The Dress that Made Me Feel Like a Star

Long, long ago, in a department store far, far away, I purchased a dress that made me feel like this:

Jean Harlow glamour

Granted, the dress wasn’t long and velvety like the one pictured above, but it had an elegance to it and a style that made me feel chic, sophisticated, and glamorous.

Then one day I tried putting on the dress to go out to dinner and I struggled to get it on. I had to cover myself from neck to knees in Spanx before it would stretch across my body. Even then it tugged at the seams. I looked in the mirror and realized that either the dress had shrunk or I had gained enough weight for it to be too small.

I’ll give you three guesses as to which of these two choices is the correct answer. (Hint: The dress did not shrink.)

Looking in the mirror, I felt like this:

blueberry-charlie-and-the-chocolate-factory-movie-oompa-loompa-Favim
The Oompa Loompas here represent the thoughts in my head about how awful I looked.

Needless to say, the dress came off and got stashed in the back of my closet with all the other clothes representing a time in my life that had passed. I kept it because some part of me believed that one day I would be able to wear it again. One day I would feel chic, sophisticated, and glamorous again.

That was at least 12 years ago.

Six years ago I started a journey to weight loss with my husband.

This is us in 2009, about a year before we started losing weight. Photo by Matt York of Arizona.

We had both been told by doctors that we were heading into health issues because of our weight and lack of exercise. For me, it was high cholesterol. I was able to maintain a bit of denial at first because I wasn’t put on medication. For him, it was high cholesterol and pre-diabetes and the doctor wanted him to start medication for both. This report rattled him enough to wake me up too, so we set out to track our points and start walking.

Here we are today. Photo by Matt York of Arizona.

As you can see, Hubby lost considerably more than I did. I lost 20 pounds. He lost 120 pounds. Neither of us takes medication for cholesterol or diabetes today.

I tell you all of that because I want you to have some background about The Dress that Made Me Feel Like a Star. I want you to understand the journey I took and how I got to now.

But First, An Oscars-Inspired Collaboration

As you may recall from our previous collaboration, Diane from Fashion on the 4th Floor and I are milking 2017 for every adventure we can get out of it. We want to broaden our horizons, push our boundaries, step outside our comfort zones. For this collaboration, we decided to use the upcoming Oscars as a theme. It turns out this theme is a doozy for both of us when it comes to stepping out of our comfort zones.

As Diane put it in an email to me, this challenge took her “farthest from my most natural, comfortable self as I can get. The only thing worse would have been if I tore off the sleeves or went sleeveless.”

Over-40 Dressed for the Oscars

Hey, believe me. I get it. Although Diane looks Red Carpet Ready to me–totally chic, totally poised, totally up for facing a wall of paparazzi snapping photos–for her, she felt out of her element, ready for a longer hemline and her trademark sneakers.

In my humble opinion, Diane would look just as ready for the red carpet in sneakers and a skirt as she does here, but that wasn’t the point of our challenge. She embraced our collaboration with gusto and made it look easier than it actually is. Be sure to visit her blog see what I mean.

I know how she feels because I went to my closet and I pulled out The Dress and I hoped beyond hope that it would feel good when I put it on. I hoped I would feel chic and sophisticated and glamorous.

Petite Over 40 in an Oscar style dress

But I didn’t.

I felt frumpy and blah and boring.

And you may not see what I see, but what matters is how I feel about it. I feel every part of my body that I don’t like. In my mind, there’s an arrow pointing to my midsection, my bum, and my arms.

It’s depressing.

I can’t think of anything that would make me feel worse about this.

In these photos all I can see is my grandmother’s body.

And then I think, “But what’s wrong with that?” My grandmother was beautiful–I just didn’t know her when she was young.

My grandmother at 54 years old, just 8 years older than I am now.

So then the truth comes out.

My real issue is that I’m judging myself for being older than I was when I first bought this dress. I don’t look like I did back then, even after having lost 20 pounds. I feel disappointment and sadness that the body I had at 30 isn’t the same body I have at 46. So, the Oompa Loompa’s in my mind attempt to translate that as: Being old means you can’t be beautiful, glamorous, chic, etc.

As my grandmother would say, though: 
That’s just hogwash.

Hogwash is right. My body isn’t the same as it was at 30, but it’s not ugly. It’s a good body and does everything I need it to at this stage in my life. Maybe the real truth–and not the Oompa Loompa one–is that my style has changed to suit the body I have today. This dress doesn’t work for me now because I’m different all the way around, from inside out. All I really need is a dress that fits my style, something that better expresses who I am today.

So say goodbye to The Dress that Made Me Feel Like a Star because it doesn’t make me feel that way anymore. You won’t see me in it again. I’m going to give it away to someone else who will feel beautiful wearing it. Stay tuned for a look that makes me feel ready for the Red Carpet just the way I am.

I’m keeping the heels, though.


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  • Well I thought that dress looked good…. and just wait until you turn 50! Then see how your body changes😂😂😂😂
    But you and your husband did a great job losing that much!

    • You are very kind, Nancy! I can only imagine the changes ahead. My hope is to get past mourning my youth so I can enjoy the beauty of my body today. I’d love to come up with a definition of beauty for myself that doesn’t involve age.

      Thank you for always stopping by to read my posts and say hello! I’m so grateful!

      – Sherry

  • I love this post, Sherry. You bring up so many issues. First, congratulations to you and your husband for taking control of your health issues. Major accomplishment! And the dress, ah, yes, you’re ready to be a star but the clothes are not up for the job anymore, even though I like this dress on you. But I can’t wait to see what IS up for the job. So many changes, and so much to look forward to.

    Diane looks smashing! That’s a fabulous dress. I’d love to see you guys on the red carpet!

    • Thank you, Melanie! Walking through this past year of blogging and encountering creative others like you, Suzanne, and Diane has taught me that I’m outgrowing certain ideas about style. In my 30s I needed to fit inside a specific box. But I think I got stuck in that box. Writing this post (among others) has helped that really sink in.

      Your posts and those of the other ladies mentioned inspire me toward a deeper, fuller expression of what’s inside this 46-year-old body. They help me to see there is a whole world outside my box and they give me courage to explore that world. When I do find the dress that is up for making me feel like a star, I hope you’ll know you had a part in inspiring that.

      – Sherry

  • What an incredible story! I cannot believe the changes you have both made. Truly inspirational. You both look fantastic.

    I thought your butt looked exceptional in that dress…but hey…what do I know? ; P As you pointed out it is how you feel that is important.

    I also mourn the loss of my youth. Pretty much daily along with the apparent loss of my health. It isn’t fun and requires adjustment on how we think about ourselves. We are all going to get old (well, hopefully anyhow), it’s just how we deal with it that will define how well we enjoy the second half of our lives.

    Cannot WAIT to see the dress you’ve chosen : )

    bisous
    Suzanne

    • Suzanne, As I mentioned to Melanie above and to Diane elsewhere, you ladies have given me a creative wilderness in which to explore new ideas about what it means to be 46 and stylish. In some ways that ties directly into what it means to be 46 and living a full life because, as we’ve discussed before, fashion is a direct expression of who we are/how we see ourselves.

      Wearing this dress, I came to realize, made me feel invisible–like I did before I started blogging about fashion. Part of that feeling came about because I felt like a poser. (Do people still use that word?) I felt the way Diane said she felt wearing her dress: like a woman trying too hard to look younger than she really is. And that feeling made me feel ashamed and foolish.

      In addition, that feeling of being invisible came about because this is a dress I bought when being stylish meant looking like a specific type of person–looking like someone else. Back then, I wanted to stand out AND fit in. But today that doesn’t work for me anymore. I haven’t spent 46 years on this earth honing my spirt and tapping into my deepest desires to be like everyone else. I want to look like me.

      So, there’s a lot going on here and I have you and other ladies in our fashion blogging community to thank for helping me stretch my vision toward a much more colorful horizon.

      Sorry for the long response. All these comments from everyone have my heart and mind churning!

      Hugs,
      Sherry

  • I think you’re being too self critical about the dessert on your current body. It’s a pretty blank slate in a lot of ways. I get that moving beyond it could be your best bet at this point in your life.

    At 65 I do have to say that although there are many changes that happen to the female body as it matures I think MANY of them are within your control. Staying in good shape is good for your health and how you feel and move but it also pays off in how you look.
    You and your husband clearly made huge changes in your life style. Just keep living the healthy way.
    I watched you and Diane jump right into some major physicality when we did Goat Yoga! =-) Diane said she was considering starting a Yoga practice. I don’t know whether your currently a Yogi or not but you both looked GREAT!! If I can do Yoga, Zumba, biking, and fast walking at 65, you at 20 years younger can do whatever you want!!! Mind you, your petite body is already pretty darn hot Sherry.
    I can’t WAIT to see your new “Red Carpet Dress” Sherry. Truth be told your already Red Carpet Ready in SO many ways!! I hear your Grandmother cheering “YES!!!!”

    • Jude, thank you for being such a wonder in so many ways! You provide insights that help me dig deeper into why I think this way or that.

      One thing I’ve learned in reading your and other comments is that my disappointment in The Dress is multi-layered. As I said to Suzanne above, it is about feeling older in a younger woman’s dress; as if I am trying too hard to be something I’m not. And, in that same vein, I am not that person anymore. There are aspects about her that continue to live within me but she needed to express herself one way and I need to express myself differently now.

      Seeing how vibrant, alive, and stylish you are at 65 gives me hope that I will continue this seeking and shifting so that someone can see me as I see you and bask in that creative, bold spirit.

      Hugs,
      Sherry

  • Funny how we see ourselves. I only thought WOW when I saw the first photo. I didn’t look at your photos and think what you were thinking. That dress actually really suits you and I love the killer heels. People actually look at the overall impression made with the shoes and accessories and your hair, not all your imperfections.

    • Thank you, Claire! The heels are actually my favorite thing about the outfit and I’ve had them about as long as I’ve had the dress. But you’re right about how we see ourselves.

      My big take-away for this post is that the dress no longer feels like an expression of me at this stage in my life. There truly was a surprise (or shock?) at how my body has changed over the years, but I’m starting to see that the real discomfort comes from the realization that there have been even greater changes inside me.

      When I bought the dress, I thought I would always love it and fit in it and be the person I was. And when I lost all that weight, I thought for sure it would be great again. But now when I put it on, it feels like I’m trying too hard to be someone I’m not. It may not seem like a big deal–writing it out it the whole notion seems sort of an obvious thing–but to my heart, there is a profound awareness that is causing tremors to resonate through all kinds of mental and emotional spaces within me about aging and self-expression and, more simply, who I am at this point in time.

      Thanks again for sharing your thoughts and helping me dig a little deeper into this.

      – Sherry

  • I know you told me about the weight loss—but it is hard to imagine until you see the photos! Kudos for you for sharing this, Sherry!
    As for the dress, you know I need to weigh in. When I saw the first photo—I thought wow—it looks beautiful!
    And then the next photos, you weren’t smiling and you were talking about the “faults” of your human body. And I’m all about having clothing make you feel good! So I’m glad you gave it away only because it didn’t make you feel as you imagined.
    But– I’ve seen your body in person and I know that’s it’s not only extremely gorgeous on the outside, but just as incredible on the inside!
    The “flaws” that we contribute to aging are only “flaws” because media has told us that (IMO). Why are wrinkles & curvy parts bad? They aren’t! And that’s the message we totally need to keep telling ourselves and our loved ones! (it’s kinda like the half time show at the Superbowl this year—people were giving Lady Gaga a hard time for the belly shots—and I’d kill for a belly like that!)
    So even though you didn’t feel glamorous in this dress–I blame the dress (the cut, the silhouette, even the fabric) but definitely not your body! (But in absolute truth because you know I have a hard time lying, you really look great in this dress).
    Now I need to see those shoes a couple more times—they totally rock!!
    And I love that you included a photo of your grandma—talk about different styles—that’s almost my age!!
    jodie
    http://www.jtouchofstyle.com

    • Jodie, I hope you felt me thinking about you as I wrote this post. I thought about conversations we had about aging and breaking through misperceptions of age while you were here in Seattle.

      Hearing from you and others about your perceptions of me in this dress have helped me better define why I felt so uncomfortable. I’m starting to realize that, although this is about aging, it’s also about expressing myself authentically as I am today. You know? This dress no longer does that and wearing it makes me feel fake and weirdly invisible.

      So…I’m off in search of a new dress or outfit that will better express who I am at this stage in my life. And I’m taking you with me in spirit because I know you are there cheering me on.

      Hugs and Love,
      Sherry

    • Thank you, Gail! You are so right about our bodies being the only one we’ll have. My goal going forward is to continue listening to how my body can best express itself. I want my style to be a celebration of where I am in life and who I am from inside out, not a stodgy old wish for times gone by. 🙂

      Hugs,
      Sherry

  • What a thoughtful, candid post. I learned only recently about how women’s attitudes toward fashion emerges from their psychological view of their body and how that colors their clothing choices. You lay yours bare here and we couldn’t be more impressed at your honesty. When we examine our struggles in the light, we see them more clearly and diminish the power of corrosive beliefs.

    Also, the subject of aging is important for all of us to confront. What strikes me, as someone a decade older than you, is how different your view of yourself is at this stage (i.e., perceiving yourself as old) from my view of you — you appear to me (a disinterested stranger) to be youthful and full of attractive feminine beauty. I hope you can see now (as you certainly will in the future looking back on this time) that you are in the blooming prime of your life.

    • I’ve been sitting with your comment and turning it around in my mind all day, Ally. In fact, all the comments I’ve received so far have been food for thought along the same lines. The key phrase I pick up from you is: “how different your view of yourself is at this stage…from my view of you.”

      This seems to be a theme in my life: seeing myself differently from others and seeing others differently than they see themselves. There are people I know–both women and men–who struggle with anxiety and depression and critical self-talk. I’ve said to them more than once just what you said to me, which in essence is, “If you could only see you how I see you….” It seems like it could be such a blessing to be able to step behind a loved one’s lenses to see how that person sees us. Even then, though, I wonder if we’d believe it.

      Do I perceive myself as old? This is the other question that came to mind as I contemplated your comment. I know I talked about feeling older in my post, but when I say “old” what does it mean? I’m aware that my age has changed since I bought the dress in question and I can see signs of age in my body and on my face that I struggle to come to terms with. I know I am more mature, that’s true. Also, society treats me differently than it did 10 years ago, which is something Suzanne and I have talked about as well–the power of lighting up a room just by walking into it has dramatically faded. I am more often than not overlooked in a way I never was before. And, funnily enough, I feel this dress that served me so well at 30 makes me feel invisible at 46. It is a struggle I think a lot of women face as they transition from one part of life to another.

      So, the next step is to figure out how to express myself now in the best possible way. Thankfully, I’ve surrounded myself by a loving, supportive community of women like you. I’m taking notes and listening deeply to how women in this community handle this transition. I may still be asking the same kinds of questions in 10 years when I have reached your age and you and I may still be talking about it. I hope so. Digging ever deeper so as to express ourselves ever better always seems to be a fulfilling mission.

      Hugs,
      Sherry

  • First of all, both you and Diane look absolutely fabulous. But I realize that that’s not the point of this exercise. It is all about how you feel in an outfit. And so much can influence that. I can totally see that an older garment will bring you back to a time when you were younger and then you start comparing… And that’s why it’s important to find a new home for clothes that just don’t work for us anymore. I’m sure there is someone out there who will feel like a million bucks in your dress!

    • Thank you, Andrea! I would love to bequeath this dress to someone who I know would love it. Meanwhile, I’m searching for a new one that really speaks to where I am right now in life. You can count on a post in the future to reveal what I discover!

      – Sherry

  • Sherry, what a fabulous and inspiring post! It is such a difficult transition for us women (and men, too) to accept our aging bodies. But as our bodies change, so do our perspectives. And we become wiser, so much wiser. And more accepting of others. And eventually more accepting of ourselves. And that is more important than anything. You are so correct, you have a wonderful body that does all the things you need it to do. And while you may no longer feel like a star in this dress, you do look like a star…and you have the wisdom of a sage. So there’s that, too! And most definitely keep those shoes!

    Shelbee
    http://www.shelbeeontheedge.com

    • Thank you, Shelbee! I truly appreciate how you summarized all of this–we become more accepting over others and eventually more accepting of ourselves. It makes me very happy to think about all of this in that way. And thank you for sharing Diane’s and my posts on your blog!

      – Sherry

  • Hi Sherry,
    Where the heck are you????
    I haven’t seen or heard of any new posts for awhile and I miss you!
    I have just read through all of the wonderful comments you received regarding the dress that made you feel like a star. Many fine, thoughtful women made wise, heartfelt observations about body image, beauty, and social pressures. It’s very clear that we have all gone through some variation of this theme. I think we are doomed (?) to ponder these questions and squirm within those expectations forever.
    Women are burdened with a demanding and unrealistic set of beauty standards in whatever social structure they live in.
    Women themselves perpetuate these standards and compete with other women within these structures. Intellectually we know we’re much more than what we look like but emotionally we can’t escape the playing field we’re placed on. A lot of creating the image we project to the world is fun, creative, healthy and satifying. Of course men have their version of all this as well.
    As we grow older it of course becomes harder to compete and our credibility within the game becomes tenuous. Taking back control of our self worth is mostly a post menopausal endeavor for women. Of course we always knew what was really important but now it becomes more important to find some balance. Satisfying the righteous soul of our being is now a priority and sometimes that means we need to get frustrated or angry. That’s much better with others of our kind! Some of us bravely say,”I’m going to just *FARK a bunch of this and make it my own!” We need these leaders. Those of us who aren’t as brave know that laughing, creating, supporting and loving each other through it all , has always been part of a meaningfull life. Those of you who blog open a door to some honest dialogue. Thank you for that!!

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