Embracing a bolder, sassier me

Reporter Clara Lock puts her fears and clothes aside for a boudoir photography session.
Reporter Clara Lock puts her fears and clothes aside for a boudoir photography session. PHOTO: THE BOUDOIR PHOTOGRAPHER

Like most women, I am well practised at masking the parts of my body I dislike. Black shift dresses, which I wear almost daily, conceal stretch marks on my buttocks and stubborn lower belly fat that will not budge no matter how many leg raises I do.

Baring it all for a boudoir shoot seems foolhardy. But when I meet Mrs Carolyn Soemarjono of The Boudoir Photographer, I learn that I am not alone in my fears.

"Most women are worried about how they look versus what they see in magazines or social media," says the 50-year-old mother of three, pointing at her own "thick" waist and telling me she needs to lose weight.

To me, she looks wonderful. Perhaps we are indeed most critical of ourselves.

I tell myself this in the weeks leading up to my shoot, when I dig out never-worn lingerie from my wardrobe that I promised myself I would wear after I slimmed down.

But I am 29 and perhaps this is as good as my body will ever look. Why not embrace it now?

YouTube offers helpful tutorials on how to pose for a boudoir shoot. Arching my back will create the illusion of a perky butt; pointing my toes will elongate my legs.

I practise pointing my toes under my desk at work. I also find out about the "rotisserie chicken", where I will lie on my front, back and sides to create different poses. Sounds fiddly.

Executing this, indeed, takes finesse.

Mrs Soemarjono comforts me, saying poses that look best are usually the most uncomfortable. It takes some time before I get used to arching one hip without letting the strain show on my face.

But when she shows me the photos on her camera, I cannot quite believe that this brazen creature in stiletto heels and a black corset is me - or that I actually like the outcome.

Boudoir sessions are not all about lace stockings and garter belts, though. Mrs Soemarjono tells me to bring accessories or props that showcase my personality, so I pair a black lingerie set with an oversized white shirt and a pair of white Converse Chuck Taylor sneakers - the same trusty design I have worn for a decade.

It turns out to be my favourite photo because I look, well, decent - like a bolder, sassier, more confident version of myself.

In the years to come, insecurities be damned, I hope that will be what I remember of my 20s.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 25, 2019, with the headline 'Embracing a bolder, sassier me'. Print Edition | Subscribe