Body Confidence via ‘Mad Men'

I know it sounds impractical. “Rachel, you’re really crediting Mad Men, the show that generally paints a bleak picture of womanhood, with any sort of female empowerment? Aside from empowering women to continue thinking that Jon Hamm is very, very, pretty, of course.” I am, yes. Yes to all of that.

Here’s the deal. I’m a pretty small girl, but I’ve long been a victim of the physical insecurity that comes from being ten or twenty pounds away from a [insert name of virtually any Hollywood actress here]. At 5’4”, the lightest I can recall being is 112 lbs and the heaviest about 140. But I now feel very comfortable at around 130, while many of the most visible actresses are 120 or under. Or physically less visible, as the case may be.

So, why the newfound confidence? Well, as I alluded earlier, I finally got around to watching Mad Men. And yeah, sure, in terms of plot, the women aren’t treated well. Even when (spoiler alert, kind of) Peggy and Joan start to move up the ladder, they’re still subjected to the usual cat-call-like treatment.

But forget about that for a second, and look at them. Look at them! Christina Hendricks is a bombshell and she’s not a size 2 or 4 and she owns it. And I never use the phrase “owns it”. In fact, I don’t know what size she is and I don’t even care. She looks amazing. Of course, it helps to have a wardrobe department on your side, but… sorry, I lost my train of thought thinking about how good she looks.

What I love most about the whole thing, though, is that it serves as a good reminder that being ‘not a size 2 or 4’ was normal. And IS normal. The only thing that’s changed is the body type that clothes are designed for. Super tall, super thin models set the bar and they are the blueprint by which most clothes are now designed. In other words, when I try on jeans, they’re usually too narrow and too long. And 5’4″ isn’t that short, right? RIGHT?

“But what can I do, then?” you might ask. Well, look up to people who have more similar body types to yours, and see how they dress. An America Ferrera or a Scarlett Johansson, if you will. And when it comes to clothes, shop around. Buy jeans with shorter inseams. And if all else fails, buy vintage. I’ve just started doing it recently. I figure, if I can’t be one of the women on Mad Men, I can at least dress like them.

  • Stephanie Lynn

    I’m 5’4″ and tend to hover around 130 too. All jeans are too long! Unless you get those ones that specifically say they are “short”. I think you’ve got it right with the vintage shopping. I think I’ll dye my hair red too and tell everyone to kiss my shapely behind.

  • Lucy Blakeley

    HELL YES! I am 5’4″ and have what I like to call a vintage figure – I’ve got boobs and hips and a tiny waist. Most clothes are cut for straight up straight down model esque girls and designed to hang casually off them as if they just got out of bed… this look does not work on curves! I’m around a size 8-10 (American 4-6) and I feel fat most of the time because modern clothes just aren’t cut to suit my figure. Even so called vintage style high waisted stuff is too big on my waist and tight on my hips because I’ve actually GOT some. This has helped me appreciate my curves. I have a wardrobe full of vintage dresses and I’m going to start wearing them again and quit trying to make peg trousers and tailored shorts work on me!

  • Jennifer Pearson Hennen

    I was really excited to see the Banana Republic Mad Men collection, but have to admit I was disappointed when I saw the models they used. After seeing Christina H (and even January Jones and Elisabeth Moss, who are both tiny), it was a little surprising to see the clothes on models who were small even for models. It kind of seemed to me like they were missing the point.

  • Rebecca Lee Hennessey

    I’m 5’2″. Shopping for jeans sucks…

    • Lauren Nespoli

      I agree! If you are a size 0 and can find it in “short” length then you can find jeans that fit, but otherwise they’re all too long even the “short” ones!

  • Hannah Greene

    I’m 5’3 and around 130lb and am seriously considering investing in some sturdy shaping underwear (ie spanx/longline bras/etc). I’m fine with my body but want smoother smoother shape. I think the lumpiness is what I have the most problems with, not necessarily the size.

  • Kelly Cosby

    SO TRUE, gotta love Joan!! She rocks it.

  • Andrea Carpenter-Heffernan

    Thanks for putting out there what I’ve been feeling for a long time. Joanie/Christina Hendricks is my new icon. She’s real and she’s smoking hot and lets all of us size 6-8 and up girls feel sexy.


  • Lauren Martin

    I can relate as a girl with BOOBS. I was fired up to see Christina H on Mad Men rock out an awesome wardrobe. Unfortunately, they do not make clothes like that for normal, non actress girls like me. I ended up getting a breast reduction last year and I now have more options than I did before but I’m still not a small girl. I hope more shows can follow suit and cast women that look real.

  • Heather L. Schaad

    I’m 5’4″ and around 280 and I STILL feel sexy and beautiful!

  • Sarah Welsch

    I’m 5’1 ladies, and am weighing in at 164 and I am the thinnest I have been in years! I have lost about 26 pounds in the last few months, and i gotta say I am looking great! Ive never had more compliments, including when i was a size 6 and its because I am truely comfortable in what I am right now. Maybe its cause im almost 30, or maybe its because i realized i will ALWAYS have curves and hips that were genetic and never will be what is expected but will be gorgeous nonetheless. That being said, I have buying jeans. I have to wear heels whenever i wear em or get in tailored!

  • Melissa Jade Murphy

    I’m 5’7″ 114 Lbs and I’ve been insecure all my life. Trust me- owning it is hard for most girls!

  • Emma Green

    I think Mad Men is a great show for female empowerment, and not just for their awesome clothes and ownage of said awesome clothes!
    And did you know that Banana Republic is launching a Mad Men line on 11/08? I, for one, can’t wait to check it out:

  • Angie Boyce

    5’0 and hover around 100 lbs. Lightest I’ve been is 92 lbs, heaviest about 120. I have no boobs, my tummy is not really flat and some butt and thighs. Even though I’m pretty tiny I still feel fat compared to the models and actresses that are in the media most of the time. And jeans shopping? Forget it! I have to hem them every time. Maybe ‘rolled up’ will become cool again…haha.

  • Lora Elizabeth

    I just started watching Mad Men! I love Joan!!! She’s such a great role model for curvy girls everywhere!!!

  • Josilynn Reynolds

    This is exactly why i love dressing vintage…with a little modern flare of course. I wear high waisted skirts with belts with a cute cardigan all the time..and let me tell you i feel confident and look confident! I am really short (5’1′) and definitely not a skinny minny…when i take the time to put together an outfit that screams high women roller i turn heads and feel great about it :) Dressing to fit your body type and being able to express your personal style is key to having a happy day <3

  • Samantha Shoemaker

    5’10”, 125. You’d think people wouldn’t make fun of tall and thin women, but they do. I’m called a twig, told to eat more, and get some muscle all the time. It’s really quite embarrassing. Not just overweight women are critical of themselves.

  • Fiona Lyons

    I’m 5’10”, probably about 175. I’ve been lighter, but I’ve never loved my body more than now. Love my hips, love my boobs and love that I have a waist. I try not to follow fads and just wear what works for me in terms of colours, cuts, etc – I don’t care if it’s not in fashion, if it makes me feel good about myself, I’ll wear it (and try and own it the way Joan does).

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