Helping with Fit and Learning a Lesson About Value

A law school friend asked me to reach out to Ester, her Tanzanian translator who was in New York “with 5 albino children who will be fitted for prosthetics”. Like me, you may be wondering what the significance is of the children having albinism?

Global Relief Fund

In Africa, and especially Tanzania, people with albinism are regarded as bad luck and outcasts . . . unless a witch doctor instructs his client to return with the limb of a person with albinism so that he can mix it with a potion to bring good luck. Ester, who you see on the left in the photo above, works with the 320 children with albinism that are sponsored by Under the Same Sun. One of her jobs is to make sure they are placed in private boarding schools with strong security.

Six months ago, a group of men barged into six-year-old Baraka’s home and hacked off his hand. His story caught the attention of the founder of Global Medical Relief Fund, who tried to contact his parents to bring him to the United States for a prosthetic. Instead, she reached Under the Same Sun and ended up bringing Baraka and four more children with him. That’s how Ester came to be in New York City with the five children you see in this picture. (Baraka is the smallest child on the left next to Ester.)

Although these children return to Tanzania on September 30, a Tanzanian teenager with albinism will take their place, so Ester will remain. Having packed for only two months, she is now at the end of her third month and running out of clothes!

Last night, Hourglassy’s clothing swap came to the rescue. Thanks to some great pieces that no one took home last year, Ester now owns several dresses, blouses and bras that fit her perfectly. What an honor it was to be able to help this amazing woman.

pepperberry tweed dress on ester


pepperberry white blouse on ester


bolero black dress


With our first swap in 2012, I promised to donate any unclaimed clothes to charity, but last year I had an idea I like better: keep the clothes in my basement for the following year’s swap, and make them available to busty women who stop by before then. Doesn’t this make you want to visit New York City? Of course, if you already live in or near the city, then you should come to our 4th Annual Big Bust Clothing Swap this Saturday!

When I drove home from visiting Ester last night, I felt thankful that my goal of helping busty women find clothes to fit had been reached in such an unexpected way. My encounter with her charges, however, gave me a new perspective on the theme of self-acceptance that we often discuss here. Under the Same Sun sponsors many children with albinism who have run away because their own families are the ones who want to harm them. How can a small child have the strength to refuse to believe the lie that she is worthless and to fight for her very survival? The battles that these children are winning gives me courage to overcome my much smaller struggles. I hope they do the same for you.

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).

back interest.jpg

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.


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


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?

Introducing Hourglassy’s July Theme: The Goal is Not Perfection

Do you have a word you use all the time? My Jamaican-American mother-in-law’s word is “crazy”. If she can’t get her laptop to work, “This computer crazy.” When she doesn’t hear her cell phone and misses a call, “My phone crazy, man.” If she disagrees with someone’s life choices, of course, “He crazy!”

It was my husband who pointed her special word out to me, and whenever anything goes wrong or seems strange, we’ll laugh and imitate his mom, with extra emphasis on the first syllable, just like her: “That’s CRAzy.” (His mother is now living with us indefinitely, so pretty soon everyone is going to call me crazy.)

I didn’t think I had a trademark word until my husband pointed it out to me as well. It’s “perfect”. When we finish planning to meet somewhere, I’ll conclude with “Perfect.” A waiter seats us by the window, and I’ll exclaim, “This is perfect!” A parking place in front of our house is “Perfect!” I like someone’s shoes, and “They’re the perfect shoes with that outfit.”

I use this word so much that you might think the idea of perfection has lost all meaning for me. In reality, I’m so saturated with the idea of perfection that it’s overflowing into my everyday wording for commonplace situations.  “Perfect” is like saying “great” with a boost. Why settle for less?

As I prepared for my “D+ Dressing without Stressing” workshop in May, I began to question my presumption that we’re all going for perfection all the time. Was I trying to tell my D+ audience how to dress perfectly? If so, I needed to call and cancel the workshop because there was no way I could perform under that sort of pressure. In the end, I decided that my goal was to show my audience how certain details make a difference in our appearance . . . details that I’ve learned about while blogging and that I wish someone had told me about long ago. It was up to my audience to play with the details for themselves.

Because I automatically assume that the goal is perfection in every undertaking, the realization that perfection isn’t always the goal is raising a lot of questions for me. And it’s made me curious as to what others think on the subject. So this month, we’re going to delve into this topic. We won’t write about it every day, but at least one Hourglassy writer will cover it each week, and we’ll link to other bloggers who have decided to write about this theme. Plus, we have some great guest writers lined up as well.

It’s going to be perfect! :)




Fitting In ~ Cup-sized Swimwear Changed My Life

I’m a Jersey Girl. We don’t go to the beach, we go “Down the shore . . .” and the music of Bruce Springsteen was pretty much the sound track to my adolescence. So when the Boss covered the Tom Wait’s song “Jersey Girl”, it should have summed up those 80’s for me, as I actually lived them.

“Cause down the shore everything’s alright . . . .”

Except it wasn’t. For me. Plus-size and full-busted, I had a really hard time ever finding a swimsuit. Even as a child, wearing a hand-me-down one-piece of my older sister’s, I hated getting sand into the crotch of the swimsuit that was stretched out after years of being worn by someone taller than me.

Then when I was shopping for my own suits, I couldn’t find anything in conventional stores and couldn’t find enough bust support in plus-sized swimwear. For two decades, if I couldn’t go skinny-dipping, I would wear men’s swim trunks and a t-shirt over an ill-fitting bra. So, as you might imagine — I didn’t swim much. Maybe a handful of times in my twenties and thirties. Otherwise, I stayed out of the sun and out of the fun. Pool parties, weeks at the beach, vacations to sunny, summery locales . . . I turned it all down and stayed indoors.

Only my dermatologist was happy. Cup-sized swimwear changed all that when I found it in 2007. And I’m making up for lost time trying to get in all the vitamin D I can manage. I even, in my 40’s, took up surfing.

Earlier this summer, a good friend took me to see Sir Paul McCartney perform in Philadelphia as part of his Out There tour.  Comfortably secure in a swim bra under a summer dress, with no cares about straps showing or lingerie being on display, I was able to get lost in the music.  Singing along to old Beatles & Wings tunes, I was completely un-selfconscious about what I wore.  That took nearly half a century, but I was able to be Out There. 

So my hope for my fellow full bust sisters is that you find a swimsuit and sink your toes in the sand or in the grass.  That you build sand castles or run through sprinklers; that you go tubing down a river or snorkeling or surfing or flying kites on a beach.  That you let a cup-sized bikini top do double duty as a bra under a summer dress.  Try one of the suits we’ve reviewed and get Out There.


Happy Summer!