The Power of Dress
To me, dress was about finding an escape. As a pre teen I developed earlier than most, putting me heads (and chests) above the rest. I was tall, not fat, but thick. I was a swimmer, broad shoulders and big feet that propelled me through the water. A competitive water polo player that was relied on for strength and power. I was a big girl.
At the age of 11 you begin to become aware of yourself, your body and perhaps how different you are from your lanky thin friends. You become self conscious in fitting rooms, swimsuits and playgrounds. There's lumps and bumps and hair in funny places. The school banter progresses from mindless fun to crude and often hurtful remarks. I'm not saying I was an outcast but perhaps that's my point. Despite being a well socialised child I still developed these insecurities as much as the next kid.
"I skipped the trainer bra and had to go straight to the real deal."
My friends wore spaghetti strap singlets and mini skirts in primary, I was locked and loaded in with a thick strapped (and serious) bra with my Roxy or Federation Tee. My mum recalls a day when a parent approached her and asked if it was suitable for her daughter to be wearing these expensive surf brands (they were hip as in my time). She turned to her and said “If your daughter had DD boobs at the age of eleven, wouldn’t you do the same?"
It’s upon reflection that I realise my mothers influence on my personal style. Together we would find solutions to my body shape; dress me in a way that could counteract how I felt, she helped me feel included. At this stage I embraced the tomboy aesthetic, a smart idea that jelled well with my already branded surf tees. I played tennis with the boys in my denim cut offs, whacking balls and giving them a run for their money. I was one of the gang.
I went through high school wearing things that suited me, covered me up. It didn't stop the fact that uniform didn't do any favours. I ordered size 14/16 polos so I could swim in them, hide my chest and sweat marks.
In year 11 I started running. And I ran, and I ran. I'd heard a group of girls playing charades at a camp, it's petty stuff but I can visualise like it was yesterday. "It's big, fat.." "Ohh a whale" "Hannah!" And that's why I ran. To prove something, to change me. I lost 16kgs and stepped out on a stage in a leotard that literally changed my world.
People were nice to me, boys liked me for the first time. I was asked to the ball three times, the girls that used to cackle at me had changed their tune. But isn't that fickle?
What resonates with me is the my ability to remember every cruel line ever delivered, but you struggle to remember the good. We take compliments for granted, we seek out flattery constantly but don't absorb it. At the age of twenty-one I can be honest about the impact on my mental health. I often get uncomfortable, suffer from anxiety and have sought after professional help in regards to my issues with body image, but you wouldn’t know it- would you?
Dress is my way of implying that I am okay, I am loud - therefore I must be proud. Yes somedays I'm fat, some days I'm thin - and that is just that. My mum would tell me I have legs that move and a body that works so therefore I am lucky.
I encourage people to find a way they can deal with their insecurities in a safe way. For me clothing cured my soul, my passion for dress has developed significantly. Dress for your shape, your body, your personality - not anybody else's.
If I'm having a bad day perhaps it's not chicken soup thats good for the soul but a classic dress up, look good feel great moment.