Fitting into your old clothes is not an achievement

Barbara Eden performs during the 'Life Ball 2013 - Show' at City Hall on May 25, 2013 in Vienna, Austria.

Barbara Eden performs during the 'Life Ball 2013 - Show' at City Hall on May 25, 2013 in Vienna, Austria. Photo: Getty images

Something happened to me the other day while shopping. I tried on a fitted black dress that I hoped to buy. It was on sale, so naturally they didn't have my size. As I shimmied my way into the smaller-than-usual sexy garment, I knew it was too tight. My reflection said the same thing. There was just enough boob roll encroaching on each underarm for me to say, "I'll take the trousers instead."

Once upon a time, I still would have bought the dress. I would have told the sales assistant it was nothing a few pump classes couldn't fix, and stashed it away in my wardrobe hoping a day would come when it fit.

I've long since given up the dream of fitting into clothes that are too snug in shops. The same goes for clothes that used to fit me a decade ago. Back when I thought "tighter was hotter", I kept clothes from my 18-year-old heyday hanging up, just in case, I dunno, I took up boxercise and came out looking like a model.

Barbara Eden in her 'I Dream of Jeannie' costume circa 1967.

Barbara Eden in her 'I Dream of Jeannie' costume circa 1967. Photo: Silver Screen Collection

Life experience and a good dose of maturity has taught me there's no need for women to have a specially designated drawer for "things that used to look amazing on me". The only purpose it serves is a reminder that we used to be younger and skinner in the past – and thus more attractive.


Thankfully, I now believe this is utter bollocks. Which is why it frustrates me immensely when I see celebrities like Barbara Eden, who emerged wearing her I Dream of Genie costume last week. At the age of 78 she dusted it off and donned it for a ball in Vienna, where media called her "sexy", "hot as ever" and "magic".

Cher did a similar thing in 2010, when she wore an updated version of her famous Turn Back Time outfit to the MTV Video Music Awards at age 64. And don't get me started on Madonna. She's wearing something smaller and tighter every time she steps out on stage.

Cher poses in the press room at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards in 2010.

Cher poses in the press room at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards in 2010. Photo: Getty images

But while there is an obvious motive behind celebrities squeezing into these outfits (to give their egos an injection or to garner some publicity), it's doing a great disservice to the rest of us. It's reiterating the unhealthy message that fitting into clothes from the past is an achievement. That the line "Look, it still fits!" is something we should all aim to utter.

This seems incredibly absurd to me, especially when you consider how normal it is to evolve in all other aspects of our lives. If we listened to the same music, wore the same make-up and even had the same fashion sense as our 20-year-old selves, it would all be rather comical (and colourful). But sport the same dress size? Well, that's something to be proud of. You go girl!

Dr Vivienne Lewis, clinical psychologist from the University of Canberra and author of Positive Bodies: Loving the Skin You're In, agrees we should ditch this mentality (along with the skinny jeans from our twenties).

"What we need to realise is that as we age, our bodies change and it's a normal part of life. We need to celebrate each stage and the wonderful things that come with getting older such as wisdom, knowledge, common sense.

"Some women will always want to look like they did as an adolescent,” she continues. "[But] women need to focus on quality of life, and that comes at a healthy weight and being comfortable with oneself inside and out."

That can be easier said than done, especially when you have people like Barbara Eden and Cher perpetuating the cycle with their midriffs in mainstream media. Not to mention the rest of Hollywood measuring success or failure by how much a woman weighs. As Dr Lewis says simply: "This isn't helpful."

So how do we break the cycle? In addition to the obvious (that is, chucking clothes that no longer fit into the local charity bin), we should look to older, successful women for inspiration and guidance. Women who've been judged by their intelligence, their contribution to society and their desire to make a difference – not by an outfit their waist might still look great in.

Can you imagine someone like Hillary Clinton dragging out a pair of old trousers and declaring that her derriere still fits into them? Nope, I didn't think so. And thank God for that.

If you are feeling dissatisfied with your body, you can seek assistance from the Australian Psychological Society. Visit