The Cure for Summer Wardrobe Anxiety, Under $50

Around this time of year I usually go into, if not a full blown fashion crisis, at least a mild personal-style panic. The weather is changing and everything I’ve been wearing for months is no longer possible to wear at all (TIGHTS. I was wearing TIGHTS LAST WEEK), my clothes groove gets completely lost, and I begin to suffer a kind of getting-dressed amnesia where I can’t sort out what I like or what looks good on me. I’ve pulled out my summery clothes, but they’re foreign and odd and not as delightful as I remembered. When I attempt outfits with bare legs and bare arms, everything seems sweaty and stubbly and weird, like I’m 13 all over again and putting on my first bra.

This is not even close to a real problem, but it does sit right on top of one: Getting dressed in the summer can be vulnerable-making. Sundresses and rompers and short-shorts and, ACCKK, bikinis, all take us closer to being naked in front of other people and, for some of us (the awkward, the nerdy, the lazy, the cerebral and/or self-conscious at heart), even if we’re as comfortable as is American-humanly possible about our bodies, showing a lot of skin all at once (SERIOUSLY LAST WEEK I WAS ALSO WEARING CARDIGANS) can be anxiety producing.  At least at first.

This is what no one talks about in the million “guides to summer style” you see, or the “10 tiny sundresses you need to own right this second or be damned to hell” or “the perfect bathing suit for your blood type” or whatever. Unlike for men, who still wear basically the same things and, when they don’t, generally also don’t give an F, summer for women means more body scrutiny. We’re essentially expected to triple grooming efforts, have our legs and armpits perfectly shaved, our bits waxed, our feet sanded, weird things on our backs dealt with, and the whole package exfoliated and lotioned and glistening like a little summer present to the world. If we don’t, we risk someone noticing our imperfections and us noticing them noticing and then, as hard as we want to not care, and much as we want to be the good feminists we know we are, still caring about them noticing and feeling weird and tugging on a short hem or a wayward leg hair all night.

There are two ways I know how to deal with this problem:

1. Really truly pull your body image shit together. Summer forces you to confront how you actually feel about your body and it does it again and again, all season long. Let yourself feel all of it. Look directly into the face of your thigh hatred or your boob envy or your round stomach scorn and just say, “I’m not doing this. I’m not wasting one more second of my life feeling this way. I am going to accept whatever body I have and enjoy this moment because I will never get to live this moment again.” Repeat as necessary.

2. Buy yourself something that makes you feel pretty. If you’re on a budget, there are tons of great vintage summer finds on eBay and Etsy, and places like Target and Old Navy tend to do warm-weather stuff really well, on the cheap. Right at this second, I am sort of loving Lauren Conrad’s new summer line at Kohl’s which I saw earlier this week and have been thinking about since. There’s this really cute umbrella skirt, a maxi dress with thick enough straps for a bra that I swear would look good on almost everyone, an ethereal-looking romper that would be great as a beach coverup, and any of these affordable tops (linen tee, crochet, embroidered, chiffon), all of which would make me happy to wear. The line is all new and for summer but it’s also weirdly for sale, which doesn’t make any sense to me from a business perspective (you should look into this, Kohl’s!), but is worth taking advantage of now.

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