The Goal is Not Perfection: 3 Thoughts

When I began musing about this subject a couple of months ago, I thought I’d have a perfectly drafted thesis ready for my turn to write. Instead, I have a collection of observations that are only loosely connected by the theme and a deadline that won’t let me procrastinate any further.

A. Every Little Detail

When I saw this woman in front of me the other day, I had to photograph her. Everything about her looked coordinated in a polished way that wasn’t at all matchy-matchy. You can’t tell in this picture, but those are metallic heels . . . that went with the metallic tag on her bag . . . that went with the metallic clasp at her waist (she told me that everyone asks where she found that clasp, but she’s had it for years).

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Hourglassy used to have a series called “Back Interest”, but we dropped it for lack of reader interest. This gives me some consolation that I’m not the only one who focuses on my front, but this woman really raises the bar for the back!

A friend recently had her own story to share on this subject. A senior executive at her company was wearing a pair of black pants with white panels down each side. Not my friend’s taste, but she didn’t really care. It was only when the executive turned around that my friend saw what made the pants so great: the woman’s butt looked amazing. From that point on my friend vowed to care about her back as much as her front.

I’m afraid I can’t make that vow. I love the idea of a perfect appearance, and even though “the goal is not perfection,” I have this unjustified belief that I will eventually get there. Just not today . . . because I really want to wear gym shoes with my jeans. And no makeup. When it comes to a perfect appearance, whether in front or in back, I seem to have a very long view.

B. Age

More magazine has a feature called “This is What 40/50/60 Looks Like” each month where they showcase an amazing-looking middle-aged woman. I hate it. When we reach 40/50/60, aren’t we at least too old to be pressured to look like someone else? It reminds me of 5-year-old me yearning to be a Breck girl, or 12-year-old me yearning to be a Seventeen model. I love most ideas behind More magazine, but not this one.

breck girl 1

I was furious that my mother couldn’t guarantee I would have hair like this when I grew up.

We all age differently, but there’s pressure to have really cool white hair or bright eyes. Or not to age at all if we can help it. Just the other day my 75-year-old mother-in-law came away from dinner with friends feeling insecure about how old she looked compared to the 63-year-old woman at our table. But my mother-in-law takes really good care of herself and looks amazing! (Fortunately, she had fully recovered by the time we visited her 98-year-old aunt yesterday. This aunt had flaming red hair and was wearing a stylish blouse. She asked MIL when she was going to get that mole removed from her nose. My MIL only shrugged and said that she’s had it all her life–who would recognize her without it?)

Old people get condemned for looking old, and they’re praised if they can meet the standards of the younger generations. But age is permission not to strive for perfection anymore. I’m pleased with my body today, but if I’d had the same body in my 20’s, I wouldn’t have been caught dead showing you the bikinis I reviewed in June. But I’m 49, and no one expects me to look the way I expected myself to look when I was 29. It’s very freeing.

C. Sewing

In May I finished sewing my first ever dress shirt for my husband. Every completed step was a victory. I couldn’t believe it when the yoke materialized, and then the collar, and then the cuffs. I had very high standards: if I thought Mr. Campbell would be ashamed to wear the shirt with a slightly crooked seam, I ripped it out and started over.

Then I took the shirt to my mentor Steve and discovered my standards weren’t high enough. He didn’t care if Mr. Campbell would wear it. The edge of the cuff absolutely could not extend past the placket like this.

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And I had to remove the collar stand and reattach it to the shirt until it lined up perfectly.

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It’s too complicated for me to try to explain everything he noticed and made me fix, but I fixed it.

This past Saturday, I finished sewing my fourth shirt . . . a size 8M Campbell & Kate shirt that I’m really proud of. It’s getting easier, but I’m still ripping out seams and starting over again until I get them right. But that’s what makes the difference in my motivation–I know it’s possible to do things right!

Not perfect. Just right. And sometimes it’s hard to know the difference between the two, isn’t it?

Big Bust Celebration Dressing: Fraulein Annie Falling in Love Waist-Cinching Panty

Sometimes our memory embellishes a thing, and when we see it again, we wonder, What was the big deal? Well let me assure you, this doesn’t happen with Fraulein Annie lingerie.

I’ve admired this brand for a long time, and Frauke Nagel recently offered me a bra and panty set to review. It took me weeks to make up my mind, but I finally chose the mulberry/slate Falling in Love fuller bust bra in 34F and waist-cinching panty in US size L. They arrived last week.

My memory hadn’t exaggerated the quality and beauty of these pieces, and because the bra fit perfectly this time, I also experienced the exquisite softness of the satin cups and straps. However, it fit best on the tightest hook, so I’ve placed an order for a 32FF to compare the fit, and I will give you my full review after it arrives. On the other hand, I don’t want to delay reviewing the waist-cinching panty because Fraulein Annie shapewear is exactly what some of you will want to wear under your special occasion dresses this summer.

Like Tina Fey, I have Spanx in my lingerie drawer. Mine is the open-bust body suit that combines her two pieces into one. It made my shirts fit better when I was heavier, and it smoothed me out for a couple of weddings. But I hate it. It’s such a letdown to peel off my carefully put-together outer look to come down to this.

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Besides being hideous, it goes higher than the sides of my bra, so the edge rubs me raw whenever I reach my arms forward. I thought this was a necessary evil to maintain an uninterrupted plane of smoothness from bra band to shapewear, but thanks to Fraulein Annie, it isn’t.

I measure 16 inches from my bra band to the beginning of my crotch.  When I’m wearing the waist-cinching panty, I can easily lay my bra band on top of the waist cincher band. The only skin visible is a little triangle under the center gore of my bra. With the silicone edging around the band, it stays put. All Sunday I kept reaching up to make sure it hadn’t slipped down, but there was no need. It never budged.

The bra and cincher panties worn together are so beautiful that I wish they could be outerwear. As I undressed down to my pearls and Falling in Love cincher panties at the end of the day Sunday, I suddenly understood why the Fraulein Annie trademark is wearing evening gloves with her set–these lingerie pieces are made to be elegantly accessorized.

fraulein annie falling in love waist cinching panty front

I’m sure my neighbors wondered why I was laying shapewear on top of their azaleas yesterday, but it was too pretty to resist.

fraulein annie falling in love waist cincher silicone band

Closeup of the silicone edging. I love that the burgundy bows aren’t too matchy-matchy.

falling in love waist cinching panty snap closure

Extremely easy to fasten and unfasten, but it stays secure while wearing.

fraulein annie falling in love waist cincher cotton panel

Cotton-lined gusset.

Besides being beautiful, I know you’re wondering about the function, so let’s begin with hold. Basically, I find it on par with my Spanx. Neither are corsets, so there is no boning that will force you to suck in your stomach, but it takes up to 1.5 inches off my waist. This made a giant difference in the comfort level of a size 6P dress I tried yesterday–when I wore the cincher, the fabric glided over my waist. When I didn’t wear it, the fabric clung.

The experience of gliding vs. clinging reminds me of this interesting tip from The Wardrobe Wakeup by Lois Joy Johnson–an excellent book, by the way:

Wear shapewear as a liner to improve fit. When designers and manufacturers cut costs, linings are the first to go. These silky inner “skins” used to mean quality but now even pricier clothes scrimp on them. Linings do help tailored skirts, dresses, and pants keep their shape, but wearing control garments under inexpensive unlined items provides the same benefits. You don’t need maximum strength shapewear–any silky, light compression piece will help clothes skim over stress points. Shapewear works as a buffer between unlined items and your skin. It prevents sticking and pulling so clothes won’t crease, pull or ride up as you bend and move.

I asked Frauke how she would rate the hold of her shapewear on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the strongest. She said, “I’d give it a 4. Marks & Spencer classify their shapewear in ‘Light, Medium, Strong, Extra Strong’. All my shapewear pieces are Strong.”

As you know, I’m also curious about shapewear’s smoothing effect on my back. The cinching panty didn’t obliterate my bulges, but it definitely helped.

waist cincher comparison

Without on the left. With on the right.

You may also be wondering if the beauty of Fraulein Annie shapewear is also its weakness: will the embellishments show through? If you’re wearing something super thin and sheer, they might, but I was surprised at how little showed through the thinnest, clingiest top I own.

sheer stretch fabric over fraulein annie falling in love waist cinching panty

I’m also wearing the Falling in Love bra in this photo.

There was, however, a bit of VPL with the blue dress I mentioned above. I attribute it to a combination of the dress being slightly too small and the legs of the panties being very slightly loose on me. My only wish for this panty is a flatter band around the legs with the same silicone edging as is in the waist band.

As far as sizing goes, my waist measures 83 cm, so the US size L is right for me. It is far more comfortable than I expect shapewear to be, though, so I would have considered trying an M if my experience with the Va Bien longline hadn’t already convinced me to err in the direction of a larger size when in doubt.  Frauke concurred: “I won’t recommend wearing a smaller size than one that fits well. It would create bulges and would be uncomfortable and irritating. After all, shapewear is to flatten bulges and to give you better proportions. Also, if you are wearing a garment a size too small, the material gets tired faster and it won’t last as long as it should.”

I also asked Frauke how she would recommend wearing panty hose or stockings with the cinching panty, and she advises hold ups in the summer and panty hose in the winter.

I’m absolutely delighted with my mulberry/slate Falling in Love waist-cinching panty, but if you study the Fraulein Annie shapewear options, I know you’ll understand why it took me so long to choose just one. Based on my own experience, I know you’ll be happy with whatever choice you make.

 

Fit & Active October: What Motivates You?

When my normal exercise schedule got disrupted last week, I didn’t want to do boot camp two days in a row–that would be a surefire path to burnout for me. Thankfully, comments to last week’s Fit & Active post alerted me to the world of YouTube exercise videos. In live cardio-dance classes, it’s hard for me to follow the choreography, but I hoped the pause button on my TV would help me master the steps enough to have fun and raise my heart rate.

It didn’t–it’s going to take a lot more than a single video session to turn me into a Rockette. Thinking it may have been my choice of video, I browsed a little more and discovered this Jillian Michaels workout. The comments say it’s really good, and I may try it some day, but Leah’s latest Project Runway rant was too fresh in my mind to be able to get past Jillian’s introduction of the women helping her:

I think you can tell by the shape of their bodies, they are the absolute best in the business. I want to have the best always because they help elevate what I do, my work, and they’re aspirational for you and me. I mean, look at these girls. Who doesn’t want to look like that? The idea being, that if you stick with this 45 minute workout diligently and consistently, we’re all gonna look like this in no time. I don’t think anything could be more inspirational.

They DO look AMAZING, don’t they?

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But it doesn’t matter how many times I do this workout video, I’m never going to look like them. Of course there’s the obvious difference in bra size, but even if I get a reduction, I’m never going to have their bodies. And that’s fine because I don’t want to have their bodies. I’m happy with my body. I’m not working out so that I can look like someone else.

Jillian Michaels needs to sell her videos, and the Project Runway designers need to sell their clothes. To do so, they believe they must appeal to the most popular conceptions of fitness and beauty. And this is why I am oh so thankful for the internet.  Because of the internet, we’re not trapped by images from the traditional media that lead us to believe we should only want to look one way.

On the internet, there’s room for individuality, risk and authenticity, as I discovered when I continued my search and found this homemade exercise video. The Pinterest caption where I found it states that “[t]his video was created for [. . . ] inspirational purposes only. [. . . ] There are no professional dancers in this video.” I am so much more inspired by the women in this video than I am by Jillian Michaels’ team.  Because I relate physically to the two women on the left (they’re probably wearing sports bras under those tee shirts!), I’m even inspired to believe that I may someday be able to dance as gracefully as they do to this song.

all body types can be in shape and graceful

Here’s another video from the same group. The participants include a grey-haired woman and a young lady who may have Down’s Syndrome. This video makes me want to have as much fun with my exercise as they do!

Here’s what currently motivates me to be fit and active:

  • the good feeling that comes after exercise
  • clearing away lethargy
  • meeting the instructors’ challenges and seeing improvement in my stamina as a result
  • feeling my biceps
  • lower cholesterol and blood pressure

I know myself enough to realize that these won’t always get me out of the house and to the gym. A few weeks of travel or a simple cold are enough to disrupt my commitment and sideline me. However, when I’m ready to start again, it won’t be someone else’s physically perfect body that gets me going.

What gets you going?

 

 

 

Off the Rack ~ Project Runway Does it Again

Apologies for another nonsense post this week. I don’t think I’ll have time for any full-length ones in October. My wedding is a mere three weeks away, after all! This week you get a mini-rant…

Any readers out there watch the show Project Runway in the US? I’ve complained about their treatment of non-fashion model women twice before, and this season is following suit, unfortunately.

Last week’s episode 10 was the “street muse” challenge, wherein the designers had to wander Washington Square Park in NY and find a model/muse from among the people hanging out. A large portion of the NYU campus is just south of the park and the show was filming in the middle of the day, so I knew right off the bat they’d have a glut of young, college-age women to choose from—no middle aged ladies need apply!

I was still hopeful that the designers would choose a variety of women, but nope, they all chose white, slender, tall women—including a yoga teacher and a ballet dancer. So basically they picked women who were as close to models as they could find. So boring!

One of the designers even approached a pair of girls and asked just one of them to be his model; when the other expressed interest, he told her she was too short. So apparently he’s incapable of designing for anyone who isn’t at least 5’8”?

To be fair, this particular episode was at least absent the body snark so present in other seasons when the designers had to work with “real” women, but it was still pretty disappointing. I’m of the opinion that if you can only design clothes for models, then you’re not a very good designer.