Minneapolis-based blogger addresses style and body image

Grace Palmer, Staff Writer

“I grew up totally hating my body and tried to diet it into submission to no avail,” said Sally McGraw, whose Minneapolis-based blog, Already Pretty, focuses on style and body image. This mentality may sound familiar to students at South. McGraw has cured this hatred for herself, not through liposuction or extreme dieting, but through style.

McGraw came upon style, both in clothing and as a sort of body confidence therapy, as somewhat of a coincidence when she didn’t know what else to do. “I just hit a wall and thought I can’t change what I’ve got and I’m not happy with it – now what.”

“[I realized] I didn’t actually need to change my body to feel good about it, if I changed how I dressed it and how I presented it,” she said. Because of this, McGraw turned towards style.

As she began refining the way she dressed, McGraw did not intend to share what she had done with anyone. “I had a co-worker a couple of years ago, [she] came to me and said, ‘I love the way you dress, I hate the way I dress, will you make me over?’” McGraw described. The same co-worker suggested that McGraw take the tips that she had given during the makeover and put them on a blog. “I thought, okay, I’ll give that a try.”

The self-esteem focus was with her from the very beginning. “I felt like all of the women in my life hated their bodies too, and none of us could figure out what to do about it … I had made this discovery for myself. If it would benefit other women then I wanted them to know about it too and I started thinking about it in those terms.”

Using a blog as a message lets McGraw reach many women, in different demographics and with different concerns. Over time, she said her writing has changed to reflect and encourage this diversity.

“[I] felt like I had a pretty good understanding of what diversity was – [I] didn’t, until I started getting feedback from the people that were reading.” Besides posting about her own style, she hosts guest posts from other bloggers with different focuses, like style for tall or mature women. Her weekly product recommendations cater to the suggestions of her readers, and reflect her audience. McGraw views blogging as a unique medium because it allows her to interact with her audience in this way.

The availability of style blogs have changed the relationship between ordinary women and fashion. “For many, many decades, style and fashion were top down systems where designers and editors made decisions about what was acceptable, and funneled that down to the masses who just took what they could get and made what they could of it.”  Blogs act as an intermediary between high fashion or magazines and the consumer, allowing women to see someone that they relate to, rather than a celebrity, and interpret and relate to clothing or trends.

“Everything about fashion used to be very expensive and aspirational. They wanted you to look at a Chanel handbag and think, oh maybe someday I can afford that,” McGraw said. Already Pretty, and blogs like it, break this down to some extent by bringing style to a common level and giving women someone they can relate to.

“With style blogs you can see women of all ages, all body shapes, all tax brackets and all ethnicities, and they’re all interpreting trends, or just style in general with their own bend,” said McGraw.  “And I think that democratizes style to some extent. I think people really like that because they’ve felt excluded for a really long time.”

This inclusion is important to McGraw, as she thinks a woman gaining confidence in her style can be empowering. This does not mean that style should be the sole concern, or even a main one. However, according to McGraw, “Our external appearance is the first thing people see about us. It may not be the most important piece of information we give to people, but it’s the first.” Building up confidence in one’s style can allow women to “get on with whatever their life’s work really is,” McGraw said.

The intersection of body image and fashion is relevant to high schoolers.  Due to the amount of time that they’ve had to work for it, many high school students are still developing their style. There also seems to be risks associated with changing your style in high school.

“High school is a very compressed time,” said McGraw. “Everyone is stuck together, and if you verge too far from the norm you may take some flack for it. There are risks associated, for sure.”

McGraw recommends changing what one is wearing a little bit at a time

“Ease them into it,” she said. “Ease yourself into it, too. Start slow, and have some snappy comebacks in your pocket.”

Most students are working on a budget, so McGraw recommends thrift stores. “The Twin Cities thrift scene is phenomenal. There’s so much great stuff out there, and it’s cheap and it allows you to experiment with style,” she said.

As for so-called fashion rules, McGraw encourages people to look at them critically. “Take what applies to you and leave the rest behind,” she said.  “You don’t have to wear what everyone else is wearing just because they say you do. You can find things that work for you and look great in them.”

McGraw found this connection between happiness, confidence, and style and wanted to share it with “anybody who feels awful about her body.” Starting her blog has allowed her to spread her message, and play a role in changing many women’s views on style.

“You can tell people a lot about yourself by the choices you make about the way you dress, and as an adult human being you’re in control of it. Nobody is dressing you. You’re in the driver’s seat – what is it you want to show the world about yourself? You can use style to say those things.”