You Oughta Be In Pictures

October 7, 2010

“I realized I wasn’t able to fully evaluate an outfit in my wardrobe until I saw a picture of myself in it.”

This is what one woman, who is part of the ‘Who Taught You How To Dress?” on-line fashion discussion group, recently shared with me as she posted pictures asking for feedback and guidance.

It was a real eye-opener for her!

It’s true…when we see a picture of ourselves we see with new eyes and a little more perspective.

I know that some of you are shaking your heads saying, “No way, the last thing I need is more perspective!  I don’t like having my picture taken and there’s absolutely no way I’m doing that!” and I can totally relate to that.

It is not meant as a form of torture, I promise.  It’s meant to give you a fresh outlook, a new way of seeing yourself and giving you information you might not have had before – and, hey, who says it has to be all bad anyway (that’s your inner critic anticipating the worst and hyper-focusing on the parts of your body you don’t like!).  And, the good news is that as women go through the “Who Taught You How To Dress?” program some of those judgments melt away a bit allowing them to enjoy dressing more.

The biggest question is why are so many women picture-phobic?

Well, it’s not without reason!

  • Women are judged more often and more harshly on their appearance than men are (no matter what anyone tells you to the contrary).
  • The standard of beauty to which women are held (or compare themselves) is unattainable (and frankly, downright boring!).  Just look at any fashion magazine, and you’ll see what I mean.
  • So many women have struggled with “hurtful comments and unwanted advice” as I refer to it at great length in “Who Taught You How To Dress?”  This undermines their confidence and erodes their self-esteem.

I remember doing an interview a few years ago on Fox TV where I mentioned that women are held to a different standard than men when it comes to how they dress.  Believe it or not, I actually received hate mail about this and some pretty shocking comments from men who either disagreed with me or clearly proved my point!

So, what is it about a picture that is helpful, and does it lie or are we seeing the truth before us?

How can a picture help?

A picture allows you to see yourself and your outfit from a fresh perspective.  You wouldn’t think it would be true but it is different than looking in the mirror.  You can study a picture, and you can get a sense of what others see.

Here are several comments I’ve heard from clients after they saw a picture of themselves in an outfit they had questions about:

  • “Wow, that used to be my favorite outfit!  I had no idea it made me look so dowdy.”
  • “Hey, I do have nice legs!”
  • “I thought those two pieces went nicely together but now I can see that the fabrics don’t work and the skirt clings in a way that isn’t flattering.”
  • “I need to stand up straighter.”
  • “I wear a lot of that color and can see that it makes me look washed out.” (And, also the opposite…”Wow, I had no idea I look so good in that color.”)

In each case, it allowed her to evaluate an outfit in a way she couldn’t do in front of her own mirror or in a dressing room.  Try it and see for yourself.

Whenever you look at a picture of yourself, remember:

  • You have not been airbrushed (nor should you be!). Part of your beauty is in being you and not looking like you’ve been plasticized like so many celebrities do on the covers of magazines. (And, by the way, the before and after pictures above were not retouched either.)
  • The lighting might not be perfect…in fact, chances are good it isn’t. Do you have any idea how long it takes to set up the lighting in a photo shoot?  And, with good reason.  Good lighting is flattering.  It does not cast heavy shadows and can even diffuse certain features you might want to gloss over.  Lighten up (so to speak) about it.
  • You are not posing in ridiculous, unnatural positions. If you’ve ever been part of a photo shoot (or seen an episode of “America’s Next Top Model”) you will know why each body part is strategically placed in a photo.  Certain stances can make your legs or neck look longer or your body curvier or…the list goes on.  While there are a few easy tricks you can incorporate when posing for a picture (maybe I’ll share those sometime soon!), in most pictures of ourselves we are just candid and natural, so give yourself a break.
  • Smiling makes a huge difference! Anytime you smile you will automatically look happier (obviously!), and when it is an authentic smile, you radiate warmth and immediately appear more approachable.

So, what will you be looking for in the picture(s) of yourself?  Two things:

  1. Your inner essence to shine through, and
  2. Whatever information you can garner about your outfit that you might not have seen before, e.g., do you like the fit, the color, the style?  Does it mix and match well?  What about your shoes – do they enhance or detract?  You get the idea.

For example, have you ever seen a picture of yourself where you are thoroughly enjoying the experience of whatever you are doing and the joy just radiates through you.  That’s what I’m talking about.  Some of the women who have been through my workshops can readily identify that as “refreshingly spirited,” “engagingly unconventional,” or maybe “centered in grace” or “joyously unrestrained” – it’s different for everyone, but the effect is the same – you feel great and are more inclined to like the way you look.

The point is that that’s what you want your clothes to say about you, and a good way to evaluate them is through pictures.  When your clothes begin to express that inner part of you that makes you you, you like what you see (even if you don’t lose that extra 20 pounds or have your hair professionally styled or cover your arms that you worry have a little extra underarm dingle-dangle) – it’s about seeing the inner you shine through and choosing a wardrobe that reflects that.  They work hand in hand.

Looking at it from a new perspective gives you one more opportunity to refine your look and create one more thing to smile about!  Now, go take a picture of yourself in what you are wearing and see what happens.  And, remember to smile!

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