My Journey to Inside Out Congruency

I broke up with style more than 20 years ago because…

  • I couldn't figure out what style box I fit into (classic, preppy, outdoorsy, hippie?)
  • I didn’t have enough money to shop at the popular stores
  • I had “big thighs and small boobs,” so clothes didn’t fit me
  • I was a mess and would never figure it out anyway.

So I accepted a life of beige yoga pants, fleece, and sensible brown shoes. And I became invisible. I lost my voice, I lost my laugh. And I was convinced that something was wrong with me.

It wasn’t until the birth of my daughter, 12 years ago, that things started to shift. She was born with a host of medical issues, so I quit my job and became a full-time medical mama.

One of the ways I would process the stress of having a medically complicated child was to walk. I would put her in her buggy and walk for hours every single day.

There was a thrift shop on my walking loop, and I would stop there daily, just because it gave me something to do. I had no idea the treasures that could be found in a thrift store! Fancy brands for just a couple of bucks? I couldn’t believe it. Now that I had access to all the “good brands,” I started buying all kinds of clothes, in all kinds of different styles, sure that I’d finally be able to identify “my style.”

I had always been surprised that on one day, I’d get dressed, and feel cool, calm, and collected, and like my body was the perfect body ... and then, the very next day, feel like a hot mess, and like my body was a problem. My body wasn’t changing from day to day. Could it be that the clothes were affecting how I felt, not just in my body, but in my heart?

So I started studying the clothes. I learned that certain silhouettes worked with my body’s shape, while other silhouettes fought against it. I realized that color mattered. And that some clothes connected me to something powerful inside of me, and others just felt disconnected, like a costume.

When I hit it, I’d smile more, speak up more, laugh more. But I could never figure out what exactly “it” was.

Meanwhile, my 5-year-old daughter and I were getting into epic fights every single day,  because she didn’t like the clothes I was making her wear. She looked different than other kids, and I had beoame convinced that I could use style as a way to protect her. I couldn’t figure out what “it” was for me, but I thought I knew for sure what “it” was for her. I would dress in her in the sweetest cap-sleeve t-shirts and bootcut jeans you’ve ever seen, sure that her cutie-pie style would protect her from the stares. Except … she hated everything girlie that I put on her body.

She wanted to wear boy clothes. And it made me furious. Couldn’t she see I had come up with a plan to protect her?

And then one day, when she was six years old, she talked me into buying her a shirt and tie at the thrift shop. When we got home, she put on that shirt and tie, looked in the mirror, and took her own breath away. She ran across the dining room and said, “Mama, Mama, look how fast I can run!” Then she jumped high into the air and said, “Mama, Mama, look how much higher I can jump when I’m wearing a shirt and tie!”

And it hit me. She could run faster and jump higher when she was wearing clothes on the outside that matched who she was on the inside.

That was better than protection. It was empowerment. It was… Inside Out Congruency!

That was the “it.” That something powerful inside was my truth, my essence, my soul fire. It was who I was, beneath the layers of shame, hurt, and sadness.

I wasn’t protecting my daughter. I was displacing my own shame, hurt, and sadness onto her. I was preventing her from seeing and celebrating her own beauty. I was teaching her to abandon what she knew to be true about herself, and adopt other people’s expectations of who they thought she should be.

I didn’t need to change who I was to access my own confidence and joy. I just needed to know who I was, and change my darn pants. 

Stasia Savasuk, founder of Stasia’s Style School, is a personal stylist, dynamic teacher, and body-positivity advocate who believes that true style is an authentic reflection of who you are on the inside.

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