Subscribe to Lemonada Premium for Bonus Content

it took me a long time to realize that clothing could be a creative and fulfilling way to express myself. here’s why i think it’s an underrated element of self-esteem.



Jennette McCurdy

Jennette McCurdy  00:00

I want to talk about style.


Jennette McCurdy  00:21

Sometimes I do live shows and I’ll say like, I grew up white trash people, like, oh, like, as if I’m saying something awful or something like, it’s just what it was. So I grew up white trash, and excuse me have a bit of a cold, that’s why it sounds so much like I have a bit of a cold. So I grew up white trash and just by nature of that always was around people who had not great style, namely, you know, my mom, the way I can describe my mom’s style best is that she’s like Erin Brockovich, you know, where it’s like, never appropriate for whatever the setting is, there’s always a little too much legs showing when there shouldn’t be a little too much cleavage showing when there shouldn’t be. And just like tacky clothes. Didn’t things that don’t really go together. Just confusing. Also, I think, in retrospect, something about how my mom dressed was that she was dressing to hide her insecurities as opposed to expressing herself. That’s kind of going to be the main theme that we’re getting at here. So I saw my mom’s attire, I saw also people from church who were very different from that, and in the not necessarily better way, you know, they’ve got the prairie skirts in the turtleneck tops like year round. So these Mormons would dress in a kind of more money way. And then there’s the white trash people around who dressed in a white trash way, there’s my mom who really exemplified that. So I didn’t have a great example for how to dress. As a kid, I very much dressed like a kid, you know, really just my brothers had hand me downs, because there are three of them, I was the only girl so I would get, you know, my mom would give me stuff from Old Navy, or pick and save, or, you know, the Target clearance section, things like that was where I was getting my style, and you don’t expect a kid to have style, right? So by my teen years, when my body starts developing, I really it, really developed over my 16th year, that’s when I started finding, you know, curves for the first time before then it was really just flat as a board, nothing to be found. Then all sudden, breasts started bursting out and my ass started getting more womanly, and my thought I just started having my hips expanded, I just started having more womanly curves. And I was so ashamed of those curves, I didn’t feel any. I was shocked at the way that other girls around me who had been developing for years at that point, like I knew girls who were developing at 9, 10, 11 like, I was the last of them to start sprouting out. But I felt so much shame, I didn’t want to show that I had breasts, I wished that I didn’t have breasts, I hated having breasts. And so I would try to dress to cover them up, I would try to wear things that hid my shape as much as possible. And in hiding my shape, I was not flattering my shape at all, so then it would just kind of balloon out and then my mom started commenting on that, you know, you look hefty and that you looked at you you make your she’d go you you’re making yourself look too heavy or making yourself look like a balloon. You know, just all kinds of weird things, you look like a bear and then it’s like, you know, Mom-isms mom sayings. So then she would try to, quote unquote, help me and she would find things for me to wear that were more that were like the things that she wore of it when she was when she was younger. Sexual, just things that were more sexual. And I was so uncomfortable with it. And the weird thing was that my mom then became really critical of it, so she didn’t like when I dressed in a way that she said look like a balloon or a hippo or bear are too big or you know, wide or whatever she would call me that day. She didn’t like that, so then she would want me to dress more sexual would literally pick out the clothes and choose my outfit and dress and half the time dress me herself, peeling the clothes off of my body putting the clothes on my body. She would do all that and then say, where’s my little girl? Where’s my little girl? Oh, she’d cry, sometimes sob sometimes like really, really good […] like really intense that level of sobbing? And I’m thinking, what am I supposed to do, I’m already feeling shame about having these body parts, these newly formed extensions of my body, right? I’m already feeling the shame of that. And kind of a sinfulness of that, because of my Mormon background, and because of my mom’s messaging to me growing up, and because of my own inherent narratives and beliefs, so I’m already feeling so much shame, and discomfort and guilt about my body. And then she’s making it worse by saying, you know, it’s basically down if you do damned if you don’t, on the one hand, I look like a balloon, so then she dresses me a different way, and then I’m not her little girl anymore. I couldn’t win that my mom’s hit with cancer and starts playing less of a significant role in my life. And yet these just this difficult relationship with clothing is not healing, it’s not getting better, it’s not changing just by not having my mom in my ear every three seconds. I’m still feeling like all dress for my sexuality to maybe attract a guy that I want to date but then I’ll still feel like a little girl inside and feel really guilty about wrestling that way and odd and like I’m in a body that’s not my own.


Jennette McCurdy  06:22

Like I hadn’t adjusted to having a woman’s body even though it was in my in my, you know, late late teens, it’s still all felt so awkward and wrong to me, frankly.


Jennette McCurdy  06:35

And then my mom dies in my my relationship with clothing, still is is confused. And I don’t think I had recognized that clothing could be something different that it could be something fun that it could be something playful that it could be something creative and expressive and an enjoyable and fulfilling. Until eating disorder recovery. I think there were so many gifts from eating disorder recovery. So many biggest one being the obvious, not having an eating disorder anymore. But there were other great gifts as well. Using my body for enjoyment rather than really abusing it, you know, just overcompensate taury exercise, all of that went out the window, and then I just walk honestly, now I just walked that’s all they do, it’s what’s fun, for me, it’s what I enjoy occasionally, I’ve done some little workout videos on YouTube, or like stretching videos, but it’s really just, it’s just what I want what feels right to my body, putting things in my body that feel right to it in whatever any given moment, whatever that means. And then this which is finding a sense of style, and enjoying the creative outlet of that sense of style.


Jennette McCurdy  08:26

I don’t think it would have been possible for me to have a sense of style. And appreciate, you know, putting together an outfit and finding something that really feels like me, and unique to me and my sensibility. I couldn’t have done any of that. If I would have still been in the eating disorder, I don’t think it’s possible because I think that that, you know, dysfunctional unhealthy relationship to food and body is really counterproductive to having any sort of creative expression in it, right? Like they’re kind of the opposites as I think about it, there’s dysfunction, chaos, you know, just turmoil on the one hand and then the other hand is creative expression and growth and flow and enjoyment, and beauty. And they’re they completely cancel at one another, I think so, I kicked the eating disorder and then I started experimenting with clothes. I started asking myself what feels right on my body what feels great to me. I would keep track of my outfits and then rate them at the end of each day based on how I felt wearing them did I feel my most comfortable, my most confident and if not something would need to change. I went through my entire closet oh, I love this exercise, if it wasn’t a 9 or 10 it left, I this that was one of the first things I did with my closet actually because my closet went down to like, I mean it was time I probably had 20 items all together for a time because that was sadly what I was left with when I considered you know what, what makes to feel good and confident at versus what was just, you know, hiding insecurity, etc. So I did the only 9 and 10s exercise, I also did a at some point, once I had accumulated more things, I did the 90 day rule, which is if you haven’t worn it in the last night, and I actually, this is a rule that I still keep from my closet but if you haven’t worn in the last 90 days, and I’m not going to wear in the next 90 days it goes. I’m sure you guys have this where you like you look in your closet. This is like the cliche, right? You look in your closet, it’s stuffed full, and you’re like, oh, I’ve got nothing to wear it, yeah so because you have clothes that A. serve a previous version of yourself, B. you never liked in the first place and got to for you know any of the reasons I’ve listed in this episode, and you secretly resent those items of clothing, or C. I haven’t thought of it, I don’t know what C is, I’m not a clue what C, is it’s gonna be A and B, let’s just say that. Oh, you know, another thing I loved to find my sense of style was capsule wardrobes. If I had to pinpoint one tool as being the most helpful for me, finding a sense of style and feeling great, and what I wear all the time, it would be the capsule wardrobe, I would do a weekly one, I would pick 10 items. I forget what it was. Now maybe it was like three, four pants, it was probably four pants, four tops, and two pairs of shoes, or like three pants, three tops, two pairs of shoes and two pieces of outerwear, something like that, and I probably alternated depending on the season. But I would choose those pieces. And then I would only wear those pieces throughout the course of a week, which really helped me to think more creatively about what pairs with what and envision pieces in different ways than I had necessarily envisioned them from the get go, it helps me get the most use out of my clothing and the big Tada that I’m working toward here. Because I feel like a nice place to end as a Tada is that I dressed myself for the entire the entire bookstore that I did for I’m glad my mom died for all the press stuff for all the colleges, I picked out all my own own outfits addressed myself. And my god, is that some hilarious now as I’m saying it out loud, I dress myself like, okay, preschooler, congratulations, good job. But  really, you know, it’s tough to do, it’s a hard thing to do. There are many people who are paid many dollars to style people professionally, and I completely understand why I think it’s really difficult to nail a look. And I’m not saying I nailed everyone, but I do think I really expressed myself and what I was feeling during that phase and what I wanted to express during the book tour, which something that was very important to me was to not show, really any skin. I feel that oftentimes in my youth I was really I’m wary of using the language I’m about to use, because I know how press outlets get and how eager they are to pick up words like the ones I’m about to say, but it’s also the the truest way I can express it, I felt sexually exploited in a lot of the clothes that people chose for me to wear. And since the book was my choice, and what I wanted to do, and you know, the first thing that I put out into the world that was completely and fully mine, I really wanted my clothing to reflect that. And in a way kind of be a fuck you to the past. You know, I wore loud things, bright things, but fully covered all the time. And I fucking loved it, I loved every bit of it. And the things that I wear in my regular life are a bit different, but I love those just the same. I am proud of my sense of style, that’s the thing I never thought I’d be able to say anything that I’ve worked really hard to come to. And I think that I genuinely hope to encourage other people to do, I think it’s an important and underrated element of self esteem and self confidence. I really do, it’s like, I think people, you know, wrongly attribute a sense of style to vanity. And I think it’s something that runs much deeper than that. And that’s that’s much more human and an important. All right, that’s all for now stepping off my soapbox, bye.


CREDITS  14:34

If you want more Hard Feelings, you’re in luck. You’ve got options. On Apple podcasts, there’s bonus content for subscribers with Lemonada premium, you can hear me answer exclusive questions from listeners. on Spotify. You can talk to each other by leaving comments on each episode and on Amazon music. You can listen ad free with a subscription to Amazon Prime. I’m Jeanette McCurdy, the creator, executive producer and host of hard feelings. It’s produced by Lemonada Media in coordination with Happy Rage productions. Our production team is Kegan Zema, Aria Bracci and Brian Castillo. Music is by Hannah’s Brown. Steve Nelson is Lemonada’s Vice President of weekly content. Rachel Neil is Lemonada Senior Director of new content. Executive Producers are Stephanie Wittels Wachs, Jessica Cordova Kramer and me. Listen ad free on Amazon music with your Prime membership.

Spoil Your Inbox

Pods, news, special deals… oh my.