advertisement
Home » Blogs » Narcissism Meets Normalcy » Body Shaming and Slut Shaming: When Narcissists Control Our Wardrobe

Body Shaming and Slut Shaming: When Narcissists Control Our Wardrobe

Yesterday, I piled all my clothes on the bed and looked at them. They were second-hand, old, shapeless, stained from cooking and yellowed from much washing in hard water. I felt like Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday when she stands on her bed and says drunkenly, “I hate this nightgown. I hate all my nightgowns. And I hate all my underwear too.”

“Get some new clothes,” Michael encouraged me. I expected it to be a delightful (and slightly frustrating) search online. It turned out to be extremely cathartic and wonderfully healing as well.

Like you, my wardrobe has always been controlled by my narcissists. Wow!  Deep breath. Sorry. Such an emotional topic!

I know I’m not alone! I’ve heard your horror stories. Narcissistic mothers who forced their daughters to wear clothes much beyond their years. Matronly, heavy, hot, shapeless, uncomfortable hand-me-downs.

On the other end of the spectrum, are narcissistic mothers who force their daughters to wear immature or worse, inappropriate, two-sizes-too-small, even “slutty” clothes. Like the topic of “narcissists and food,”  the topic of “narcissists and clothes,” is fraught with the most outrageous stories of weirdness, neglect, meanness, shame and abuse.

The mother/daughter relationship is difficult enough, even if you have the same sartorial sense. Unfortunately, like so many other mothers and daughters, my mother and I never liked the same clothes.

Mom’s style is best described as gypsy-peasant-girl-boho-tent paired with sensible shoes. Naturally, she dressed me in the same way.

There was that blue-and-red patchwork boho dress in fifth grade I disliked. The blood red blouses Dad insisted I wear for professional pictures. (I hate red!) The ubiquitous white blouse on the first day of school each year. (I hate wearing white.) And the but-Grandma-bought-it-so-you-have-to-wear-it green outfit that was a bit too tight, so I was forced to wear a hot, heavy sweater over it all day at school. (I loathe sweaters!)

I wore it all with sensible, lace-up shoes. The word “Granny shoes” comes to mind. Or worse, those brown “shit kickers” I wore to school with my skirts in 10th grade and those horrible velcro shoes Dad insisted I wear to High School gym class. That I didn’t get bullied unmercifully is a real testament to the kindness of my classmates.

Me? Oh, my style is much different! If Mom is of the 1960s, I am of the 1940s and 1950s. I love the look of fitted bodices, peplums, sweetheart necklines. The Rockabilly style in pinks, lavenders, green florals and polka dots delights my soul. Corsets fascinate me. Sometimes I put in pin curls. I salivate over shoes.

Puberty made the subject of clothing worse, But then again, puberty seems to make everything worse, doesn’t it, especially in a narcissistic family.

This is where body shaming enters our story. Perhaps some girls are delighted when their bosom develops. I was horrified. If sex was shameful, having to wear these two obvious, protruding symbols of sexuality on my front for everyone to see was mortifying. Like other girls in my class, I developed a helluva hunch to disguise them. I was so ashamed, a shame exacerbated by what I was taught about clothes.

There’s a fine line between modesty and shame. At home, at school, like so many women in cults, we girls were taught that the sight of the luscious feminine curves of our body were a stumbling block to men. It felt that there was something inherently evil with the hourglass flesh in which we lived. Something wicked about a peek of cleavage, a hint of bosom, the curve of hips. It was our duty to remove that stumbling block to the best of our abilities.

You’ve heard of haute couture? We wore haute tent.

Our campshirts were baggy and shapeless. Stiff, stabilized fabrics if possible.  Untailored. Long. High necklines. Pockets over the chest. Those clothes met with approval.

Does that sound Rockabilly to you!?! Does it even sound beautiful!?! I think not!

For me, the whole narcissistic-control-of-wardrobe came to a head when I was twenty-one and dress shopping with my mother. My friend, Jolene, was getting married and, as usual, I didn’t have a thing to wear to her wedding.

There it was. The perfect outfit. A black suit. Straight skirt. Jacket with peplum. It was modest, classy and fit like a dream. Best of all, it made my high wide hips…where were they!?! It honored my figure and made me feel beautiful and comfortable in my own skin for the first time!

My mother took one look at the suit as I modeled it in the fitting room we shared (we always shared!) and said, and I quote verbatim, “You can’t have that. It looks too good on you.”

That should’ve been my clue, right there. She didn’t exactly beat around the bush! Just said it outright. She didn’t want me to look good. She didn’t want me to look attractive. Pretty, yes. But not womanly. Not alluring. Not attractive.

So I toddled off to that wedding in an ill-fitting, figure-disguising, pounds-adding, synthetic, uncomfortable hateful bright-yellow-with-big-red-flowers popover dress that was Mother Approved. Far from looking too good, I looked hideous and felt worse. Needless to say, no groomsman asked me for a date…so I guess the dress worked perfectly.

A few years later, an incident occurred that further enforced that no neckline is ever high enough. I was wearing a t-shirt cut to the base of the neck under a stabilized fabric tent shirt. If the t-shirt had been cut any higher, it wouldn’t been a turtleneck, but Mother still wasn’t pleased. “It gaps when you bend over,” she complained. “So I’ll put my hand there when I bend over,” I explained, patiently.

Make-up was another minefield. “It should only accentuate your natural beauty,” I was taught. “No one should be able to see that you’re wearing it.” What is this, the Edwardian era!?! I don’t know about you, but I’ve always considered make-up to be stage make-up. It tells a story! If I put forth the effort to wear it, you sure as heck are going to know it! But many’s the time Mom fished a kleenex out of her sleeve to wipe off some eyeliner or make me blot my lipstick. We won’t even talk about the drama surrounding my hairstyles in this article!

Shoes were another minefield. I love heels (although they don’t love me!) but Mother always disapproved. Every time I brought another haul of shoes home from Payless, I was always met with the question: “Are they comfortable?” As if it wouldn’t occur to me otherwise. In time, I learned to say, “Good enough.” We agreed to disagree.

She picked her battles. We silently compromised about shoes, but not so lingerie! That was another battleground where I lost after the first skirmish.

I was in my late twenties when, quite in passing, I made the grievous error of saying, “I wish had cute, sexy lingerie.” I should’ve known better. Mother hated the word “sexy” and always spat it out with venom.

“Why!?” Mom snapped. “Who ya want to show it to?” Slut shamed again! Wow! I just never see it coming!

She seemed to think that a tiny satin bow on a bra was decoration enough for a woman. I had a bow on my kindergarten undershirts. Now, I wanted something more! She seemed to think that she was making a big concession allowing me to wear the stiff sweater bras I wore for modesty. (Not exactly Wonder bras!)

Like so many times before and since, I was speechless. I didn’t know what to say. I couldn’t defend myself! I allowed her to clairvoyantly tell me what I was supposedly thinking instead of knowing my own mind. Now I look back and I know exactly what I should have said., “Mom, y’know who I want to show? I want to show me! I want to feel sexy about me. That’s my right as a woman and you won’t steal it from me anymore!”

So it was that in 2011 I found myself clinging to a clothesrack in the J. C. Penney’s Women’s Department for physical support. I was hyperventilating. Adrenalin was shooting through my system. I was thirty-one years old and this was my first time buying clothes without having Mother looking over my shoulder, literally or figuratively. I didn’t have to put on a fashion show when I got home. She didn’t have the right of first disapproval.

I could have any clothes I wanted! I was so excited I could hardly stand myself! Deep breath!

So I grabbed everything. It was actually difficult, but I forced myself beyond my wardrobe brainwashing. I grabbed the tight. The fitted. The low. The clingy. The sheer. I tried sexy lingerie. Foundation garments. Dresses. Skinny jeans. Even those evil things, swimsuits!

I walked out of there with a whole wardrobe, but more importantly, I was a whole new woman! No longer was I ashamed of how I looked, embarrassed to walk into a Conference Room filled with well-dressed female coworkers. Gone was the baggy, the stiff, the shapeless, the haute tent. No longer did I hate my wardrobe and loath the sight of my closet. For the first time in my life, I was one of those well-dressed women!

Instead of tents I was clad in soft flowing sheer blouses (over a camisole) with asymmetrical handkerchief hemlines and sequins. They followed my curves with style! I wasn’t hiding my figure in shame anymore. I was celebrating it! Getting dressed in the morning was fun now! I took great care of my clothes and reveled in looking good to my eyes for the first time ever.

But the shame was still there. I declined to shop for a wedding dress out of shame over how badly my figure looks in not Empire-waist dresses. Today, I kind of regret getting married in slacks.

But now, thanks to retailers finally realizing they were missing out on the billion-dollar market we plus-size, curvy, big beautiful women would love to give them in exchange for great clothes, finally I’m going to be able to honor my lifelong fascination with the 1940s and 50s.

There are hundreds of sites out there with fantastic clothes for us! Even just looking at the models is cathartic. They are big beautiful women with luscious curves and drop-down-dead-gorgeous faces in clothes that make their bodies look fantastic! And they’re not hiding anything! They’re celebrating everything the Good Lord gave them..and how!

As for me, I’m done being ashamed of my body, feeling it’s somehow inherently immoral to have curves, hiding them under a tent. I’ve worked hard to have this body. It’s served me well.

When people look at us, they need to see us. Not the cursory glance your doctor gives you before assuming you’re unhealthy for being so-called fat and suggesting a gastric bypass. Look at me, Doctor. No. Stop typing the appointment notes. Really look at me!

Now watch, while I turn my head. Do you see that? Those huge supraclavicular fat deposits that pop out. I’ve got a matching set! That’s from undiagnosed hypothryoidism and way too much cortisol from PTSD. You didn’t notice that when you wrote me off as fat. Look again. Do you see that dark ring around my neck? That’s acanthosis nigricans. It’s from insulin resistance. But you didn’t notice that either. I can’t lose weight and I won’t yo-yo diet like my family.

Now look down. See that big tummy? Those big hips? I comfort ate my way through the Hell of narcissistic abuse and I survived! Eating was the only thing I had to look forward to during my twenties. I lived for every meal, every Dorito, every bowl of mint ice cream. My curves are testaments to survival! I feel great and you’re not going to try to improve on my perfectly-functioning stomach by rewiring it! (As if you can improve on God, pfffttt!)

We only have one life and damn it! Life’s too short to allow narcissists to force you to wear clothes you hate, to shame you into styles you loathe. Clothes cost money! We may as well spend it on styles we actually like! Me? I’m going to be the clotheshorse I’ve always want to be come Hell or high water.

Ladies, don’t let your narcissistic, jealous mother shame you anymore! Let’s show ’em just how glamorous, beautiful and sexy we can be! After all, that’s what they were afraid of, right?

Go get ’em, Girl!

Body Shaming and Slut Shaming: When Narcissists Control Our Wardrobe


Lenora Thompson

Lenora Thompson is a syndicated Huffington Post and YourTango freelance writer and entrepreneur. Her readers call her the "Edward Snowden" and "Wikileaks" of narcissism because of her no-holds-barred-take-no-prisoners approach to writing about narcissism. “Narcissism Meets Normalcy” is the real-life, ongoing story of her healing journey from being held “hostage” by a multi-generational, cult-like narcissistic family. It's gritty and real, bloody and bruised, humorous and sarcastic. Lenora Thompson considers herself a “whistleblower,” shining a spotlight on narcissistic abuse so others can also claim their freedom and experience healing. To learn more about Lenora, subscribe to her bi-weekly e-newsletter, contribute to help her husband fight his extremely rare lung disease, Pulmonary Alveolar Proteinosis and shop her e-store, please visit www.lenorathompsonwriter.com.


3 comments: View Comments / Leave a Comment

 

 

APA Reference
Thompson, L. (2019). Body Shaming and Slut Shaming: When Narcissists Control Our Wardrobe. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 22, 2019, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/narcissism/2019/04/body-shaming-and-slut-shaming-when-narcissists-control-our-wardrobe/

 

Last updated: 3 May 2019
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network (blogs.psychcentral.com) prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.