Practically Perfect in Everyway

Practically Perfect in Every Way…..

By the time the wind has blown the weather vane around
I’ll show you if I can
No matter what the circumstance for one thing I’m renowned
My character is spit spot spic and span
I’m practically perfect in every way….

I have a special spot in my heart for Mary Poppins and would love a tape measure like hers.

 

Where to you measure up?

Where to you measure up?

Quite sure I’d fall between Stubborn & Suspicious and Prone to Giggling, not good at putting things away. I am both in equal parts.  Assuming perfect means “as good as it could possibly be, with no room for improvement” I whole-heartedly embrace the Perfection is Not the Goal idea. In that sense,  perfect is elusive as we’re in constant flux, getting better and improving in some ways and becoming worse at others over time. This is even more apparent to me with an aging body. Even if I could regain many of the qualities I had as a child or young woman, who I am now appreciates everything all the more.

Still, there were these ideals of perfection I remember from childhood.

Nadia Comaneci

 

Much was made of the first ever perfect 10 in Womens Gymnastics.

Much was made of the first ever perfect 10 in Womens Gymnastics.

I remember this well (I rooted for Olga Korbut, however) and I was in gymnastics class at the time.  The goal was to get some exercise, have fun, and be out of my mother’s hair on Saturday mornings.  Neither I nor my parents had any expectation that I would compete, and it wasn’t long before gymnastics were replaced by other interests.
Another “10”

Bo Derek

Bo Derek in "10"

Bo Derek in “10”

I never looked like this — never been that thin, or had a graceful long neck.  Ms. Derek’s character being a “10” was somewhat tongue in cheek, but the image quickly became iconic.

 

From a fashion perspective, I think there is much to be said for remaining a work in progress. Coco Chanel famously advised getting all dressed and accessorized,
but then removing one thing. Did she think that perfect was a bit over-done? Did she agree, as I do, that motion, flexibility and potential are equally important;
that almost finished can seem more alive and vibrant than completely finished? I’m more drawn to Impressionist art than I am to realistic representations. It’s
something about the motion, depth and suggestion that comes from the not-quite-perfect images. I do think I take Coco’s advice too far in that I find myself leaving
something out, often unintentionally. It’s only after-the-fact when i see pictures that I realized how one MORE accessory might have pulled everything together.

Last month — you saw my middle-aged self modeling bathing suits in un-retouched photos. How could perfection be the goal if I’m starting with a clearly imperfect
body? It’s a long way from perfect, to be sure, particularly if we accept that perfect means it couldn’t possibly be better. However, there’s another way to define Perfect.  “Great,
with a boost” as Darlene used it in her intro is a good one.  In that sense it could be synonymous with “this suits me fine” and that, my friends, is a worthy goal indeed.

And a coda…

OK, so there’s an Alabama song (# 1 in 1982) by the name of “Close Enough to Perfect” that became my earworm when Darlene first suggested the theme “The Goal is not Perfection” for July.   If ever there were a perfect lyric:   Don’t you worry about my woman / Or what you think she ought to be.

If I were still a Radio Station DJ, I’d send that song out to the NYTIMES on behalf of Serena.

Full Bust Find: H&M Summer Dress

It’s finally warm enough to post this find from Ana–the same Ana who found a great H&M peplum top for us in March. Since many of the prints and colors in this year’s iteration of the dress are already sold out, I hope I’m not too late with this information for you. (Thanks to Ana, I gave H&M a try in June and found these scoop neck tees with the sleeve length I like. The medium fit me just right.)

As a reminder, Ana wears a size 34/XS in H&M, and her measurements are: 1.6 m height (5’2″), 91 cm bust (36″), 66 cm under bust (26″), 63 cm waist (25″), 83 cm high hip (33″), 89 cm full hip (35″). Her bra size in most brands is 26FF/28F.

This post is about a style of H&M’s summer dresses that might work for fuller busts. The red H&M dress below is from two years ago; however for the last few years they have released dresses with variations of this cut in numerous colors and patterns. I have also found other similar cuts with short sleeves or with buttons on the front instead of the zipper on the back. All of them have in common the fitted bodice (with princess seams in the front and back) combined with a fuller skirt.

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If I recall correctly the price was 14€, so as one might guess, the fabric is not prime quality. It has no stretch and is very thin, and I imagine it might be a bit see through in lighter colors, but given that this is a summer dress, the fabric being light isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I’ve worn this dress a lot and it is starting to show: there are a few stitches coming undone where the straps meet the front of the dress, mostly on the right strap; however given the price point I think it is actually holding up quite well.5

This style features princess seams in the front and in the back as well. It closes with a back zip, has a full skirt and thin adjustable straps. As shown in the pictures, given the placement of the straps the most adequate bra to wear with this dress would be a strapless. I currently don’t own any that fit me well so I usually wear it with a Masquerade plunge called Polka that is almost the same color of the dress. As one can see in the details below, the bra doesn’t show under the armpit but only where the straps meet the cups. This is a common issue for me as most bras in my size usually have the straps quite wide set. The straps of the dress are quite thin so would probably never cover those of a full bust bra completely, but I do wish brands started to make bras with more varied strap placement because with some clothes it would be very useful.

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The main reason I like this dress so much is the fact it fits both my bust and my waist and is not made of a stretchy fabric–this is extremely rare. For the more adventurous with the sewing machine I took pictures of the inside of the bodice where the seams can be more easily seen. For the rest of us that aren’t so handy, one can always look for dresses with a similar seam placement.

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This black dress with white, orange and pink keys is from 2012. It has a similar cut but with buttons at the front and more of a sweetheart neckline. It also made a bit of a point in the centre at the front where the bodice meets the skirt. I was wearing Masquerade’s Rhea in Mulberry underneath and the cups don’t seem to show as much. I returned this one because I wasn’t very keen on the pattern’s colors.

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This cat print dress from 2011 is just like the one from 2012 but with sleeves and a higher neckline. The buttons on this one seemed to be pulling a bit.

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This year’s version of this dress has the strap adjusters like my red dress and the one from 2012, buttons in the front like the  cat print from 2011, looks to be made of non-stretch fabric like all the others and has the vertical seams (though they’re hard to see because of the prints). But it seems that this year they decided to remove the seam at the waist, making all seams vertical. It doesn’t have a back view on the website and as of July 1 I couldn’t find it in stores to check that it fits like the ones from previous years.

H and M short dress

I would love to know if someone else has tried these dresses and what has been your own experience with non-stretch garments and H&M clothing.

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?

Off the Rack ~ Happy Fourth of July (And a Heart of Haute Astro Dress Review & Alteration)

In honor of the USA’s Fourth of July/Independence Day holiday, today I’m doing a quick and looooong overdue review of the Astro dress from Heart of Haute in the red, white, and blue star print.

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I bought this dress ages ago and never got around to reviewing it, in part because it’s not actually all that boob-friendly and required either a pin to hold it shut or some sewn alterations. But I really wanted to wear it for the holiday this year, so it was finally my motivation to do the alteration.

First up, I had to take advantage of the gorgeous weather and scenery around my parents’ cabin in upstate New York, where I’m spending the extended holiday weekend:

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Basics: Like much of Heart of Haute’s offerings, this one is made of high quality quilting cotton with pristine stitching. The belt is removable, and is held in place by two double-layered belt loops placed on the front of the bodice. I think a minor improvement could be achieved by placing another pair of belt loops on the back on either side of the zipper, since it tends to slide down a bit as-is.

Surprisingly, the red underbust section actually rests under my bust (surprising because my long torso and bigger bust usually means waistbands pull up to rest on breast tissue instead of below it where it belongs).

However, as I’ve experienced before with HoH, the boob space is a little wonky on me. Thanks to ample gathering at the base of the bustline, it appears to have enough volume to fit my boobs, but tends to float away from my chest, exposing bra and way more cleavage than I especially want:

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Until I sewed a permanent alteration, I solved this by pinning the overlapping pieces together, but that ends up creating a broken line along the front, and the pin job is pretty obvious:

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While attempting to figure out the best way to sew the top, I realized that simply pulling the overlapping pieces into place created a loose, gappy look:

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However, pinching the front of the dress on each side pulled the neckline up without eradicating any volume in the cups, so I decided that was the way to go, even if it broke up the pattern a bit:

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While wearing the dress, I pinched one side into place (in my case the left-hand side), folded it down, and sewed it in place with a super-loose baste stitch just to hold it there. If I was at home, I would have held it with several pins and maybe ironed it, but all I had at my disposal was thread and the single needle I’d brought:

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Then I used a slip stitch to hand-sew the overlapping piece in place all the way from the front to the side seam (you can see a slip stitch tutorial in this old post of mine: Shrinking a Bra Band). Here’s how it looked after sewing my left-hand side (so the right side in this view). You can see it looks slightly cleaner overall and there’s no more visible bra:

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For the other side, I sandwiched the two sides together and (lazily) just pinched it in place without bothering to baste it, and started sewing. It turned out a tiny bit uneven compared to the other side, but with the busy pattern I don’t think you can even tell:

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The fabric is now flush with my chest instead of floating out away from it. It’s still fairly open in terms of visible cleavage, but I feel a lot more comfortable and taller folks can’t see down my top any more. This alteration did pull up the red waistband a bit so it’s now resting on breast tissue by just a little (whereas before it wasn’t), but I think this minor sacrifice is worth it.

There are no Astro dresses left on the HoH site (though there is one on their clearance site in XS), but several designs are quite similar, including the Irma, Jolene (which makes me think of the Dolly Parton/White Stripes song), Mallory, and Melinda, all of which I think would benefit from this alteration for big-busted ladies.

Happy Fourth of July, everybody!!