The first things that come to mind when I think of Las Vegas are pools surrounded young, thin, beautiful women in tiny bikinis being oogled by young men during the day and clubs filled with these same young women in skin tight dresses and sky high heels at night. In reality, Vegas is much more diverse than that. The streets, casinos, restaurants, and pools are filled with people of all shapes, sizes, and ages. On my annual trip to this surreal city this year, I was anxious to see if I would get the same kind of reactions to some of my favorite style looks as I do at home. I packed my bags full of custom made dresses from Eshakti.com, modern pieces from Igigi.com, and classic jackets from Lane Bryant in anticipation of spending 10 days in the city on business and on pleasure. Much to my delight, men and women who were complete strangers responded to my looks with compliments leaving me feeling encouraged about the move toward body acceptance in the US.
My husband first noticed that my style was attracting the attention of men and women alike as we walked and shopped our way from Treasure Island through the Fashion Show Mall our first weekend in town. He kept noting that people were staring at me and he couldn’t quite figure out why. Being all too familiar with my unique style, he was feeling a little perplexed and agitated at first and then the compliments started coming. Not once during our trip did we see anyone in anything even similar to what I was wearing, which I imagine is part of the reason for the unusual attention.
Upon my husband’s departure on Sunday morning, I decided to brave a solo trip to the pool for a much need soak in the hot tub. I could see the area from my room window and it look pretty deserted since it was still morning. Figuring the worst thing that could happen would be some snide comment, I set out to find my swimming suit. I’m really not sure what I was thinking when I packed, but didn’t bring any kind of cover up. Quickly assessing my options in the closet, I opted to slip on a black knit knee length skirt and hot pink cardigan over my black and white polka dot swimming suit and my favorite slides. Sunglasses perched on top my head and room key card in hand, I headed to the pool. I felt pretty confident in the look I put together as I headed through the casino to the pool. It looked resort casual and didn’t draw any strange looks.
Arriving at the pool, I grabbed a towel from the towel desk. Much to my delight, they were nice big towels designed to cover a lounge chair instead of those tiny ones you typically see in hotels. I found a lounge chair in the second row near the hot tub and slipped off my skirt, cardigan, and shoes and made my way to the hot tub are with my towel. There were a few people already in this huge outdoor hot tub including a couple of older men, three older women, a young couple, and two kids. They made for a nice sampling of all kinds of body shapes, ages, and levels of fitness. I found a nice spot in the shade so I didn’t get sunburned and relaxed. Everyone pretty much kept to themselves, so I took a good look around the pool area to see what kinds of people were there. The stereotypical image I had held in my head quickly vanished as I noticed that everywhere I looked were simply real people enjoying themselves of this warm, sunny morning. About a quarter of the crowd was made up of curvy women like myself wearing a mixture of one-piece suits, tankinis, and bikinis. And you know what? No one was staring at anyone with a disapproving look or appeared to be gossiping about them. In fact, a smile or two passed between some of the curvy women I observed as they walked past each other – perhaps a quiet bit of support and approval. While this wasn’t my first time wearing my swimming suit in a big public place, it was the first time I was completely alone. It proved to be a good experience. Sometimes being alone makes us feel very vulnerable and even fearful. But I really wasn’t there all alone because I was in the good company of lots of other people just as perfectly imperfect as me. I left the pool that day feeling good about people in general.
The week days were filled with conference sessions and networking events. One of the things I always love about conferences is the opportunity to build new friendships. This trip provided plenty of opportunities for just that. I met some delightful women and men alike this year. I kept my weekday attire to professional looks mostly, so I wasn’t expecting anyone to take much notice of them. Mid week though, I was treated to style compliments from a group of very savvy women all looking fabulous themselves. It really came as quite a surprise to me since these types of compliments are seldom shared in this kind of environment. I did have one really interesting experience with this small group of women though related to body acceptance. There were four of us one morning walking in from the conference shuttle to breakfast together enjoying some female camaraderie in a vast room filled primarily with men. We represented a variety of sizes; at first glance I guessed we spanned a size range from 10 to 22 and an age range of 35-55. This is where the compliment came in, one of the other women on the higher end of this size range complimented my clothes and I shared with her that the dresses I had been wearing were mostly from Eshakti.com and were made to custom size since she too looked like finding a great fit off the rack might be challenging. I also noted that I thought they offered from size 8 to 34 or so. One of the other women commented they thought that was great as it’s so hard for most women to get a good fit, but that she was miraculously lucky to fit a standard size 12 off the rack for sheath style dresses. Myself and the other larger woman commented how lucky she was and the third stated she was a size 4. This statement seemed a bit out of place in the conversation but we tried to move on. And then she shanghaied the conversation and turned it to be about how much weight she had lost, showing everyone a composite before and after shot of herself, and going on and on about how sick she had been before she lost the weight and stopped eating breads and sugar and so on. (Please note that we were all eating bagels or breads for breakfast since this all that was available.) Our wonderfully supportive conversation turned negative very quickly as the other larger woman felt a need to justify her good health at her weight according to her doctor and detail her efforts to exercise and loose weight. The woman who said she fit a size 12 got up and left feeling so uncomfortable and saddened by the conversation. I stayed to try to support the other woman who felt she needed to defend herself. This need by the woman who lost weight to make herself seem better than the rest of us put an end to our little group beyond that morning. It was sad. While I was happy for this woman since she had improved her health, I was also saddened by her need to compare herself to the rest of us. While her body may be slim, I don’t think she’s in a really good place yet mentally with her body and I feel for her. I spoke with the woman who rated herself as a size 12 later on and she revealed how upset she was by where this other woman took the conversation and how she wanted to wrap the larger woman in a huge blanket of support. This led to a big discussion between us about our frustration with women who feel a need to tear other women down to make themselves feel better and how in a world that does us all enough damage this needs to stop. I couldn’t agree more and was thrilled when she shared her idea for creating a support network for women. Supporting each other is so fundamental to our universal success that her idea can’t help but be a success. I walked away from this conference feeling more determined than ever to support this movement of body acceptance.
Time for just my husband and I to enjoy each other’s company is precious and so very limited with our professions, so I was really looking forward to our second weekend together alone. Before this trip, it had been 10 months since we had some quality us time, so I wanted to look my very best for him. I saved some of my personal favorites for our second weekend in Vegas since we had plans to attend a Cirque show, take in some fine dining, and party a bit. Plus, I always like to end a trip on a high note! I must admit, I took great pleasure in seeing the look on his face as he received compliments about the woman on his arm. No matter how good I feel about how I look, there’s always something uniquely delightful about receiving a compliment from a stranger. We also made a trip to the pool as a couple during this weekend and for a second time, nothing crazy happened, no one stared, and no disapproving comments were heard. [On another note, contrary to what the commercials of late would have you believe, people with Psoriasis also can go out in public uncovered without causing disruption. My husband has had this skin condition as long as I’ve known him and from time to time we do run into an uninformed person or two that thinks it’s some kind of open wound and/or contagious. But unlike the commercials, I’m not for my husband taking a drug that is known to cause cancer to temporarily minimize the appearance of these flaky patches of skin that eventually resolve themselves.]
Here is a look at the outfits that drew the most compliments during this trip:
Looking at these, my signature style is pretty clear. I love the colors red, black, and white. A v-neck or sweetheart neckline is my preference to flatter my smaller bustline. A full skirt works really well over my full hips. I love statement necklaces! I will admit, though I intended to wear these strappy sandals while traveling, I most often traded them in for the slides or black flats since I did a lot of walking and being older and wiser, I’m just not into punishing my feet anymore.