Category Archives: Fashion

Desire, Anticipation, Realization

Remember the old Heinz commercial with the Carly Simon soundtrack? Anticipation has been motivating people long before it was an advertising theme. I’ll bet Mrs. Caveman found saber tooth stew more appealing after waiting all day for Mr. C to bring home the goodies. (Imagine how a little ketchup would have helped!)caveman-159964_640

I’m not a patient person. But I love pre-planning vacations: reading about my destination; researching places to explore and eat; making and revising endless lists of what to bring and wear; creating a wish list of possible purchases. Anticipation extends the trip well beyond the actual time away if I start enjoying it months in advance.

I also find anticipation half the fun of baking – the long, slow rise of the bread or waiting for some delicious dessert to come out of the oven. And what’s nicer than looking forward to a hot cup of tea or coffee after being outside on a cold, rainy day – or a frosty beer after a blisteringly hot one?

Although it can be frustrating, time-consuming or confusing, anticipation is especially useful when purchasing something expensive. When’s the last time you bought a car or house on impulse before taking the time to decide exactly what you wanted? (If you did, you have far more disposable income than I do; please buy me a Bentley!)

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Psychologists tell us that desiring something is more satisfying than actually acquiring it (scientists call this “habituation”). There’s often a letdown after getting the object, which is why prolonging the process can be so enjoyable. (Check out a fascinating article on this topic in The Atlantic.)

I’ve been thinking about this since arriving at our summer house 20 lbs. lighter than last year and discovering that “I have nothing to wear” wasn’t hyperbole. I had exactly one pair of jeans and three sweaters that fit; everything else down to my underwear needed to be replaced.

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The surprise, for a dedicated shopper like myself, is that mass acquisition isn’t much fun. I’ve pretty much had to blitz-shop online (hello, The Outnet) to compile an instant wardrobe. As a result, I’ve been denied the pleasures of anticipation, window-shopping, weighing pros and cons, etc. as part of the experience.

Years ago, on a trip to Milan, my husband and I watched a group of young women return to our hotel laden with shopping bags from every high end store you can imagine (Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Dior etc.) woman-1329790_640

I’ve often wondered: Did those girls really appreciate everything they bought, after the shopping high wore off? If you could acquire anything you desire without a second’s thought, would it be special?

What do you think — is anticipation more satisfying than acquisition? And what about delayed gratification… does something have more value to you when you’ve saved up for it? Are there things you bought that you love as much — or more — now that you have them?

In other words, does the “high” always fade?

Busting Out of a Bra Rut

A bra fitting is the root canal of shopping. Next to trying on bathing suits (or having a mammogram) it’s one of the more unpleasant experiences you can put your boobs through, as far as I’m concerned.

Which probably explains why an estimated 75% of us are wearing the wrong size bra; it’s less stressful to grab the same old thing than to stand around half naked in a fitting room for a half hour or more while some chirpy stranger straps us into dozens of choices and prattles on about “uplift” and cleavage.

Bra size often changes when we gain or lose weight, gain or lose muscle tone, go through pregnancy, and get older. And bras themselves simply wear out. I can’t remember the last time I was measured and odds are that my go-to size has got up and went in the wrong direction. So I zip over to Nordstrom’s (any store with a decent lingerie department will have experienced fitters on staff) for a major overhaul of the underwear drawer.

You can measure yourself at home (details below), but according to experts, that’s not the best option. It’s very hard to pull the tape tight enough while attempting to exhale. It’s also hard to be objective about what’s flattering.

After stripping off my shirt while avoiding my reflection —  lovingly bathed in harsh fluorescent light that showcases every lump and bump, and not the good kind – my fitter Ms. C measures my rib cage by pulling the tape tightly around my body just below the bra line. This is the band size, and it’s about two sizes smaller than what I’ve been mistakenly wearing. Guess I should have done this a while ago. I learn that the right size band should fit snugly on the last hook and you should only be able to fit one or two fingers between the band and your back. (Is this why the boys had so much trouble unhooking our bras back in high school?? Oops, I digress.)

Ms. C doesn’t measure my cup size – I suppose years of looking at breasts gives you a pretty good idea of how big somebody is – and heads onto the floor to bring back different options.

As I try on the first few bras, Ms. C introduces me to the “scoop and swoop” method, immediately conjuring visions of Johnnie Cochran: “Scoop and swoop, or you will droop!” Basically, this means you put on the bra, lift up the breast tissue, and move it towards the outside edge of the cup to make sure all the boobage is tucked in. A little weird, but it works.

Now that she knows what size I am, she brings in several designs including some molded styles that I immediately reject on the grounds that the last thing I need is any enhancement.

Unfortunately, the store doesn’t carry much in my size (“well endowed” with a 30-inch ribcage) so I leave with only two Chantelle bras — supportive but not matronly. Once home, I have better luck shopping online, beginning with Nordstrom.com  and moving on to Bare Necessities, which stocks a wide variety of sizes and styles including many tops and bottoms that are boudoir-only if you’re feeling saucy.

If you are inclined to measure at home, here are some tips from Bare Necessities:

How to measure bra size:

Bra band – Pull the measuring tape tight across the bottom of your current bra directly under the bust, across your ribcage and around your back under your arms. If you get an odd number, round up to the next even number.

Remember that you want a bra to fit snugly on the last hook when new. As the band loosens with time, you’ll be able to tighten it by using the next rows of hooks. If the band of a new bra fits on the first/tightest hook (i.e., with no others showing) you’ve got nowhere to go when it gets too loose, so that size is too large.

Bust size – Find your bust measurement by measuring loosely around the fullest part of your bust with the tape straight across and around your back under the arms.

Cup size – Subtract your band size from your bust size and use the difference to find your bra cup size in the chart below. For example, if your bust is 38” and your band is 34” (a 4” difference), you would wear a 38 D.

That said, every woman’s body is different so you may need to experiment to find your best fit.

Size conversions

US/UK/European sizes vary above a D cup. When buying online, it helps to know what size you are in a specific brand so the website can suggest equivalent size choices.

(Bust minus band)         US                 EUROPE                    UK

1″ A A A
2″ B B B
3″ C C C
4″ D D D
5″ DD/E E DD
6″ DDD/F F E
7″ DDDD/G G F
8″ DDDDD/H H FF
9″ DDDDDD/I I G
10″ J J GG
11″ K   H
12″ L   HH
13″ M   J
14″ N   JJ
      K

NORDSTROM’S FIT QUIZ

  • Does the band ride up in the back? If yes, your bra is either too large or it needs to be tightened. If it’s still too loose after you’ve adjusted the band, it’s time to go down a band size (and possibly up a cup).
  • Do your breasts bulge or spill over the cup? If yes, your cups are too small and you need to go up a cup size.
  • Do the cups pucker or gap? If your breasts don’t fill out the cups, your bra is too large.
  • Do your straps slip and slide? If you’ve adjusted your straps and they still fall off, either the band is too big or your bra has lost its elasticity. If you have sloped shoulders, opt for a racerback bra or a style with convertible straps.
  • Do your straps dig into your shoulders? If so, try loosening the straps. If that doesn’t solve the problem, it’s likely the cups are too small and you need to go up a cup size.
  • Does the wire poke and prod? If so, you’re wearing a cup size that’s too small.

A QUICK CHECKLIST

TOO SMALL

  • Spillover on top or sides
  • Center section doesn’t lie flat
  • Underwires poke or ride up

TOO BIG

  • Cups wrinkle or gap
  • Adjusted straps still slide off
  • Band rides up in back

JUST RIGHT

  • Smooth cups
  • Center section lies flat
  • Band is low and even

Interesting discovery: As band size goes down, cup size often goes up, e.g., the cup size of a 32 D will fit about the same as that of a 30 DD.

Need some wardrobe inspiration? Try one of these styles:

T-SHIRT: Smooth coverage with molded cups and enhanced lining so you can wear something sheer without any see-through.

PUSH-UP: Padding enhances cleavage and provides extra lift for plunging necklines. For less ooh-la-la, go up a cup size.

DEMI: A straight-across cut enhances cleavage, while wide-set shoulder straps highlight your neckline.

STRAPLESS/CONVERTIBLE: A fitted band provides support for any bare-shoulder look, while removable straps give you day-to-night options.

RACERBACK: This sport-inspired bra offers slip-proof straps and generous support. Great with tank tops.

BRALETTE: Soft, stretchy fabric gives light support and comfortable fit for smaller cup sizes.

UNLINED: This seamless style provides a natural shape without lining or molding and flatters an average to fuller bust.

WIRELESS: A soft, no-show silhouette works well under sheer tops and can be more comfortable than wires if you don’t need a lot of support. Foam cups offer extra coverage.

So, when’s the last time you checked if your bra is still the right size? Get thee to a fitter; it’s worth it!

Am I What I Wear?

Lately, I’ve been going through an identity crisis. A sartorial one, primarily, stemming from the question, “Who am I if I’m not working?” combined with the dread of becoming invisible with the passing years.

As a freelance writer/retired (mostly) by choice, I could spend the day in ratty sweatpants and no one would notice. But that’s just not “me”; I worked in an office for 30 years and dressing for work is a difficult habit to overcome. Plus, I’ve always loved fashion.

This particular crise du jour is also accompanied by weight loss, which would normally be cause for celebration but is in fact cause for alarm/introspection/analysis as I have to decide: Since I have to buy new clothes that fit, WHAT should they be?

The delightful blogger Lady Sarah offers a brilliant suggestion: Create a pie chart for how you actually spend your time so that you can buy accordingly. Instead of shopping for a fantasy life, I’m taking this a step further to analyze not just how I currently spend my time but how I’d like to spend it.

Categories

• At home doing chores, scrolling through online articles, contemplating working out, watching TV, contemplating cleaning, actually working out, reading, actually cleaning

• At home writing (want to project a professional image, if only to myself)

• Running errands: Stained tees are a non-starter even though the chances of bumping into someone I know — since I know virtually no one in Texas — are slim to none

• Lunch dates: All too few. Goal: expand opportunities

• Dinner dates with husband and friends: Ah, safe ground here. Need to look nice but not overly fussed over

• Opera/Symphony: Unlikely to run into anyone here either but a good excuse to dress up

• Entertaining at home: What to wear that is chic but won’t get stained while cooking?

• Travel: My sweet spot, wardrobe-wise. I’m a big-city girl at heart and enjoy being able to wear my favorite pieces without feeling overdressed. Not that anyone’s looking – but it’s all about how you see yourself, isn’t it?

• Playing with grandchildren: Not the time for a silk blouse, but surely I can do better than an old band t-shirt and leggings even if the baby is likely to spit up

• Summer hiking/walking: Anything goes, as long as it’s waterproof

• Wine tasting (a favorite summer activity): Upgraded casual, mostly dark colors in case I spill something – a real possibility around Glass #3

FullSizeRender 7All in all, what I’ve learned from this exercise is that I shouldn’t buy another leather jacket since I live in a warm climate (much as I adore them) and that I should create more opportunities that are appropriate for my favorite items rather than “dumbing down” my wardrobe to match my mostly-stay-at-home activities.

Sign me up for: adult education classes, more travel, more lunches/dinners with friends, more evenings out, volunteering at anything where you shouldn’t look like a slob, and so on.

Anyone else having an identity crisis as you change jobs, become a stay-at-home parent or approach retirement? Please share your solutions and insights with the rest of us!

Xx, Alisa

The Eyes Have It: Adventures in Monovision

When I first got contact lenses in 7th grade and announced ecstatically that I could finally see properly, my mother burst into tears. I remember this primarily because it’s the only sentimental thing she ever did.

Since then, glasses, contacts and post-age-40 reading glasses have been a fact of life and an ever-expanding part of my wardrobe.  If I wear my contacts I can’t see anything smaller than type THIS BIG so I stash reading glasses all over the house, in the car and in at least one pocket.  This also requires the expensive addition of reader sunglasses — also stashed in multiple locations. And yet, I often can’t find a pair.

Although I see best with my regular (progressive bifocal) glasses, they’re a real pain. They get dirty. They stretch and eventually slip off my nose. And they’re heavy enough to break tiny blood vessels in my cheeks if I wear them all the time. Memo: stock up on cover up.

Eventually I’ll probably need cataract surgery and maybe by then science will have a perfect solution. Meanwhile, at my latest annual eye exam, my doctor suggested I try monovision to eliminate the need for readers, which she thought would work better for me than bifocal contacts.

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How It Works

With monovision, you wear a contact lens on one eye to correct your distance vision (aka nearsightedness) and a lens on the other eye to correct your near vision (farsightedness). The distance vision lens is worn on your dominant eye, i.e., the one that sees far away objects better.

The term “monovision” is a bit misleading. After about a week or two, brain learns to merge the two images to (theoretically) let you see clearly at all distances. But each eye will still see best at its own designated correction.

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Plan on Multiple Visits

My eye doctor warned me that it might take multiple visits before landing on the right combination. Meanwhile, as my friend S (who won’t try this) says, I could be walking into walls. I leave with a 10-day supply of trial lenses. Note: you may be charged a higher fitting fee than usual because most people need “tweaking” before the lenses are perfect.

Rx 1: Right eye (distance) same as my normal prescription. Left eye (close up): under-corrected for distance and too blurry for close-up reading. Result: dizziness and lousy vision. Lose-lose.

Rx 2: A different doctor (young and impossibly chic) gives me a thorough exam trying a lot of subtle modifications to get me closer to the best prescription. Results: No change to right eye. Left eye made weaker so close-ups are better, but not great. Still dizzy and not seeing well enough. Feh.

Rx 3 (3 weeks after my initial checkup): Dr. Chic has me try a toric (weighted) lens for the mild astigmatism in my right eye. Upside: distance vision is a little sharper. Downsides: toric lenses are more expensive, thicker, and have to be perfectly positioned. She explains that there is a vertical line on the lens that should be at the bottom when you place it in your eye. After struggling to figure out why the line keeps moving, I realize the next day that there are actually TWO vertical lines – one will be at the top of the lens when the other is at the bottom. This seems unnecessarily complicated.

For the left eye, she gives me an even weaker lens. Now my close-up vision is excellent. Off I go with more test lenses, opting to wait a few days to see if this whole experiment is worth it or if I should just renew my old contacts prescription and stick with reading glasses. After all, I have made a substantial investment in readers at this point!

laptop-1047086_640The Research

What I’ve learned so far: Not everyone is a monovision candidate. Some people find that it compromises the clarity of their distance vision, making far away objects appear slightly blurry. I suspect this is going to be my problem, especially when I’m driving.

For others, monovision doesn’t provide good enough near vision to eliminate the need for readers. That would be pointless, no?

Finally, although the two eyes work together as a team, there can be a slight loss in depth perception. And I’d always need to carry glasses with me in case of an emergency (e.g., getting something in my distance eye and truly not being able to see anything.) If I have to carry glasses, wouldn’t it be a whole lot easier to just wear them?? Plus, they’re never going to fit in a small purse.

All in all, I’m giving this another week. Fingers (and eyes) crossed!

Bragging Rights

The other day I was called out in an online forum for daring to suggest that many women’s obsession with Hermès Kelly and Birkin bags is related to their exclusivity and expense. The writer was affronted and claimed that she only loved her Kelly because it “fit [her] style.”

Hmmm; color me skeptical. You can’t tell me that any number of ladylike bags wouldn’t be equally suitable for her life and wardrobe.

There’s nothing wrong with conspicuous consumption or searching out something exclusive, assuming you don’t have to sell a kidney to afford it. But for heaven’s sake, own it — and don’t kid yourself that you’d love “x” just as much if it were widely accessible.

Our collections can include tangible items, knowledge or experiences. Maybe your passion is finding an undiscovered indie band or movie and being the first to tell your friends about it. Or happening upon a gem of a restaurant or a less-traveled exotic destination.

You might seek out limited edition small-batch bourbon, top-of-the-line chef’s knives, up-and-coming artists, or words of wisdom from an obscure philosopher whose works haven’t received mainstream attention. Your ultimate acquisition may even be a handbag with a long history to match its price tag, which makes you feel chic even when you’re in jeans and an old sweater.

Familiarity breeds selectivity as we become better informed and more discerning. We identify ourselves – if only to our secret selves – with descriptors like “foodie”, “fitness guru”, “car maven”, “tastemaker”, “aficionado”, “intellectual”, etc.  — a shorthand for pride in our hard-earned expertise that also resonates with people who share our interests.  Isn’t it human nature to want to blend in and stand out?

I have many indulgences and intend to enjoy what I enjoy — fully, and without apology. It’s all part of the glorious fun of being alive. Still, I try to acknowledge the subtext in any purchase and be honest with the person in the mirror.

That’s what really fits my style.

Ready. Set. Purge.

The 45-minute closet clean up

One of the best ways to clear my head is to clean up my surroundings. It’s a no-brainer to toss the stuff I hate. What’s harder to identify are stealth garments that lurk among my favorites: clothes I used to love but barely wear, items that are serviceable but not exciting, expensive mistakes, and anything that doesn’t quite fit.

Weeding out things that no longer work — whether clothes or noxious elements in your life — can seem overwhelming. So start small. You can do this whole purge in under an hour.  Or if that’s too much, attack just one category a day. Spend 5 minutes on each and be ruthless!

  1. Fixer-Uppers: Broken zipper? Sleeves too long? Put anything that needs to be fixed into a bag. If you don’t take it to the tailor or shoemaker within a week, you’ll know that you don’t love it enough to keep it.
  2. Pants: Do they fit perfectly? Can’t wait to wear them? If you don’t feel attractive, you’ll always pick another pair. The exception: jeans that used to be flattering and are now too tight, but ONLY if you are serious about losing those extra 5-10 lbs. Save one pair and re-evaluate in three months.
  3. Shoes: Too big, small or tight? Gone! Not really your style? Had them for months and still haven’t worn them? Odds are, you never will.
  4. Duplicates: If you own multiples of the same style, only keep the ones you wear the most. Even among five black sweaters, you undoubtedly have one or two favorites. Ditch the rest.
  5. Fill-Ins: Do you have clothes, shoes and accessories that are nice enough but you always gravitate towards something else instead? If you’re not ready to toss them, make a list of the pieces you want to upgrade and when you buy that perfect jacket, shirt or belt, get rid of the fill-in.
  6. Sad Sacks: Underwear, socks, t-shirts…. Throw out everything that’s stained, shapeless, faded or has holes. Check collars and cuffs – that’s where the wear shows up first. Even if you’re only running to the grocery store, why look like a hot mess?
  7. Fantasy Island: If you can’t imagine wearing a particular item or outfit any time in the next year, get rid of it. Exception: your favorite LBD or a timeless designer piece that will always make you look and feel great.
  8. Guilt Trippers: We’ve all had buyer’s remorse after spending a lot (usually on sale) on something we just don’t wear. Donate it to charity and you’ll feel good about yourself instead of guilty.
  9. Old Loves: If you can’t bear to part with something for sentimental reasons, box it up and store it somewhere outside of your closet. Even better: enjoy the memories without letting unnecessary mementos take up precious space.

A final note on fit: Clothes that are too small make us feel like failures. Clothes that are too big make us look frumpy and imply we’re going to backslide.  Limit your wardrobe to fewer items that fit right now. You’ll feel more attractive, confident and in control.

The Bunion Diaries (or) The Agony of Da Feet (part one)

There’s nothing like the word “bunion” to make you feel like an old crone, is there? I used to have really pretty feet. But even though I haven’t worn tight shoes or stilettos in years, heredity has reared its ugly head and created a situation I’m about to remedy.

A bunion, for those of you lucky enough not to have this condition, is a bony bump that forms at the base of your big toe when it pushes against the next toe, forcing the joint to get bigger.

They can develop from wearing tight or narrow shoes, high heels, arthritis or a structural issue, and are typically seen in older adults although I know several young women who have them too.

Experts say there’s no reason to have surgery unless they cause pain. So that left me with a dilemma.

My left foot hurts when I wear most shoes – even flats – for more than an hour, such as when taking a long walk or standing around at a party. But it’s not constant. Still, after a consult last year when my podiatrist said I could wait a little longer, I noticed that the condition was definitely getting worse.

Since there’s no way to reverse the damage without surgery – and because it seems logical to do it before the surgery becomes extremely complicated – I’ve opted to get this done. Wish me luck!

First step, so to speak: I see the nurse, get x-rayed again (oh joy, I am now beginning to develop arthritis in that toe), get my prescriptions and a physical, learn what meds to discontinue, buy a giant waterproof bag to protect my cast after surgery, line up a wheelie thing to scoot around the house afterwards, and worry that I am about to do something drastic that I could avoid if I just wore men’s sneakers for the rest of my life.

There are two kinds of bunionettes in the world: Some women with truly hideous feet flaunt them in sandals and just don’t care. I am not that person. Others won’t wear revealing shoes even if it’s 100 degrees outside. Um; definitely familiar.

Mostly, I would just like to wear normal shoes without pain. And I’d like to avoid the possible complications that arise from an untreated condition, such as bursitis (painful inflammation of tissue in and around the joints), hammertoe (when the toe next to the big toe also begins to bend), metatarsalgia (inflammation in the ball of the foot) and worsening arthritis.

Stay tuned! I will report in next week with all the gory details.