Not The Outside

Clothes can be a huge reflection on how you perceive yourself and how you want others to perceive you. They are a basic necessity, but more than that, they can affect how you feel. Whatever your body type or season in life, clothes have the power to raise you up or tear you down in confidence and insecurities. 

In college, my style identity was anything classic, nautical, Native American (think feathers and leather fringe and moccasins), frumpy-but-with-hoop-earrings-and-curled-hair, never without high heels, and put together. Honestly, I could pull just about anything off. A lesson on modesty might have done some good (sorry mom..), but until college, I had never had a cute figure. My confidence was through the roof those years.

However, in the last several months I have had numerous conversations with friends and women my age. Most are in their mid-twenties and in a newish stage of life. Some of these women have had a baby, are pregnant, in the best shape of their lives, have been married for several years, or are still the same size they were in college. Bodies have changed, my own included. With those changes, some have seen confidence they never knew they had, while others have felt insecurities on a deep level.

They have expressed frustration in their bodies changing by no fault of their own - they have a baby that is growing inside them! Others enjoyed 'dating' in those first few years of marriage and indulged a little more often than they should have. Still others have seen the aftermath of having a baby and the work it takes to get back to their pre-baby body. Then, others have discovered the beauty of nutrition and fitness and curated a slim figure for themselves. I have witnessed my own body change with age, and the bodies of women around me.

...and it's the most beautiful thing.

It's hard sometimes... but rewarding at others. I'm not as tiny as I was in college, and for a while, I mourned that 'loss.' One day, though, I looked at myself differently.
I saw the curves and the flaws I hadn't had before and I realized that it was happiness, memories made, and experiences that got me there. Sure, my pants not fitting was frustrating for a while, but I learned that throughout life, this is just going to happen. Next year, I might be as tiny as I was in college, if I choose to be. For now, though, this is the season I'm in and it's my choice to embrace it. Someday I'll have babies that will change my frame. But I will still be me. Fearfully and wonderfully made. Just because I was small in college doesn't mean I had more value. In fact, as a wife and a woman with more maturity now, I feel that my value has increased... despite a change in appearance. I can look back and remember that past season in college was one of triumph over what could have been a dangerous eating disorder. I am better where I am now.

Based on my chosen career and changes in interest, fashion has taken more of a backseat in my life. My definition of 'dressed up' can sometimes mean that I actually put on pants today or dried my hair. This realization was weird at first.

"Since when did I stop shopping? ... This skirt is so short. Did I really wear this in public? ... Why are all my heels so high?"

But guys, it's stages in life! In a year, I might be the biggest fashionista in Georgia.

Obviously, clothes made me feel great when everything in the world fit me perfectly. Now, however, the stores I once frequented not only seem to have ill-fitting pieces, but they look very tween-ish. Again, stages of life!
Two years ago, 'dressed up' meant heels, perfect hair, lots of makeup, and a different purse for every occasion. Today, flowy, loose, fabrics and flattering pants with sandals are my version of 'dressed up.'  In two+ years from now (God-willing), I'll probably be lucky if my hair is even remotely clean (#motherhood).

The thing I've discovered, though, is how impactful clothing really is to your self-esteem. Once I stopped wishing I was college-sized and just bought some clothes that fit my new curves, I felt like a million bucks (read: bra fittings!!!). 

I want to share the importance of that message. Clothes matter! This doesn't mean you have to spend gobs of money on designer brands, but to be intentional about what makes you feel beautiful and valued. Maybe that means owning several dresses or pairs of pants that fit perfectly. Maybe that means only buying fabrics that make you feel comfortable and chic. Maybe it means your shoes need to be trendy, but adequate for carrying a baby on your hip all day. It could even mean just owning a cute pair of pajamas that makes being home with a new baby all that much easier.

A friend and I recently happened upon a store in my town. As I walked around I noticed that the clientele was incredibly varied. Their clothes were very in-style, but they seemed to have something for everyone. The fabrics, styles, and colors were similar, yet unique. Even the prices were ideal (my rule of thumb: if a store's most expensive shoes are $50 or less, the prices of everything else should be in my sweet spot). It was a boutique, but larger than others I'd seen.

Since visiting their store, the thoughts in this post have been on my mind because their mission perfectly aligns with my thoughts on fashion and confidence as of late.

From their website:

"At the core of the company, Dress Up had one main mission - to show the love of Christ and to help women realize their worth. The couple wanted to make sure that each woman walking in the doors left feeling more confident and loved than they did walking in. It was this mission that shoppers began to fall in love with. After just a little over a year since creation, the brand had built a loyal following of locals, who were excited about expansion." 

Isn't that beautiful? Honestly, I did feel more loved after I left and I am excited to go back to Dressed Up. The girls working there were the sweetest and the other customers were lovely too. I just cannot get their message out of my head, so I needed to share my thoughts. By the way, I was not asked to write this post and am receiving nothing from Dressed Up - I just really loved this store and left feeling so encouraged and happy that I had to say it! 

I felt like I found a place that catered not only to my stage of life and changes in my body, but it catered to the woman who just had a baby and the girl who started her first day of college. It was unifying and it helped me remember that clothes can do so much in showing love to your body. It was a reminder that no matter what stage of life I'm in, God created me as me... just as he created that girl, and that mom shopping on either side of me.

Your value doesn't depend on how you look, what you wear, what size you are, or your stage of life. You are valued by Christ. Just remember to value yourself... and find some clothes that help you do so!

If you're curious, go check out their website and read their full story.

Do you have any thoughts to add? Have you been in a stage and felt less confident, but instead chose to embrace and love yourself? Tell me about it - the inspiring stories of the women in my life are so beautiful!

LifeJoy Johnson