My Heart Is Dainty, My Hips Are Not

Audrey-Hepburn-audrey-hepburn-30174987-500-668I was born to wear a sheath dress. Ignore the abundant rear curve and my chest’s propensity for becoming—in strict geographical terms—mountainous. My soul longs to be twee.

It is, of course, never going to happen. The gods could curse me with an immortal tapeworm and my bones would still be Viking-esque, more suited to leading horn-wearing he-men into battle than ethereally floating into tea. Despite my love for all things delicate and feminine—lace, tiny cups, dogs named Claudette—pursuit of a different Grace is fruitless. In my mind, I may be Betty, but anyone with eyes can tell I’m a Joan. So, what do you do, when the outside is never going to match the inside?

Not give a damn.

This is a recent epiphany, kittens. For most of my life, I tried to pretend I wasn’t soultwee. The word “flattering” was my best wardrobe pal. People praised my sense of style, my knowledge of what worked with my generous hourglass shape. Which was all well and good, but have you ever noticed how subtly offensive “flattering” can sound? It intimates that you aren’t attractive, so much as benefited by the outfit you’ve donned. Flattering means that you’re wise to hide certain parts of you, lest someone suspect you don’t possess a perfectly flat stomach or appropriately pointy hip bones. Flattering is something we say all the time to women, as if the best thing she can do is camouflage her squishy parts—or flat parts or whatever it is that doesn’t measure up to our ideal—under yards of fabric or a strategically long cardigan.

Flattering has held me back. Y’all, I want to wear sheath dresses. Who gives a crap if Stacy and Clinton decree that they don’t work for my body type? Sure, I love a fit-and-flare dress like it’s clothing cake, but sometimes I want sartorial pie instead. In writing there is a delightful saying: “Learn the rules, so that you can break them.” That is how I have come to feel about wardrobe choices, as well. For a decade of my life, it’s been all waist-cinching, layering, bust-highlighting rules for hourglass Viking princesses. I know what looks good on me, so isn’t it time I got more comfortable with what supposedly doesn’t?

This summer, I pulled the trigger on my first sheath dress. One of my favorite independent pattern companies, Colette, came out with a lovely little column dress that I gleefully ordered. I tweaked the lines of the pattern a bit—scooping out a bit at the waist for a suggestion of curves—but at the end of the day, it’s a sheath dress. It is exactly the wrong thing for my body type and I adore it. The dress is absurdly comfortable, easy to throw on if I’m in a hurry, and dresses up beautifully. Initially, though, it made me uneasy. I’d pair it with a belt, cardigan, and heels, in an effort to remind the world that I understood my body type. Wear a sheath dress, Grace, but remember who you are! Slowly, however, the accessories disappeared.

Audrey-Hepburn-audrey-hepburn-30467816-500-664I don’t get as many compliments on this dress as my full-skirted, cinched pieces, but who cares? When I wear it, my inner 1960’s ingenue perks up, giving the camera her best Audrey Hepburn smirk. If no one else sees that, I don’t mind. Some days even the Swedish milkmaid wants to feel sweet and delicate. Why shouldn’t she? We are entirely too bound by all those supposed rules, when at the end of the day, our clothes should please only ourselves. I’m all for looking pulled together and stylish, but my style is my own, not one handed to me by society.

I propose we stop obsessing over the styles that work for us. Wear the skirt you love, but is made for the tiny-waisted. Buy that tiki dress you covet, despite the model’s larger chest bunnies. Don a swimsuit without a skirt, because cellulite should not hold you back.

Wear the things that scare you, darling. Society can go suck an egg, if it doesn’t think them flattering.

– Grace

36 thoughts on “My Heart Is Dainty, My Hips Are Not

    • Ha! Thanks, Liss! It’s funny, sewing was actually my introduction into blogging. I’ve run a personal sewing blog for years, through which I’ve made a ton of great dress-minded friends, and finally decided to start one posting twenty-something rants, after my best friend had such success with hers. I was hooked!

  1. Standing ovation, Grace! I too, am more of a Joan than a Betty (although I COVET Betty’s wardrobe) and have always felt ashamed of being more Swedish milkmaid than dainty and delicate, as if that somehow makes me less of a woman.

    But … I’m not petite, and I never will be, so the only thing I can do is love myself and wear whatever the hell I want! Great advice!

  2. Hurrah – though as women we are never satisfied… Those troublesome mountains on your chest? I envy them. I fear following your advice may lead to me being arrested for indecency as I simply do not have the chest bumps to hold up the frocks I most desire.

    Ah well. Thank you for making me smile.

  3. I love this. When shopping for my wedding dress, my mother kept saying things like “no, that makes you look heavy” or “that one makes you look thin.” Finally, my father just looked at her plainly and said “What about which one looks pretty on her, Nancy?”

    I too have that hourglass shape. As a voluptuous woman at a preppy, white-bred university, I never quite fit in as well with the blonde, blue blooded boyish figure types who often reminded me of a collarbone holding up a white t-shirt.

    • AJ, I completely applaud your father. I’m so glad he was there with you, to balance out everything!

      Also, I cackled out loud in the car to Professor McGregor re: people as collarbones. That’s hilarious and true.

      • Grace,
        I would love it if you would follow my blog. ‘My heart is dainty’ inspired me to write my wedding dress story yesterday. I am an aspiring writer and just completed my first novel. I am getting ready to send my queries out and I am looking for some feedback on my postings. I am not a great editor but my stories are from the bottom of my heart.

  4. You just gave me the push to wear the girly party dress I’ve bought but never worn. Granted, it’s cold now so I have to pair it with some leggings, but still, I’m totally gonna do it now. Thanks, Grace. 🙂

  5. Grace, I’m certainly an advocate for wearing what you feel comfortable with, but I do draw the line at muffin pants!!!!There is nothing worse than seeing a pretty girl wearing tight pants that hug her hips, and her muffinly stomach is hanging out everywhere over the top of them…

    Your dress sounds just divine and if no one else likes it then… pffffft. By the way, you might REALLY appreciate this blog – Georgette is a plus sized lady who always looks gorgeous and isn’t too scared to try new fashion. Check out her blog. 🙂

    • Ha! That’s a really good point. I think things that fit properly are vital to a person’s well-being…muffins are only good in pasty-form.

      Also, thank you so much for linking to Georgette’s blog. She’s amazing! I am so happy to now be following her.

      • Oh great!!!! She is just awesome – I look forward to her every blog post. I’m so glad you are now following her. 😀

  6. I’ve learned that you can wear a lot of style, now matter your shape. A lot of it depends on pattern, cut, brand, etc. I, too, am a hour glass who can look downright pornstarish at times. I’ve learned to love it, embrace it, and own it! Rock that sheath dress mama!

    • Amen! If something is cut correctly for you, there are so many style rules that can be thrown out the window. That’s precisely why I sew – to control the quality and fit of the clothes I love to wear.

  7. Fashion should be about comfort not rules. For a curvy girl like me, it is hard to find the styles I like but are not made of my body type. I would gladly wear a shealth dress in the humid Miami weather, just because I know when I leave my house, I look great. Glad you embrace your comfort Grace.

  8. More power to you! I just know I will never make a loose, asymmetrical anything (tank, dress, pants) work b/c it really does make me look fat. And when I look fat, or when I feel like I look fat, that is worse than the initial desire for that outfit. However, those things look great on the rail thin folks. It does make me a wee bit happy that it works on them!

  9. in highschool i hid myself with my long hip-length hair and maroon jacket that a girl wrote in my yearbook about never seeing me without it…i remember the first time going sleeveless…how liberating! =) Thank you Grace for this post.

  10. Reblogged this on The Unbalanced Researcher and commented:
    On a totally un-work-related note, I found this… and I love it. People spend too much time trying to fit in with what other people think they should be doing/saying/wearing/thinking, and it gets so very boring… More individuality, please, and more confidence to be ourselves and damn the consequences! (Well… not all the time, maybe!).

  11. I think I’ll send this over to my gal the next time she refuses to leave the house with me when I wear those dapper hawaiian shirts. Unless you ladies are all against that style too…

  12. Loved your take on the word ‘flattering’ 🙂 Hahah I adored this piece! I should learn to embrace my thighs as well I suppose.

  13. Pingback: The Inevitable Body Image Post | KristiCraft

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