Very British Herringbone Orange Wool: Simplicity 2446 Amazing Fit Misses’ Jacket - This jacket makes me feel very British…the fabric comes from Clothspot the UK (you may remember my skirt) and the pattern was a gift from Evie when we met ...
13 August 2010
On Natural Beauty
I have never been the kind of woman who sought to enhance my looks on a regular basis. Get married and I’ll unearth the high heels, make-up and contact lenses for your wedding. But that’s it. Special occasions only.
It’s not that I don’t admire it in other women or don’t enjoy the way I look when I do make the effort, it’s just that I find the whole enterprise cumbersome. The contacts make my eyes hurt and I always smear my mascara. And I’ll be barefoot by the time dancing begins. Not to mention that, out of my comfort zone, I may do embarrassing things like flash an entire crowd while attempting to pull off a Dirty Dancing-esque lift in a florescent 1970s minidress. Thank goodness for special occasion underwear.
This realization about myself has gone a long way in my journey to personal style. I’m now focusing on how to make my tried-and-true daily wear more interesting by zoning in on fit, details, and colors that flatter. The problem is, I’m starting to realize that I've long equated my no-nonsense attitude toward my looks with an amorphous thing called, “natural beauty.” And the longer I’m on this personal style path, the less I’m sure of what that means.
A year ago, I would have said that it meant being beautiful without enhancement. What You See Is What You Get. I wanted to look good without drawing on my face, pushing up my breasts, stepping in high heels that pushed out my T&A, and certainly nothing that required surgery. I wanted to be able to look at myself in the mirror in the mornings and not be horrified with the plain face that looked back to me.
Case in point, this Dove commercial. Most have seen it and it provides a visual argument about why are perception of beauty is skewed. Sure we look better with face and hair enhancement and a good dose of Photoshop, but what about looking good just as we are?
Here’s another Dove commercial, a bit more heavy handed. It wags the finger at the “beauty industry.”
I don’t think the so-called beauty industry is entirely to blame for our perceptions of beauty, but I don’t think we should understate how much our perceptions of beauty dictate how we view ourselves. And how we view ourselves is directly related to how we dress.
I came across a phenomenal post from Erin, at a Dress a Day, on dressing out of joy and fear (via Jessica). In my most honest moment: I have been dressing out of fear my whole life. I have been afraid to be the woman who can’t look at herself in the mirror, so I’ve largely dismissed all attempts at beauty.
In fact, I treated it like a gateway drug, i.e., today's fake eyelashes is tomorrow's nose job. Any evidence of dissatisfaction as a slippery slope. I'll be Cat Woman by Wednesday. It's ridiculous, of course. This sort of thinking degrades our intelligence in the same way that those who tell us we are not good enough drain our worth as women. Still, this unstated belief has been so deep-rooted that it's taken this journey to uproot it and re-examine.
And what I've discovered is that I no longer want to define myself in reaction to something else. It stems from negativity.
This all came to head with some recent bra shopping. I had joked with the gal at Quiet and Small Adventures that I hadn’t sewn a particular dress because I didn’t know what bra I was going to wear with it. It was high-time I got one of those multi-way do-everything-but-make-your-coffee bras. You know, it’s strapless, racerback, halter, etc. My wardrobe could be greatly expanded by one little bra.
As a small chested gal (we’re talking AA, and not the battery), bra shopping is loathsome. In the end, I found two bras. One simply mimicked my shape and the other gave me a shape that—how should I put it?—didn’t come in the original packaging. The old thinking would have said the first was more natural, but the new thinking asked, “Which one makes you feel confident?”
And guess which bra I bought?
So I’m revising my definition of natural beauty (and dreaming of strapless dresses). I still embrace the idea that we should love the bodies we have, that we should still recognize our beauty without enhancements, but this does not mean we should shun the pretty things that make us feel confident.
I know many have made this realization long before me, but I'd love to know what you think. How do you define natural beauty? And does “natural” matter at all?
To being beautiful, in any and every way.