Hey readers, I’m Charlotte!
I’m 34 and live in sunny Cleethorpes by the coast! My fashion fear relates to my weight and how those fears have shaped my life over the years to be where I am now.
For as long as I can remember I have always been a ‘big girl’ taller and broader than other children when I was at school, I also matured a lot earlier than others my age.
I was in primary school still when I noticed my body changing, stretch marks hitting and an increased weight gain. I came from a big Yorkshire family that loved their food and I wasn’t sporty or into fitness so weight was always something I have been conscious of as far back as I can remember. Family used to say I was ‘Bonny’ which tended to mean chubby but cute.
By the time I hit my teenage years and friends started to go shopping every Saturday, I was a size 14.
I used to cringe as my friends hit the rails in Topshop.
Nothing fit me so all I could do was admire them telling each other how amazing that dress looked!
As a condolence I hit the make up stores and there started my love affair with nails! I loved being creative and I could create amazing nails that my friends could all comment on about how fab they were. It fast became my ‘thing’. I did my friends nails before we went to the local youth club at the weekend and this love for nails carried on throughout my life as I piled on more weight and continued to struggle. Aged 15 I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome which also meant it would be harder to maintain a healthy weight.
I left school and went to do A levels in textiles, art and business as my dream was to own my own business and become a designer, in spite of my love hate relationship with clothes and shopping, I loved being creative.
I dreamed of living in Notting Hill and having my own fashion ranges.
I asked for a sewing machine at Christmas and used to make my own clothes, finally I had clothes I liked that actually fit!
Unfortunately, I didn’t get on with college so I left after a year and when I was 17 I was offered a job at Next as an apprentice. I loved fashion and thought this would be great to get an insight into retail and the fashion industry, only there was one problem. They sent me the details and you HAD to wear Next clothes (which they gave you a budget for) at that time Next only went up to a size 18 and I was a size 20 by then. The day before I was supposed to start, I called and told them I had another job. I was too embarrassed to say that their clothes wouldn’t fit me. I was gutted that my weight had stopped me from a great opportunity but at just 18 I would have been humiliated admitting the problem.
After this I pretty much gave up on my dreams, I worked in a chip shop and moved in with my boyfriend aged 17. I piled on more weight and did numerous dead end factory work before I was surprised aged 19 to find out I was 17 weeks pregnant! Because of my weight and my PCOS I didn’t have periods so I was very shocked to find out I was to become a mum.
I had my son but when he was 6 months old his dad suddenly left. I found myself as a single young mum on benefits with no prospects and my confidence was at an all-time low, I was overweight, had little qualifications and really didn’t know what I was going to do with my life. I knew I could do more and because I had my son it spurred me on to want better for him. Sometimes its easier to do things for others instead of yourself.
During this time I joined different direct sales companies, which enabled me to gain an income and it gave me a taste of running my own business being self-employed. The ones I loved were makeup and nail products, I still had the love for doing my nails which was always something I did when I felt low or stressed to take some time out for myself. When my son was 22 months old I decided to go back to college. Luckily enough although I had a lack of A levels the tutor was willing to take a chance on me and in September 2007 I started a business management degree. For the first time I was back on track to achieving my goals!
By June 2010 I had reconciled with my son’s dad and had graduated, we planned to marry in the August, and I had big dreams of gaining a great job in business management!
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find work and ended up back in a factory, but I started my own business on the side in the hopes I could be my own boss. I learnt everything about what I was doing, I practiced, I read blogs, I taught myself how to make a website, SEO and online marketing. Ecommerce was just starting to become a big thing and I started selling makeup, nail polish and accessories online.
But life had other ideas, my marriage lasted 6 months after a missed miscarriage and a D&C.
I fell into a dark pit and was the heaviest I had ever been.
Throughout this time I always managed to do my nails each week to perk me up, it was the only thing I could do that didn’t cost a lot and fashion still depressed me.
Once again unemployed and wondering what to do with my life, I started volunteering at a local private teaching company, my confidence was nowhere to be seen but somehow volunteering there without any pressure or expectation really helped to build my confidence. My supervisor noticed how great I was with the students and I realised I loved it, so I completed my PGCE at night school and gained a job as a full-time teacher. In the period that follows I taught numerous subjects to disengaged teenagers but I kept coming back to the same thing; the realisation that painting my nails made me feel good and gave me confidence. I had to try and find a way of combining my love for nails and the way they made me feel with a way of making money.
I decided to complete a nail technician qualification in my spare time and started doing nails on an evening and weekend. I loved helping other women to get beautiful nails and it was then that I knew there were so many women like me who loved to have pretty nails, I saw just how much more confidence they gained a result of having great nails. I met women from many walks of life, some overweight like me, some with mental health problems, some with very little confidence.
I loved seeing how pretty nails helped them in even just a little way.
Fast forward to 2016 when on maternity leave with my second son I decided that it was about time I followed my passion and start my own business full time. Looking for something I loved, and others loved it had to be nails! I wanted to empower other women to learn a new skill, get creative and take time out to pamper themselves and nails was something anyone could learn!
In June 2017 I opened Gel Nail Box; a direct sales company to help others earn and run their own business. Finally, I could offer other women fashion that didn’t depend on weight, something that can make them feel good and gain compliments too!
I still struggle with my weight and likely always will, but I’ve finally realised that you don’t need to be scared of fashion, I have gained confidence from my teaching days and from seeing how I have helped other women. These days there are so many more options for us larger ladies and ones that are fashionable. In the past I let my weight stop me from many opportunities but now I have finally got my dream of running my own business with products that don’t have a size. Best of all; my nails always look good and the confidence that gives me is amazing.
I know there are lots of ladies that will read Charlottes story and identify with it. I myself, found it a fascinating read because I only know the succesful, business owning, entrepreneurial Charlotte who on the surface appears to have everything under control. I love it that she has found a way of battling her demons and coming out the other side on top. If anyone wants to connect with Charlotte or buy some very lovely Gel Nail Polish you should pop over to Gel Nail Box.
Charlottes story is episode 4 of my Fashion ~ Fear serial; I have had some lovely feed back on the series so far so if you have enjoyed reading this please do take a moment to leave a comment below.
I am still looking for other inspirational ladies to come forward and share how they have used Fashion in some way to overcome their fears. It doesn't matter what your fear is or how you have overcome it, by sharing you might be able to help someone else. For more information on the series and to express an interest in writing a Guest Blog please email firstname.lastname@example.org.