How Fashion Week Helped Me Gain Confidence After Eating Disorder Recovery

It’s not exactly news that I’ve recovered from a decade-long eating disorder. But last night, on the Sixth Night of New York Fashion Week (capitalization for fashion holiday emphasis) it hit me that I’m in no way flirting with a relapse. While waiting for the Lupe Gajardo FW15 show, I struck up a conversation with a stylist who enthused about her desire to style women who have gone through body transformations. Perfect, I love a good chat about building confidence through clothes! I let her in on how I’ve gone through the hoops of anorexia and realize how difficult it is in the first steps of recovery to find anything you feel good wearing.

I distinctly remember the first time out of recovery that I decided to be brave and go clothes shopping. I ended up crying in the dressing room over coated skinny jeans because my thighs didn’t look the same anymore. The sales associate likely thought I was drunk/crazy/homeless (and stole somebody’s Chanel purse), but politely asked if I wanted to try another size instead. Meanwhile her face did that thing where you’re so shocked that you don’t control it anymore, so it blanks out while you smile and widen eyes:

Real Housewives still

Anyway, back to yesterday. The question came up of how my style transformed as I went through the internal transformation. I cleverly decided “I don’t know” is an appropriate answer, before fumbling through some incoherent thoughts on growth and experimentation.

Here’s the deal: I’ve rigorously adopted the mentality that clothes are meant to fit me, not the other way around. I look for sharply tailored dresses and suits first and foremost. I’m thrilled by menswear-inspired garments (blame the copious amounts of testosterone surging through me due to Chernobyl, maybe?). I’m also not afraid to borrow from my husband, the collector of all things gray and black, and proud owner of one colorful Derby suit. No, he’s not my size, but I make it work.  Never underwear, sometimes socks.

I now look for jeans that fit me, not merely hang off my body. Every jean used to be the boyfriend jean for me, and then I grew a butt, which I’m proud to show off now. I still appreciate bohemian looks and clothes that are layered and loose, but they don’t swallow me whole anymore. I realize that even loose garments have a size you can pick. Unless of course they’re the ubiquitous “One Size Fits All”, in which case make sure your dishes match the big piece of fabric. You’re using it as a tablecloth, right?

Also worthy of mention: Colors found their way into my wardrobe! A year ago, I wore bright green pants for the first time since I was a toddler (I’m assuming, Eastern Bloc choices were narrow.)

I now find myself more thoughtful of the clothes I put on. They’ve become a representation of me, rather than something I use to hide myself. Fashion Week became my Wonderland (an extremely exhausting, but rewarding Wonderland): Things are brighter and more coherent. This season I find that I’m not at all distracted by the models. Way to sound creepy. Let me rephrase: In the past I was too busy comparing myself to other females to notice the intricate details of the clothes. I don’t know what I was comparing or why, I’m going to blame it on a lack of nutrients, because the models are, well, models. Yeah, they’re skinny, but not sick. They’re also tall and young. The biggest distraction was a talk I overheard in between shows on who’s ‘slightly emaciated’ and who’s ‘getting bigger’. Refer to Lisa R.’s face above for my reaction.

Immersing myself in fashion after a long hiatus seemed practically impossible when I was going through the recovery. I hated everything about it. I partially even blamed fashion for where I was. Then fashion week rolled around, and I decided to check out what’s new on the block. As I browsed through pictures, I honed in on the colors and the shapes rather than how the models looked wearing the pieces. I realized the complexity and the craftsmanship each piece required. Those were my first steps toward true appreciation of the art and hard work designers put into their collections. Fashion transformed from a merely commercial beast into an art form and tool for self-expression.

Fast forward another year, and I’m happy to say I proudly go to the shows and find giddy excitement in the production and a superb value in seeing beautiful art flutter past me. Moreover, I’m now looking at the clothes and imagining the pieces on my body rather than getting swept up in how a beautiful model looks in them. Not to say I’m not a beautiful model. Toot-Toot- don’t mind my horn.