How Vintage Style Taught Me to Embrace My Body

My style icon is Audrey Hepburn, but my body type is far more Marilyn Monroe.

My waist is high and my torso is long. My legs do not go on forever, and my thighs touch no matter how much weight I've lost. But, unsurprisingly, when I open fashion magazines, I see the same uber-thin women with clean, straight lines for bodies — ones that don't look anything like me. (Raise your hand if you're in the same boat, and climb aboard mine.)

This alienation carries over when I head out shopping, too. When I hit the sales rack at Macy's, sometimes I feel lost. It's not because I don’t like the latest trends, but because I feel like often my body does not fit into modernity. Fashion is meant to be such a personal experience, but when I can't connect with what's available, it's hard to, well, experience it at all.

That's why I've turned to vintage. Going for a retro-glam style allows me to style using the inspiration of Audrey, but the fit for a Marilyn. Through fit and cut — ones that actually accommodate for variations in shapes and size — I actually get to explore the variations in my own body that make me unique. Dare I say it — it makes me comfortable in my own skin.

And when vintage isn't always available, I'm channeling the look. I'll never, ever forget what I wore for my high school graduation. I insisted on looking like a Gothic version of Scarlett O’Hara. My grandmother, who made a lot of clothing for me while I was growing up, labored for weeks on a pinched-waist bodice dress with in a black and red color scheme. It was packed with layers of tulle, and a wide hoop skirt to wear underneath.

Here I am back in 2005, doing the vintage look:

(Grandma rocked it, no? She didn't even use a pattern, and we sketched out our thoughts on what the final look should be.) And just 'cause, here's a selfie from 2012; I was wearing the dress for a friend's photo shoot:

It was the perfect combination of modernity and vintage glamour — and everything about it made me feel beautiful. I wasn't a popular girl, but the dress was so attention-stealing that other peoples' parents were coming over to tell me how wonderful it was.

But the most important thing of all: I was able to set aside the tiny voice always telling me that my body is the wrong shape and wrong size. Instead of plucking something off a rack, the dress I wore was made to fit what I thought would make me feel most beautiful — and I was right. It's an amazing feeling, and one I recapture by returning to older styles that allow me to once again connect with fashion through making it match my shape and personality instead of the other way around.

The biggest thing that walking away from the racks that I'm supposed to be shopping has taught me is that clothes make such a difference in how my body looks — and subsequently, how I feel. Stepping out of the expectations that come with trendsetting, I can explore what flatters me. And walking out of a store feeling like a bombshell is always flattering.