Unlike my last piece for LadyFest, this little topic hits a little close to home.
I wear control underwear. Not every day, not even every week, but a girdle, a corset, a corselette – give me a vintage piece of underwear to go with a vintage outfit and I probably own it.
I also own a few bits of more modern shapewear. Again, not for everyday, but sometimes I like to cover a little lumpy bumpy bit, smooth a bit over. It makes me feel more confident to know that a knicker line, that roll on my tummy isn’t making a dress look odd – even if that’s just to my eyes.
I’m comfortable with this. After I lost a lot of weight and I ended up with lots of firmer bits not being so firm any more, it affected my confidence, affected how I saw myself. I found myself leaning on shapewear all the time. And it took a lot of time for me to learn to love it and accept myself as I am.
Fast forward a few years, and I’m more at ease with myself and my own body. I now only wear something occasionally – particularly for a big event or if I’m not feeling quite so comfortable in my skin. Even us body confidence activist types have wobbles of the mental kind.
And to be honest… It sometimes makes me feel a little sexy. A girdle with stockings, or a corset, puts a little wiggle in my walk. A little sashay in my step. Makes me feel like the world is my catwalk.
But I know that this is contentious.
We should feel comfortable in our own skin all the time. We shouldn’t feel the need to adjust our shape – push up our boobs, pad them out, flatten our tummies, stop our thigh wobble. My heart breaks when I see girls in their teens and twenties slipping on Spanx (other shapewear brands are available) that they feel they need. Because they don’t.
And yet I’m still wearing it. And I still love it – at least the vintage pieces. Hell I own some original 1950s corsetry. That’s not easy to get hold of and I adore them, and how they make me feel. There are some things I just can’t let go of and to be quite honest, won’t.
I know that for the most part, I’m happy with me. Yeah, I wobble, yeah I have things that are droopier than they were. I’ve got stretch marks and saggier bits and lumps and bumps. You don’t reach 38 without having some battle scars, right?
And whilst I’m taking inspiration from those body confidence activists that I love and follow – Jessamyn Stanley, Jewelz Mazzei and Glitter & Lazers – there are some things I’m not willing to change.
I’m keeping my corsets. I’m keeping my seams and my girdles and my longline bras. They’re almost part of who I am now. Your clothes are an extension of yourself, of your personality. I can no longer relinquish that.
But I have gotten rid of a lot of my modern stuff. Over the last couple of years, I’ve binned most of it. I’ve now only got a couple of pieces for emergency. Mostly the ‘dammit I ate too many pies between now and when I wore it last’ kind.
For me, it’s always going to be how this stuff makes you feel. And if you feel better for it, who am I to judge.
That would be like throwing stones whilst living in a house of glass.
Charlie Hooson-Sykes is a blogger, writer and academic admin type who wears enough hats to confuse a milliner and would describes herself as ‘busy’. Rather fond of food and booze, she could be described as a lush, but prefers to refer to herself as a luscious plus size bird with distinctive feminist tendencies.