Saturday, August 30, 2014

Making The Longline Lounge Bra: An Introduction

I like everything about making bras except the part at the end, when you try them on. That part inevitably sucks, I have to say - though, if your lot is to spend years trying to construct something successfully, only to have it elude you, eventually you stop having expectations that anything's going to fit.

That's its own kind of gift. See, today I got started at 10. By 2, I knew what wasn't going to work and I was able to rework the pattern pieces. A mere 4 hours to have been and gone (and taken pictures, if only metaphorically).

I've made so many bras, I scarcely need to glance at the instructions - though it behooves me to do so, a fact of which I'm well aware. I know I have to use adhesive glue to firm up my fashion fabric with power net. I know how to modify the suggested materials I use to produce a product with better support than the pattern would have you make.

People, this knowledge is saving me a lot of time!

Brief side bar: What I would give for even 5 minutes with the Empreinte sloper of my favourite pattern. If only I could visualize how to add coverage and an absurd amount of depth at the centre cup, without adding length (which simply produces gape), I would be SO grateful. No mind. It's only taken years, but I do feel I've sorted out my required shape and size for the outer cup and the need to reduce the length of the average back band by about 100 per cent. So I'm getting there.

Of course, I still don't have a finished bra, but I'm actually optimistic today. Today, I finally got to the point that when my first muslin failed, I walked away. (Well, after cleaning up.) I can't tell you how hard it is for me to do that. When something fails, I want to smack it into submission and win. But, you know what? The next muslin is also likely to fail. How long does it have to take me to learn this? Do I need to fail twice in one (excessively long, sweaty, miserable) day?

On the positive side, I'm much closer to a wearable finished product, after just one muslin, than ever I've been before. Sure, this is a wireless lounge bra; there is no goal to get the gore to tack (because without wires, if your breasts are even moderately projected, that will never happen). But even though I benefit from the relative ease provided by the style - by being able to forgo certain elements of fit - I'm doing pretty fucking well.

Next post, I'll show you how I've changed the pattern pieces and my rationale for doing so. I should have taken photos of the original pieces (no, I didn't trace), or at least of my original (highly modified) version of the flat pattern but, really, it doesn't matter. That version didn't work. I believe I know why. This process doesn't need to be rocket science. Two years of stupidly mathy analysis has not provided me with a handmade bra that fits. So what's the point of thinking that way?

This time, I'm going with my intuition.

Yoga Asana Vs. Yoga (Or a Primer on Intention)

This summer, mediocre weather notwithstanding, has shed a crescent of light on certain segments of my life. If you're wondering why I rarely blog about knitting and sewing these days, please be clear, it's cuz I haven't got the time. And I haven't got the time because I'm spending most of my energetic hours expending energy on exercise.

I knew this would happen. I told you I knew this would happen. This shift is something I resisted for two years. I did not want to change my ways, my pace. I did not want to confront encroaching fears of illness and age. Cuz one thing's for certain, when you have lived through an acute illness (and that's how I think of pertussis), and you're inclined to be afraid of what you cannot control (especially when germs are involved), there's a lot of stuff to avoid. 

Not to mention, I love the meditative mindset and the creative, productive outcome which are the gifts of crafting. I love being with my brain that way. I love the stories it affords me. So I'm at a bit of a loss right now. I feel absolutely engaged but uncertain about how to express myself. Because what I'm going through "on the fitness front", in lieu of activities that are easy to describe, is not naturally communicable.

Let me say right now that I hate the terms "fitness" and "exercise". I find them entirely reductive. I prefer to suggest that I've undertaken the valiant work to affect meaningful mental, psychic and physical change by committing to awaken all the cells in my body. (Yeah, it's not exactly a gym-spin.)

For sure, the last three weeks have helped me to further hone my go forward plan. I simply don't intend to jump up and down on a regular basis - unless it's in the context of yoga vinyasa. I see no point in it. I've tried it again. I still don't like it. 

For me - and of course I am speaking only for myself, as any activity is wonderful if you love it - jumping up and down is compressive and it dulls my awareness. I know about the runner's high (theoretically, of course) and I applaud all of you who chase and find it. Dance fitness can bring a similar elation, I hear, especially for the choreographically gifted amongst us. 

Would it surprise you to learn that there is an equally elusive yogic euphoria?

What asana practice also affords (and much more frequently), presuming you approach it in accordance with a clear fitness outcome, is more aerobic intensity than you might ever care to encounter (I'll expound on this below) and a delicious amount of weight-bearing exercise. You don't need hand weights, people. For better or for worse, your entire body is a weight.

I've spent the last six weeks rediscovering that there is nothing of the gym (weights, machines, aerobic and core classes) that you cannot accomplish equally well with yoga. Or to put it more assertively: You can most definitely achieve weight-loss, optimal cardiovascular fitness, excellent tone and all the mental perks of exercise with yoga.

Though, be aware, when you "do yoga" with those intentions, you're not doing yoga*. You're practicing yoga asana (a sequence of postures or movements). You're exercising. Which is why I will keep referring to this lifestyle regime as a fitness program for the time being.

There are provisos when it comes to employing yoga asana to get fit, toned and to lose weight:
  • If you're going to use yoga as a primary method of fitness, you have to do it in a certain way. I don't mean a specific method (though vinyasa and Ashtanga are usually the ones that come to mind) but the practice has to be of a particular physical intensity. It's best to include a good 45 minutes of arm-balances, strong standing poses and back bends. Inverted back bends are particularly useful. Another 15 minutes of seated and forward bends are recommended. Many yoga methods just don't offer this type of practice. Many places don't teach that way. And even though there's much fitness to be gained in learning poses, you're better able to achieve a specific outcome when you have body memory of these poses and a certain physical aptitude (see below).
  • It is absolutely possible to be a complete beginner to yoga asana and still use it to achieve substantive fitness outcomes. To wit: 25 years ago, I went from a place of non-fitness to extreme fitness (in my late teens, admittedly), using only yoga. And it wasn't even the goal of my practice. It was a by-product?! But you have to be capable of spending minutes in individual poses that require equal parts - and reasonable amounts - of strength, balance and flexibility. If you're not naturally inclined, that proficiency can take a long time to develop. If you are extremely committed to practice, and you do it 4-5 times a week, actively, there's no reason that you can't use it as your primary form of physically-transformative fitness. So if you hate jumping up and down, and you love your local yoga class, be your own guinea pig. But be smart - don't push yourself or you may sustain significant injury.
  • Sadly, you will have to sweat. A lot. (But you'd have to do this with any kind of exercise, so let's not blame asana.)
Moreover, there's something to this fitness development thing that, till recently, I'd never consciously understood:

The development of fitness (by which I mean optimal muscle tone, loss of fat, heart muscle benefits etc.) relies, to some extent, on the destabilization of the person getting fit. Needless to say, I do not mean destabilization that would produce an unacceptable likelihood of injury. I do mean, however, (and why not speak for myself) that there is no way right now that I, devising my own practices, could throw myself off kilter adequately to reattain my former level of fitness. When I know what's coming, I know how to back off. I don't mean that I forgo particular poses - but I do find ways to do them less intensively. The element of surprise makes my asana practice an adventure. Being amongst others (and this is a double-edge sword, no doubt), makes me accountable. 

Again, this ain't yoga. It's just the kind of fitness I can get with.

What is yoga, my friends, is actually getting there: Every time I cringe at the thought of touching a prop (yeah, my gym has a yoga studio that's totally stocked with props), and then I touch the prop, I'm doing yoga. Every time I find myself too close to another person, pulled from my energetic centre by that closeness (but then I recognize what's happening), I'm doing yoga.  Every time I fade into the background, click into a gear where ujaayi breath moves my body from one pose to the next, feel the distinctness of muscle, bone and connective tissue, I'm doing yoga. 

I've got a lot to say about this - about how differently I feel physically and mentally, about how my breath has changed, how my body has reopened a channel of communication - but I think I need to leave it for another day (if only to retain a reader or two).

Now, off to do some sewing for a change. Those crafts aren't going to make themselves. 

* The essence of yoga (which is achieved by a variety of mechanisms, or an eight-limbed path, one of which is physical postures) is to yoke body and mind with breath. Patanjali defines it, in the Yoga Sutras, as chitta vritti nirodha or "stilling the fluctuations of the mind". I'm in no way suggesting that one cannot find yoga in everything, including all kinds of exercise, but it is not the primary goal (nor is it generally taught to those practicing yoga asana to improve the look and physical form of their bodies). It may take a lifetime to truly understand how breath control and yoga postures unite to produce a mental stillness - active meditation. I'd prefer not to conflate this pursuit with bendy exercise, though bendy exercise is still delicious in the absence of the yogic mindset.

I should also say that it's fairly impossible for me to practice yoga asana for fitness, without moving into the gear of yogic meditation - especially as my body redevelops strength and rediscovers balance. So, even as I'm practicing asana to achieve a physical outcome - and in this respect it is exercise - my body and mind have chosen to reconnect at a deep level, a phenomenon for which I am exceedingly grateful.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A Return to Bra Making: Yeah, You Read That Correctly

I don't know how this is happening, but I'm about to embark on another bra-making expedition.

You don't have to tell me that it's not part of my summer series (which is rather incomplete due to lack of time and motivation). You don't have to tell me that this is always a recipe for disaster. You don't have to tell me that there are better ways to spend the last long weekend of summer.

I'm incorrigible.

Here's the thing - this bra-making expedition is bound to be VERY different from every other I have heretofore undertaken because I don't care if the fit is perfect. I'll let you get over the horror of that statement... OK, back with me? I don't care if the fit is perfect because I'm making a lounge bra.

Sure, would perfect fit be the optimal result? Um, yeah. But since I can't seem to crack that holy grail with a seamed, under wire job, how likely is it to happen with a bralet?

Thing is, I just spent a small fortune on a non-wired, longline lounge bra that doesn't fit and I knew it well before I got to the cash:

It was a calculated purchase. Firstly, Fortnight Lingerie is Toronto-made and I want to support every local bra-maker out there. Secondly, this brand is the shit and I want to be able to tell you about it (more to come). Thirdly, I intend to hack it with the assistance of this pattern, which Gillian* rightly noted is practically the same construction as the Fortnight longline:

Ohhh Lulu Longline Bralet 1404
I should clarify that the Fortnight manages to provide terrific lift and support with no under wire and it does look so much sexier than those Bali things I've been putting up with. If only the side cups were slightly larger. The style tops out at a size that is technically smaller than mine so there's no way to buy a better fitting version.

I don't know how this has happened, as I only adventure into bras, oh, every year or so, but somehow - despite a lingerie supply stash that rivals that of people who actually make bras for a living - I don't have fabric that's right for the job. Unsurprisingly, every bra I construct, I construct with non-stretch fabric (for lifted support). Natch that's not the point of a lounge bra, the function of which is light support and comfort.

Whatevs. I'm going to wing it with some (likely) suboptimal fabric in my stash. Until I resolve the issue of fit (try not to laugh), it doesn't matter overly - though, truthfully, bra size is rather contingent of the stretch principles of the fabrics used to create the bra in question.  I've decided, for the sake of my space limitations, that I must rely on my experience of fabric and fit to guide me in the muslin stage. I'm not enlarging this stash any further.

Now, on the topic of establishing initial dimensions for the paper patten cups - and this is a 2-cup bra, not my regular 3-seamed kind - I took a rather unconventional route. I think it owes equal parts to draping (what I did when I made this slip) and to my recent recognition that most of the volume in my bust is contained by an increase in the size of the outer cup, not the inner as I'd previously believed (something I learned a lot about when making this dress). Sure, my centre projection is extreme, but mysteriously it is not accommodated by adding extra fabric at the gore. I'll talk more about my fitting strategy as I embark on the muslin process.

What I will tell you now is that I used the Ohhh Lulu pattern pieces as a guide only. Not one piece was left unaltered - and most were altered substantively. This is a bralet drafted for the shallowest of boobs.

PS: I think it behooves me to say that I'm not going nuts over this one. If it doesn't work out, fit-wise after 2 muslins (produced early in the weekend), it's going back into the drawer with all the other patterns I'm still trying to wrap my head around. I refuse to amp myself up beyond belief. I'll get there eventually.

* I suggest that you click on the link to Gillian's blog since she just migrated to Wordpress from Tumblr...

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Getting Back to My Roots

There must be something in the air - and I really hope it's not fall because we haven't had our summer yet. Lots o' ladies are getting on this skinny jogger bandwagon. Just check out Frances' preferred version.

I bought mine at Roots, that Canadian institution. They've recently rebranded and I think it's going to work well for them. Of course, I'd have preferred it if the huge sale they've got going on right now hadn't started 2 days after I bought these:
Roots Cozy Sweatpant
(No, they wouldn't offer a price adjustment after the fact (I asked).)
This is the only item I can think of that my daughter and I both wear. In the same size, weirdly. But I got the khaki and she got the black.

What I love about this item of clothing is the mind-altering comfort. How often do you hear me wax rhapsodic about that?? And they are sort of chic. I mean, I'm not going to dinner at Canoe in them, but for a Saturday out and about, they are fantastic. And warm, Canadians.
On a vaguely related note...

Given my new "fitness lifestyle" I've had numerous opportunities to find online vendors that sell delicious, chic fitness-to-comfort-wear. Of course, it all seems to come from Europe (and you know that shit is expensive when they automatically ship free to Canada) so you can't have everything.

Mind you, if you live in the UK - or your're rich and spendy - please buy some stuff from Wellicious  and tell us what you think.
Zing Bra I could totally see this as my new lounge bra... If only the sizing weren't a complete unknown.
Drapey Top - Yeah, I know I could make it myself, but look how adorable! And already constructed!
3/4 Pants - This style is nothing new for me, but I do love it... And the colour is CUTE.
Cool Off Pants
Dontcha want these??
PS: I do find it funny that a UK company refers to so many of its yoga bottoms as "pants". Does that seem weird to y'all who live there?

Monday, August 25, 2014

Body Politic 3: A Tome on Bra Fitting and Body Image

I got on the bra-fitting bandwagon well before there was an inkling of trendiness about it. I've always been tremendously interested in fit and in the nuances of the physical form (a gift bestowed on me by teaching yoga). Moreover, I've always had a challenging shape to fit (from the boob perspective) so it behooved me to figure out what was going on, if only to make my life easier. I didn't imagine that my interest would become so structured. At this point, strangely, I've advised hundreds of women on bra fit via just about every channel I can think of. In just the past 10 days, I've spoken with three women on this journey. I'm particularly popular in my office, where random (female) colleagues sheepishly ask me to guess what bra size they should be wearing. For what it's worth, that's my party trick :-)

I take this work seriously. There are few things in this world more worthwhile, in my opinion, than facilitating someone's personal evolution, supporting one's improvement of self-image. And I've got to tell you I have never encountered a scenario in which a bra-change seeker has felt anything less than much better (if not utterly fantastic) for having learned tons of new info about how she's shaped and sized. I should also clarify that I have rarely (like count on one hand rarely) met anyone wearing the correct size from the get go. Most of the time, the fittee is wearing a band size 2 sizes larger than required and a cup size at least 3 sizes smaller than what's required. The larger or more projected the breasts (and the more the discrepancy between the "bra matrix" size that the woman has been wearing vs. the size she requires), the more extreme these ratios.

But for the sake of discussion, let's spend a few minutes on the women who are very pleased to have learned about their correct size, which is larger than they imagined, but who perhaps are less pleased overall with the new status quo... This does occasionally happen.

The question is why? And I suppose the answers are infinite, but I do like to narrow things down.

In my experience, most women start looking for a new bra when they've gained some weight. Why is this? Well, on most frames (and I'll speak in more detail about this in a moment), weight gain goes to breasts - either sooner or later. In some instances, the woman in question has gained a just a bit of weight (perhaps she doesn't even realize it) and it's gone everywhere (including her breasts). In other instances, the woman has gained a lot of weight, she knows it, and she realizes that nothing's fitting the way it did before. In truth, the likelihood is that neither of these categories of women were wearing the correct size to begin with - and mostly they were in a too-small size (thanks modern bra manufacturing industrial complex) from the get go. So when they're shown their correct size, it's nothing short of shocking for every reason.

On this topic, you don't need a PhD to know that modern people are much fatter than their fore parents. Hell, they're much fatter than their grandparents. Never mind the fact that we're unwittingly ingesting hormones at every turn (which may increase breast size) and constantly stressed, which also leads to weight-gain. It's no wonder that bras in the 32-38 A-DD size range - a relic of antiquity - aren't fitting a large complement of women in the western world. You're practically an outlier if they do.
Intriguingly, a limited subset of bra wearers do not gain weight in their breasts. Apparently, I fall into this subset, the members of which tend to be genetically large-breasted with a high degree of natural breast density. 

I can assure you, lately I'm no stranger to the sinking feeling of having gained weight in a specific spot - in my case my, ahem, pillowesque lower abdomen. But in the last 15 years, I've deviated about half a cup size of volume from my personal norm. Now, by the same premise, I don't tend to lose volume from my breasts, except by dint of gravity. But, for those of you who may be uncomfortable with an increase in breast size due to weight gain, you've got the upper hand. Chances are, if you choose to, you'll be able to return to that size (albeit a larger one than you may have originally thought) via lifestyle change. (Note: From the vantage point of having boobs that don't get stretch marks or tend to sag, the woman who remains a constant size most definitely has the advantage.)

Remember, we're saying nothing of shape here, which is as relevant to the art of bra-fitting and breast happiness, as is size, if not more so. For a bit more on this topic, check out this post...

The Hard Edge of Bra Fitting

Being fitted for a bra for the first time - or the first time in a while - can be emotional. Sure, there are some people who love "gaining" two cup sizes. There are many who are so freakin' thrilled by how gorgeous their breasts look in a bra that suits their size and shape, that they cannot get over it, like, for months. But if you don't love what that fitting tells you - that you are carrying more mass in one place (or in a variety of places) than originally you believed - then it can really fuck with your body image. Yeah, now you've got great-looking boobs, but they're attached to a frame that - till 5 minutes ago - you saw through a rose-coloured lens.

  • Some women just don't like the size of their breasts, a matter they're able to avoid considering by wearing a bra that's too small. Hey, it's valid to prefer breasts of whatever size most naturally appeals to you. 
  • Some women erroneously imagine that a bra fitting will change the shape of their breasts. While a good bra will most definitely improve shape under clothing - and while many women (including myself) assert that, over time, a well-fitting bra improves breast shape and buoyancy subtly - your breast shape is what it is. If your boobs sag in youth, if they sit higher or lower or wider or narrower or less or more projectedly than you prefer, alas, when you take off your bra, they're still going to do what they do.
  • Some women  wear clothing that doesn't suit their "new" size and shape, which can be a totally expensive pain in the ass. It's easier to dress in tops that are too tight in the bust if you're smushing your breasts with a bra that's too snug. I'd suggest those tops aren't doing anything for your figure overall, but certainly, some would disagree.
  • Furthermore... some women find it extremely challenging to accept that a number and a letter, associated with newly-confirmed breast size, are simply that. Truthfully, I struggle with this because it's not a pragmatic approach, and I am nothing if not pragmatic.
Y'all know I like to see things as they are. That's why I carry a tape measure with me everywhere. That's why I know exactly how much circumference I've gained in my lower abdomen in the last 2 years. I'm much more inclined to see things clearly, no matter how unpleasant - and then to change them should I choose to (if that's in the cards) - than to wander along wearing things that don't fit. And that applies to every aspect of my life. As I've said a zillion times, your breasts are no different when you walk into your fitting than they are when you leave. They just look better. 

I do realize that the women who struggle with the tag are generally struggling with something infinitely more worthwhile: identity. For some reason, lots of women can overlook a weight-gain of 10 pounds, for example, but breast size hits you where you live. 

Breasts are a symbol of sexuality, of fertility, of maternity, of femininity, of female solidarity, of youth (and its counterpart age). They should be perfect (whatever that means to you), so we tell ourselves. And when perfect means "mainstream", as we understand it, then leaving that comfort zone can be a mind fuck.

The irony is that the very thing that changes your breast size (not shape), much of the time, is that 10 pounds. (Note: I'm speaking of the pre-menopausal among us. Once estrogen goes wonky, all bets are off.)

So I'm going to tell it like it is:

If you are confident that you've been properly fitted and you just don't like the number and the letter associated with your boobs, you owe it to yourself to figure that shit out.
  • If it's because you never thought you could possibly fit into a 36G (for example), check out one of the numerous resources that shows you lots of breasts (in bras) of that same size. You will be amazed by how normal those breasts look. Really, there are not so many of us who fall outside of the spectrum of regular.
  • If it's because you've always thought your tits were too big and you loathe them (and this new info vindicates your concerns), then consider whether weight loss would likely make some difference, or whether you fall into that category of women for whom weight-loss and breast-size decrease are not aligned. For the woman in the second category, there's always surgery. That's is a big step, it goes without saying, and I would always recommend that a woman try to find pleasure in the appearance of her breasts before taking irretrievable action. But it stands to reason, there are some women who will never enjoy the breasts they were born with. Some breasts are just at odds with the body they've been given to. Some breasts are clincially ptotic to begin with, that's how they were made. Extremes of this shape (especially in larger sizes) are not a good look, according to most. If you had a nose that you really didn't like, chances are you'd change it. Life is too short to be unhappy with your appearance.
  • If it's because you used to fit into a certain bra size and it was the size at which you could relate to your breasts, nay, delight in your breasts, then seriously consider making a lifestyle adjustment. You might well be able to affect adequate change in the number or the letter just by losing a few pounds. Will either be as small as you would like? Well, that depends on your goals, the extent of your efforts and your genetic predisposition.
Having said all this, I assure you, it's often easier to adjust your attitude than it is to change your body substantively. Most of us will gain weight as we age. And most of us will gain breast volume as we gain weight. How much does this bother you? Or is it simply a numbers game?

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Bra Review: Cleo by Panache Lori (and Matching Undies)

Recently, I had the, ahem, opportunity to buy a bunch of new bras for my kid. It's actually very useful research, buying for a person of a different size and shape than oneself, and outrageously pricey. Turns out that my kid has been listening to all of my good "life advice", and now she won't "let me" buy anything without begging incessantly to also get the matching undies. Fortunately, she's in very reasonable brands costing reasonable amounts (and even more reasonable amounts online) but really, that's my one life lesson she's opted to internalize?? What happened to doing homework without watching TV??

At any rate, I'm doing nothing to unmake this monster because, really, how can one (even an adolescent) be expected to wear a bra that doesn't match her knickers? I'm thrilled to say that my kid finally agreed to purchase a seamed bra without foam cups. Those young people don't understand the world before molded crap. At first she was all: There is no way I'm wearing this soft bra but, after I adjusted the straps and band, and she did a bit of swoop and scoop, the bra was a thing of perfection. Actually, it's more a matter of the youthful body being a thing of perfection, but the bra didn't hurt. Needless to say she's revised her opinion on its appearance and functionality.

But moving on... I can't be expected to buy lots of lingerie for others without having a bit of fun for myself, which is why I purchased an outlier (for my shape): the Cleo by Panache Lori:

You might be thinking that I buy Cleo bras constantly semi-regularly. And I do, but I don't buy the styles that come in this shape, a shape molded on the (insanely popular) Lucy sloper.

Why not? Well, this sloper is designed for the shallower Cleo customer. Don't misunderstand, it's more projected than the offerings of many other brands (Curvy Kate, for example) but it's known for being the style that the slightly less narrow and projected ladies tend to love.

And, as we know, that's not me.

The reason I gave it a go - other than my continual curiosity (believe it or not, two bras I've never tried are the Cleo Lucy and Cleo Marcie - perhaps the most talked about bras on the full-bust, youth-market scene) - is that this bra has been known to thwart the average Lucy-lover cuz it's just a little too projected.

Now that didn't mean it would suit me. But when I found it on eBay for a very good price (50 bucks, all in), I decided I'd give it a go.

Here's what I can tell you:
  • If you fit the Lucy, chances are this won't work for you. The exception is if you're on the cusp of not fitting into the Lucy due to the amount of inner cup projection you require. I was surprised at how well this fits me, even at the centre gore. It's a rather projected bra - but it produces a wider shape, overall, than many other Cleos, as the cup construction is different.
  • It's not as supportive as the Cleos that cater to the very projected among us (Melissa, Meg, Ellis, Bella), but it is partial band (almost no profile beneath the under wires). These bras tend to be a bit less supportive, especially on larger-breasted women, but they're great for the short-waisted among us. On this topic, I've begun to find the full-band Cleo styles to be just too thick below the wires. And they seem to be increasing the width every season...
  • It gives a very round shape - almost rounder than I like, but I know this is a ridiculously popular silhouette. It's nice to have very round options on occasion, just to shake it up.
  • The straps are standard-issue Cleo skinny. They're not the most comfortable, especially after a day of wear (and if your breasts are heavy), but they're not a deal-breaker for me. I mean, all Panache straps are inferior, IMO. But when I want awesome construction, I go for Empreinte.
  • There are 2 hooks and eyes, vs the 3 which many ladies prefer, but again, this brand caters to the young. And the young tend to look down on 3 hooks and eyes for some reason I cannot understand. Really, peeps, a sexy bra is sexy regardless. I mean, long line bras can be hella sexy and they have upwards of 5 hooks and eyes.
  • The gore is narrow, as are the wires, but not excessively so. This isn't the brand for the wide-set, wide-rooted among us. It's also no Comexim or Ewa Michalak - aka narrow in extremis. This bra doesn't produce the "boobs on a plate" thing that the Polish brands are famous for. It's not even as "boobs on a plate" as the more projected, full-band Cleo options listed above.
But how does it look?
  • It's a great looking bra. The grey / orangey-coral colourway is very chic, but also youthful. It's unexpected, but not girlish in that way we've come to associate with Cleo. The balconette is moderate, neither too low nor too high on the chest. And it's firm lace at the upper cup, if not "closed", so it's not a bouncy bra. Mind you, it's not optimal for the breasts with tremendous upper fullness. Despite its lacieness, it doesn't produce too much profile under clothing.
  • I do like the Cleo undies (always this style - which is starting to get a bit boring, though I'm sure they haven't mixed it up because this cut is flattering on many) but the material is not the best. I mean, it's the exact same material as is used in the bra - so it's totally consistent - but it doesn't make for the most comfortable, low-profile or breathable offering in the land.
All in all I recommend this set. It's cute, it's not expensive, it's easy enough to find. It's a low-risk experiment if you're looking for a little change from the usual.

Mind you, I do have to say that I may be coming to the end of my love-affair with Cleo. It's all vaguely samey-samey and the materials are just not luxe enough for the midlife version of me. Moreover, would it kill them to make one bra in a neutral? You may not always want a jewel-tone purple offering - regardless of a great shape - for underneath your white t shirt.

Today, I tried on Empreinte bra that blew me away:

The one I tried was in a champagney kind of shade (this one seems to be ice blue) and it was spectacular. The workmanship was unparalleled. The bra was a comfortable as could be. Alas, the set would have put me back 350 bucks. Which is hard to justify given the number of bras I already own. Hell, it's hard to justify merely on the basis of the number of Empreinte bras I already own.

But enough of the frou-frou fantasy... Have you tried the Lori? What do you think of the style and pattern? If not the Lori, let us know your experience of the Lucy, assuming that this is the version of that style you've come to know and love. Is Cleo thrilling you or is it losing its edge? Let's talk!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Keep the Light On

How odd to interrupt this blog break with an obit... There I was, minding my own business, answering the phone and typing emails, when I got a notice in my inbox that BKS Iyengar has died.

It's not much of a surprise. In truth, I've wondered for a while when I'd hear this news. The man was 95. It's also not much of a surprise that he lived practically all of those years (after a terribly sickly childhood) as hardy as an oak tree. Guruji was tough.

I came to understand this toughness first-hand, early in my yoga days, when I was in my late teens and I attended a three-day retreat at which he taught. Lord, that event was a trip. And not exactly a fun one. I remember falling out of sirsasana (headstand) in the middle of the room and being yelled at for my idiocy. He wasn't what I'd call a gentle master.

But I digress...

As a person who has been immersed in the Iyengar method for most of her life. As a person who's taught it and done it and thought about it and read about it and meditated on it for a quarter of a century (egad), you can believe me when I tell you that the man was a genius who changed the world. Of course, don't take it from me, take it from his New York Times obituary (a good read that might nonetheless have misidentified the cause of death - I'm hearing from every other source that it was renal, not heart, failure).

In his 80-year career, through his work, he transformed the minds and bodies of millions of yoga-doers. Practically everything you know from your yoga class down the block/at the studio/in the gym owes a good debt to the Iyengar method, regardless of whether your teacher recognizes it. Every time you've felt your sacrum soften to the touch of a bolster or blanket, every time your standing pose practice has been enlivened (or made possible) by a block and strap, you can thank Mr. Iyengar.

He was a phenomenal technician, an innovator, a doctor, a soulful artist whose muse was the skeleton. He was also very sharp, playful and a big-time egotist. Let's just say, he owned the room. And the room was yoga.

So, fellow yoga friends, tonight when you do your practice, may I recommend you turn your consciousness to a man who, directly or otherwise, has likely influenced your perspective, devised your restorative therapy, supported you through major illness or contributed to the physical confidence that guides you like a shining star. You've gotta love a guy who suggested that you need to able to find your big toe before bringing God into the equation.

Namaste, Guruji. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

In Which I Mimic The Colour Palette of the Great Outdoors

Hey y'all - it's quiet times here cuz things are just so busy everywhere else. And really, a girl needs a blog break every once in a while.

Just want to say a quick hello - and to let you know that normal programming should be back in a week or so.

In the meanwhile, here's a photo to show you a) my finished Aisance cardigan and b) my (soon to be blogged about) skinny sweat pants from Roots.

(I really am making an effort to show my face here even when I'm not feeling gorgeous...)

Mega thanks to Andrea for taking lots o' pics and for so excellently hosting me and Sara at her new home in the County last weekend.

Sunday, August 10, 2014


For someone who swore she wouldn't bother you with info about her fitness, I sure am interpreting that promise broadly. See, I've been up to this for 3 weeks and it strikes me I should tell you how it's entirely different than I thought it would be. This really is Solipsism 101, however, so do feel free to click back tomorrow for something less painfully "all about me".

What I'm Doing: You can see this post for a review of what I aimed to do before I began the New Regime.

As it happens, I have been going to the gym 3 times per week (@60 min each). Why? Well, it's not actually as horrible as I thought it would be. Sure, it's summer and the living is easy, but it strikes me I should habituate to the best of my ability before the bad weather sets in. Also, the classes I've opted to do aren't overly crowded (but they are well-attended).

I'm also practicing active yoga at home twice a week (@45-60 min each). Those practices have been more active than restorative because I'm trying to re-establish my muscle strength (while maintaining flexibility) to build on the work at the gym. If I'm feeling mentally lazy I do a couple of online yoga classes back-to-back (free ones from Yoga Journal).

At the gym, instead of doing cardio machines (which I've used a few times), instead I've gravitated towards the classes. I like their interactivity and the fact that they're in a separate, more quiet space. My goal is to try them all (and there are like 60 variations on a bunch of styles). So far, I've done yoga for one of those gym sessions each week. Why? Well, if I'm going to try them all, I might as well start with the ones that don't scare me. Also, I'm very intrigued to see how gym yoga has evolved in the last 20 years. (Natch, I have a post-worth of info on that which I'll bore you with another time.)

In addition to yoga, I've also been taking the classes that focus on core strength and muscle fitness. I just don't love jumping as much as using my body as leverage. However, I'm pleased to tell you that those muscle-based classes are VERY cardiovascular. I leave with rubbery muscles and covered in sweat (ugh, but I tolerate it).

You might be thinking: Kristin, you still seem to be doing more yoga than anything else. Yeah, well what of it? I'm also doing all the walking I used to do (nothing new there) but I'm systematically adding in some new stuff, approached in a style I can manage. It's a start. Point is, I'm doing much more active fitness than I was a month ago.

What It's Doing For Me: 

Let me start by assuring you that, if you're a person struggling to manage your regular life and all of its bits and pieces, you can add the gym, or some other kind of regular fitness you enjoy, without it sucking up every last bit of energy you have. (Time, well that's another matter entirely, I'm afraid...)

The reason for this, as near as I've been able to determine for myself, is that you use a different pool of energy for fitness than for other pursuits. As an analogy: Imagine that you "pay" for your regular life in cash (let's not suggest we're using credit, people!). The energy for the gym is "paid" by, let's say, an energetic debit card (still energy you own, but of a different format). You replenish the funds available by engaging in your activities of choice. Then you live off the proceeds while you're going about your day-to-day.

I'm amazed to say that I don't feel more tired doing all of this activity, though I am freakin' sore. But it does cut into the time I have to do other things and I'm still coming to terms with that.

But never mind the preamble, what differences can I see or feel?
  • I am stronger, more aligned and more flexible, which is very enjoyable. I've been so weak and exhausted since I had pertussis. This enlivens me.
  • I have a bit of observable, improved tone in my upper abdomen and backs of legs/lower derriere. I assure you, it's not going to get me my own reality show, but a couple of people have commented.
  • However, the main difference - and it's pretty notable - is in how it's undercut the symptoms of my, ahem, menopausal journey. Mercifully, my headaches are being well-managed by a couple of hormonal precursors (prescribed by my naturopath). But the epic that is PMS is playing at a lower volume in the last few weeks. I am far less bloated (it's almost all worth it for this reason alone), less prone to night-sweats and hot flashes. It's too soon to say, but it might actually have some impact, eventually, on the hemorrhagic aspect of my cycles. Of course, so will full-on menopause :-)
So there you go, three weeks in and worth doing.

I should say one other thing, since you'll note I haven't discussed whether I've "lost any weight". I deliberately didn't step on the scale before I started this exercise and I have no intention of doing so at any time going forward. IMO, scales are reductive and I don't understand the obsession with them. They don't tell you if you've lost fat (unless you have a fancy one and even then, the jury's out), they don't explain how you've gained muscle. They cannot advise you (like a simple tape measure), whether your waist is an inch less large.

I have eyes and clothing to tell me whether this regimen is having the intended external impact. And so do we all...

Today's questions: Have you recently begun to exercise hard? How are you feeling? At the gym, do you prefer the cardio or the muscle-tone classes? Are you one of those scale-watchers? Is there some hidden benefit to the scale, in your opinion, that I just don't get? I wanna know.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Kid Stuff

This day has been relentless. It started with gardening (which is slightly less "ugh" when every muscle isn't screaming from some day-before muscular workout). Then it segued into school shopping for my (rather entitled) teenager. Usually I resist her "needs", but she's about to start high school, so I gave in. With a proviso.

She got Nikes and Uggs and Lulu Lemons and Roots. (Until I became a parent, I never understood how anyone could spend so much fucking money on someone - other than herself...)

See, my kid is a hoarder from way back. She gets it from her father. Over the summer, however, she's put a ton of effort into remodeling her bedroom. She's fixed the plaster walls and painted. She drew and then painted a mural (of the Versace Medusa) - yes, I allowed this in the name of artistic expression. She's chosen all new furniture from IKEA (which we'll visit soon). The theme is 80s black and white.

But that child has clothing from grade 6 pushed into the back of her wardrobe. Who are we kidding - grade 4. She has every American Girl product that was ever made. She has never thrown out one piece of plastic jewelry she's ever been given. Did I mention that we could build a viable suspension bridge with her hair ties?

Y'all know I am as opposite to this as a human being could be. My every piece of clothing is folded perfectly and stored by weight and colour. I abhor clutter. I can barely stand my house right now, truth be told, between the basement (the fire hazard that is my husband's zone of hoarding) and all of the things that have fallen apart over the winter. I realize this is a terribly first-world problem, but I cannot understand how I work my ass off to ensure that I am not beholden to things and my family members thwart me at every turn. And they touch the walls with their grimy hands.

But back to the bargain. Today I agreed to spend a paycheck on teenage-style luxury goods in return for a true purge of the child's room. It was almost easy to gain her acquiescence, really, because she cannot stand what her room has become. She's spent 14 years digging in to avoid doing what I want and it's resulted in a prison for her.

So, today, after gardening and spending and negotiating, M and I came home and we cleaned. Oh, we cleaned for hours. We threw out so much stuff that most of it is still in bags in her closet (which we haven't even scratched the surface of, Lord help me) because we couldn't fit it into our outside bin.

Usually, I parse out everything and prepare stuff for the lawn and put stuff in batches for my sister's kids. I couldn't even bring myself to go there. It was all we could do to throw shit away (even as my eco-self was horrified). Much of it was in terrible shape or totally cheap and hideous (as is the way when your kid starts shopping for herself). Some of it has been left in the closet (for the next purge, next weekend) so I'll have to consider how to clean and repurpose that stuff.

What amazes me - and likely what would amaze my friends - is that her room was a pit of detritus but it didn't impact any part of the rest of the house. I backed off a couple of years ago, resigned to wait until she leaves home in adulthood before reclaiming and clearing the space. I couldn't stand the fighting. That child and I have fought over just about everything, it seems. I no longer have the will. I'm a hormonal mess, for fuck's sake.

At any rate, sometimes we join forces. And today, as we struggled in tandem, I realized I was doing the yeoman's work - the mother's work. We would never have been there, soaked in sweat, overwhelmed, if M had agreed to let go of things little by little. But even though it's an azure-skied Saturday in August, even though I would have thought I'd have been compelled to say "I told you so", I worked and cajoled. I calmed and problem-solved. And we got somewhere.

Then the wine opener broke as I was half way through uncorking a (well-deserved) 40-dollar Amarone. Needless to say, don't talk to me about letting go.

Friday, August 8, 2014

By the Numbers (Take Two)

I've no time to do much of anything here, but work and the administrative "life" stuff so, in the interests of a) avoiding my commitment to show you my latest Lady Skater dress (photos take effort) and b) reminding myself of the awesomeness that was my European vacation, please see my latest Best of / Worst of list (You can view the last one here):

Best Single Moment: For Scott, this was when he ordered a G&T at an awesome market-meets-restaurant and the server brought a glass of such proportions that I could not pick it up with one hand. To wit:

The glass arrived empty. The server then added ice and proceeded to advise Scott to "say when" as he poured what seemed like half a bottle of gin into the glass. We've never been anywhere that the strength of the drink was the patron's call - especially when the glass was like a tumbler on steroids. It cost 11 euros (amazingly the MOST money we spent on a drink the entire time we were away), but that's what it costs to have a watered down G&T in TO. 

For me, the best moment was probably when we walked into the apartment in Barcelona. I was enthralled by its elegance, by its authenticity. It was beautiful, functional, perfectly-appointed and the location could not have been better. I felt like I'd hit the jackpot and that my risk (not staying in hotels) had paid off in spades. 

Worst Moment: Well that deserves it's own post... To our credit, we bounced back within 12 hours (though the bouncing was harder for the guy who'd puked his guts up all night...)

Best Meal: It's a toss up between the (not gorgeous but life-altering) hole-in-the-wall pizza in Monpellier (sacrilege, I realize) or the paella at another hole-in-the-wall in Barcelona:

Best Dining Experience: The first meal at Garriga (we ate there a few times since it was 2 doors from our apartment). The service was awesome. We had potato omelets with the best local wine. The cortado after the meal was the most sublime coffee I've ever had in Europe. Sorry peeps, but I think coffee in France is almost as bad as coffee in NYC.

Worst Resto / Worst Food: Gotta say this place in Arles with lots of attitude and nothing to back it up. An American couple sitting a few tables over had a (reserved) melt-down over the woman's meal (which she felt was raw though she'd ordered it medium). The servers couldn't communicate adequately (or perhaps chose not to) and kept her waiting another 30 minutes for a new steak. We got off lucky (and Scott ate the largest duck breast either of us have ever seen), but they were out of everything I tried to order (at 7:30???) and there was very little flow to go with the ambiance. Also, the mosquitoes were out. 

Natch, the open-air market chicken was technically the worst food...

Oddest Occurrence: We spent NO time in a hotel of any sort - not even to drink or dine.

Best Surprise: The weather was the best I've ever experienced in my life, and I'm not exaggerating. Southern France / northern Spain were having a cool spell so temps were a mere 25C (aka nature's perfect temp) with NO humidity of any sort and constant sun. Like not a cloud in the sky weather. It was a salve for my very winter-beaten soul. It wasn't only the perfection of the weather that thrilled me (did I mention the Mediterranean breeze?) - but the duration of that perfection. The weather was unceasingly beautiful.

Second Best Surprise: Other than mosquitoes (the after effects of which are still visible), I didn't see one bug the entire time I was away.

Scariest Moment: It's a toss up between the cable car and the tower of the Sagrada Familia. I'm going with the tower... At least the cable car experience had a view that was (almost) worth dying for.

Most Surprising Things:
  • I was unaware of the deleterious impacts of poverty of southern France until I came upon them. The culture was palpably weary. The graffiti was out of control (though sometimes interesting).
  • The light in southern France, similarly weary, was nonetheless spectacular. It's inexplicable (though many paintings and books try to do it justice).
  • Arles was more like Spain than Spain.
  • Barcelona is one of the most friendly places I've ever visited. And one of the most beautiful.
  • Coming upon Camarguaise bull-fighting, like, on a little walk...
  • Staying in people's homes (while they aren't there, and if those homes are chic) is WAY more fun than staying in a hotel.
  • Montpellier is a university town. I mean, I knew there was a prominent university there. I just didn't think it was the only industry.
  • Swallows are seriously loud and very stealthy little birds. But they eat bugs so they can have at it.
Best Place: Barcelona, hands down.

Place To Skip: Montpellier. When your (tax-funded) Botanical Gardens are looking more unkempt than my backyard after a 3 week vacation, you need to up your game.

Best Pastry: Arles. That flan was spectacular...

Best Shopping: Barcelona must win because of its size and scope. (Furthermore, its offerings are suitable to my shape.) But Montpellier is nothing to shake a stick at. The shoe options were extensive.

But now to open up those lines fellow-travelers: Have you been to Arles? Montpellier? Barcelona? What was your best and/or worst? Let's talk!