"If we are to be measured as women, let it be by the things that really count...the depth of our compassion, our thirst for knowledge, and our tremendous grace under fire. Let the breadth of our integrity and the width of our honor be more accurate measures of who we truly are than the size of our jeans or the date of our birth. Because, in the end, all the inches and ages and sizes are just numbers...and numbers don't tell you anything about the amazing woman inside." (Suzy Toronto)
This week I'm having significantly more trouble reconciling my love for selling vintage with my dedication to encouraging body positivity. After nearly seven years of working with vintage clothing, I'm well accustomed to having to explain to customers why the majority of vintage is so small. As far as I can tell, it has to do with the many environmental and social changes over the last century, changes that have influenced everything from our health to our habits, in some ways for the better, and in other ways, not. I always point out how fortunate we are to live in an age where we are expected to be more than slim, polished, polite servants of our husbands; how great it is to be free from the constricting undergarments that were the norm until the 1970s; what fun it is to be able to explore the innumerable style options of the day without the risk of being socially ostracized or the fear of disappointing our mothers.
This week I shared on the shop Facebook page several images of incredible vintage lingerie new in store. While most of the responses were simply expressions of awe for the beauty and detail of the pieces, I also received a few that really turned my stomach. I realized that posting these small, covetable items triggered in some the feelings of inferiority and body shame I fight every day to dispel. How can I sell and share these beautiful things without shaming the curvaceous women I find to be truly beautiful just as they are? I mean, it's not as if I fit into all of these pieces either. With my soft, round hips and strong, solid shoulders, I don't fit into much made pre-1970, but at this point in my life I'm okay with that. I like that my thick thighs can carry me on a five mile hike, and I like how my soft, fleshy belly feels in my hands; and I'll be damned if I let a beautiful piece of embroidered silk lingerie diminish my appreciation for what my body can DO and my respect for the woman I have become.
Why let these numbers determine our value and deflate our confidence when we finally have the support we need to fight the falsehoods projected about beauty and worth? Don't miss an opportunity to counter a negative thought with a positive affirmation. "I'm too fat for that," can be replaced with, "That isn't right for me." It's a gentler option, and doesn't coddle us because we don't need to be coddled. We are grown ass women, as strong as the day is long, as capable as we choose to be. Believe it, sister.