Archive for the ‘fashion’ Category

Recreating the Closet

One of the most frustrating things about changing your body (either making it bigger or smaller or more toned or less toned) is the havoc that it can wreak on your wardrobe, especially once you’ve got a wardrobe of things that you really enjoy wearing. Because let’s face it, there’s nothing worse (or more demoralizing) that standing in front of your closet, reaching for your favorite pair of jeans, skirt, or even top and have it not fit.

Now I’ve been listening to a lot of coaches who tell you that you should only be buying beautiful things – quality pieces that will make you feel beautiful. Well, I’d love to be able to go buy everything I want (whenever I want, from where ever I want), but sometimes that’s just not practical. Sometimes, however, you can find everything you want, whenever you want, from the least likely of places.

Yesterday I was having a self-pampering day. I mean, it was really extravagant. I started off with acupuncture, a nice walk down the rail trail, followed by chiropractic, then personal coaching, then belly dancing, and a group coaching call! I actually did about 10 minutes of work, sandwiched between bouts of hooping!

Between the first two “appointments” (which were about 4 blocks from each other) I had about an hour and a half on my hands. Instead of heading over the public library, which would have been another perfectly good option, I stopped in at the local community center, LISTEN. Now, I had just dropped off about three (or maybe even four) bags of perfectly decent clothes to the LISTEN center, and over the course of my time in the community, I have donated over ten or twelve times that amount, but I must admit that I have only on rare occasion gone inside to actually shop.

Wow! First of all, it was swarming with customers. And it was chock full of amazing buys. One of the nice things about living in a relatively affluent, communitarian-minded community is that people give lots of good stuff away. I found a Worthington skirt, a Woolrich shirt, a J. Jill sweater, a super nice pair of pants, and a fun summer top – all for under $3 a piece! Now some were originally $4.75, but it was actually 50% off! Seriously, I got a bag of killer clothes for less than $12.00!

Now, interestingly, these may not have been clothes that I would have bought if I had been in a normal department store – but I like them and they look great! Also, they were dirt cheap, which means that I can wear them once and if I do decide that they “don’t serve me” (whether they don’t after one wearing or they never did within the context of my life or larger wardrobe) who cares? It’s almost like renting movies, you know what I mean? It really doesn’t matter, because if I don’t like it, I can always take it back and I’ll have gotten one wearing for the cost of a cheap evening’s entertainment. It’s brilliant.

So, what does this mean in terms of recreating the closet and, indeed, recreating myself?

One, I won’t be afraid to experiment.

Two, I’ll be more likely to push my boundaries.

Three, I can upgrade or downgrade (depending on the look I’m going for).

Four, I can also start rebuilding a teaching wardrobe (or, let’s be honest) building one for very little money.

So, what does this mean for you? Well, if you’re between sizes, or if you’re bored with the contents of your closets, but don’t want to spend a lot of money, go find a community store (also known as thrift stores or, if you’re willing to spend a little more money, consignment stores). It is worth noting that I’ve been shopping in consignment stores for a while; however, I actually found better stuff in the community center (that is, the thrift store). Why? Well, I’m not totally sure, but one possibility is that the the women who are giving their clothes away – instead of waiting around for a 25% tithe – had more money to spend on clothes to begin with. Think about it.

Now if you live in a community or neighborhood that is not particularly affluent, then it might be worth finding a store in an area that is a little bit nicer than the one you live in. Just go check it out, and you may need to go more than once just to get the hang of it. And if you just have some weird thing about not buying used clothes ask yourself: where did that idea come from? After one wash, how is something that someone else has worn any different from something I’ve already worn? Isn’t it better to spend almost no money on something nice (but lightly used) than spending some money on something not nearly as nice but new? Isn’t it worth rethinking limiting ideologies that in the end might be bad not only for yourself, your wardrobe, your community, and at a more global level, the planet?

Give it a try and let me know what you come up with. You might be pleasantly surprised; I know I certainly was.

The Missing Link: Introducing the CalTrac

I must admit, I have been completely flummoxed over my recent (over the last 3 months) 16 pound weight gain. I’m not obsessing over it (no, really!) but I was curious.

I was still exercising and I do think some of it’s muscle (as I’m still in my 4s – for the most part and my 6s, comfortably), but it’s clear that the belly (aka Bella) has taken on a life of her own.

Granted, I’ve been really sad over the last three weeks or so. Not miserable, but definitely feeling a loss.

I also have had less control over my eating – more peanut butter, more binges, but – in all fairness – my binge eating is pretty tame by most people’s standards. And even though I haven’t been counting calories, even on the days that I was over eating, I wasn’t over eating that much. I certainly wasn’t eating even lose to 2,000 a day, so things just really didn’t seem to add up.

Yesterday, however, it all slid into place.

It wasn’t that I ate all that much more this summer.

It wasn’t that I stopped exercising.

It’s that I stopped moving this summer, aside from exercise.

In the interest of saving time and gasoline (and spending more time with Cat) I worked at home this summer. And I worked a lot. Meaning that on most days, as soon as I finished working out, I took a shower and walked 15 steps to the dining room table (or 8 steps into the living room) and worked – i.e., sat on my ass, which got progressively bigger as the weeks passed.

It didn’t occur to me that this was a problem, because I had stayed tuned into food and exercise – that is, formal exercise – like High Intensity Interval Training, Nordic Track, K-Bells, Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred, etc. You know, the kind of stuff that you actually get dressed for and makes you sweat.

Well, because I am determined to get rid of my extra padding that I put on this summer, I started working with a fitness coach.

This woman, whose name is Susan, has given me a device known as a CalTrac. A CalTrac is beeper-like object that you wear on your waist band and it calculates the amount of calories you burn through movement, separate from the calories that you burn just by being alive.

The first couple of days that I had it, I was actually at a conference, which pretty much mimicked what I had been doing at home all summer.

Guess how many calories you burn through movement when you sit on your butt all day?

Less than 200.

Way less.

Yesterday, I headed back to the office.

Instead of shuffling from the bathroom to the kitchen – like I’d done everyday for the last three months – I parked my car at the gym and walked to my office. I walked back across campus to go to convocation (which, ironically, was pretty darned close to where I’d parked my car). Then I walked back to my office. Then, later in the afternoon, I took a turn around the pond, because I realize that the leaves are turning and I won’t have too many more gorgeous days left. At the end of the day I walked back to my car and then to my belly dancing class, because I figured that it would be hard to find parking (which, as it turns out, would have been had I drove).

At the end of the day, I had burned 809 calories through movement – and that’s not counting the 440 calories that I had burned that morning on the stair mill!



That’s a 600 calorie difference just by moving (or not moving) without any consideration of exercise whatsoever.

That’s 3,000 calories a week, assuming a 5 day work week.

That’s practically a pound a week.

No wonder I gained weight!

And no wonder I just didn’t get it.

Because I hadn’t changed what I ate – not that much anyway.

And I hadn’t changed the number of calories that I burned through formal/scheduled exercise.

But I had changed the informal/unscheduled calories that you burn just by walking, just by moving.

It’s a little annoying to wear a little blue device on your belt, but it sure is motivating.

In fact, instead of checking my email when I’m done here, chances are I’m going to take a turn around the pond. It is another gorgeous day after all. But, perhaps even more importantly, it’s another 200+/- calories!

It really never occurred to me that the non-sweat inducing activity of walking (back and forth from cars, between buildings, etc.) could make the difference of a pound a week!

Who knows? I may start parking even further away than I do now (not to mention using the women’s bathroom on the fifth floor instead of the one outside of my office)!

If you’ve changed your routine and you’ve noticed that you’re feeling a little thicker around the middle, perhaps you should get up and move a little bit more than you do – and maybe even a little more than that tomorrow.

I know that’s my plan!

Pushing my boundaries (shopping for spring clothes)

Shopping for clothes in stores is always an adventure.

For the last two days, I’ve been scouring the Kohl’s sales racks. For those of you who don’t know about Kohl’s – it’s a mid tier department store (somewhere between Macy’s and Target). They are known for their sales. At the “end” of every season, they slash their inventory by anywhere from 60 to 80%

Luckily for those who live up north, spring doesn’t really arrive until about a week before summer. That means that you can wear the heavily discounted stuff for weeks – if not months – before you need to break out the linen and t-shirts!

Regardless, while I was there a couple of interesting things happened.

One, I found myself shopping at the low end of the clothing racks. It wasn’t that long ago that I would start at the 12s or 10s or the innocuous Ms. This time I found myself seeking out the 6s, the occasional 4s and the Ss. (Unfortunately I am not naive enough to think that Kohl’s and other mid-level department stores all across America haven’t gone to what one might call “vanity sizing,” but it was still fun!)

Two, I actually put things back that made me look “too big.” This is noteworthy, not because I’m significantly smaller than I’ve been for the last year or so, but rather because I’ve finally come to terms with what I look like in a mirror. And, perhaps even more importantly, I’m no longer trying to hide it.

There was a time that I would have cringed if anything that even remotely looked like a curve was visible. This time, not so much. Does this mean that I don’t have any love handles or (perish the thought of even using this word) muffin tops? No, unfortunately, they’re there; that’s life.

When I did a little fashion show for Michael J, he congratulated me for trying more form fitting clothes.

I thanked him for the compliment and asked him to promise me one thing – that is, to tell me if I go too far, as its easy to get seduced by the pull of smaller and smaller sizes.

“How far is too far?” he asked.

Good question.

After a moment’s consideration, my personal guidelines for if I’ve taken it too far: I look bad or it looks like I’m trying to dress younger than I am.

He agreed. And I trust him to tell me truth.

If you have a Kohl’s near you (or any other store with decent clothes and ridiculously slashed prices) go spend a couple of hours pawing through the sales racks. You never know what you might find. Who knows, you might – if you’re lucky and you’re willing to take some chances – find a completely new you.

In fact, I’ve found some of my favorite pieces of clothing by trying on what other people have left in the dressing rooms. The benefit of trying on other people’s left behinds is that unless that person has your exact same taste, they’re choices are almost certain to be outside of your comfort zone and something that if you’d seen it on the rack you wouldn’t have given it a second glance – let alone tried it on.

As a wise man once said, all progress comes when you’re outside of your comfort zone. So step out of yours and have some fun. After all, it’s not like you have to actually buy it!

Amateur Fashion (strutting your stuff and changing your identity)

Tonight I am participating in my third amateur fashion show, sponsored by this super cool dress shop in White River Junction, VT: Revolution. Revolution is one of my favorite places to shop, not only because they showcase the work of local dressmakers, but also because the owner routinely makes runs to New York and consigns.

It’s fun, it’s hip, and it beats the heck out of all the department stores, which, in our neck of the woods, really are the only other option (and are, if you hate fluorescent lights and cheap mass manufactured clothes, not really an option at all). And I say that as a non-clothes snob. I’m also not a glamorous girly girl. In fact, I can honestly say that the last time I had make up on was during the last fashion show!


So why would an almost 40, professor who wouldn’t couldn’t apply her own base if her life depended on it and who has body “issues” voluntarily sign up for an amateur fashion show?

Precisely because I am an almost 40, professor who wouldn’t couldn’t apply her own base if her life depended on it and who has body “issues”

So today, I will get to be a girl. And not just any girl, but a girly girl. I have an appointment to get my hair done at 3:30 and then make up at 4:30. There are a couple of hours to kill (probably drinking cheap wine and pizza [or my green stuff, salad and natural peanut butter sandwich that I plan to pack in]) with the other models – many of whom will be older than me!

The call for models sums it up:

WANTED:  Exhibitionist-type personalities to parade the Revolutionary fall collections! All shapes, sizes, ages & genders are encouraged to participate.

Prerequisite: You must be a little brave and pretty on the inside.

I don’t know that I am exhibitionist or all that brave, but there’s something incredibly liberating about wearing something that you might never normally wear, made up to the hilt, and just putting it out there. Essentially, what you’re doing is saying to the world: This is me! This is my body!

If you’ve ever struggled with body-image, there’s nothing more rewarding than sashaying down a catwalk and having hundreds of people (most of whom you’ve never met) cheering you on. There’s lights, there’s music. It’s fun. It’s invigorating. And, as this is my third in as many years, it’s also addictive.2895934129_f3ec85d1c0

This year, I am wearing two very different outfits. Michael J didn’t go with me this time to pick out clothes, thus he has no idea what the night will bring, so I won’t describe them here. But instead of the slinky dresses that I’d never be caught dead in off the runway that I’ve chosen in years past, this year I selected two outfits (one pants and a top and the other a sweater and skirt) that I could actually see myself in, like, on a daily basis.

As soon as I got home, I thought: why did you do that? Why didn’t you pick something crazy and out there?

Because, I realized, this year, I’m going as me! I don’t need to be in disguise. This year, I am going to tap into my exhibitionist side while wearing clothes that make me look and feel like myself! Scary, huh? I am going to be brave on the outside and pretty on the inside.

I am going to take my time on the catwalk, I’ll be as sexy as possible in my casual clothes, and most importantly, I’ll remember to smile!

Even if you think that this seems silly or out there, if you have a hip clothing store in your area that uses local “models” to highlight their fall and spring collections, sign up! It’s fun! It’s exciting! And it’s the quickest and possibly best opportunity to explore different ways of being in your body and seeing yourself in a new light. Besides, when’s the last time you walked in the room only to find hundreds of friendly faces cheering you on? It’s a total rush!

It’s really not about amateur fashion, it’s about reconstructing your view of yourself. Seriously, if you ever get the opportunity, take it! You won’t be sorry!

Try on Something Really Outside of Your Comfort Zone

I don’t know about everyone else, but I tend to have a certain style. It may not be particularly stylish, but it’s a style and I like it. More to the point, I am comfortable with it. However, when I look in the mirror and I’m wearing the same style of clothes that I used to wear, I often don’t see any difference whatsoever in my physique. Essentially, I look the same, because the shape of my clothes looks the same.

Recently I have really been pushing the envelope. I wrote earlier in about my low riding boot cut jeans. I have also traded in t-shirts for tanks, and floor length skirts for shorter ones that show off the legs a little.

But the other day, I actually went and tried on some very fitted evening gowns. The first one was lovely, it looked like me and it fit really well. I loved it.

But my attention kept getting pulled back to this floor length snake skin looking, slinky sheath that I thought wouldn’t fit on my right thigh without a wedge.

Luckily I hadn’t gone shopping alone. A women who is in my spinning class was there as well and she said, “I think you should go ahead and try it on. You might be surprised.”

Well, I did. It fit like a glove–as opposed to a sausage casing. It was stunning; more to the point, I was stunning. I stood there in the middle of the dress shop and stared in the mirror like a five year old in her first Easter dress. We (the dress and I, that is) were glorious. I had no idea my body could look like that. I could finally see what other people had been talking about. I stood there with my mouth open as all of the sounds in the dress shop faded into nothingness.

Fortunately for me I know the owner of the dress shop. Also fortunate for me, the dress was a used vintage evening gown as opposed to a new one. Luckily for me, they couldn’t find the dress in the database. And even luckier, the owner is a lovely, generous woman who–I think–realized that I was seeing myself for the first time. She sold it to me for $30!

So, where are you possibly going to wear this dress, you might be asking. Well, I’ve been asked to participate in a student fashion show on campus; not only will I get to wear the dress, I’ll also get free make-up and hair! So not only will be all slinky and sleek; I’ll also be colorful and girly!

So get outside of your comfort zone; you might be pleasantly surprised!

My Little Voice

After such a great day yesterday, my little voice reared its ugly head this morning. To tell you the truth, I wasn’t surprised. And further, I assume that it’s going to do that more and more frequently until it realizes that I am no longer listening.

This morning, as I was getting dressed, I tried on a pair of never worn brown pants (and a never worn pair of black pants) that no longer fit. Unfortunately, I do not have the receipts for these. They are, essentially, sunk costs. So immediately my little voice kicks in: You’ve wasted all this money on clothes! You don’t have anything to wear! What are you going to teach in? You’re going to have to spend even more money now! You shouldn’t have bought those to begin with. They look worse now than they did when you were heavier! Maybe you should gain some weight so you won’t have to buy new clothes! It went on and on and on.

I stood there for a moment trying to imagine that my little voice didn’t sound so much like my grandmother who, may she rest in peace, never wasted a cent in her life. In fact, you could give her one and she could give you ten back (she wouldn’t mind you, but she could). I imagined instead that my little voice sounded a little bit like Antonio Banderas. That took the sting out, let me tell you. In fact, thinking about Antonio Banderas whispering in my ear, I was only all too happy to disrobe!

Anyway, once I got the knee jerk reaction to run downstairs and grab some chocolate under control, I took a step back and asked myself: is feeling good about myself and about my body (and everything else that entails) worth the $60 that I spent on these pants that I never intend to wear?

You bet your britches it is!

Mission Accomplished!

I stepped on the scale this morning after an hour of aerobic conditioning and bingo! Since that fateful date four weeks ago with the lovely weight loss coach, I have lost 10.8 pounds! I still have 1 more pound to go before hitting my old Weight Watchers goal (the one that I had at age 17), but I am certain that it will be no problem. I guess I’ll have to change the tag line of the blog: everything you wanted to know (and then some) about losing the last ten pounds and keeping it off!

I took another load of clothes to the local consignment store and bought a pair of jeans and then returned two pairs of 10s to Talbot’s. It was great!

Consignment Shopping

I went to a consignment store today and tried on clothes that I would never have picked out in a traditional department store. There was something easy about picking up something that I figured was too sizes too small for me and slipping it on in a consignment store that I don’t typically find in your name brand chains–The Gap, American Eagle, Talbot’s, etc. However, because this store (located in the middle of a college town) had many of those brands on consignment, it gave me the opportunity to try on things without the experience (real of not) of being gawked at by anorexic teenagers.

Guess what? Gap pants aren’t as intimidating as I thought they were! In fact I bought my first pair. I must admit that they are a tiny bit snug in the hips, but I bought them that way on purpose. AND they were only $12! They are, in effect, a quick and inexpensive way to get leverage on myself. That is, every time I put them on, I’ll remember to pay closer attention to what I put in my mouth. They are also my new markers of success, so I can be less tied to the scale.

As I was striking up a conversation with the owner, she also mentioned that she was taking spring and summer consignments; did I want a consignment agreement? I hesitated and then thought about it. Yes. Yes, I do want a consignment agreement.

Another point of leverage: get rid of the two largest sizes in my closet. This seems like a total win-win. I may make some money. I won’t have any open invitations to gain weight lurking in the dark corners of my closet. And even if they don’t sell, she’ll take them to the same community center that I would have done, saving me not only the trip, but also the hassle.

Anyway you look at it, consignment stores are ideal for people who are changing sizes and also styles. When I go to a more conventional store, I tend to stick with what I know (if I go at all). In consignment stores, there are a plethora of styles from which to chose. There also is a conspicuous absence of fluorescent lights and overly helpful sales people who have only seen cellulite in pictures.

For example, I tried on a Chinese-style orange dress with pink embroidered dragon flies. It was fitted and very sleek. I loved it. I loved the way I looked in it. I would never have tried that dress on anywhere else. (I probably never would have found that dress anywhere else, but that’s not the point!) Although I felt like a queen while wearing it, I left it there. But maybe next time I a see a long fitted dress I won’t automatically scoff, “That would look terrible on me” or, even worse, “That’s just not me.”