Archive for clothes

Paparazzi Headlines and the Female Body

Earlier this year, I stumbled upon a BuzzFeed post that featured several celebrity gossip headlines that had been reimagined by readers. The post complied several photos that came as a response to this challenge, courtesy of Vagenda Magazine:

Vagenda magazine's reworded version of a paparazzi headline

Vagenda magazine’s reworded version of a paparazzi headline

Reading this post and looking at all the headlines really made me think about the way female celebrities are written about.

Most people are exposed to celebrity gossip in one form or another. Even someone who has no interest in celebrity culture might have a difficult time avoiding the headlines splashed across the gossip rags that line the checkout lanes in the supermarket.

Our culture is obsessed with celebrities. I’m certainly guilty of a certain interest in the lives of the beautiful people. In spite of all the unnecessary  attention I’ve paid to these matters, I’d never considered the way these headlines were worded.

But reading this BuzzFeed article changed that.

In retrospect, it seems so obvious! In a society that is just as obsessed with celebrity as it is with female bodies, headlines like this are inevitable:

Emmy Rossum on The Daily Mail

Emmy Rossum on The Daily Mail

What a weird and creepy headline. What part of this outfit invites this kind of commentary?

I feel a little ashamed that I never recognized this kind of thing before. I’ve always considered myself a feminist. I think I’m in tune with women’s rights issues. But in spite of this, I’d never seen headlines like this as problematic.

As I said before, that’s all changed now. And, oh, how the floodgates have opened.

Let’s start with the photo above. What part of Emmy Rossum’s outfit makes this kind of headline appropriate? The big question this article made me ask was this: What does a woman have to wear in order to not invite commentary on her body?

Let’s look at some other examples. Here’s a post about Drew Barrymore:

revised drew barrymoreHow exactly is she “hiding” her figure? To me it just looks like she’s wearing clothes the same way anyone else is. The phrasing here really irks me. It seems to suggest that a female star’s body is subject to objectification and criticism at any time. Barrymore is hiding her figure from the people who feel they have an absolute right to see it.

This is very much a gender-based thing, too.  Compare a couple of headlines from the same website featuring male celebrities:

Seth Rogen

No mention of what Rogen is wearing as he “plays the role” of dutiful husband. The only thing the headline is making a big deal out of is Rogen helping his wife carry bags of groceries. There’s no reference to Rogen “hiding” his figure under his clothing. There no mention of clothes or bodies anywhere in this article.

The following headline does mention the male celebrity’s clothing, though not in the same way you’d see a female celebrity being talked about:

Kelsey Grammer

The author of this piece does make a point of describing Grammer’s attire, though it’s not written in the same breathless and voyeuristic tone used to when describing female celebrities above. Again, there is no mention of Grammer’s body. He apparently has nothing to hide.

As I said before, after I started noticing these things, I was unable to stop. Headlines like this are everywhere. They’re a symptom of a culture that constantly polices women’s bodies.  How are normal women supposed to feel good about themselves when glamorous movie stars are picked apart by tabloids? And is there a solution?

The answer to that last question is pretty difficult. I’d say one step to changing things like this is awareness. Now that I recognize what a problem this is, I can speak out and try to change things. I don’t have a lot of power, but I do have my voice. You do as well. Actions like this, however small, can make a difference:

Amal Alamuddin and George Clooney

Amal Alamuddin and George Clooney

We just have to keep trying.

From the mouths of babes: college student’s art project gets everyone’s attention

Last month, Rosea Lake, a college student at Capilano University in Vancouver, posted a photo on her Tumblr account that she had taken for a high school art project.

In the photo—shown above—we see a young woman from behind. The woman is pulling up her skirt, almost to her waist, to reveal words that have been written along the back of her leg.

Just below her skirt are the words “whore” and then “slut,” at the knee is the word “proper,” and in the middle of her calf is the word “matronly”; several other words fall between these terms. Lake says she created this piece to challenge the notion that people can be judged based on how they look or what they wear, which is why she calls the photo “Judgments.”

Lake explains to Canada’s The Star newspaper, “If you see a girl wearing something you see as distasteful, then you automatically discount them as a person and you don’t give them the opportunity to really be somebody in your eyes…And that’s really shameful.”

Lake’s right: it is shameful to judge people based on their clothing or their appearance, and I applaud her for creating such a piece that makes our thoughts when we see someone who looks different than we do.

Travel post #7: Pack for the trip you’ll have

This is the seventh in my series of short travel posts from the road as my husband and I drive from one side of the country to the other. See highlights from our trip here: Across the Great Divide.


We just finished a cross-country trip that took nineteen days, covered almost 6000 miles, allowed me to visit more than a dozen sights, and required me to change my clothes about forty times.

The only problem is that I packed all wrong.

I packed enough clothes for three weeks and two climates, but only wore a half of what I brought with me.

I packed fourteen nice tops and only wore six. And I only ever put on two of the six scarves I had in my suitcase. On the other hand, I wore all four of the t-shirts I brought with me more than once.

Similarly, I packed five skirts and only wore one. But I wore nearly all of the jeans and sweatpants I packed.

It shouldn’t surprise you then when I tell you that I packed two dresses and wore neither. But I also brought two sets of pjs and wore them until they were dirty enough to throw in the trash (which I didn’t actually do).

After lugging four suitcases from Kentucky to California and back, I can’t help but wonder why I packed so much stuff I didn’t use or need.

I think it’s because when I’m packing for a big trip or vacation, I imagine myself like someone in the movies—walking along the beach in a long flowing dress or having drinks in a tight skirt, flashy top, and heels.

In other words, I imagine myself looking glamorous all the time.

When in reality, I wore shorts every time I visited the beach and jeans every time I ventured out for drinks or dinner. There’s nothing wrong with having a slightly more glamorous sense of how trips like these will go as long as we’re happy with the reality we end up with, and I’m very happy with the reality of our trip. But I do wish I had packed more sensibly and hope I can do so in the future.

But I fear I’ll never change—when I go to Manhattan later this summer, I’m sure I’ll pack for my imaginary Sex in the City walk-on—and picture myself dashing across the Meatpacking District in a pair of Manolo Blahniks and a Michael Kors dress—rather than packing for what will really happen when I spend my days running to catch the subway wearing jeans, a t-shirt, and sneakers—albeit cute ones.

Travel post #6: To dress or not to dress

This is the sixth in my series of short travel posts from the road as my husband and I drive from one side of the country to the other. See highlights from our trip here: Across the Great Divide.


We are almost finished with our long (but wonderful) trip across the country. Sadly, I think our travel mojo must have run out in Los Angeles over the weekend because now we’re just ready to be home.

For that reason, neither one of us feels like bothering to take very many photos or plan the events of our last few days. In fact, we barely want to get dressed in the morning. This morning I seriously debated if I should just stay in my pajamas all day rather than go to the trouble of putting on regular clothes.

Some people think that if you don’t want to get out of your PJs that it’s a sign you’re depressed—for evidence of this, see Young Adult (above) and Terri (below), but maybe it just means you’re smart.

I mean, wouldn’t the world be a better place if we all dressed comfortably—in clothes that didn’t reveal too much—every day? Designer Rachel Roy did just that a movie premiere last spring (see her PJ outfit at the top of this post), and I think she looks great as well as appearing both stylish and professional.

So what do you think? Who’s with me?

Is it wrong to feature plus-size models?
The debate ranges on

PLUS Model Magazine has caused quite a controversy with their recent “Plus Size Bodies: What Is Wrong with Them Anyway?” article, which questions the size and health of most models and pushes for more plus-size ones. As one of their pictorials points out, “Most runway models meet the Body Mass Index physical criteria for anorexia.”

PLUS Model also claims “50% of women wear a size 14 or larger, but most standard clothing outlets cater to sizes 14 or smaller” and argues we need more a greater variety of sizes in retail stores as well.

PLUS Model’s editor-in-chief explains that her magazine is “a response to a fashion and beauty industry which continues to endorse a skinny ideal that is not always healthy and alienates a huge percentage of the market.”

Of course, the response to this story has been mixed.

Some people are thrilled about Plus Model Magazine, insisting it’s about time we show women in magazines who look more like the average American woman (a size twelve or fourteen depending on who you ask).

Salon admits “there can be no denying that the standards for beauty have drastically changed over the past several years. As Americans have been getting bigger, our lingerie models have been going on wackadoo ‘no solids’ diets to attain runway perfection. Thanks to the magic of photo editing technology, already slender models can be whittled down to near nonexistence.”

Still, others argue that showing size-fourteen women is endorsing obesity.

I’ve had the same kinds of comments on I Will Not Diet ever since I created this blog.

But it’s a false dilemma to say or imply that we have to choose between anorexic or obese models.

Most women who wear a size fourteen are not obese. I started wearing a size fourteen when I was in college. That was when I weighed 150 pounds; since I’m five-foot-six, that made my BMI 24, which is well within the normal range.

But I’ve always had big bones (my wrist is 6 ¾ inches), so I wear bigger clothes than most people who are the same weight as me. Some people think that saying you’re “big-boned” is just a euphemism for being overweight or “fat,” but it’s really not.

There are numerous thin people who have big bones (examples include Sandra Bullock, Kate Winslet and Nathan Fillion), and there are plenty of overweight people who have small bones (but I won’t name them here since doing so would only be cruel).

(If you want to find out if you’re big boned or not, here’s a simple way to do it—wrap your right thumb and longest finger around your left wrist. If your thumb and forefinger overlap, you have small bones; if they just touch, you have medium bones; and if they don’t touch at all, you have big bones. You can also use this chart or this calculator to determine if you have big bones. To read more about the big-boned-equals-fat misconception, go here and here and here.)

And big-boned women aren’t the only non-obese women who require a size fourteen. Tall women are another great example. I have several friends in the five-foot-ten to six-foot range and nearly all of them wear a size fourteen even though they are lithe and nowhere near obese.

I could go on, but you get the idea.

The point is that featuring women who are a size fourteen is not about endorsing obesity, its about endorsing variety, which is all but absent from the women we see everyday in our magazines, television shows, and films. As Plus Model Magazine points out, “Twenty years ago the average fashion model weighed 8% less than the average woman. Today, she weighs 23% less.”

That’s why, as the magazine asserts, we need to pressure retailers to stop only catering to women who are smaller than the average American women. No one is saying this needs to happen at the cost of smaller women, but rather that we need models, clothes, advertising, and entertainment that reflects what a wonderfully diverse world we really are.


Have you ever gone to put something on and found that—magically—it no longer fits? (I swear that must happen to me every few months just to remind me I’m human.) Well, if so, you’re not alone. As it turns out, even celebrities can’t always get their clothes to fit.

Because last Friday, Sofia Vergara, star of ABC’s Modern Family, freaked out when none of the dresses she was trying on for the Golden Gobes fit her. “Nothing fits meeee!!!! she said via Twitter. “I’m not going to the Golden Globes!!!!!!!” And suddenly I realized that in some ways Vergara is one of us—a regular person. This makes two reasons I’m happy to watch her show every week.

The picture that accompanied her tweet (above) also took me back to being a teenager . . . you remember, don’t you? Lying on the twin bed, trying desperately to zip your too-tight Gloria Vanderbilt designer jeans over your still-flat belly. How many of you did something like that???

Of course, Sofia’s tweet raises the question, if TV stars struggle to fit in their clothes, what hope do the rest of us have?

FYI . . . I’m on Twitter now. Follow me @IWillNotDiet.

Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today

199 pounds

In my last post, I talked about an amazing dress I just found at Old Navy, and one of the comments I got about that blog came from my dear friend Emily (pictured in the self-portrait above), who said this:

“After I surfaced from the ridiculous stress of the last six months, I realized that I’ve gained some weight. Rather than beating myself up over it and refusing to buy myself new clothes until I slim down, I went out and started buying dresses. I’m convinced that they’re much more flattering than jeans. I feel better, and I know I look good, because people keep asking me where I’m shopping.”

I’m repeating what Emily said here because embedded in her words is one of the most important things I could ever say on this blog: if you want to feel good about yourself, you MUST get yourself some new clothes.
Not tomorrow.
Not when you lose five pounds.
They don’t have to be expensive clothes or even completely new clothes (raid a friend’s closet if you have to), but they have to be new to you and they have to fit your body the way it looks TODAY.
It’s a common misconception that if you’ve put on a few pounds, you should deny yourself the luxury of buying new clothes, punishing yourself with a too-tight wardrobe until you reach your goal weight. But this notion is completely misguided. Because as long as your clothes don’t properly fit, you’ll feel lousy. And as long as you feel lousy, you’re more likely to take those emotions out on a super-sized Extra Value Meal.
No, when you are feeling bad about the reflection in the mirror, you shouldn’t deny yourself flattering clothes. Instead, that’s the exact time to engage in some serious retail therapy.
Another reason this is crucial is because until you feel good about yourself in the present, you will most likely never ever be able to feel good about yourself in the future . . . at least not for long or in any lasting more-than-superficial way. And, honestly, nothing makes you feel better about yourself than a slimming pair of jeans that actually fit and flatter your bottom half rather than turning your waist into a muffin top and stretching your thighs to thunderous proportions.
Trust me, I know.

Clothes make the woman

191 pounds

It has taken me nearly all of my thirty-nine years to finally understand that self esteem is more about the way you dress than the number of the scale.
I started figuring this out a few years ago, and I am still learning how to dress my body for maximum appeal. As a result, I have become a bit obsessed with fashion, which is why awards shows like the Golden Globes are a big deal for me.
Unfortunately, after watching Sunday night’s red carpet show, it seems that very few women—even women who have access to stylists and free designer duds—know how to dress for the bodies they have, whether they are wonderfully curvy or fabulously fit.
Because dressing for your body is something that all women have to do and because this blog is about feeling good about yourself no matter what your size, I think it makes sense to take a day to talk about how to do the former.
There were a few women at the Globes who knew how to dress for the body size and shape, but mostly it was one fashion faux pas after another on the red carpet.
Let’s start with the people who got it right.
For my money, Meryl Streep was one of the best dressed women on the red carpet Sunday night (thanks to her designer, Project Runway‘s Chris March), and (as I mention in my Gallery of Gorgeous Woman to the right) she’s admitted to being a size fourteen, a healthy size we can all aspire to, so it makes sense to discuss why her look was so successful . . .
It’s the neckline and the fit that make this dress work so well. The off-the-shoulder asymmetrical neckline is a fabulous choice for women who want to draw attention away from their middles and up to their faces and necks. Also, the fit is outstanding. The dress skims her body but doesn’t squeeze it, highlighting her silhouette without letting it overpower her, which is crucial for curvy women. Finally, the belt perfectly accentuates her torso because it shows off her waistline without cinching it. This dress is simultaneously sexy and age-appropriate without ever wandering into mother-of-the-bride territory as so many women her age do.
Though she’s only curvy because she’s pregnant, Amy Adams also offered us a great model of how to dress if you have ample assets . . .
Adams’ little black dress is another example of how an off-the-shoulder neckline, like Streep’s, goes a long way towards downplaying busty cleavage, and her fitted waist and just-above-the-knee hemline show us how to camoflauge the area in the middle without hiding it from view. The short style also draws our eye to her legs, which look even longer because of her bronze-colored shoes. Adams’ look is a wonderful lesson on how to dress if you want to feature your legs and shoulders and hide a bump in the middle.
On the other end of the spectrum of women who looked great on the red carpet is Big Love‘s Ginnifer Goodwin . . .

What’s great about Ginnifer’s look is that it very smartly creates curves that she doesn’t really have by adding material to her hips and her waist but also shows off her slender shoulders and legs by keeping them exposed.
Though Goodwin took a risk by enhancing her frame, usually the best way to show off a super fit body is to keep it simple, and there were a handful of women on the red carpet who did that just right . . .
Kate Winslet’s dress is just tight enough to accentuate her curves rather than ruin them. If it were any tighter, it would be too much.

Julianna Margulies’ dress was a bit daring with the glittery red top, but the bottom of her dress was sleek enough that it still worked.

Courtney Cox’s straight neckline and sleek silhouette was perfect for a woman as thin as Cox because it emphasizes her frame without making her look too skinny. She’s 46 but has managed to stay extremely fit and, therefore, has every right to rock a look this sexy.
Glenn Close’s dress worked for the exact same reason: simplicity . . .
If you’re 62 and look like this, you have got to show it off. On a side note, I’m just so glad that “older” women in Hollywood aren’t dressing like grandmothers anymore.
Sofía Vergara followed this long and sleek model and wisely only added extra material to the back of her dress in order to keep the front uncluttered.
Gabby Sidibe also dressed perfectly for her body . . .
Like Streep’s, her dress gently follows the shape of her body and tucks in at her waist, emphasizing her silhouette without cling too tightly to it. This is a wonderful example of how a woman Gabby’s size should dress for a formal event: she didn’t hide her body in a tent dress but instead flattered it with clean, feminine lines.
Admittedly, Chloe Sevigny’s dress was a bit of a controversy. Some people hated it, and others loved it . . .
There were clearly a few too many ruffles going on, but what I loved about this dress was that she looked stunning without looking super thin. The dress really showed off her curves in an interesting way. My God, she even had a little tummy! (Though it was more visible in the broadcast than it is here.) I love that!
Unfortunately, there were just as many women who didn’t dress appropriately for their body.
Sadly, one of them was Christina Hendricks whose dress was designed by another Project Runway alum: Christian Siriano. . .

You might know from my “Why we should all be watching Mad Men” post that I adore Hendricks and completely worship her va-va-voom curves (in fact, I’ll be adding her to my Gallery of Gorgeous Women soon), but the fit of this dress was all wrong for her. When you have a body like Hendricks’, fit is crucial, and this one was too tight both in the front and in the back, pushing her girls (and the skin on her back, which you can see clearly in other photos) up and out rather than holding them in. I was devastated to see that the dress fit so poorly since I do love Hendricks and since, otherwise, she looked so stunning. But it’s a good lesson about the importance of finding something that fits and it’s even good for us to see that someone as amazing as Hendricks can make mistakes too.
Another curvy woman from my Gallery of Gorgeous Women who struggled on the red carpet was Patricia Arquette . . .
From my way of thinking, Arquette has a perfect body. She’s not too big and not too small, but just right. Unfortunately, the criss-cross draping of this dress made her middle look MUCH bigger than it is and actually fought the shape of her body rather than working with it. Arquette would have been better off picking a style that drew attention away from her middle rather than emphasizing it. Patterns are also notoriously hard for any size woman to wear, so it’s a mystery why Arquette chose one that was so busy.
Sigourney Weaver, at 60, is another older woman who still has a simply amazing body . . .

But though we can applaud Weaver for her physique, we cannot applaud her dress, which did the same thing that Arquette’s did—it criss-crossed her body several times, drawing attention to her middle and make it look bigger than it is. It’s a shame, too, because if you really look at this picture, you can see that Weaver has a wonderful waist, but you’re so distracted by the dress’ design here that her body almost gets entirely lost.

Oddly, the normally spot-on Heidi Klum committed a similar faux
pas . . .
Klum just gave birth and is, therefore, a bit curvier than normal, so maybe that’s why someone who normally dresses in a way that is perfectly flattering stumbled this time. Because instead of wearing a dress that showed off her assets, Klum chose a dress that drew attention to all the wrong places. The wide neckline made her look bigger on top, and the starbust pattern and mermaid silhouette made her look bigger on the bottom. Like Hendricks’ dress, this one was also too tight, a problem that may have been the result of her recent pregnancy, but one that she should have been smart enough to avoid by choosing a different dress when it was clear this one didn’t fit.
Even the lovely Penelope Cruz didn’t choose the right dress . . .
One of the main problems here is that there is too much going on—I mean lace, stripes, and a layered train?! Come on, Penelope! I know you can do better than that! I’ve seen you do better that. It looked a bit like dress by committee, which is a problem no matter what your size. (Come to think of it, this was a bit of a problem for Klum too.) But Cruz also choose a dress that had horizontal stripes that over-accentuated her wonderful curves and, like Klum, a mermaid silhouette, that made her look bigger than she is.
Rita Wilson . . .
and Lauren Graham . . .

repeated Cruz’s and Klum’s mistake—too tight, too mermaid-like—but exacerbated that misstep by adding a pattern (in Wilson’s case) and a bright color (in Graham’s) that, again, made them look bigger than they are.
While Mariah Carey took it one step further with this absurdly low neckline . . .

People made fun of Carey’s dress all night, and that ought to be a lesson to all of us about the importance of suggesting our curves rather than simply showing them.
(Anna Paquin, I hope you’re listening. This could be you someday if you’re not careful.)
Cameron Diaz had the opposite problem . . .
Her dress made her look even thinner than she is because it wasn’t as streamlined as someone like Cox’s. In fact, the repeating V-pattern (in the neckline and the waist) draws more attention to her sharp angles than her sweet curves.
If Diaz’s dress had too much material on top, Julia Roberts’ dress had too much all over. . .

Her dress was the opposite of fitted, so much so that it’s hard to tell she’s got a body under there at all. If it hadn’t been for her legs, this look would have been pretty close to a muumuu. As it stands, it looks more like a trench coat than a dress. There was simply too much material in the arms, the chest, and the stomach, and Roberts got lost in it.
Speaking of getting lost in a dress. . .

Where is Julianne Moore’s body in this dress??? I can’t see it anywhere! This is another common mistake: hiding your body behind a sea—or in this case, a wall—of fabric.
Calista Flockhart has always been underweight, and for that reason it was surprising that she too wore a long, shapeless dress. . .
There were also some women—specifically Zoe Saldana and Mo’nique, come to mind—who made the mistake of choosing a dress that highlighted weaker aspects of their physique rather than their strengths.
I almost never go sleeveless anymore, so it always surprises me when women choose to do so on national television. From my way of thinking, you’ve got to have amazing arms to look good in a sleeveless dress after the age of thirty. Both of these women would have benefitted from dresses with sleeves, proving that it’s not just curvy women who need to dress for their size . . .
Saldana’s dress is actually gorgeous, but we are so distracted by her emaciated arms that we don’t notice the dress much at all. In fact, this is not the first picture I’ve seen lately of Saldana where she appears way too thin, to the point of being unhealthy looking, and I sincerely hope that she returns to her formerly healthy size.
I realize that by deconstructing the attire of all these amazing women, I open myself up for attack. But please know that I am not trying to criticize them. I just believe that there is so much we can learn from them. If nothing else, it’s refreshing to know that skinny women make as many mistakes as curvy women, emphasizing yet again that it’s not our body size that matters but how we wear what we’ve got.
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