Are You A Statistic?

Dove Campaign

Can you relate to the above statistic? I can! My first proper boyfriend dumped me after I declined an invite to the local swimming baths. Revealing the full horror of my adolescent body in a swimming costume simply wasn’t an option. A couple of weeks later, he was dating one of my best friends. No biggie – he was exceedingly handsome and crashingly dull. (So often the way, don’t you find?)

South Bank Display

This is a Dove campaign at the South Bank by the Thames. I really, really like it. Thought-provoking, simple, interactive – and aimed to boost self-esteem. I’m not convinced this would have made me show my body in a swimming cossie at age 15, but it might have helped me know I wasn’t alone.

Sewing’s definitely helped my confidence around my appearance. Has it helped you? Were you a person who avoided the changing rooms? Ever faked a period or a cold?! Oh, youth. There are some things I don’t miss.

South Bank

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37 Responses to Are You A Statistic?

  1. Rachel-Lou says:

    luckily my love of swimming was stronger than my hatred of my wobbly bits (and still does!) so I never missed out on any swimming. I don’t know that sewing has helped my self confidence as such but I do feel a lot more educated about my body and its quirks

  2. Like you, sewing has definitely helped my confidence and appearance. Before sewing, I always wanted to lose those last 10 pounds to fit into a RTW dress size. Sure, I can work out more, but I’m no longer critical of my body. Since I’ve started sewing, I no longer step on the scale, and it’s a relief! As long as I’m healthy, and I am sewing clothes that fit, I’m good. I’m glad this advertisement is up though, indeed it does make girls realize that they’re not alone. I think that’s important.

  3. Rach says:

    Hiya, I remember you writing a post before about how sewing has made you feel more confident about your body. You’re absolutely right though, the act of dressmaking means that you tailor clothes to fit your body, not try to change your body to fit the clothes. So empowering! Yes, I was very self conscious about my body, I was incredibly runty and looked like a 12 year old when I was 16.

  4. Trice says:

    I love to swim, it is the only workout I actually enjoy. Heck, my hair is no longer an issue anymore, but yeah, having to show that much skin around strangers, keeps me away from the pool.

  5. I haven’t worn a swimsuit since middle school. The thought of having to be on a beach wearing one is still a horrible thought, even now. People always assume that if you’re slim – you must be confident with your body image. But, the truth is you don’t always feel very ‘womanly’, when even teenage boys have more curves than you. I don’t know if making clothes has helped me to develop an acceptance, or I started to accept my body shape more – which made me want to feel more pride in how I clothe myself. Maybe that will one day extend to swimwear.

  6. Tatiana says:

    I used to worry about my body when I was younger, but now I don’t care… I go to the beach and to the pool wearing a tiny bikini like everyone else. Life is too short for us to worry about what other people think. If they don’t like my body, they can just look somewhere else, ha!

  7. CGCouture says:

    I’ve never avoided doing something because I was afraid of how I looked. Maybe it’s because I was raised mostly by my dad and all of his buddies, so I wasn’t indoctrinated with all that female insecurity from a young age? Guys tend to be less judgmental of themselves and others when it comes to appearance.

    *Warning!! This next part is likely to ruffle a few feathers!* I like the idea behind the ad, but I don’t think it addresses the underlying problem, and that’s us–the role models/parents to these young girls. If you need makeup, half a bottle of hairspray, and Spanx to feel comfortable going out in public, what does that teach your daughter? It teaches her to rely on “props” instead of embracing her natural beauty or that her natural beauty isn’t good enough. That doesn’t have to mean that you shouldn’t wear makeup sometimes or that you should leave the house in pajamas and flip flops with bed head, it means that if we want our daughters to feel comfortable in their own skin, we are going to have to be comfortable in ours–even when we aren’t wearing makeup, hairspray, and spanx.

    • Rachel says:

      I agree! I have a real problem with the Dove campaigns. They are supposedly trying to boost self esteem & positive self image…. while selling tanning creams, cellulite creams, ‘firmers’ etc. How do these products support the notion of feeling comfortable with you as you are?

      • This is a very fair point. I can’t decide what I think. Better or worse to have hypocrites piggy backing on real issues? Better or worse to have debate stirred up? Dunno!

  8. Chris says:

    CGCouture, I think you have an excellent point! I often wonder if women aren’t pushing each other into this body insecurity thing even while they are suffering from it. And I have a feeling that body insecurity seems a lot worse in the UK than on the continent. Whenever I read the British press I learn about new body parts to worry about (bingo wings anybody? The whole concept doesn’t even exist where I live. Honestly, nowbody knows what they are, we are still dealing with the muffin top 😉 ) .
    I mean, most people look just normal anyway, neither great nor terrible, don’t they. Wouldn’t it be great if we just dressed as we wanted and felt comfortable and confident with that choice?

    • Good point. I had a UK friend who went to live somewhere with a tropical climate. We chatted about how this had affected her body image. Impossible to do anything other than wear the minimum in such humidity and we agreed that that had totally liberated her from British coyness. Great for her, and great for her kids.

      • Tatiana says:

        I agree in part with this, when you live in a warm place, you can´t hide yourself under layers of clothing. But on the same time, the pressure to attain the perfect body is huge, because people are actually showing their bodies all the time! I live in Brazil,we as a nation are obssessed with perfect bodies. Girls as young as 15 are asking their parents for new boobs! It´s really sad to see these young girls being pressured by media an society, sometimes even by their own mothers, who also had their share of plastic interventions…

  9. Robin says:

    I grew up in the 70s and 80s and I was an early developer, got my periods at 11 and was a DD cup by 15 and was covered in stretch marks. I was totally mortified by my body and would rather write lines than participate in physical education class, there was no way i would participate in a.swimming carnival in front of the whole school. Poor body image then led to being overweight that made the issue worse. II did not have role models of high maintenance women, my female family members dressed nicely on the “daggy “(Im an australian) side and wore minimal makeup. This was my experience, I am still busty and would love to be only a C cup, i have a healthy BMI and now in my 40s and much more active than i was a teenager.

    • Oh yes, stretch marks were the worst. I didn’t know what the heck was going on – suddenly these angry red marks on my hips. Even my mates were asking, ‘What are THOSE?’ I had no idea!

  10. Oddly I always felt rather confident with my body shape as a teen and young adult. I’m very thin with zero bust, but I rather embraced the androgynous look. However, since childbirth (x 3) I have felt very distant from my body and shy physically for the first time. It hasn’t held me back from doing anything but it is something I feel I need to work on, and learn to love the new (saggier) me.

  11. Taja says:

    I was raised in southern Califoronia and spent much of my early life in ballet, so beaches and fairly minimal clothing were the norm. I’m a bit reserved–not to mention super-pale with freckles–so over-exposure wasn’t happening! That pale skin under the broiling sun turns red very quickly!

    As a mature adult, I probably am more critical of my body than I was when younger–for good reason. I tend to be a bit overweight and have to really work to attain and maintain a healthy weight. Not thin, just healthy. Definitely not fun after decades of never having to worry about weight!

    There is far too much emphasis on naturally unattainable body images for everyone these days. With 24/7 news cycle, social media, and the entertainment industry, it’s difficult to avoid the constant bombardment of frequently skewed “normal” images. And it starts very young–preschool to kindergarten. Parents have to begin promoting and reinforcing positive self-esteem and body inage so early to try to counteract all of the inaccurate messages our young ones receive daily.

    I think the Dove campaign is a nice start, but there just is so much more that parents need to do help young girls (boys, too, but girls seem to be more critical of themselves at a younger age) realize that ever person is unique, both internally and externally.

    BTW, I always detested gym locker rooms. Changing didn’t bother me as much as communal showers! *eek* That’s just uncivilized! *lol*

  12. Steph says:

    This is such an interesting issue. I love the comments on this topic, and can especially relate to that by CGCouture. I am not a stunningly beautiful woman, but I feel fortunate in never having had body image concerns (although plenty of insecurities in other areas of my life). I often muse about why this is, because I’m realizing as I enter middle age how uncommon this is. I have never coloured my hair and so of course I am starting to see my hair go grey. I also do not wear any makeup other than a touch of mascara when I go to work. I had never really thought about it before, believe it or not, but I suddenly realized the degree to which I am in a minority in being and having been pretty much always au naturel. Some of my friends have been taken aback when they have suggested colouring away my greys and I have said that I absolutely would not consider it.

    I’m rambling, but I do wonder if I got lucky in the body image front simply because my mother and my grandmothers never seemed to have issues in this area. I never once was told that I was a pretty girl as I was growing up, with the attention always focused on my capabilities and intelligence, which may be another factor. I’m not sure if the latter focus is always a good thing, but I digress.

    Anyhow that’s all to say that going forward I feel a kind of duty to those coming up behind me to show an image of an older woman who is comfortable being her age (none of this “everyone tells me that I look ten years younger than my age” stuff) and with the changes in shape and size, hair colour, skin texture, etc. that come naturally with age. I do feel empathy for women for whom this is difficult, who have had a different experience in life, but on some deeper level I feel this is the change that needs to take place.

    Oh, sewing. Sewing is all sorts of healthy thing. Sewing is about individuality in large measure, I think, which ties into the whole au naturel argument. What a beautiful world it would be if we would all express our authentic selves!

  13. Sewer says:

    I decided to give up the agony of appearing in a swimsuit ages ago. I felt very self-conscious, and once in France, was laughed at (racism was a factor). Women are scrutinized in a ridiculous way and a young woman at a summer job at a very competitive company at which we all hoped to earn offers openly talked about how she’d selected a very revealing number to the company retreat.

    I find Dove’s ads to be hypocritical and self-serving. It runs campaigns telling overweight women they look great then tries to sell them cellulite cream. Its parent company sells skin lighters in other parts of the world.

  14. Me all over! Plus I was lousy as sports!!

  15. totally me, even now in my 40’s the thought of walking around a pool just in my bathers is next to impossible and I havent been to a swimming pool here in years! I’m swathed in pareo or kaftan, unless on a lounger or in the pool and only ever swim on holiday. Your right sewing my own clothes has helped with all sorts of agonising – as we take a bit in here or there and its about the right fit not a size label.

  16. Swimming never really bothered me, in my school the boys and girls had separate gym classes, and I never really thought about it. Other swimming moments were on vacation, and I was just so happy to be swimming I didn’t really care about anything else. However, since then I have gained some weight and I’m a bit more wary of appearing in a swimsuit! About two years ago I was asked to photograph a very special concert: the band would be playing next to a swimming pool, with the audience in the water. It sounded great (it was an old art deco pool and would be decorated with candles and little lights for the evening) until I realised I’d have to sit between the audience and the band, in full view, in my swimsuit. In the end I did it and when I was working I didn’t really care, but I was extremely stressed out about it.

    Sewing has definitely done something for my body image, but if there’s one thing that really helped me I have to say it’s the live drawing classes I started taking at 17. Suddenly I got to see and study a range of naked human bodies, ordinary people like me, and it really made me see how eeveryone is just different. Drawing them made me realise that everything can be beautiful, and that it had more to do with the way the models held themselves than the way their bodies looked.

  17. sewbusylizzy says:

    I’ve always been self conscious about being thin & short. I don’t mind my shape or size but it does I’ve often put up with lots of teasing from ‘friends’ on shopping trips and days at the beach. So I avoid these situation or cover up.
    Blogging has helped me a lot. I’m a lot more accepting of my size, or lack thereof, and all the photography has also helped me put my overall look into perspective.
    Too often we look in the mirror and only see our thighs, breasts, nose or whatever else bothers us the most. I’ve learnt to consider the overall package and accept myself as a whole.

  18. Like many people I’m not 100% happy with my body, but I find that sewing myself a garment is much easier than trying to find something rtw, because in sewing we never expect a pattern to fit perfectly the first time, and we tailor it to our own shape. To me, this seems better for my mental health than going shopping and being dissatisfied with the fit, and thinking that my body is the problem rather than the fit of the item I’m trying!

  19. Shelly says:

    As a teenager I didn’t have any body image issues. I grew up near the beach and my mother took us swimming all the time right from when we were very small children so it never occurred to me. However as I have aged I feel more conscious of how I look now and sometimes have issues with having my photo taken. Blogging has helped me overcome this to some degree but I do still have issues about how I appear to others. Having said that I do still go swimming without any issues. Go figure!

  20. i went the reverse…as a kid i was all whatever, we all have the same parts…. but as i grew (and especially being constantly compared in the looks department to my work competition) i became more aware of my own “abnormalities.” now i look back on what i thought was not up to par, and i think i must have been crazy. i think so many women judge themselves harshly, then look back to a year ago, wishing they would have liked their body then, because, NOW, just look at this bulge… then the next year, we’re saying the same thing. if we could remember that cycle could we stop it?

    did that pre coffee ramble make ANY sense? love this dove campaign. several crafty cocktails ladies were discussing this & your post last night. hope your ears were buzzing!

  21. Melody says:

    HAH. 10,000% yes. I’d say, with being fat, I’m constantly worried about doing anything active in any way shape or form – mainly because of the three times I’ve been to a gym and been laughed at. It drives my boyfriend insane because all he wants to do is go scuba diving and swim with dolphins and do awesome stuff – but since I never learned to swim properly….

    But really, I would say that sewing helps with self esteem, once you get over your measurements and what a dress looks like flat on a table in your size. [The amount of times I’ve gone “How am I this big? I’M A MONSTER.” without realising that I’m not 2D]
    I’d think this is because you learn quickly what suits your body, and you make clothes that actually fit you instead of the too big/too small problem most people get with RTW.
    And everyone feels better in clothes that fit!

  22. What a great campaign. I can totally relate to this post. Growing up I was the shorter, dumpier, plainer sister of the girl that everyone wanted to look like or go out with and I really noticed it despite my parents best efforts to boost my self esteem. It was difficult going anywhere with my sister when she was always getting approached by strangers asking her if she was a model. I do love my sister dearly and now appreciate that she had a whole different set of problems related to her own appearance but growing up it definitely affected my relationship with her. Anyway, sewing and blogging has definitely helped me feel more comfortable with my own appearance, and having daughters has also brought home to me how important it is to show them that there is no single definition of beauty. And the last thing I want is for them to grow up thinking it is normal to be constantly trying to look like something you are not. Believe it or not I can honestly say that I am more comfortable with the way I look now, a couple of months off forty, and almost the largest I have ever been, than I ever was when I was younger.

  23. Jen (NY) says:

    *Another feather ruffliing warning!* I have mixed feelings about the Dove ads…okay, to be honest, I don’t like them. At least some of the ads viewable in the US, IMO, have gone a bit too far. (Such as those videos of women describing themselves.) I think the Dove ads tend misconstrue the underlying issues, but in a way that tends to appeal to women. I’m not sure that it is healthy. Worrying about chubby thighs is one thing, but IMO the underlying the embarassment is tied to the sexualization of young girls. Although I didn’t understand it, I think that I had some awareness of this by about the age of 11 or 12. People look at you differently and there is not much that you can do about it. At least in the US, by that age some degree of sexually-based harassment is not uncommon amongst school kids – comments about breasts, bra strap snapping, etc. So, frankly, I think the Dove ads oversimplify the underlying social problems, and after all, they are trying to sell us a product through their message…

  24. Sewing is a great way to get confidence in your body. Firstly, you become conscious of your imperfections and you start accepting them, controlling them, you know what shape fits you best and you stick to it. secondly, sewing your own clothes gives you the chance to build garnements that are made on your own measures, custom fit, so you look gorgeous and get even more confidence in yourself. thirdly, you start asking yourself what piece of wardrobe you really need and you can leave out tones of others. that’s quality versus quantity. and you start treating yourself as your clothes you made, with respect and patience. love your work and you’ll love yourself even more.

  25. Nikki says:

    No I don’t relate to it. I spent a large portion of my childhood in Germany and we were always going swimming, indoor and outdoor. Germans have a very different attitude to bodies then we do and I guess it rubbed off on us. My mum is overweight and never had a problem wearing a swimming costume. I did develop body image problems after going to a UK civilian school, I was bullied for being overweight (I wasn’t particularly overweight) and it was the only time I hated school. Fortunately after a couple of years we went back to Germany and although more body image conscious than before, not enough to stop me wearing a swimming costume – I’d draw the line a bikini though! Sewing has seen off any bit of insecurity I had left. My Daughter has a mainly positive body image thanks to many a discussion about it!

  26. belesamablue says:

    Good post. I don’t think Dove care how any woman feels about her body but I like how they get people talking about it, and get women in particular sharing their thoughts and experiences like so many in this thread have done. It’s inspiring to see so many women say “I’m tired of being told how to be beautiful. I’m not going to let it hold me back any more.”
    Personally I’m not the biggest fan of bathing suits but I’m a weak swimmer and don’t particularly enjoy it anyway so I don’t feel like I’m missing out. The main problem I have with regular clothes is that I have a small frame and bust, so a top in my size that otherwise fits me will have all this excess material that just flops down loosely over my chest and does not look great (plus ends up showing way more skin than I’m comfortable with!). Crafting has allowed me a different foundation for my self-esteem, I feel confident because I know I’m skilled and creative and clever rather than because I look a certain way.

  27. BMGM says:

    Have you read Barbara’s thoughts?
    “Some people have an hour glass figure, some of us have a glass tumbler figure. In my case with a large behind and a belly for which I make no apologies- the two of us celebrated Mother’s Day together thanks.”

    I was one of the “girls of Title IX”, a federal statute which guaranteed girls the same educational opportunities as boys. In the USA, that meant that schools had to provide equal sports opportunities to girls. All of a sudden, sports teams were begging for girls. A clumsy girl like myself with glasses was able to walk on to any team. Moreover, all of the coaches liked my work ethic and did not cut me from the roster even though other girls were taller, faster, stronger and more coordinated.

    Through hard work and good coaching, I became pretty good–our team even with to the state tournament a couple of times. (CA is the largest and most competitive state for girls’ volleyball.)

    That said, I knew I did not have the body of a model. But I became very confident and happy with my body because of what I knew it could do. One of my prom dates said he developed a crush on me while watching me tackle the bleachers after the end of long conditioning runs. When he saw me in his math class, he pushed another boy out of the way to sit behind me.

    Years later, when a PhD student in Physics, the AAAS (American Assoc for the Advancement of Science) published a study about what influences encourage or discourage girls from studying science. To their surprise, the second strongest positive factor was participation in competitive athletics. As expected, encouragement by a high school teacher was the strongest correlator. But, they were surprised that competitive athletics was a bigger influence than parental encouragement. My fellow female students and professors were not surprised. ALL of us in the department had been competitive athletes in our youth.

    Body confidence translates into confidence in other parts of your life. Let’s stop this body criticism of girls and encourage them to go out and try different things!

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