Ever since I was a tween, my biggest insecurity were the appearance of my arms. They are big, covered with stretch marks, and scars– things that I believed absolutely had to be covered. This insecurity would effect me most once it started to get warmer. For me this usually meant that sleeves (not short sleeves, mind you) and sweaters made up most of my daily summer wardrobe, even in 100 degree NYC humidity. While other girls and young women would wear their tanks and spaghetti-strapped summer dresses, I wore thick hoodies (sometimes over long sleeves).
This continued on as I have entered adulthood. Even with the scorching sun outside, I would stay covered, replacing my adolescent hoodies for shrugs, cardigans and blazers.(It should come as no surprise that I usually spend the summer indoors.) I truly believed that as big as I was, I had no right to show off my arms. Nevermind that the various types of cover-ups didn’t make my arms disappear from existence or give them a slimmer appearance. This all changed mid- May in a Target fitting room. As I stood there looking at my reflection in the mirror, I just could not figure out how to wear the Lilly Pulitzer Sea-Urchin-for -You Satin Florence dress with a shrug and retain the overall silhouette of the dress. That’s when it hit me, why did I have to? It was then that I decided to stop hiding my arms and embrace them as they are.
l bought the dress, promising myself to work on one of my most crippling insecurities while wearing it. A few weeks later I kept my word, wearing a sleeveless dress to church sans-shrug, but carrying it in my bag. Admittedly, I did put on the shrug while in the building, mostly due to air conditioning which was on full blast, but also because I was a bit uneasy with the idea of going to church wearing such a style. (I come from a very conservative religious background.) I only escalated my personal challenge from there. I would find any and every excuse to go sleeveless. Anything to get myself comfortable with exposing my arms. I began shopping and trying out strictly sleeveless tops and dresses. So this was my first Bare Arms Summer. Yes my arms still have stretch marks and scars, they jiggle and wiggle– that’s just how they are. Why hide them? They are a part of me and let’s face it they help me get stuff done!
This new mentality definitely opened up many outfit options that I wouldn’t have otherwise considered for work, play and church. In some cases this meant remixing pieces I already owned to create a new look. (Granted most of the blog worthy outfits were dresses and such…what can I say ? I’m a feminist who enjoys feminine style.)
The funniest thing about this summer challenge/experience is that fact that very few people even noticed what I had done. Having my arms exposed didn’t end the world, instead it boosted my confidence and changed the way I saw myself. Now THAT did get some attention. Recently I was getting ready for work when my mother came into my room at seeing me don her vintage dress without the coral Old Navy shrug, she said, “You’re accepting every part of you.” I smiled and it felt great to reply, “I am.” There is no better feeling than the freedom of being able to relax, and celebrate your body, your entire body, in such a simple fashion.
Today marks the the official start of fall and for the first time in a long time I’m actually sad to see summer go. I greatly enjoyed my time in the sun and I can’t wait to do it again next year.
Style notes: I went to Target mid-May to shop for groceries and found this Lilly Pulitzer for Target dress. I was surprised to see that there were ANY pieces left in my neighborhood Target. I actually avoided the frenzy during the initial release since I wanted to retain ownership of my limbs, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t curious. Again, I am not a brand follower, yet the print, color and style of this dress is vastly different from anything I ever owned. I guess I am officially guilty of getting way too much into what I research. Oh the life of an cultural anthropologist!
Many thanks to my friend, and aspiring photographer, Diana Arriola for taking the last set of pictures.