In the latest instalment of her stylistic misadventures, Diane Shipley, co-editor of our sister site Trashionista, shares a rare fashion victory...
I've alluded to it in my last few columns but now it's cards-on-the-table time: the sad fact is, I've put on heaps of weight in the last eighteen months. Partly due to a chronic health condition, partly due to a tendency to comfort-eat (often because of said health condition) and partly due an under-active thyroid (a proper real-life slow metabolism!), I'm now officially overweight. I'm at that stage where you're actually quite fat but can't quite bring yourself to say the F-word. (I think of myself as 'zaftig', a Yiddish synonym for curvy...)
Dressing after a sudden weight increase is a whole new ball game, one in which you want to stand on the sidelines wearing a kaftan and a bag over your head. It's hard enough being fashionably-challenged, but try being fashionably-challenged PLUS three stone! When you're heavier, you obviously take up more space, meaning you and your mistakes are more visible than ever. The last thing you want to look like is a fat fashion misfit (even if that's what you are!) If I'd put on weight more gradually maybe I'd have adjusted better, but this sudden horrifying gain was a huge shock. For ages I was still buying outfits with the thin me in mind, getting them home (I don't do changing rooms, that's a whole other column!) and being appalled by what I saw, by how the clothes fit me (when will fashion chains learn that making an item bigger won't automatically make it suitable for a larger size? Bodies change as they expand and bigger clothing needs special consideration!) and by what shops were charging for these abominations.
Things became desperate as I tried to find something for my friend's wedding last year. I ordered online from several sources, heaping clothes upon clothes in my virtual shopping baskets, and sending them all back again once they'd arrived, after another day of tears in front of the mirror. Finally, on the verge of going to the wedding in only an old bra, I found something that just might work: black trousers to play down my worst features plus a shirt I would never have otherwise considered, being too pale, too girly, too flower-embroidered, too collarless - just generally not 'me'. But over a plain grey t-shirt it actually looked okay, and that was all I was asking for at this point. Although it looked like it just needed a little extra something - and that's when I had my breakthrough. That's when I invented The Shirt-Scarf Solution?. By adding a thin, woven glittery scarf in silver (with accents of pink, green and gold), and by wrapping the scarf once around my neck then leaving it to hang free, not only was attention drawn away from my stomach, not only did I look quirkily cool, wearing the shirt in a way no-one else would (unless they too had bought the same £2 scarf from a stall at my local shopping centre six years ago) but it lengthened my body, drawing the eye down, blocking the view of my stomach and - yes! - even making me look a bit taller. Result! (And I got a lot of compliments on the big day, so I knew I wasn't deluding myself that it worked).
I've since adapted The Shirt-Scarf Solution? for other occasions, too. Cinema with the girls? Red t-shirt, pink stripy shirt, red butterfly-print scarf. Lunch with a friend? Green t-shirt, white charity shop shirt, green and gold scarf. The possibilities are endless. And until I find another look that serves me as well, this will be my signature style, through thick and thin - or through thick, until I become thin, anyway...
**What's your signature look? (And why?) **
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