After A Fashion: A Reflection on Beauty

Big. Big heart. Big girl.  Big dreams. Big as in fill the whole space. Big as in large.  Big as in strong. I am and always will be a big girl.  But does big not mean beautiful?  All my life I have wondered that. I looked around, and noticed. Noticed that I was big. Big as in fat?  Big as in slow? Big as in ugly?  Sometimes I used to think so. Sometimes I feel big, awkward, and ugly. But can’t big also be beautiful? Let me tell you a story.

A while ago my sisters and I were invited to be in a vintage fashion show at our church.  My sisters were very excited.  After all a vintage fashion show, what fun!  And it is.  A great deal of fun. But at that time.  I was cringing.  Why?  Because I knew.  I have always known.  I’m fat, much too fat to be a model.   I didn’t voice any of this of course.  I knew what would happen if I did.  They would simply assure me, “Oh, no! You’re not fat!”  I had heard it all before; plenty of times, but I had never believed it.

Well, against my better judgement I went along with it, I agreed to model for the show.  We went and tried things on and it was fun! Fun to play dress up with the pretty hats, gloves, and other fancy things.  I went home happy but that night I cried myself to sleep.  Cried because I still knew.  I was too ‘fat’ to model.  I still remember trying to squeeze into my sisters dress.  Pressing myself in, holding my breath, willing the fat away.  But it was of no use.  It would never fit.  Not in a million years.

When the day of the fashion show finally did arrive, I dusted off an old vintage hat from my closet and placed it on my head.  I was determined to enjoy some of the gala too. Even if I was ‘fat’.  I remember when the fashion show began.  I joined the long line of models, all lined out in their pretty vintage frocks.  I tucked my arms behind my back and stared down at the floor.  I felt ugly and ridiculous. I wanted to slip away, and pretend that just today at least I was not ‘too big’.  One by one the models stepped out.  One by one the line diminished until it got to me.  I leaned against the wall, and bit my lip.  I did not go out.  I just wanted to disappear.

There was a slight intermission in the show.  The models all come back stage and I tried to put a smile on. Tried to act happy and careless.  But inside I ached.  The dear sweet lady who had arranged the show called me over and handed me a gray suit on a hanger.

“Why don’t you model this for us?”  She said.  Every inch of my body cringed.  I couldn’t. I was ‘too big’.  I finally managed to murmur. “I don’t think it will fit.”  “Why don’t you try it and see.”

I went into the bathroom and slipped the suit off the hanger.  It was gray wool with rabbit fur lining on the sleeves. I began to put it on.  Praying that it would fit.  My sister pulled up the zipper and sure enough! It fit! I come back out in the gray suit.  The lady placed a matching little hat on my head and handed me some gloves.  I felt so glamorous! I joined the line of models and this time went strutting out and twirled, a smile beaming on my face.

That may have seemed like a very long story to you.  And maybe it was.  But then you don’t know the courage it took to write it. I have modeled several times since then.  Each time, I still cringe a little.  Each time, I think to myself ‘Why are you doing this?  You’re fat remember.’  But when I slip into those beautiful vintage clothes I don’t feel fat anymore.

I’m still not a size 2.  I’m still not a gorgeous blond with a dazzling smile. I’m still big. I guess to some I’m still ‘fat’. But that is not what matters.  That’s not what beauty really is.  Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; these things are beautiful.  As St. Peter puts it “let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit.” The hidden person of the heart.  The heart within the shell. That is where beauty comes from.

There’s a word in Russian ‘Krasivaya’. It means beautiful, but strong. Unique. I believe that it is the unique qualities, their strength of character, which makes a person beautiful.

My favorite thing to draw is people.  I love to study people’s unique qualities.  Their individual beauty.  I love to find it and bring it out. I love to discover their Krasivaya. For there is beauty everywhere. In the big things and the little. The tiny flower, or the strong tree.  Everything has a unique beauty; if you only learn to find it.

So yes, I’m big!  Big as in ample.  Big as in considerable.  Big as in beautiful.

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