Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Dressing Your Best Week: Legs for Miles!


eyeglasses (Kate Spade)
white and brown button down (NY&Co)
brown belt (Kohl's)
dark dark skinnies (American Eagle)
brown wedge sandals (Old Navy)

Earlier Drafts:
I suggested these jeans as a stand-in for leggings.

It's Academichic's Dress Your Best Week!  I'm excited to chime in with my first contribution to the discussion.

Last month, I asked you to help me think through why we, as women in academia, often find it easier to handle criticism than praise.  I was happy to that in S.'s first DYBW post, she addressed a similar question in regard to this week's project: why do we speak freely about our insecurities but feel like we have to justify our confidence?  I'm thrilled to follow S.'s lead and deconstruct this gendered norm by participating in DYBW without feeling bad about celebrating my assets!

This exercise, for me, has to begin with my legs.  My legs are the gatekeepers to my positive body image.  Why, you ask?  Growing up, I was stick thin, which came along with body issues of its own.  When I went to college, I gained the Freshman 15(x2).  An endless supply of Cherry Coke, Miller Lite, Ben & Jerry's, and fried food did not do this body good.  Before my senior year, I spent four months training for the Chicago Marathon.  I'll admit this was inspired equally by a desire to lose the extra weight and an aspiration to run 26.2 miles consecutively.  I didn't lose any weight, but I gained a new relationship to my body.

Marathon training helped me think about my body as a living, functioning organism that I was living inside rather than just an object to dress up in a way that would please others.  I became conscious of eating as something that provided energy rather than merely a social activity. When you're running long distances, you can measure hunger in minutes.  If you haven't eaten enough the night before, you're acutely aware of the fatigue and it translates to the time you see on your stopwatch.  My physical body's distinguishable reactions to my nutritional decisions helped me to understand that good nutrition must facilitate brainwork similarly.

At some point, I just had to acknowledge that the weight was not going to come off.  I couldn't cut calories and still hope to complete my training runs.  I was able to accept my body because, despite the extra lbs I was carrying around, my legs looked fantastic, and that reminded me that those legs were taking me a long way.  In one of my favorite short stories, Mary Austin's "The Walking Woman," (available here), Austin writes that the title character "had walked off all sense of society-made values," and I think running allowed me to do something similar.  I thought I'd have to lose weight to develop a healthy body image, but for me, the opposite turned out to be true.  Once I'd developed a healthy body image, I started making lifestyle changes that led to the weight coming off fairly naturally over time.

Still with me?  That's why it always comes back to the legs.  My legs are long, they're lean, they're toned, they're powerful, and they carried me over 500 miles last year.  (They also help me negotiate the Snickers and Hershey's addictions I haven't been able to kick!)

To celebrate my legs, I put on my skinnies with my tallest heels.  I didn't have any good ideas about what to wear on top to draw attention to my legs, so I put on this button-down top to keep the top half of the look simple. I belted it to draw attention to my small waist.

  • Any suggestions for what else I could have worn on top?
  • Why IS it so much harder to talk about our strengths than to acknowledge our weaknesses?
  • What habits or attitudes have you found that help you think of your body more positively?
  • What are some of your favorite posts from DYBW so far?  Post some links!  And since we're not being shy about celebrating confidence, feel free to include your own!


Scholar Style Guide said...

Ok, I'll start by addressing my own question, because after ensuring that this blog posted, I traveled over to Academichic to find that S. was writing about the exact same thing!


La Historiadora de Moda said...

I completely agree that no one should ever try to cut calories while marathon training, and your legs are looking mighty fine.

My eye actually goes right to your belted waist rather than your legs. I think maybe because everything but the top is black...?

Academic Writer said...

What a smart post. Thanks for it.

Sarah said...

Liz, I don't know if you've lost any weight from your college days but you look absolutely fabulous! You are the opposite of me, I tend to carry most of my weight on my lower half and have never cared for my legs so I love to show off my upper half. At the same time, I've also come to terms that this is my body and it's not going to change. I avoided buying skirts and dresses for years for this reason and decided to finally expand my wardrobe as of late. Confidence is definitely the best way to pull off any look. And I've also developed the attitude that I don't care as much what other's think.
I think it's harder to talk about our strengths since it could come off as bragging or perhaps even insulting. Society also teaches us to dwell on the negatives.
P.S. Unfortunately I did not get any whole outfit shots of my defense outfit. Which reminds me, I need to get the top and skirt dry cleaned.

sartoriography said...

Wow! Legs for miles is RIGHT! You look fantastic here and I think the choice of fitted jeans and heels is great to emphasize your legs. I think a great option for the top might've been a bright color with an interesting neckline. This would give a nice pop to the outfit, but not take away too much from your spectacular legs.

Academichic said...

I love these kinds of posts about coming to embrace body parts for what they DO not only for how they look. Go you.

Like S., I do think there is something gendered in the western academy in particular about women feeling the need to qualify their accomplishments or qualities. Having grown up in an Asian-dominated culture, an emphasis on humility to the point of self-deprecation and withholding compliments is the norm. I really don't think I received a compliment on my appearance until I went to a leadership camp on the "mainland." I could write a whole long post on that!

- E.