Diet Girl - Shauna Reid
How To Dress

Learn how to dress a new slim you with Dietgirl, aka Shauna Reid. She tells the story of her battle with clothes after weight loss and how she learned to love her body shape.  

Learning How To Dress Myself

By Shauna Reid, aka Dietgirl

One of the biggest challenges of maintenance has been learning how to dress myself. When I started my weight loss in 2001 I dreamed of a new wardrobe, free from polyester and elastic waistbands. But when I finally got down to a size 14, I was still wearing the same Fat Girl Uniform of plain 3/4 sleeve tops and jeans - only six sizes smaller.

"Are you just going wild with the clothes now?" a journalist asked me while I was promoting my book, "That's what people do after a crazy amount of weight loss, right?"

They do? I thought. Why aren't I doing that? And why am I wearing old size 20 undies that come over my navel? The ones my husband says are so huge they should be sent to Dafur to be used as emergency refugee accommodation?

The truth is, I was clueless about clothes. I broke into a sweat at the sight of a coathanger. I'd skipped straight from being a small kid with my Mum picking the outfits, to being a very large adult with no option but baggy men's shirts and elastic-waisted trousers. Now that I was finally spoiled for choice, I was no good with the choosing.

A Lesson in How To Dress

But then help arrived in the form of a gift voucher for a place in London called Colour Me Beautiful. It was for a session of what's commonly known as Getting Your Colours Done. They waft a rainbow of scarves around your face and tell you what shades suit you.

I'd actually had my Colours Done about ten years earlier, back in Australia. I was unemployed and very depressed so my mother took me to see the Colours Lady at a local craft fair, to boost my confidence or something. With my red hair and brown eyes I was diagnosed as a Warm Autumn. Which basically meant I looked good in poo colours.

The London Colours Lady was fantastic though. I was still a Warm Autumn but she went beyond the colours and made me think about my body shapes and personality in order to come up with a sort of "personal style". I had to strip down to my bra and undies so she could take my measurements and look at my proportions. (I wish I'd known about that part in advance; I wouldn't have worn the Darfur knickers!)

Together we peered into a full length mirror. I'd been avoiding mirrors for a decade so at first I could barely look. I automatically blurted paranoid comments about my upper arms and wobbly thighs, but the Colours Lady stopped me. "Just look at the curve of your shoulders. Look at your nice long neck, your lovely waist..."

Finally the penny dropped. It was time to celebrate my assets and stop zooming in on the flaws.

Clothes For My Body Shape

So next I had to learn how to shop. My old technique was to stand at the shop entrance expecting the Ideal Garments to float towards me like snakes to the snake charmer. Now I had to actually touch the clothes and make an effort. It was easier knowing what suited my body shape, but so difficult to squash the long-held fat girl beliefs of what I was "allowed" to wear and which shops I was worthy of stepping inside.

My friends taught me a valuable shopping technique: The Wild Card. Whenever you go shopping you have to try one thing that scares you - a daring style, an outrageous colour; something you pick up and immediately think, "I could never wear that". You have to march right into the changing rooms and make yourself try it on. Sometimes it's disasterous and sometimes it's a triumph. The Wild Card technique killed my fear of shopping and now I can laugh when clothes look crappy on me, instead of thinking it's a personal failure.

I'll never forget the day I worked up the nerve to buy my first pair of knee high boots. I grinned when I saw my sturdy calves wrapped in black leather. My posture changed instantly. I felt so... mrrrowr. It was like until that moment it had never occurred to me that I was a woman!

Clothes Before Weight Loss

It made me think of a shopping trip when I was nineteen. I'd outgrown all of my shirts. It had taken me months to admit it - I'd started wearing the shirt unbuttoned with a t-shirt underneath, but then I couldn't get my arms into the sleeves. It was a Thursday night in a crappy department store - I always shopped at night so there'd be less witnesses. My friends were all out at the university bar and I'd made my usual feeble excuses for not joining them. I was in the Men's section looking at flannel shirts, trying to find the one with the most Xs on the label. I put on a red check shirt and decided I looked like a giant lumberjack. But I didn't feel upset or angry or even, gee whizz I wish I could wear something smaller and sexier. I just felt numb and quietly matter-of-fact that this was my life and this was what I must wear and that was the way it was going to be. I bought the shirt then stopped at the supermarket for a tub of ice cream.

Now here I was over a decade later with impossible leather boots and a sudden desire to dress up my body nicely, instead of pretending it didn't exist.

I know you're supposed to say the best part of losing weight is the health benefits, but it's mostly about the clothes. When I'm struggling with my weight loss and trying to remind myself of why I should lay off the biscuits and go to the gym, it always helps to think about the clothes. I'll never be a fashionista, I'm more a jeans, t-shirt and cardie woman; but I love not being afraid to open my wardrobe or to be asked to go shopping. And every time I zip on those boots I get a thrill that no chocolate bar can compete with.

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