Rima Greer, Columnist
When the City of Eureka was founded, women didn’t have to worry about their body types. They didn’t worry about their waists, hips, and thighs, not the way we do now. Not because they didn’t care how they looked – they cared every bit as much as we do now. What was different? The SHAPE of their clothing! For several hundred years, in the Western world at least, a woman’s shape didn’t really matter. That’s because her clothes created a shape for her. Check out these silhouettes from the 1800’s. Look at how they change year to year… How did they accomplish all this? Foundations.
Most of us alive today don’t even know what foundations are. Well, in today’s world you’d probably call them Spanx. Yep, foundations aren’t gone, they just have spandex instead of boning, and they’re called Shapewear instead of corsets or bustles.
Probably none of us want to spend our lives in tight corsets and bustles – not every day, anyway, no matter how much we love our Steampunk or Renfaires. But the truth is, we probably have donned a different kind of corset, and I don’t mean Spanx. I mean our relentless dieting and running and yoga and gym-rat lives. Those are every bit as constricting – maybe more – than any corset. At least you can take off a corset at the end of the day. Of course, a healthy diet and exercise are good for you. But we’re all a little obsessed, and I think that eats away at our happiness. And that’s NOT good for you.
So, what are we supposed to do? I say, find a happy medium! I’m an average-sized person. Not skinny like I was in my 20’s but not fat either. Just kind of normal. And yes, I have also stupidly bought into the exercise/diet hamster wheel. But I do have another way out, and this week I decided to really put it to good use. You can still use the shape of your clothes to sculpt your silhouette, without the use of corsets or bustles. Here’s how:
First, unless you are built like Keira Knightly, lay off the spandex. Spandex doesn’t make you look slimmer, it shows off everything about you, whether you like it or not. The trick is to find a complimentary shape that shows off your assets, and hides your deficiencies, and to make that shape skim your body, not cling to it. For example, I’m pretty much pear-shaped: My hips are a bit wider than my shoulders, so I want folks to see my upper body more than my lower. First, I use color on top, and black or dark blue below, to even out my proportions. But now I’m adding shape to create an additional optical illusion of my proportions. I own a fabric store, so of course I make all my own clothes, although you can certainly do this at your fave local clothing shop.
I chose a princess line shape to make my figure look like an hourglass rather than a pear (princess line has seams halfway between center front and the side seams that contour your dress or top). By getting a good fit that just skims my hips, rather than being tight (which shows off my worst feature, my abruptly flaring hip line), it makes me look like an X, rather than like a triangle. Much more attractive. I wore my first princess line shirt today, and three people asked me if I had taken off some weight. I think I’ll make five more right away!
Not sure what shape you are, or what compliments your shape? Try this little shape calculator: http://www.shopyourshape.com/. I keyed in my measurements, and got an accurate reflection of my body type. Then I looked at their clothing suggestions, and most of what I saw would look pretty good on me. Give it a try! And rid yourself of your diet/gym corset! Let your clothes do some of the work for you, and be happy!
– Rima Greer owns Eureka Fabrics, and runs the costume department at North Coast Dance.