentially that the vast majority of fat people SHOULD be ashamed of themselves. no dice, kiddo. I don't exercise, and I overeat, therefore I'm fat. But I'm also beautiful and really cool, and I'm not wasteful of my other resources, and I'm generous to other people. I'm not a worse person because I overindulge in that one thing.

anyway, I totally appreciate the sentiment of this post, but I'd like to see some pics of girls who really are fat (not just pregnant) and still dressed in amazing styles.

jill said...

Thank you all, each of you has really contributed something interesting to this. I so wish we were @ Covent Garden right now, talking over coffee and cupcakes! ; )

Anonymous (last Anonymous) I don't remember now who said that about overweight people and overindulgence. I'm really tired at the moment but your comments have inspired me to write in my next post (tomorrow morning probably - Friday) about this very issue. Oh there's so much I want to say about it.

My dad used to say - he was a science education professor and was very creative about it but he was able to help us see the world in quite simple, practical ways - that fat on a human or animal's body was a practical way of storing fuel. That's all it is. If you burn more energy you need more fuel. If you store more fuel than you need, it waits to be used as fat.

I've had my share of issues about weight, too: as a teen.. well I'll save it for the post. At any given time I'm storing more or less fat, my muscle tone is more or less strong depending on how much exercise I'm getting. I also eat healthy in some ways and 'unhealthy' in others (I don't think there has been a day that I haven't had sugar, white flour, and chocolate, in what most people would consider large amounts, in years. Cookies and chocolate and bread are essential staples in our home).

Two human beings can be the same size and weight and have very different relationships towards food and their bodies: one can be obsessed, overindulging, ashamed of him/herself, the other could be totally comfortable in their body and skin, enjoy eating, and just simply not be into exercise, or a more sedentary type.

Oh there's so much I want to say.. we can be so hard on ourselves, especially the female half of the population, and so competitive and judgemental of others. That's what I meant in my first assumption about the first 'Anonymous': that if someone was being critical of me, of anyone else, that chances are they weren't happy in their own skin. That's what I meant by 'healthily fit' or slim or whatever I said.

The flip side of this - the people who UNDERindulge, who deprive themselves, that's the side that I've had personal experience with, and what I want to talk about. Tomorrow.

Because, after all, as Scarlett O'Hara would say, tomorrow is another day, and I'm totally wiped.

Style Odyssey said...

To address what Pret said in her comment:
The girls at the table do look fine, just caught in the act of doing something and not posing. It's that "caught-in-the-act-of-having-a-life" look.

In fact, everyone photographed looks lovely to me, in some way. Jill had that eye for spotting people who appear to be interesting or attractive in some way.

Pret a Porter P is right, we must be careful about what we assume. Body language can lie, I suppose, but again, the girls in the 3rd photo down don't APPEAR to be comfortable in some way. Yes, perhaps they are tired. Or perhaps one is mirroring the other in posture (we do this subconsciously). One thing I've learned about posture (because mine isn't great) is that when I hold myself up, I feel more open, less shy, more confident and more attractive. Sometimes when I'm feeling low, I find myself slumping. It's subconscious. Just try standing straight and tall, and then slumped over; you'll see what I mean.

Pret- you are neither fat nor miserable. I don't think anyone is concluding that one wears long dresses in order to hide. Jill did raise the question but I don't think an assumption was made. Probably some of us do, at times, wear long, loose dresses to hide; you are not one of them. You are regal, elegant, and beautiful! xo

jill said...

Totally agree with Style: Pret is regal, elegant, beautiful, and wise beyond her years! Brains AND beauty. I love what you both wrote.

I said on one of the posts (or did I?) I love this phrase I learned in school: never ASSUME, it makes an ASS of U and ME. It always makes me laugh when they do these tabloid things anaysing the body language of say, Brad and Angelina: is that real affection? Does her averted gaze mean she's not sincere? Is his hand pushing her away? (altho, I'd love to see them split and Brad and Jen live happily ever after, but that's for another post).

Actually, this all is food for another post! THANK YOU both for being good friends, and for speaking honestly. xo