Empower your connection with your body and your clothes – with Leah on Talking About Clothes

Hello and welcome to Talking about Clothes, with me, Holly Chayes, where I talk about clothes with people who wear them. This is the transcript for Empower your connection with your body and your clothes – with Leah.

In this episode, Leah and I talk about your relationship with your clothing, your connection with your body and how it changes throughout your life. We discussed the lasting impact small clothing comments can make, and intentionally changing your connection with your body.

We originally recorded this conversation in 2020, and I’m so excited to share it with you.

Please note: we do talk a lot about bodies and sizing and a little bit of clothing body trauma in this episode, so if that’s something that is sensitive to you, please, please listen with care, or listen in next time.

You’ll find the rest of this season’s conversations and links to everything we mention at WhoWearsWho.com/podcast6 

So let’s dive in.

If, by the end, you want to work together to improve your connection between your body and your clothes, find out how we can work together here.

Jump to a section of the conversation: 

Diving into our conversation

Holly: (1:32) So, starting and diving into the body conversation that we’re having today, when you think of putting clothes on your body, what do you think of?

Leah: (1:44) Clothing has generally been a pretty stressful experience for me, maybe since the time I got hips and boobs.

Holly: (1:54) Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.

Leah: (1:55) Before that I don’t really remember, because I think it was just a non-issue. But I’m one of those people who has a very small waist and very big hips and significant thighs and thick legs, so finding pants that both fit my hips and thighs and don’t have a six-inch gap at the waist is like finding the Holy Grail.

Holly: (2:22) Absolutely.

Leah: (2:25) Yeah, and then tops, I probably go shopping for tops far more often than I go shopping for bottoms, because bottoms are just so stressful that if I find one pair that fits, I buy four of them and then I’m like, “I don’t have to do this again for two years.”

Holly: (2:40) Excellent.

Leah: (2:41) But tops are challenging too, because I guess I don’t look like a teenage boy, and I think that that’s who a lot of designers design for are women who look like teenage boys.

Holly: (2:41) Mm-hmm. Thinking about clothing and as it relates to our bodies is so complex, because our bodies are so individual, and it can bring up a lot of baggage and stuff and memories that we would really rather not remember.

Leah: (3:12) Yeah.

“This is my body…” early comments impact on your connection to your body

Holly: (3:13) What does it bring up for you?

Leah: (3:16) My father was a difficult man, and he gave me a lot of messages about my body when I was young, including that I was fat and ugly and no one would ever love me. And a lot of that criticism focused on my legs, about how my legs were too heavy, that boys don’t like girls who don’t have pretty legs.

Leah: (3:45) And so, it never occurred to me at that time to say to him, “This is my body. It’s not like I can just order up a new set of legs. This is what genetics gave me, so are you telling me that because of my genetics, I am an unlovable person? This makes no sense.”

Leah: (4:06) But I was too young, and had not done any of the work to get there, so I just believed him, which led me to, by the time I was 20 years old, I never wore anything that showed my legs. I never wore skirts, I never wore shorts. I didn’t even wear sandals without socks, because then you would be able to see my ankles, and my ankles are thick. And so that has been a really difficult thing throughout my life to feel like I could be cute, but also have to keep half of my body covered.

The impact of not having clothes you love

Holly: (4:51) Right. How did that play out through your life?

Leah: (4:55) Well, right up until a few years ago, that was how I’ve lived, and it was really painful. I mean, I think that we probably all go through this experience at some point of having a social gathering to go to and being like, “There is nothing that I can put on my body that makes me feel like I can be seen in public, so I’m not going to go,” and that was a fairly regular occurrence for me.

Leah: (5:25) But then I went through this experience a few years ago of sexual healing and body reclamation. I did a lot of work with a body image coach where we started dismantling all these messages I had gotten from my dad, and that makes no sense.

Holly: (5:45) Right, right.

Leah: (5:46) One of the things that I did during my work in that time was that I decided I was going to spend five days on a nude beach at a sex resort in Jamaica.

Holly: (6:02) There you go. That would do it.

Changing how you view and your connection to your body

Leah: (6:07) I think I was beginning to be aware of how my body issues were showing up in my reluctance to engage sexually with people, and so I went to this resort. I wasn’t really sure that I was going to have any sexual adventures, and in fact, I didn’t, because it just wasn’t the right vibe for me.

Leah: (6:29) But what I did was literally lay in a hammock nude for five days and watch other people go by in all shapes, all sizes, and recognize that not only are they lovely no matter what size and what shape they are, but that I’m laying out here with all my rolls and my jiggles and my whatever.

Holly: (6:29) Imperfections, yeah.

Leah: (6:29) And no one is saying to me, “Go put your clothes on. You don’t belong here.”

Leah: (7:03) My size 14/16 body fit right in, and I saw how people, no matter what size they were, were being looked at with desire by others. And so, that helped me to begin to recalibrate my experience of my own body and recognize that there were going to be people who would be attracted to me, regardless of the size of my body.

Pushing yourself to be more daring with your clothing

Leah: (7:28) In the few years since then, I have never been someone who wears a lot of dresses or skirts, but I push myself now, anytime I’m going to dress up, I push myself to put on a dress with a short skirt.

Leah: (7:44) And it’s not like I’m suddenly healed. It’s not like, “No, it’s easy.” It’s still a struggle every time, but at least now I’m willing to push myself through the struggle and go out in public.

Holly: (7:57) Yeah, yeah. And how’s it feel getting dressed up now?

Leah: (8:02) It’s definitely different. I go to sexy events because I enjoy it, and that has led into the work that I do. That has been really good for me to see that I can put on fishnet stockings and a little negligee and feel sexy.

Leah: (8:28) If I take the fishnet stocking or fishnet tights off, I feel less sexy, because my legs are bare, and that is still a hard thing for me. But I can put on this thing that basically is literally nothing.

Holly: (8:48) Yeah. It’s not covering anything up.

Leah: (8:48) It’s not covering anything, but for some reason it gives me that feeling of, okay, I can feel myself now. I can be okay with this, and I think that filters out into all aspects of my life.

Leah: (9:06) I mean, I’m still always going to be a jeans and sweater kind of girl. I pretty much wear jeans all the time, but I don’t put them on now feeling like I have to hide everything.

Holly: (9:19) Yeah.

Buying clothes that hide your body vs do the most for your body

Leah: (9:20) I think one of the biggest switches for me was feeling like I have to buy clothes or choose clothes to hide my body, versus I want to choose clothes that do the most for my body. That was a major shift. Now I wear jeans that have a little … they show the fact that I have hips and a tummy, because there’s no getting away from that. They exist.

Holly: (9:46) Yeah. Right. Absolutely. Yeah, yeah. It sounds like a lot has opened up for you in terms of what you’re willing to try and what you’re willing to buy and wear and put on. How has that impacted your day or your morning as you get dressed?

Leah: (9:46) I actually went to a style coach a couple years ago when I was going through this whole opening up, because I realized that all of my clothes were really serving to hide me.

Holly: (10:20) Yeah. It’s a huge thing.

Of jeans and ankles 

Leah: (10:23) I wanted to make some different choices, and she had me get some cropped jeans that landed an inch or two above my ankles, and I was terrified.

Leah: (10:36) I remember the first day that I walked out, I was with a friend. I put on the jeans and we went out to a shopping center or somewhere that had a lot of people, and I was extraordinarily self-conscious, and I turned to her at one point and I said, “Do my ankles look stupid, ridiculous hanging out of the bottom of these jeans?” And she turned to me and she said, “Your ankles look so not stupid that I forgot to notice them.”

Holly: (11:09) “I’m sorry. I wasn’t paying attention to your ankles.”

Leah: (11:12) Right, exactly. And in my head, people are so focused on them that they’re going to be like, “Go put on more clothes. You look ridiculous.” So, that has really changed. I am willing to take some risks now that I was never willing to do before.

The power of fishnet as a connection with your body

Holly: (11:27) That’s amazing. What’s your favorite risk that you’ve taken?

Leah: (11:31) Ooh, gosh. Favorite risk that I’ve taken is probably a friend exposed me to these … They’re sort of fishnet sort, but woven kind of body suits that are super sexy, and not something that you would wear out on the street because all of your everything is exposed.

Holly: (12:03) Right, right.

Leah: (12:04) Just like fishnets stockings don’t actually cover anything, this doesn’t cover anything.

Leah: (12:09) But I think that I had always believed that lingerie was something that only girls who were a size 6 were allowed to wear. Like, sure, they made it in larger sizes, but girls like me weren’t allowed to wear it because we would just look dumb.

Leah: (12:27) And my foray into finding lingerie that actually not only fits my body, but my partner looks at me and goes, “Yeah, that’s really hot.”

Holly: (12:42) That’s always a nice bonus.

Leah: (12:44) That’s my favorite.

Holly: (12:47) Yeah. Yeah. I love that.

Shopping experiences 

Leah: (12:50) Yeah. I remember going into … This was during my experience of exploration, and I was going on a date that I knew was probably going to lead to a sexual encounter, and I realized that I didn’t have any pretty bras and underwear. I just had really utilitarian bras and underwear, and so I went into … I think it was a Macy’s, because I knew that they’d have a salesperson.

Leah: (13:21) And she came over to me and she said, “How can I help you?” And I literally started crying because I was like, “I have this date and I want pretty underwear, but I don’t think you’re going to have anything that fits me.”

Leah: (13:34) And she was larger than me, which actually was really, really comforting, because she looked sexy. And so, I could look at her and be like, “Well, you look sexy, so maybe I could look sexy.” I said to her, “I don’t know if you’re going to have anything that fits me,” and she looked at me and she was like, “Oh, honey, we have everything that fits you,” because I’m really not that big. It’s just my internal version of myself that is enormous.

Leah: (14:05) And yeah, she helped me find sexy little bra and panties, and they did get seen.

Holly: (14:12) Excellent. Excellent.

Leah: (14:16) But that was a really big deal.

Our bodies in our head vs our physical reality

Holly: (14:18) Yeah, yeah. Would you be willing to talk more about what the experience of doing that was like? Because it can be really difficult and emotional and overwhelming and terrifying.

Leah: (14:33) Yeah, it was terrifying. I mean, I was literally standing in the department store crying and saying to this woman, “I don’t think there’s anything here that’s going to fit me or look decent on me.”

Leah: (14:46) Because again, in my head, everyone who I’ve ever seen wearing this kind of stuff is flat-tummied, big-boobed, size 6 or under, because that is the entire cultural narrative of what the correct body, quote, unquote, “correct body” looks like. So saying, “I have a tummy and I have big thighs, and I have never seen a woman who looks like me wearing lingerie and thought, ‘Oh yeah, that looks good.'”

Leah: (15:21) My internal thought to that point had always been, “If I saw a larger woman wearing lingerie, well, that’s trashy,” because for some reason smaller women could wear it, but larger women were trashy.

Leah: (15:33) I don’t know what that’s about. I mean, I do know what that’s about.

Leah: (15:39) So something that I’ve become very conscious of is, if I’m on Instagram, looking at the larger women who who maybe do yoga and wear fitness wear, or larger women who are doing body positivity work wearing lingerie, or anything, just to reset and recalibrate my internal assumption of what is, quote, unquote, “the correct body.”

Holly: (16:11) That’s really important. Thank you for sharing. I appreciate it.

Leah: (16:14) You’re welcome.

Go get a real bra measurement!

Holly: (16:15) You’re not the only one who has cried in a lingerie department of a department store, I promise.

Leah: (16:24) I imagine that’s true. Actually, recently, here in Portland, we have one of the bra shops where they actually know what they’re doing?

Holly: (16:32) Yeah.

Leah: (16:34) A boutique bra shop?

Holly: (16:34) Yeah.

Leah: (16:35) And so I went in and I got measured, and I found out I’d been wearing … I think I’d been wearing … I can’t remember the numbers now, but I had been wearing a B cup, and they told me I was a D cup and even a double-D. And I was like, “What are you talking about?”

Leah: (16:50) And then I started putting on the bras and I was like, “Oh, yeah, these fit better.”

Holly: (16:54) Right, right, right. That would do it.

Leah: (16:59) Yeah.

Wearing clothes you enjoy wearing 

Holly: (17:00) Yeah. Absolutely. Absolutely. Now that you’ve worked on your internal narrative and your internal image, what pieces of clothing does your body actually enjoy wearing?

Leah: (17:13) Again, I’m always going to be … I expect I will always be a jeans girl, so yeah, jeans and comfy sweaters.

Leah: (17:23) I actually had this moment in the last couple of days. I saw somebody post on Facebook about how when you see celebrities in paparazzi shots who always look perfectly put together, and you’re like, “Why don’t my clothes ever look like that?”

Leah: (17:48) And this post was about how it’s because they get everything tailored to their body or built to their body. And so of course, no, the T-shirt you pick up in the store is not going to look like that on you because it wasn’t built for your body.

Leah: (18:04) That was a major light bulb moment, because I do still struggle, especially with T-shirts. Sweater season is much more comfortable for me than T-shirt season.

The magical effects of getting your clothes tailored!

Holly: (18:17) Yeah. Tailoring is the secret to just about everything clothing-related, similar to how bras are uncomfortable because you’re probably wearing the wrong size or the wrong style, so are your clothes. Like, how do you fix a six-inch gap at the waist if it fits you in the hips is you get it tailored.

Leah: (18:37) Yeah. That was something I discovered recently.

Holly: (18:40) That’s like, yes, that’s how you do it.

Leah: (18:41) Yeah, yeah.

Holly: (18:42) Yeah. Have you started getting your pants and jeans tailored?

Leah: (18:46) The clothing stylist, or the style coach who I went to, did send me to a tailor to get my pants fitted. And the tailor, her eyes just kept getting bigger as she saw how much she needed to take in at the waist.

Leah: (19:02) But just recently, I went and bought some new jeans, and a friend had told me about the Not Your Daughter’s Jeans, and they actually fit me quite well without any tailoring.

Holly: (19:12) Nice.

Leah: (19:13) So, that has been a very pleasant surprise.

Holly: (19:17) Absolutely. Yeah, yeah. Finding those brands that kind of use your body as similar to their fit model is sort of finding the Holy Grail.

Leah: (19:17) Yeah, so I bought four of them in the hopes that I won’t have to do it again for a really long time.

Last notes & wrap up on your connection with your body

Holly: (19:35) And hopefully you can go back to them and buy more when that happens. Is there anything body clothing-related that you want to say that we haven’t gotten to touch on?

Leah: (19:48) Oh, gosh. Being in a community where we actually have events that are planned around having less clothing on has helped me to see a lot of different bodies in a lot of different, very revealing kinds of clothing.

Leah: (20:08) And I think what I would like for people to hear is that you can wear on your body the lingerie, or you can wear the sexy outfit that you want to wear, because you’re allowed to feel good in that. You don’t have to look like a model to wear it.

Holly: (20:29) Exactly. Thank you so much for this incredible conversation.

Leah: (20:33) Oh, thank you for doing this work. I love it.

Holly: (20:36) Thank you. Thank you. I love it too.

And thank you for listening. I hope you enjoyed this conversation as much as I did, and you’ll find the rest of the conversations and links to everything we mentioned at WhoWearsWho.com/podcast6

If you want to work together to improve your connection between your body and your clothes, find out how we can work together here.


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