I think it’s safe to say most of us women have a love/hate relationship with our bodies. As we grow older and our bodies change through puberty, weight changes, pregnancies, and just aging in general, our confidence (body positive) ebbs and flows through each cycle. Creating Sweetlees Boutique and connecting with our community of women customers who can relate to one another has made me appreciate and love my body all over again. I no longer feel so alone with my self-image issues and can empathize with my customers’ frustrations when shopping for well-fitted, flattering, and fashionable clothing. Each piece I select for my store passes my line of questioning: Is it long enough to cover problem areas? Does it provide stretch? Will women wearing either a size small and a size 3X look great and feel good? For me, owning Sweetlees Boutique isn’t just a plan to follow my dreams of entrepreneurship; it’s also a safe space for women to feel comfortable and confident in our clothing.
How It All Started-
I first remember hating my body in 8th grade. I was changing clothes in front of a friend, and when I sat down my belly made rolls (like most people, right?!). She laughed, mocked my belly with her own, flatter belly.. trying to imitate the look of mine. I’d really never cared or even paid attention to how my belly had extra fat, how when I sat down it folded over the top of my pants, or how the evidence of abs was nonexistent. While out to lunch with my first love in the college dorms, we were enjoying what I thought was a sweet, quiet moment together when he started laughing hysterically. Of course, I wanted to know what was funny and joined in with the laughing, seeing the joy on his face. He pointed to the salt shaker, the ivory, opaque, mass-produced generic salt shaker, and said that color reminded him of my stomach. I wore a size 4 jean, which was the biggest I’d worn in my life. I flashbacked to the insecurities I felt in school and here was my love, also shaming me.
As I got older, my body image (body positive) insecurities transformed, and at some points in my life, it overpowered everything. The weight I gained after getting married, after working so hard to lose weight prior to the wedding. The weight I gained from medications. The stretch marks on my body after having my first child. The shape of my breasts. The extra skin on my belly after a c-section. My big toe. On and on and on they came, each new insecurity compounded on top of old ones until it got to the point when I looked in the mirror, I hated everything I saw.
When Everything Changed-
Opening my boutique gave me clarity through the eyes of my customers. My mirror selfie, the one where you can see my muffin top and my hand looks giant? They just see a cute shirt. That close-up of my face with my fat chins? They see a pair of trendy earrings. I learned to love myself, my body shape and feel body positive because I’m shaped just the way I’m supposed to be shaped!
Nearly every woman that comes into our store absolutely despises something about themselves. They hate their arms, the way their back looks, their thighs, their fat knees (what?!), how their ears droop, on and on and on. And, do you know what I see? I see a beautifully radiant woman who carries her head high, who owns a business, who is a mother and a wife and a well-respected member of our community.
Own Your Own Boutique?
So, how can you connect with your own customers? Start out by being honest. We all know the perfectly lit social media pictures are not even close to a “normal” reality. So, let’s stop pretending we are trying to fit that mold! If you can share your own insecurities with your customers and explain why you like wearing these jeans for your body-type (the high rise hides your c-section pooch, pocket placement lifts your booty, the inseam is perfect for your height), you’re instilling consumer confidence. You’re solving a problem rather than making a sale. Spreading a body positive message is everything!
I also combine all sizes together. Nothing can make a person feel more ashamed than being excluded from the status quo. What’s a more inclusive gesture than showing all customers we belong together than organizing your store by style rather than size?
We also use local women from our community in all shapes and sizes as models. From hairdressers to stay-at-home moms, we love showing them off in our clothing.
Remember, Your Worth is not Defined by your Body Size or Shape
When I’m getting ready and my 2 year old sees my belly, she pats it and says “pretty belly!!” My heart swells and I think about all of those things my belly has been through – delicious meals, fasting, exotic foods, starvation, and most importantly.. growing my three miracles of life. It’s not easy remembering to appreciate your body, I know. Try to see yourself through the eyes of a stranger – you are built exactly the way you’re meant to be built. You, yourself, are a miracle. Your worth is not defined by your body size or shape. Let your style accentuate your beauty. You’re exactly the way you’re supposed to be.
Cori Thackery quit her teaching job and began Sweetlees Boutique in her home over 4 years ago. As the online business grew, she moved it out of her home into a warehouse, and eventually into a brick & mortar shop on the town square. She wholeheartedly believes in her tagline, ‘Fashion for everyBODY,’ and strives to make her boutique appealing to women of all sizes.
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