Monday, April 15, 2019

On Buying A Dress At 200 Pounds

This week, I had the opportunity (well, the task) of finding something suitable to wear to a friend's wedding. The thing is, over the past decade of weighing everywhere from 175 to 260 pounds, I got to a point where I just don't dress up. My idea of dressing up has been a pair of nice jeans and a cute sweater or blouse... but rarely an actual dress. The last time I went through this was four years ago when I went out and shopped for dresses with my daughter for Mother's Day. I was nearly 40 pounds heavier than I am now, and those cute spring dresses have long since gone to someone else because they were too big for me. The only skirts and dresses I own are a couple that I bought a long time ago: one that I wore at Christmas a few years ago and two that were "goal" dresses (you know, the ones you see and love but are far from fitting into, but you buy them anyway thinking someday they will fit). Funny thing... one of those "goal" dresses is obviously too big for me now and the other might also be too big, but definitely would not be too small.., but they're winter dresses and dark colors or black. I ought to try them on just for the heck of it. But anyway, I needed a spring dress so off I went to shop.

The usual place I would go for dresses closed a couple years ago, so I ended up in the dressing rooms of places like Penney's and Kohls this time around. And it was *really* stressful! It took several days and about 50 items in different sizes to find something I could tolerate (but not truly love).

Every time I went in the dressing room, I had to bring a range of sizes because I had *no idea* what size I am right now. I grabbed everything from 14 to 20 and M to XXL because one side of my brain feels skinny and normal, but another big part of my brain says I am HUGE and have gained back *all* of the weight I lost. Listen, I am still down about 80 pounds from my high weight, but I feel like this 20+ pound regain is way, way more than it actually is. My brain shames me sometimes... says I am morbidly obese. It tells me I am massive and lumbering and busting out of my clothes. It makes me feel monstrous, for some reason. My body dysphoria is very real. Regaining is not good for me, because it makes me believe all of my weight loss has been erased and I am back to where I was before... even though my life is easier, my clothing smaller, and I look decent. My mind lies to me.

In the dressing room, I tried on everything. I was most horrified at anything with a length above the knee... even the ones that are longer in the back and have a sort of overlap in the front so you don't see *much* of the knees unless you're walking. My knees, to me, are my biggest shame spot. I think they look like a 300 pound person's knees and the rest of me looks relatively normal (okay, except for the batwing arms) so showing my knees in any way feels like a betrayal. It says to anyone who looks, "I used to be really big." In their minds, they must be shocked when they catch a flash of a knee surrounded by cushions of fat: "Oh wow, look at her knees! She must have been *really* fat before I met her. I had no idea! She looks normal! But she is just a fat person in hiding!" Betrayed.

So anything that was not long enough to totally cover the knees was a big NO. Then there was the issue of fabric. If a dress had a cotton or clingy fabric, it drew attending to my bulges. Yes, I have Spanx, but I wanted a loose, flowy fabric to at least make my lumps less obvious. And then there was the pattern. I could not have horizontal stripes, or a really attention-grabbing pattern. No bright colors, nothing really stand-outish that would make anyone look twice. I want to be able to blend into a crowd. The waist can't be too high or it makes my big belly look pregnant, and the sleeves have to be past the elbow (again, betrayal with the arms).

I tried on dress after dress and finally was so exasperated that I gave up and switched to the idea of a skirt and top. Of course, all the cute tops right now are short sleeved or sleeveless, so I had to add a light sweater or jacket. And it couldn't be black (too wintery) or white (didn't want to wear white to a wedding) so the color of the sweater, top, and skirt all had to match and I could not find any "pre-matched" sets. Once I found a skirt in a non-clingy fabric in a reasonable, non-attention grabbing color and pattern, and in a size that fit (I went with XL, because I wanted it to have no hint of tightness and I can always pin it smaller if needed), then I had to find the matching top. I narrowed it down to a certain color and then tried on all these tops and so many of them either clung to the boobs, gathered under them, or made my stomach look massive! But I found one that fit pretty well (in a Medium!) and then moved on the the light sweater, which also ended up being a Medium. And then my brain said, "Medium tops, XL bottom, YOU DO NOT MATCH." As in, my body is a normal top half glued onto a massive bottom half. Sigh... Well, you can't win them all. I bought the clothes, wore them to the wedding, and felt pretty okay about how I looked.

I long to just go into a store and try on a cute spring dress or two and buy one and feel great about how I look. No, actually, I just want to be able to buy one and not think twice about whether I look like a freak in it or a regular person. That's my goal, really.

Peace in eating is one thing. Peace with one's body in situations like this is a whole 'nother thing.


Anonymous said...

Oh my lord. I get what you are saying but is it really that dramatic? I’ve been allllll the sizes and truly you need to take charge of that brain! That’s what therapy is for. There are so many good clothing options especially because you live in a relatively metropolitan area. Torrid and Kane Bryant both offer sizes as small as 10-12 and have good options. Nordstrom’s Rack is excellent for in between sizes ( between regular and play) and next time grab a trusted friend and just get it done. Life shouldn’t be so stressful in this way! You are not dying. Except in the same way we all are!! If you are truly suffering from body dysmorphia find a specialist and get in recovery. Life is too short and spring and summer in the PNW is the best, I hope you enjoyed the occasion at least! If I sound frustrated it’s because I relate but FINALLY got into therapy with a REAL ED specialist not just s general counselor and it changed everything for me. I wish you the same peace. I can’t sign into Google but it’s from Frenchie

Anonymous said...

Wow, this post speaks to my SOUL. I've had trouble/loathed clothing shopping at everything from 88 pounds (anorexic) to 175 (rebound) and down to 145, which is where I am now when I eat in a healthy but nonrestrictive fashion.

You're right; body image doesn't relate to eating issues directly. I think our culture is sick when it comes to physical bodies. I also think it takes everyone, no matter their size, a long time to find a dress that flatters their SHAPE. Even when I was very thin, I didn't have a shape that looked good in all clothes. No one does! Have you watched the Netflix show Queer Eye? I really like how they deal with dressing people of a variety of sizes/shapes in a positive, nonjudgmental way.


Anonymous said...

You're not alone in this! And believe it or not, this scenario can happen to someone in the "normal" BMI range. I used to weigh 330 pounds and have been maintaining between 159 and 165 for the past year. I'm at the top end of that range right now and the psychological impact of that is incredible. Logic tells me that I am at most 6 pounds heavier than my lowest weight. But I feel huge! I was also shopping for a dress this weekend at Kohl's and had a really hard time finding something that didn't make me hate my body. I always thought if I could be this small at 5'9", I'd be happy with my body. I clearly feel more comfortable and healthier, but I still strongly dislike my body. I would consider dropping more weight, but rhis is a fairly easy weight range to maintain and I don't want to risk regaining in response to dropping too low. Anyway, just thought I'd share, because dress shopping can be the WORST!

Anonymous said...

I wear black to weddings all the time! I think you're really overthinking this.

Carole Medley said...

I am so glad you were able to find something you like. And how many of your readers will cheer you for your ability to wear a Medium, while simultaneously feeling bad that THEY can't wear that small size. It's all relative, of course. I'll bet you looked darling.

Amy said...

It would really help if sizing were universal but it's not. I remember when I first lost a bunch of weight and had to get a suitable interview outfit. I bought a Jones New York dress suit. I had no idea what size I was (I had lost 70 pounds from my heaviest but was still about 20 pounds heavier than I wanted to be). I asked for an 18 and she said, "There's no way you are an 18, plus, JNY sizing runs bigger." I ended up in a way smaller size because of that. That skewed my thinking because I couldn't wear that small of a size in any other clothes, which made me feel bad. It really messes with your mind. I try to ignore the size on the lable now and just find things that look decent. I also remind myself, my smile is my best accessory and if I am pleasant and charming and smiling, no one will care about the rest.

Mrs Swan said...

I for one demand a picture of said outfit! :P I actually have to preform a wedding in two weeks and I have to figure out what to wear. (Florida allows notaries to preform weddings)

Anonymous said...

Have you ever tried cottage cheese pancakes? My mother used to make them when I was a kid. I think they’re a healthier version that can be used for burger buns too, and they’re a lot easier to make than Revolution Rolls. Not Low Carb but definitely lower carb.

1 cup cottage cheese
3 eggs
1/4 cup flour

Put everything in a blender and mix until smooth. Cook in a non stick pan with some cooking spray. They take a little longer to cook and they stay a little bit soft, but if you refrigerate and reheat they firm up quite a bit. I’ve never tried using less flour but it makes a few servings so there’s not that much flour in them. You could add a little sweetener too if you want.

I just wanted to share this in case you haven’t tried them.

MaryFran said...

I have long found shopping for clothes to be draining! It was crazy to me when I was at my goal weight when it wasn’t so horrible....(I still covered my trouble spots, but it didn’t seem as difficult to do when I was at goal weight)...but right now...I hate it with a passion and avoid it at all costs!!