This Dress By Designer Jojo Oldham Covered With Comments People Have Made About Her Body Makes A Powerful Point
If you’re a human woman living in the world, you’ve no doubt had people throughout your life — from family members to total strangers — comment on your appearance. What would all of those remarks look like together? UK designer Jojo Oldham created a dress covered with comments about her body, quotes from friends and complete randos that run the gamut from sweet compliments to nasty insults. Taken as a whole, the dress is a testament to the immense pressures that women face from all sides to fulfill fixed ideals of beauty, and to how much that pressure can warp one’s own self-perception.
“Sausage fingers.” “Stunning.” “Flappy skin.” “Be nice if you were a bit slimmer.” “Amazing.” “Woah, you’ve lost weight.” Some of the words that appear on Oldham’s dress are shockingly cruel (Seriously, have these people never heard, “If you can’t say anything nice…”? ), while others are kind. But both illustrate how much one’s sense of self can come to rely on external sources, for criticism and validation. The brightly colored words painted across the fabric can, together, be nearly overwhelming to look at — which is actually a fairly accurate visual approximation of what it feels like to constantly have other people’s opinions looping through one’s head. Women hear constant commentary about their appearances almost from the day they are born — and Oldham’s dress shows how much that adds up.
“I just want to get a few things straight,” Oldham, 31, explains in an essay about the dress on her website. “…I'm not trying to make people feel sorry for me just because somebody once told me I have thunder thighs, weird knees, sausage fingers and minging teeth.”
“I've reached a point in my life where I finally feel at peace with my body,” Oldham writes. But finding that peace wasn’t easy. She continues, “[T]he love I have for my body these days is something I've had to learn. And it requires constant maintenance.”
When people make comments — especially negative comments— about our bodies, those words can stay with us for a long time, shaping how we view ourselves for years and years down the line. So why do people make those kinds of comments in the first place? “I don't believe that it really makes anybody feel good to put someone else down,” Oldham writes, adding,
The nasty things people have said about my appearance don't upset me anymore, but they have stuck with me, and they have definitely shaped the way I think about myself. I think it's a massive shame that we waste so much time thinking badly of ourselves and knocking each other down, when we could all collectively decide to end this madness once and for all.
Oldham told Metro that she doesn’t plan to wear the dress as normal clothing, but that she’d “wear it out as a piece of art in itself.” It certainly would be a conversation starter — both about why people tend to be so cruel to each other, and why we’re so obsessed with appearance in the first place.
To read Oldham's full essay and see detail shots of the dress, head over to her website.