Summer Clothing, Nowhere to Hide
Art by Kirsten Hemrich
The coming of spring means many things to me: flowers are blooming, the weather is getting warmer, the sun is shining, and soon I’ll have freedom from classes. It also means it’s almost time to break out my summer clothing and put my winter clothes deep in the closet.
To many people, putting the jeans away and putting on shorts brings a sense of freedom. The sun on your shoulders and legs feels good, and finally that months-long chill is gone.
But how does summer feel when there’s something you want to hide? What do shorts cover? Not very much.
Summer Clothing: Less Fabric
For me and many others, winter clothes are a sort of safety net. I always feel really good about myself in the winter. I think I look good in jeans and jackets and scarves, and for half of the year I feel as if my body issues are a thing of the past. This happens year after year.
Like many people, I’ve had body issues since early high school. It’s easy, when everywhere we look, we’re accosted with images of how we’re supposed to look. Magazines, advertisements, social media, and movies all show us what our society values in people, especially women. If we feel like we deviate from this ideal in some way, we experience anxiety and low self-image.
I’ve definitely felt better about my appearance in the past couple of years. I finally cut my hair short, and honestly, it’s amazing what a haircut you love will do for your self-esteem. I’ve also come to understand that I shouldn’t let the media have power over how I feel about my body. Companies try to make people feel bad about themselves so people will buy their products, and I don’t want them to choose how I feel! But that doesn’t change the fact that we all live in a society where these images are given to us daily, and their effect is hard to shake, even when you’re aware of it.
I have also found that winter clothing gives me the freedom to dress more androgynously than I can get away with in the summer. A pair of jeans, a long sleeve Henley, and a pair of boots are comfortable and not super feminine, but not very obviously masculine either. Summer clothing is just so gendered.
Summer Clothing: More Problems
That’s why, when summer comes, and it becomes too warm to wear pants all the time, I suddenly feel exposed. I choose not to go to the beach or the pool because the small surface area of a swimsuit is daunting. I don’t like the way my legs look sitting down, so I find myself re-adjusting constantly and being overly aware of my body in a way that I can avoid when I’m wearing pants. The amount of brainpower I use thinking about the way I look in shorts, I could totally be using to do something more productive (I could also save a lot of time if I didn’t feel like I had to shave my legs every day during the summer).
I wonder how many of us secretly hate the summer because it means we can no longer hide most of our bodies behind fabric. It’s not only people with body problems that suffer in the summer. I have known people who are trying to hide scars and people who face body dysphoria that worsens during the summer months.
I’m not saying I know the answer to these problems, especially when they’re faced by a broad range of people for different reasons. I guess part of it is letting people wear what they want without judgement. I also think we need to stop putting so much focus on bodies in general. We spend so much of our attention on our appearance that we don’t stop to think about the wonderful things our bodies allow us to do. What would our lives be like if we stopped worrying so much about the aesthetic value of our bodies?
It’s not fair that, no matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to shake the hyperawareness I have for my body in the summer. I should be able to put on a pair of shorts and feel comfortable and happy! It’s my goal, from now on, to push back against my own self-deprecating thoughts. I’m going to buy more clothing that feels good to me and try to stop worrying about the way my legs look in shorts.