Author: Natalee Woods
Publisher: Amberjack Publishing
Goodreads Rating: 4/5
Content Warnings: Cancer, Sexism, Transphobia, Body image difficulties, self-harm, disordered eating, death
Purchased or Received Copy: Received a free copy from Netgalley
Natalee Woods spent years as a professional bra fitter in a high-end department store. Her job put her in a position where she saw women in quite possibly the most vulnerable position they could be in. Either topless or completely naked, Woods had to find ways to immediately gain her clients’ trust. Over more than a decade, Woods kept her clients in her mind and channeled their strengths in her own life.
Most of the book follow individual clients that Woods had and their experiences together. Gladys was a recent widower wanting to remain sexy in her golden years. Ashley was a teenager struggling with her body image, refusing to look at herself in the mirror. Claire was a transgender woman enjoying her new post-top surgery body and wanting to look as good as she felt. Those were just the clients that I remembered off the top of my head. Pretty much every chapter features a new client and Woods’ memories of her.
Woods describes her clients, warts and all. I lost track of the number of times that Woods described the large amount of breast tissue trying to cram into a bra several cup sizes too small. I don’t doubt that she saw a lot of people trying to wear a bra that was much too small, I just found that a little odd. It seems like Woods is trying to go for an empowering message for women, and she talks about her own self-image issues. I’m just not quite sure if that message comes across when she points out every bulge and roll. It’s one thing for larger people to learn to love their bodies and focus on health for health’s sake rather than health for weight loss. But on the other hand it’s hard to ignore the difficulty in self-image that often comes with larger bodies. Yes, there are examples of very thin people, but most of the time the most detailed descriptions were of larger bodies. I might be biased because I am a larger person myself, but Woods’ approach to body image and weight was a weak point in the book.
Still, I loved how Woods described the conversations that she had with her clients. Hindsight probably changed the actual words, but I can feel the gratitude that Woods feels for having met these people. Full Support: Lessons Learned in the Dressing Room draws its greatest strength from that human interaction. Woods tells the stories of her human interactions with other people in incredibly vulnerable, exposed positions.
Woods bares her own vulnerabilities as well as her clients’ and coworkers’. During her time working in retail, she struggled with her career path and her sense of self and self-esteem. Towards the end of the book, she talks about her father Larry’s death and the immediate aftermath. She moved from Los Angeles, California to Seattle, Washington to be with him during a crisis of identity. That was coincidentally before his cancer diagnosis and death. It seems like even as she wrote Full Support she felt the pain from her father’s death.
Overall, Full Support: Lessons Learned in the Dressing Room is a story of emotional vulnerability and growth. Woods remembers the people for whom a properly-fitting bra was empowering and affirming. She also remembers the ways that people’s confidence inspired her to love herself more. Overall, this was a personal story of an emotional journey that the author is still traveling to this day.