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Body scanner + sales help at Bloomingdales = perfect fitting pants?

16 Aug

Could this be the pants-finding solution that all hard-to-fit booties are looking for? Bloomingdales has installed a body scanner that recommends the best fitting, and flattering, pants for your body dimensions. My immediate association from seeing the photos: Star Trek, everyone gets to see you with your clothes off. Of course that isn’t really the case (your avatar wears a bikini) but it will still take some courage to put myself under the microscope. However, in the interest of good journalism for this blog, I think I’ll gather up my courage and check it out, and report back…

From today’s San Jose Mercury News:

High-tech help in finding jeans that fit

By Troy Wolverton

twolverton@mercurynews.com

Posted:   08/16/2012 09:12:53 AM PDT
Bodymetrics body scanning cabin created to help women find jeans that fit

No it’s not airport security – it’s the Bodymetrics body scanning cabin, created to help find jeans that fit. It’s available for a test drive at Bloomingdales in the Stanford Shopping Center.

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Go, Go, Pants

1 May

A few weeks ago, I wrote about an easy method for finding the items of “deadwood” in your closet. In the process, I uncovered a black pair of black skinny capris from Target, which hung in my closet unworn all of last summer, despite the fact that black pants should pretty much “go with everything.”  I found them quite by chance at Target for about $30 while picking up some plastic bins and Kleenex for the household. Score! I thought. At that price,  it wasn’t hard to spend another $30 on taking in the waist (something I have come to accept as a necessity with my body shape).

But, after coming home from the tailor, the pants sat in my closet. And sat, and sat. During my recent closet clean-out, I told myself it was because the fabric was too light for winter (Target pants are notoriously thin, in my experience). Then warmer weather started to appear, and I still passed them over. Using the hanger trick described in my recent post, I was confronted with the reality that I was resisting wearing these pants – they were the last pair to remain unworn. With an open mind, I chose a warm-ish day to put them on. After going through the day in them, I realized why I had been resisting wearing them. I just didn’t feel good wearing them.

It wasn’t the fit – I had them tailored to my exact body type. The fabric was cotton with a bit of stretch for ease of movement, and nothing was obviously itchy or uncomfortable. They were reasonably flattering. Still, I felt like I was trapped in them, and couldn’t wait to take them off. What went wrong between now and the fitting room at Target?

I had a careful look in the mirror and realized what it was. The closure loop at the waist was straining, making it look like my middle was bursting open. Because I had these pants tailored to my exact body type, and they didn’t feel gut-binding, I realized that they suffered from poor construction; the fabric was too lightweight to carry the strain of the closure, and the tab wanted to separate from the pants. Cheap pants! I cursed. Even though I could explain away the problem without blaming the size of my midsection, every time I looked down at my bursting closure, I got the feeling that my body was the source of the problem. Before Kids, I thought, these pants would not have given me a problem. 

{Now imagine me with a dark cloud hanging over my head.}

The Black Capri Pants Disaster

Disaster?

Well, there was just one thing to do about that. I only hesitated a moment before chucking them into the give-away pile. Yes, $60 is a lot to pay for a pair of pants you only wear once. But the money is spent, and now I have a choice to make. Berate myself every time I put them on for my thick middle, or make the problem go away.  Isn’t the choice pretty clear?  What would you tell your girlfriend to do? Battered women must choose whether to stay in an abusive relationship or cut bait.  Well, sister, we wouldn’t live with a man who insults your body type, so why should we put up with a pair of pants that does?

I am sure there’s another pair of black capri pants waiting for me that will love me more than those cheap old pants. Even if I was hoping the relationship would last longer, it’s always better to look ahead than try to put energy into a direction that has no future. The hardest thing, of course, is feeling the sting of my mistake, and admit that this love affair was over before it started. But that’s ok, nobody walks a straight path in life, we all make mistakes. Buying a bad pair of pants certainly doesn’t rate up there with running a ponzi scheme, or sailing an Italian pleasure boat too close to the shoreline.

Disaster!

Keeping my pants-buying failure in perspective, I put  the old (new) pants on the curb with the other Goodwill stuff, happily imagining someone out there getting a brand new pair of pants for cheap.

As for buying pants from Target – part of me says, Never again – My booty deserves better! Part of me can’t resist the temptation that I’ll find another good deal. I’ll definitely proceed more cautiously now, and perhaps opt for the casual pants with the elastic waist. (I have a $25 pair of baggy linen Merona pants from Target that have already lasted me for several years.)

So, there are two lessons here:

1) When shopping cheaply, it’s hard to go wrong buying pants that are styled like pajamas. For pants with a more tailored fit, it probably makes sense to shell out a bit more for a better quality product.

2) Never, ever, keep anything in your closet that causes a black cloud to appear over your head and follow you around wherever you go. Put that thing away at once. (In other words –  it’s not you, it’s the pants. It’s always the pants.)

Free closet help (really!)

16 Apr

I discovered a really cool closet trick that I’ve been meaning to post about, but I have had writers block from seeking an interesting way to introduce it. So, in order to get the idea up quickly, allow me to skip the intro and get right to the meat of the discovery. Maybe you will appreciate it on the day before income taxes are due – who couldn’t use a little closet help without spending more money.

The idea came from something I read online someplace (if I remember where, I will update this post with the credit) and it goes something like this:

It’s pretty clear that a closet cleared of clutter serves the owner much better than a closet full of unappealing or ill-fitting stuff. Yet, the problem is finding the time to get it organized.  Well, now you don’t have to set aside special time to do it, if you follow this handy little trick.

Image

After you wear something, hang it back up in your closet with the hanger backwards. Try to wear everything at least once, before wearing the items again with the hanger turned around already. After a few weeks, you will have identified the stuff that you’re not wearing, which you now need to take a closer look at.

The clothes that are left unworn will probably fit into these categories –

1) Don’t like anymore -> Get rid of it. Give away to charity, offer it to a friend, sell it, or go to a clothing exchange. (I always have a plastic bag in my closet that I am filling up with stuff to give away.)

2) Doesn’t fit -> If it can be fixed by tailoring, create a pile for “take to tailor”. Otherwise, let it go into the “get rid of” pile. (Caveat: If you are within one year of having given birth, cut yourself some slack, but put away what you’re not wearing and pull it out again in a few months. The point is to only leave stuff in your closet that you are actually wearing *now*).

3) Out of season -> Box up and put into the garage/ attic/ storage space until the weather changes.

4) Need something to wear with it -> Start a “wish list” of what item you are missing to go with it, whether it’s a matching top, bottom, shoes, belt or bra.  Keep the list somewhere in your closet with a pen nearby, so that you can add to it easily, as inspiration strikes. When filling in the gaps, shop your closet first, and encourage yourself to re-imagine wearing something with it that you already own. (Pick up a good fashion mag like InStyle or Elle for some inspiration about unexpected combinations that work, like below. I’m not saying you need to wear avant-garde runway looks to the playground, but don’t be afraid to go a little outside your comfort zone.)  And next time you go shopping, take your “wish list” with you.

Elle magazine spring collection

Check out a fashion mag like Elle magazine for inspiration; sometimes combining two patterns and textures can look fresh and inspired.

By sticking to this system for about three weeks, I freed up about half of my closet by putting away the stuff that was not being worn. After filling a large box with stuff for warmer weather, and another bag for give-away, I was looking at a closet full of stuff I could actually wear. Now, looking at my closet doesn’t start a panic attack – getting dressed is faster, feels better, and I can get creative with new combinations.

Street style photographed by Elle magazine

Orange and burgundy? Consider re-imagining color combinations in your wardrobe, in any way that feels right for you.

I haven’t applied the weeding out to the folded part of my closet, but I think the same technique should work, if I start with an empty drawer and only put the stuff I’ve worn in there, leaving the questionables behind to be sorted out.

Why I love this approach:

1) it points honestly to the “deadwood” in your closet – either it’s been worn or it hasn’t

2) it has inspired me to find ways to wear the stuff I was passing over before

3) it has caused me to feel grateful for the stuff I already own

4) I did this at my own pace and felt no time pressure to complete the task – you can take as much time as you need to get to the end result.

Because I stopped wearing the same three pairs of jeans every week, I got myself out of a fashion rut. I even got myself to wear a skirt, and realized with tights and boots on colder days, I really enjoyed it. When I found something missing a top or bottom to go with it, I reconsidered which colors and patterns could go together. You might be thinking “uh oh”, but it doesn’t mean you have to look like a kid dressing themselves for the first time.  Most moms I know (myself included) could stand a little kick of color in their wardrobe – and certain bright colors are very “now”. (Even neon and printed pants are making a comeback, with 1980’s flair, though I don’t think I am ready to go there just yet.)

Printed pants are making a comeback from the 80's

With all the 80's trends being revived lately, it was just a matter of time before pants with patterns made their comeback. I'm going to stay on the sidelines for that trend, at least for now. (Fashion week in Paris, 2012)

I am especially loving yellow, coral and turquoise, as a promise of the warmer, sunnier weather soon to come. And for the stuff I wasn’t wearing because I didn’t have the right shoes, I took the time to pull out all the shoes I had, and, looky here – I had forgotten about several pairs which actually filled the gap.

Next month, when Uncle Sam isn’t knocking on my door, looking to get paid, I may take my  own “wish list” and hit the stores. But then again, I am liking the challenge of trying to shop my own closet for everything I am missing – because I am convinced, as I let go of my own rules, I am bound to make even more new discoveries of what to wear inside my own closet. You might even say where creativity leads, inspiration follows. Or something like that.

Feeling Stuffed?

30 Nov

Thanksgiving may be over, but in our house, leftover pumpkin pie and mashed potatoes are still on the menu – all day long. Anyone who has never eaten pumpkin pie for breakfast should go out of their way to do so before they die – whether naked, or with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. (I’m talking about the pie, not you, of course.) It’s one of my favorite things about the holiday.

Pumpkin Pie

During the holiday season, anytime is a good time to enjoy a piece of pumpkin pie.

All this eating does leave me feeling over-fed, which is to be expected this time of year. And I don’t expect it to let up in December; between holiday cookies and parties, it’s the time of year to reach for the jeans with the loose waist. Better yet, I wear stretchy pants with a tunic or dress over it – there is no reason to force that zipper closed when there is still a whole month of holiday treats to be eaten. There will be plenty of time for slimming down after the new year.

I’m not saying it’s time to binge, but I plan to enjoy the treats of the season without calculating how many extra laps I am going to swim just to work off that chocolate covered gingerbread I just ate.

Instead of counting calories, I make a point to get outside despite the unappealing weather – even though it’s been cold and gray in the Bay Area, Northern California’s not Minnesota, and the Fall colors are spectacular in the neighborhood. Also, my son is suddenly a soccer enthusiast; a quick 15 minutes minutes of kicking the ball after school keeps me moving, and it’s often enough to boost my energy for the rest of the day. For an indoor energy boost, I reach for caffeine in the form of green tea, another stimulant that’s a little milder than Red Bull, and easier on my stomach than coffee. My favorite green tea at the moment is The Organic Himalayan Green Tea by Allegro, a company based in Colorado and available in certain grocery stores.  It’s mellow and tasty – I remove the tea bag after 5 minutes to avoid bitterness. (Get one for yourself and one as a gift for the tea lover on your list!)

Allegro Himalayan Green Tea

Allegro Himalayan Green Tea is an instand indoor pick-me-up

In the meantime, here are my new favorite comfortable jeans with plenty of stretch: Not Your Daughter’s Jeans (NYDJ). I know, I dissed these in a previous post about “mommy jeans”, but after giving them a second chance, I have fallen in love with the fit and comfort. The fabric is stretchy and just the right weight. The rise is a bit higher than other designer jeans which helps with coverage of the front and back, but not so high that you are aware of a bulky midsection (my problem with the Miraclebody Jeans reviewed previously). They have a great fit throught the seat, too, without gapping at the waist, which is always my problem area.

My biggest revelation about buying jeans is that although I used to be self-conscious about tight jeans, it turns out that slim-cut, well-fitting jeans actually make you look and feel slimmer, not fatter. The NYDJ fit slim in a tasteful way – I don’ t feel like like my jeans are painted on, but they fit snugly everywhere they should. Also, most jeans stretch out after wearing – if the zipper goes up easily, I know the tightness in the seat will relax after a few wears. As long as I can sit down comfortably, I trust the fit. (To prevent shrinkage, I never put my jeans in the dryer, unless I actually want to shrink them down a size! Instead, they hang dry overnight in my shower stall.) Knowing how I want my jeans to fit makes shopping much for fun and efficient – it’s easy to recognize the right jeans when I try them on.

I bought my NYDJ’s at Bloomingdale’s but many department stores carry them (Nordstroms, Macys, etc.). They run about $100, which is more than a pair of Levi’s but still less than other designer jeans like Joe’s Jeans which run $150 and up. (You can sometimes find them on sale for about $70-$80.) They come in many cuts, including bootleg, straight leg, and slim. They also offer Petite sizing and Ankle lengths. They even have corduroy fabrics for the Fall and Winter seasons. Though you can find them online, it’s worth visiting the store to try several pairs and find the look that suits you best.

Here are a few to consider:

The Straight Leg – an everyday workhorse of a jean, slim enough to tuck into boots or wear with tennis shoes. Comes in many other colors too.

NYDJ Straight Leg Jeans

Straight Leg Jeans work great for everyday - with flats, boots, or tennis shoes for the playground.

The Bootcut – Wear with boots, black dresses up for evening. Many other colors too.

NYDJ Bootcut Jeans

Leggings – I usually shy away from these because I feel like I am stuffing myself into too-skinny pants, but NYDJ leggings zip up easily while still giving the super-slim look that goes well under tunics or long sweaters, worn with boots.

NYDJ Leggings

NYDJ Leggings have a comfortable super-slim fit.

Happy jean shopping, and enjoy the season of giving and holiday (de)lights!

Leggings – liberating dresses everywhere

29 Jan prana moxie dress

I exercise twice a week, and on those mornings, it’s hard to know what to wear.  I don’t feel fully dressed wearing only gym clothes, but I would rather not lug an extra change of clothes around on the way to class. Lord knows moms lug way too much random stuff around already. (The back seat of my car usually contains enough random stuff to fill an entire shopping cart — kids’ jackets and hats, sippy cups, empty reusable grocery bags, books, crayons, twigs, stones and other “treasures” my son picked off the driveway).  So on my exercise days, I put on black stretchy pants and my cami that I will exercise in, and build the rest of my outfit from there.

Nowadays, I see a lot of young ladies wearing fitness type leggings in place of regular pants. Reminds me of how I used to dress in 7th grade. However, I (and my rear end) have long since graduated high school, and I feel comfortable with more coverage. For a while, I struggled to find a top long enough to cover the behind; even tunic-length tops feel like I am trying to pull off a miniskirt – which isn’t really the look I am going for. One exercise day, it occurred to me to try on one of the long-neglected dresses I had hanging in my closet. Revelation! An outfit is born.

Before kids, I always thought of dresses as reserved for special occasions. In grade school, I was the girl who wore shorts to school every day so I could swing on the monkey bars and turn cartwheels easily. At my first real job after college, I wore pants as often as I could to avoid a “Sharon Stone moment” while sitting at my desk.

Sharon Stone's famous miniskirt in Basic Instinct

It may be sexy in a movie, but sitting while wearing a skirt doesn't really work well when taking care of small children.

As a single woman living in the city, I chose black pants over dresses; they seemed too fussy, and I never really loved showing off my legs. After having kids, dresses only came out on special nights out with my husband. Even if I could find a washable fabric that had enough coverage, dresses seemed incompatible with essential mommy activities like nursing, climbing a playground structure, and sitting on the floor modestly.

Turns out, now that the nursing phase is over, dresses have found a place in my wardrobe, paired with leggings. Leggings address my below-the-waist modesty concerns, and also add a layer of warmth during the cooler months. They also make outfit picking totally brainless, since it’s a top and bottom in one. That comes in awfully handy at 6:30am when I have 5 minutes to put myself together.

Dresses have become much more mom-compatible, too; companies designing clothes for travel and athletics, such as Patagonia and Athleta, are making well-cut designs from stretchy, easy-care fabrics. (Athleta has even dubbed a category of clothing that works over leggings which they call “Yoga To Fro™.) My closet now contains at least 4 dresses that work well for active day with the kids.  So what do I look for when dress-shopping?

1) Coverage around the arms and neckline, and a skirt length to just above the knee, to make sure I am comfortable in all the athletic pursuits of motherhood – for example, lugging a toddler while carrying her baby doll and 2 bags of groceries, or bending over to pick up yet another toy off the floor without fearing that the nearest person can see down my shirt.

2) A flattering cut, comfortably executed. The dress should define my features (waist, arms, chest, hips, etc) without pinching or tugging. Ease of movement is a must. No Spanx required – it should make me look good without needing to suck in my belly.

3) A darker color (or a pattern) in a machine washable fabric – because I never know when a stray meatball in tomato sauce will land in my lap.

It turns out, quite a few companies are making dresses that fit the bill. My go-to stores at the moment are:

Patagonia, Boden, Garnet Hill,  Title Nine, and Athleta.

(If you have any other favorites, feel free to post them in the comments section below.)

The best thing about wearing a dress is that it feels like cheating – in a single piece of clothing, you have an entire outfit – no thinking required. If I can throw on a necklace or earrings, I can even manage to look “put together” with very little effort. And with a casual dress, finding shoes is easy because I can get away with boots, flats, or even lightweight, trendy sneakers.

My favorite toddler-compatible dress at the moment (which I happen to be wearing as I write this) is by Prana, a yoga clothing company that expanded into casual clothes.  I bought it at Title Nine in the Fall of 2010, but it doesn’t seem to be available anymore (the sales clerk said it was selling out quickly in the stores.) That’s ok, because there are plenty of similar ones out there.

 

Prana Moxie Dress from Title Nine

This stretchy dress by Prana is fun and easy to wear, and paired with leggings, can easily go from playground to civilized indoor pursuits.

This dress is super comfortable and stretchy, and the long sleeves add warmth. The pattern is plucky and adds a splash of color without any effort. It cost about $70, and will go from Fall to Spring without a problem.

Not so tight fitness pant from Title Nine

The "Not so tight fitness pant" from Title Nine costs over $50, but the easy, curve-hugging fit makes it my favorite pair of leggings.

Leggings are easy to find too – they are very trendy right now. I am wearing boot cut yoga pants at the moment for extra warmth, but slim, cropped leggings will work well with sandals as the weather warms up. They are available at a range of stores, from Target to The Gap to fancy athletic stores. I have found that the cheapest pants ($10 or less at Target or Old Navy) are not worth buying; they have a thin fabric which lose its shape faster. But after $20, it’s hard to tell the difference – the only difference between those and my $50 leggings is slightly better fit. If you want to add some leggings to your wardrobe that go from gym to playground, Title Nine or Athleta is a great place to begin your search. Both offer inexpensive of free shipping with minimum purchase. The Gap is a good option if you want to try on instead of buying online.

The only problem with wearing dresses at the moment is that my closet does not have enough room to acquire more. I guess it might be time to undertake another closet clean out, because there seems to be no shortage of cute, affordable and wearable dresses out there – and now that I can “childproof” them with leggings, I know I’ll keep putting them on in the morning, whether I am feeling dressy or just need to throw something on and get out the door.

I can’t believe it, but I’m wearing…Mommy Jeans

19 Nov

I am looking at myself in the mirror of my bedroom, wearing jeans with a tummy panel. You might be asking, what is a tummy panel? I am asking myself, how did it come to this?

Here’s how it started. As you know there is still a shortage of well-fitting jeans in my closet. Paradoxically, even though my waistline has permanently expanded, most of my jeans are still loose in the waist, and sit low-slung on the hips. We all know what low-fitting jeans mean on the playground – too much is revealed when lifting children up on the play structure or bending over.  I wear a camisole on top almost every day for more coverage, but it is impossible to shake the feeling that I am just one step away from a wardrobe malfunction.

So my search for jeans continues. I challenge myself to find a pair of jeans that fits well off the rack, without alterations. On my last trip to Bloomingdale’s, I came across the brand “Not Your Daughter’s Jeans”. At the time, I passed up because I didn’t want to believe I was a really candidate for Mommy Jeans.  Now that it’s to revisit that prejudice. Turns out, “Not Your Daughter’s Jeans” cost a pretty penny – well over $100.  So I decide to conduct a broader search from the comfort of my own computer.

I am a fan of online shopping, simply because it’s available when I can’t get to a real store. Of course, it’s no substitute for touching and trying on real clothes. But I don’t want to wait until the next time I get a couple of free hours to browse the mall by myself.  (And I have written off clothes shopping with kids – my last mall outing lasted about 45 minutes and ended with my daughter arching her back and saying she “wanna get out, wanna get out” of the stroller after she finished the cookie I bought her.)

So after the kids are tucked away in bed one night, I log on to Amazon, where a search for “flattering jeans” turns up several options including a brand called “Miraclebody”. I am instantly skeptical of anything promising miracles.  The whole idea of “making over” your body with clothes feels a little desparate. Still, the online reviews are good, and they meet my target price range (I find a pair on sale for under $100 – no tax and free shipping) so I decide to give them a try.

I bought this pair of Miraclebody "mommy jeans" on Amazon.

In the world of online shopping, you buy first, and ask questions later. Since I expect there’s a good chance I will be sending them back, I go ahead and order a few other pairs that come up – including the Levi’s 512 “instantly slimming jeans” (with no tummy panel).  The box arrives about a week later, but sits unopened for many days. After all, trying on jeans with a tummy panel is kind of a buzz kill. I can’t decide if I want to like them, or or just send them back on principle. Finally, I put them on. The “tummy panel” is just an extra layer of elastic fabric sewn inside the front of the pants, but it’s completely invisible from outside. It makes me think of the bands you can wear in pregnancy to hold up your belly. I’m pretty sure I’m fine line away from wearing a girdle.

I ask my husband’s opinion about the jeans.  (I don’t mention the tummy panel.)  “Which ones do you think look better?” I ask as I model them one after the other. He glances over and shrugs, saying they both look the same. It’s true, it’s hard to tell the difference between them – same dark wash, same fit – high waist, fitted in the hips and thigh and a straight leg. “Which ones feel better?” He asks.  I must admit, it’s the Miraclebody.  They are made of thick but soft fabric with enough stretch to hug my curves. They easily cover the midsection, and I can comfortably sit and bend. However, since the Levi’s 512’s are half the price, I also decide to keep a pair in capri length (good for summer).

Now comes the most annoying part of online shopping – sending stuff back. Amazon tries to make it really easy – it’s a completely self-service process, no questions asked. Still, I need to wrap up the unwanted jeans in their original package, print a form, tape up the package, and get to the post office. Just one more thing to put on my to-do list. The rejected pants sit in a pile on my closet floor for a few days, until I finally get tired of stepping over them.  It takes me a while to find packaging tape, but after that the process is pretty straightforward – the online portion only requires logging in, clicking on the stuff I am returning, and printing a label. That part is easy because my computer is connected to a printer, but I imagine anyone who does not have a printer at home would be very annoyed that return labels aren’t already included in the package.

Then the package rolls around the trunk of my car for a week or two, until I finally make the time to stop in the post office. I would love to drop it in the blue mail box on the corner, but it’s against anti-terrorist regulations. Since 9/11, you must bring packages weighing over 13 oz to a post office in person. (Seriously, why 13 oz? Is that how much the package weighed that had the suspected Anthrax in it a few years ago?) One time, I ignored this silly rule and dropped the package in there anyway, my postal carrier returned it in person,  sternly pointing out out that I had broken postal regulations. It made me wish that Amazon shipped via UPS – a company which has no problem with packages being left in any drop box, regardless of weight.

Is there anyone that likes going into the post office? Parking is inconvenient and it has the efficiency and cheerfulness of – well – a government bureaucracy. At least I have a time-saving tip up my sleeve: if your package is already stamped or pre-paid, like mine is,  you can skip the line! I learned this from a postal employee after standing in line for 20 minutes with a prepaid box under my arm. The lady that helped me said, “You didn’t have to stand in line for this – next time just walk up and hand it to anyone at the counter.”   So that’s exactly what I do.  I ignore the dirty looks of the people waiting in line who wonder what am I getting away with.

As for the mommy jeans now hanging in my closet, well, I am still ambivalent about them. They fit great, and so far they are holding up well. Still, there is something depressing about wearing jeans with a tummy panel. It’s not quite like wearing adult diapers, but there is that same feeling of geriatric un-sexiness. The high waist is functional, but it also starts to feel bulky when I’m sitting down. Also, I don’t like the stitching on the rear pockets – I think the curvy pattern only enlarges (rather than minimizes) the view from the rear.

A view of the tummy panel inside the Miraclebody jeans.

Probably the more exciting discovery here is the Levi’s 512’s. They have already earned a few compliments from other moms – feel great – and for $40, it’s a pair I’d buy again as a basic, sturdy and comfortable playground jean.

These levi's were a great find for summer. (Don't know too many moms wearing capris with 5 inch platform sandals though...)

The more I shop Amazon, the more I like it – they sell diapers, obscure cell batteries for toys, and of course books, electronics, bedding, and just about any other shopping category you can think of.  Now that I have shelled out $80 for a year’s worth of free 2-day shipping, I shop there more than ever – for my household and for birthday presents to send out of town.  When it comes to shopping for clothes, though, Amazon’s biggest problem may well be its wealth of options; it’s easy to get overwhelmed, and after a while it’s hard to tell one pair from another. In the store, I’d try on ten pairs of pants and come away with one; online, that’s just not feasible. There are only so many mommy jeans that I am willing to try (and return) before I throw up my hands and just go back to trying on jeans at the mall.  At least at the mall, even if I strike out with trying on clothes, I can at least pick up some french bread or a new lip gloss as a consolation prize. When I strike out online, all I am left with is one more trip to the post office.

Hunting for jeans

4 Nov

Is my body really that unusual, or does everyone else just have a smaller, flatter butt than I do?

This is the question I have to ask myself after my latest attempt to shop for jeans.  Now granted, I have raised my own standards – I will settle for nothing less than 1) well-fitting, 2) comfortable, and 3) flattering jeans. These need to be workhorse pants, able to stand up to everything that motherhood throws at you –  food stains, repeated trips down a dusty slide, and the constant bending over without revealing too much in the plumber’s crack area.  Oh, and I don’t want to spend a fortune for a pair of pants that will be lucky to surive more than a few seasons.

As luck would have it, I finally saved enough points on my credit card points for $250 at Bloomingdales. First stop: Bloomingdales Stanford Shopping Center. I go straight to the “premium denim” section and grab a handful of jeans that look good on the hanger.  Same problem every time: they won’t fit over my hips (and if they do, there is a huge gap in the waist). I guess I have what they call a curvy figure. Exasperated, I consult the sales guy – who prides himself on knowing his designers inside and out. He suggests the Joe’s Jeans in Honey, which do fit better than the others but rest so far below by navel that I feel like I’m going to audition for an Aerosmith video. I’m generally a fan of Joe’s Jeans (my current go-to pair is the Socialite cut) but I decide that I can do better.

Expanding my search, I decide to use up a block of precious babysitting time to trek north to the Bloomingdale’s in San Francisco Shopping Center. There is something about free money that makes me a more adventurous shopper, I bravely browse rack after rack of the “in” jeans right now – skin tight spandex jeans which go by the cozy name of “denim leggings”.  It’s my day to be open-minded, right?  So I take a few into the fitting room, thinking, maybe I could pull these off with a tunic-length top to cover the rear? After just a few unsuccessful tries to zip them up, one pair finally cooperates and I reflect on what I see in the mirror. There is no need to be self deprecating here, but one word comes to mind – bulge. Now mind you, I take pilates classses once or twice a week, and feel pretty good about the shape I’m in. Dieting and losing weight is not an option for me. I realize that denim leggings are just the next generation of skin-tight Jordache jeans of the 80’s. I avoided those then for the same reason – they make women with normal bodies feel fat.

denim leggings make women with normal bodies feel fat

In case anyone hasn't seen the latest trend in denim - here it is: Jean leggings (I'm told they are also called "Jeggings")

After the shock wears off, I realize I need to rethink my strategy.  Back to browsing the racks, I finally make it to the sale section (conveniently hidden way in the back of the store).  Instead of looking for the needle in a haystack, I pick only based on fabric and color, and ignore the size on the label. Instead, I eyeball it. Do those pants look like they will fit over my hips? Great, let’s go.

This story has a happy ending. The secret is, Alterations. I found two pairs of jeans that passed the feel-good test when I put them on, had enough stretch to facilitate bending and sitting comfortably, and flattered my front and back sides. I pinched the gaping waistband with my finger in order to verify that the waist would sit correctly (not too low) if taken in.  (There is nothing worse than sitting in the sandbox with my daughter only to realize that my rear cleavage is showing.)

Still, because they are on sale, I am spending $100 on a pair of pants (including cost of alterations) that feel like they were made for me. It’s certainly not a bargain, but guess which pants I now wear more than any others? Yep, the pants that I altered just for my proportions – they look good, feel good, and welcome my body when I put them on.  I wear them every week – and even though they get plenty of washes, I hang dry them to extend their life, and hopefully will still be wearing them a year from now.

Ha! Victory over denim leggings! After all, why should I struggle trying to fit my body to the pants, when I can make the pants fit my body?

Although I am pleased as punch about this outcome, I’m still holding out hope that someone out there is making jeans off the rack for a body like mine, for less than $100 a pair. If you have any clue of where to look, please let me know. I’m an average height, average weight woman with curvy hips.

I can’t shrink my waist, so I shrink my wardrobe

27 Oct

Now that I have decided to make a reluctant peace with my post-baby body, I need to rethink my wardrobe.  Browsing my closet, I realize that it’s so tightly jammed that I can hardly see my clothes.  This is a major problem; after all, what mother of small children has time to sift through her closet looking for “that one top”? Just imagine, I tell myself, if my closet were full of clothes that I like, and also quick and easy to navigate, I might actually stand a chance of completing a decent outfit in the 5 minutes I have to get dressed in the morning.

Inspired, I spend the next few nights after the kids go to bed pulling out every item in my closet.  I consciously silence the little voice that justifies and rationalizes why I should keep something questionable: It was on sale. You have never worn it. You used to love this shirt. Etc. etc. Instead, I focus on the feeling I get the instant I put it on.  Does it make me feel better or worse?  Five seconds of wearing the item tells me everything I need to know.  If it tugs, constricts my breathing, or just fails to impress me in the mirror, it’s going out.

I am surprised how this speeds up the process. When all is said and done, I have two trash bags full of clothes headed to Goodwill. Among the items:

  • Many pairs of pants & jeans that are too tight (including some of my old favorites).
  • A few pants that are too loose in the hips and crotch, and make me look like a construction worker. I think I used to think this was a cool look… in retrospect, I am not sure why.
  • A strappy sundress I used to wear without a bra (those days are over now – more on that topic in a separate post).
  • A lot of tops that no longer cover the midsection, and annoy me because I am always tugging them downward.
  • A really ugly oversized grey t-shirt that says “I love Canada”. (No offense to any Candians… if you saw the shirt, you’d understand). In fact, I ditched a big pile unflattering t-shirts which had been stacking up in my closet, some of which I carbon-dated to the year 2000 or earlier.

A few mental notes I made from this process:

1) How many baggy utilitarian t-shirts does a person I really need? Saving clothes in the hope of wearing them on the one day a year you paint the bathroom or clean out the garage is a pitfall. It’s really a magnet for saving ugly clothes that need to be tossed.  I give myself an allowance of one pair of ugly pants and five t-shirts, which I suspect is still about three too many.

2) The clothes that I feel good in fit exceptionally well. However, good fit is harder to achieve in this new body of mine. It’s something I am going to have to work harder at when I shop. Also, it’s time  to find a good, inexpensive tailor.

3) Buying things on sale can really work against me, encouraging me to overlook the flaws of an item in the name of finding a bargain. Then it sits in the closet taking up space.

Speaking of sales reminds me – it’s time to go shopping. I need to replace some wardrobe essentials that I tossed, like slim (but not hoochy tight) black pants for going out at night. I also came across a few items that I have never worn because I can’t complete the outfit.  Now for the real challenge – shopping for attractive clothing that is compatible with taking care of small children.

But that is a topic for another day…

What should I do with my skinny jeans?

20 Oct

I had to do something about the dusty pile of designer jeans on the top shelf of my closet. Those pants had been up there for almost two years, unworn.  I bought them during that brief period when I had lost enough weight from baby #1 to start buying new pants again. That window closed quickly after I got pregnant with baby #2; so quickly that some of the jeans still had tags on them.

Now it’s been more than a year since my second baby’s birth, and those jeans are somehow still inches from zipping up. Come to think of it, most of my pants just don’t fit like they used to.  This means I am living in a segment of my wardrobe which I used to think of as “slouchy”. Now, the pants that I used to wear on my “bloated” days are my everyday pants – despite the fact that I have been working on getting in shape and am already within 5 lbs of my pre-baby weight.  I eagerly gave away my maternity clothes the instant I could squeeze into a few pairs of my normal pants.  Six months later, I have to face the fact that I my old wardrobe and my new, post-baby belly are more incompatible than I realized. That rounder, fuller midsection appears to be here to stay.

I lay my skinny jeans out on the bed, lovingly, neatly, with rear pockets up. Joe’s Jeans, 7 for All Mankind, Citizens of Humanity.  I calculate how much I probably spent on this pile of pants that no longer fits (I don’t pay full price if I can help it – but still, I am looking at a large pile of money wasted.) Sigh. I was so excited to wear these… before that tummy got in the way.

I am unwilling concede defeat.  I put them away, and continue to live in closet limbo.  For several more weeks, my go-to pair of pants is a beige cuorduroy pair that sag in all the wrong places. Still, I tell myself this is temporary, and it doesn’t make sense to buy more clothes until I get back to my target body shape (I avoid weighing myself, because the scale doesn’t seem to tell me anything I don’t already know.) A few months later, I can’t deny the fact that Those Pants are still taking up space in my closet – not to mention in my brain. I email the two friends I imagine could still fitting into these jeans and offer them up for adoption.  Declined.  In a moment of courage, I post them on craigslist for $20 each. Within 24 hours, I have several offers.

“Really? You don’t want to hold on to these until you can fit into them again?” chirps the woman that comes to buy them. She’s a mom too, but somehow she’s had no trouble getting back into her pre-pregnancy jeans.  I tell myself it’s because she’s only on baby #1 – after all, at this point after my first pregnancy, I was fitting into these jeans too. Then, I do something that surprises me. I accept my new pants size. “No,” I say. “I am pretty sure I am at my permanent size now. I  want someone else to be able to enjoy them.” Weirdly, I actually feel truthful saying it.

Now, there’s not only more room in my closet, but I have given myself a new start, and permission to find new jeans that actually fit.  Eliminating deadwood makes room for new growth.  Encouraged, I start to ponder what else in my closet needs to be chucked out…either because it doesn’t fit, or because it doesn’t suit me anymore.

I realize a larger question hiding in the closet – Who is this new person that I have become After Kids? What parts of my old self have carried over, and what parts have fallen silently away? Is there still a place for those shiny silver pants, even though I haven’t set foot in a nightclub in over 5 years?  And what would it be like to reach into a closet full of clothes that I am actually excited to wear?

What to Wear After Kids (Getting dressed is harder now, isn’t it?)

14 Oct

Before kids, I lived in San Francisco, and getting dressed in the morning was fun. My wardrobe included a lot of black, skinny jeans, fun shoes, and I had a sense of adventure and possibility when I went shopping. That was six years ago. Today, I live in the suburbs of Silicon Valley, staying at home raising two lovely kids, aged 5 and nearly 2.  I knew motherhood would be challenging – but I’m really surprised at how difficult it is to get dressed After Kids.  Everyone knows becoming a parent means different priorities, different bedtimes, and different social activities. But why is my entire collection of Joe’s Jeans gathering dust on the top shelf of my closet? Why do I find myself wearing the same hoodie and Teva flip flops every day? Why don’t I bother looking in the mirror anymore?  I think I’m giving up on some part of myself.

Getting dressed After Kids means finding clothes that resist stains and forgive our newly acquired figure flaws.  We hardly have time to use the bathroom in privacy, let alone put together an Outfit for the day.  We’re just grateful that the laundry got done in time to wear that old reliable pair of jeans again. We (along with our footwear) have to keep up with our kids, and that means bending, carrying, climbing, chasing, and running out the door to whatever it is that we’re late for.

Don’t get me wrong – we have our priorities straight. Taking care of our kids does, and should, come before making a fashion statement. Still, I remember the days when dressing used to be fun. It’s a distant memory, just like sleeping in and traveling light. Still, the memory is alluring.

Meanwhile, my younger child begins sleeping through the night, and the haze of sleep deprivation starts to lift. My older child learns to buckle his own seat belt in the car.  And then it happens – a friend compliments an outfit I am wearing, and suddenly I wonder – is there a way to bring back the fun of getting dressed every day, this time as a mom?

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