A little exposure therapy to jump-start my body-positive journey.
Hi, my name is Morgan, and I have a pretty bad self-image. I’ve gained and lost (and gained again) roughly 100 lb over the last six years, and, y’know, all of those unsolicited comments can take their toll on the self-esteem.
OK fine, 90% of those unsolicited comments came from my own inner voice. Still. You can only be asked if you're pregnant so many times before you take it personally.
The thing is, no matter where I’ve been on the scale, I’ve always had a deep, deep hatred for my legs. I think it started sometime in junior high? At some point, I just decided they were ugly and didn’t want to show them anymore.
The really tough part of my loathsome body image? I have a young daughter, Delilah, and I know she’s watching me. Not only has she told me she has the biggest belly in her gymnastics class, she’s asked whether she’ll be “fit” like daddy, or, “y’know…like you?” Which, besides OUCH, was a major wake-up call for the messages I’m sending.
So I challenged myself to a week of leg exposure. In front of people. Like, in real life. And then I went ahead and pitched it to my editors, so I actually had to do it. If for nothing else, to improve the self-image I’m modeling for my little girl.
Let me be crystal clear here: I do not show my legs EVER, under any circumstances, and haven't for years. This meant that none of my colleagues had ever seen my legs, whether they realized it or not (most likely not.)
The challenge: I had to wear a different leg-bearing outfit every day for a solid week. I could choose the items, but they had to hit at least five inches above my knee. There was no way in hell I was purchasing five knee-bearing outfits, so I joined Rent the Runway Unlimited for a month. Actually, it turned out to be the perfect solution to finding five outfits I could force myself to leave the house in.
I gave each outfit a grade based on fit, level of self-consciousness, and practical wearability (i.e., were my butt cheeks hanging out?).
Jenny Chang / BuzzFeed
The day I escaped to a luncheon with a colleague, which meant not having to see everyone else at work.
What I'm wearing: Black Sail Away Romper from Laundry by Shelli Segal, size 14 ($40 rental, $245 retail).
Why I chose this outfit: If you think for one second that I didn't have a strategy going into this week, you are drunk. So, I decided to kick off the great leg experiment on the same day as an event off-site — aka filled with strangers rather than colleagues. The catch? The location had a dress code (“smart casual,” if you're wondering), which meant that I pretty much had to go with the super-short little black romper.
How I felt in it: I actually felt surprisingly good for the first day. My daughter was unreasonably excited to see me in “fancy clothes,” and the design was sort of a skirt/shorts combo, which I found really flattering. The romper was comfortable, I didn't have to wear a bra, and anything that comes in at your actual waist — instead of straight across your belly — earns points with me. Still, I was hyper aware of my exposed limbs and constantly pulling at my shorts. But I had a glass of champagne at lunch, and by the time dessert came I had completely forgotten that my legs were showing.
Did anybody actually notice? Yes! My colleague Asia, who I attended the event with, noticed about four hours into our day. She admitted that she may not have noticed if we weren't deskmates and she didn't know how genuinely stressed out I was leading up to the whole thing.
Grade? I’m shocked, but I’m actually gonna give it an A. It was just…flattering. Feeling like the romper looked good on the rest of me helped me not worry as much about my legs. And the skirt/shorts combo was a win.
Macey J. Foronda
The first day I had to go to the office. People I know would see me. Sitting down.
What I'm wearing: Rivet Romper from Free People: size L ($40 rental, $148 retail).
Why I chose this outfit: For my first day in the office, I chose this denim situation because it felt the closest to my own personal style. The hope was that it would draw less attention and help keep my self-consciousness at bay.
How I felt in it: EXTREMELY uncomfortable. This was basically a leotard, once you took the inevitable riding-up into account. The upside was I realized that literally no one cared that I was wearing the least practical garment of all time. Even Delilah noticed that there were essentially no bottoms on this thing.
Did anybody actually notice? Yes! But it wasn't anyone at work. I saw a close friend for dinner and she immediately recognized that I was wearing shorts — in her words, “You're wearing shorts! You don't do that!” — but first she complimented the outfit, so it was technically the second thing she noticed.
Grade? Idk, like, a C? Aside from the fact that I was wildly self-conscious because it was basically underwear, I thought it was really cute. Unfortunately, would not recommend.
Macey J. Foronda
The day I chose physical comfort over emotional comfort.
What I'm wearing: Blue Gingham Printed Romper from Diane Von Furstenberg: size 14 ($65 rental, $368 retail).
Why I chose this outfit: If you're gonna feel uncomfortable, feel uncomfortable in comfortable clothes. I was so comfortable, I forgot I was supposed to be emotionally uncomfortable. 10/10 would wear again.
How I felt in it: Pretty great, actually. I was starting to forget about my legs altogether. The outfit felt low-key and comfy, and I'm into that. Plus, it was silk — which we all know is basically the least flattering of all the fabrics. But wrap tops? Turns out those are great.
Did anybody actually notice? Only that it was a DVF. Certainly not that it was missing its sash. I think this one might have been Delilah's favorite, though. She said it was “exciting” — but she's not a teenager, so she wasn't being euphemistic.
Grade? B. I felt great in it, but cringed at any photos I saw.
…plus one very unfortunately framed video.
Macey J. Foronda
The day I wore the outfit I’d most hotly anticipated.
What I'm wearing: Black Tory Romper from Rachel Zoe: size 12 ($60 rental, $345 retail).
Why I chose it: This romper was just so different than anything I'd ever wear, but also weirdly my style? It was definitely the one I was the most excited to wear out. When I put it on, Dee asked if they made one in kid size.
How it made me feel: Like, so fashionable. I was getting compliments left and right. I was realizing that literally no one was looking at my legs, or at least caring that they were exposed or what they looked like. This was shaping up to be a pretty good body-positive day for me.
And then, guys, it finally happened. Every romper-wearer's worst fear (well, besides being naked in public restrooms): I peed my effing pants.
We all know it's a risk, but this ornate romper, with its schmaltzy button-down-only access — and not regular buttons, those super extra ones that you see on wedding dresses, the kind where you have to push a round fabric button through a loop — and, well, let's just say I lost the race. I immediately went home for the day.
Did anyone actually notice? That I nearly had a full-blown accident? No. That my legs were showing? Also no.
Grade? F. Stupid, stupid buttons.
Macey J. Foronda
The day I said: “Bye forever, rompers.”
What I'm wearing: Dusty Pink Lauren Dress from See by Chloe: size 38 ($65 rental, $360 retail).
Why I chose it: Because I was too traumatized to wear another romper…possibly ever again in my life. Also, I fell in love with the color, wanted to feel pretty, and was very pleased with how the adjustable sides gave me fit options.
How I felt: Like I forgot to put on pants. But also not that worried about it. I could see trying out more above-the-knee dresses. And again, props to the adjustable sides on this one. Almost as good as pockets.
Did anybody actually notice? Not a single soul, but my daughter told me she thought I looked pretty.
Grade? B+. No accidents.
Macey J. Foronda
But most importantly, modeling body-positivity for my daughter, and working toward making sure she has a role-model who loves herself, was the best takeaway of all.
Macey J. Foronda
So what did I learn? Well, mostly that no one worries about how I look as much as I do. A lot of people noticed my outfits, but nobody was like, “Oof, and too bad about those legs.”
My legs are part of my body, and they work. They carry me where I need to go, and they're strong. And maybe, most surprisingly, I realized that I love fashion, and my insistence on covering my legs has cut my style options in half. I felt great during the course of this week because taking a risk reminded me how nice it feels to be able to express yourself through your clothes. And I'd rather wear things that express who I am instead of constantly highlighting the fact that I'm self-conscious about my body. (Look! I even wore a leg-bearing outfit to a friend's wedding VOLUNTARILY after this challenge!)
And so I had to return all my fancy clothes.
Except the one I peed in. Returning it didn't seem cool.
Macey J Foronda / BuzzFeed