Seven years ago today, I woke up in the middle of the night with the headache to end all headaches. Several hours later I was stretched out on an operating table while neurosurgeons worked to repair a cerebral aneurysm that had ruptured in my brain. I was lucky; I lived. But the recovery and rehab went on for a couple of years past that. When it was all over, I had a different body, one I didn’t know and, more important, didn’t like. So I stopped buying clothes. Actually, I stopped buying clothes of quality. My wardrobe for the past seven years has come from Target and the like. It satisfies my urge for fashion (sort of), but the fit is quite another matter. The fit is—well, it just isn’t.
Recently, however, my professional life has taken a tick upwards and it’s become clear that I can’t do business in $12 crops and $9 T-shirts, no matter how cute my shoes are. Basically, I can hear my mother calling from the grave: “You can’t go out looking like that! Go buy some clothes!" So I’m treading the waters of shopping for work clothes, and frankly I’m drowning.
For most of my life, I was tall and thin, relatively. Short-waisted, yes, but I knew how to dress that. For most of my life, I had a slight pot-belly, but nothing that couldn’t be dealt with by sucking it in. For most of my life, I was sort of flat-chested. In high school, I was teased that I was a perfect 36, 12”12”12”. That was then, and this is now: I’m still short-waisted but with huge boobs, double Ds in fact. And that slight pot has morphed into a barrel.
The problem is that I don’t know how to dress this body. After a lifetime of knowing what to wear to flatter my shape, now I’ve got a new shape and not a clue as to what is flattering. Yes, I read all the “How to dress for your figure” articles and I watch What Not To Wear and the like. So I’m learning that styles that used to flatter me—raglan sleeves and drapey knits, for example—are now verboten. Whereas styles I wouldn’t have looked at twice before—such as close-fitting tops and—yikes! waistlines—are now supposed to be my best friends.
The real issue, however, is that I don’t know how to judge what I see in the mirror. I’m having to overcome a lifetime of opinions about is attractive and what’s not and, even more, what works and what doesn’t. It’s the oddest thing, this sense of having to remake my fashion eye, and I don’t even know if it’s possible. I can’t go back to what I was; can I go forward? I really don’t know.