Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Sisterhood of the Elasticized Waistband

Starting Friday, I'm taking an extra long-weekend, the primary activity during which will be sewing.

(Brief sidebar, in case y'all are wondering: We're going to wait on the reno till March/April of 2017. The crew was actually organized to start next week, but with all of the stuff going on with Scott's parents - and all of the prep work we've yet to undertake, it seems prudent to defer until then. Scott was the one who pulled this trigger but I can't disagree with his motives. Mind you, I have informed all involved that - if this fucking renovation doesn't start the moment the ground thaws next spring - people are going to perish and/or get divorced. Metaphorically, I mean.)

But back to the sewing. I recently came across the StyleArc Charlie skirt:

Here's the genius: It's a skirt made from a stretch-woven fabric, faux front pockets (I hate front pockets) and patch pockets on the derriere. The best part? The back waistband is elasticized.

Don't judge! What's the harm in wearing a pull-on skirt if you can't tell that there's an elastic waist (the front is flat and sports a faux fly)? I've got some woven rayon denim with @20 per cent stretch and I think it's going to do the trick.

Alas, I purchased the online pattern in a multi-size 10-12-14 (these three come in the same batch though they're not nested) and there's a point to be made that I might have purchased the 14-16-18 pack. How I wish they offered a 12-14-16... I also wish that StyleArc gave better sizing information on the website (or even on the pattern/in the envelope).

Here's the thing, I do not sew without making alterations, so any size I bought would have had to be altered. In this instance - having heard that the Charlie fits snug - I took my latest hip/waist measurements and compared them with those of the size 14 the pattern. I mean, I didn't just look at the envelope. I measured all of the seams, minus the seam allowances, did the math and altered (pre muslin 1, that is). I'm glad I did because I cannot stand tightness around my waist or hips right now. I need skim. And that means it was prudent to add an inch to the finished hip measurement and 1.5 inches to the waist. Sure, the stretch in my fabric may pick up the slack, but I'd rather have larger seam allowances than a muslin that feels like casing.

I'm not going to get into it, but yesterday's measurement experience was a shock. I haven't noticed huge increases in my dimensions when regularly measuring (simply small encroaching ones) but it appears that my hips are @2 inches larger than they used to be and my waist is a good 4 inches larger than it used to be. By used to be, I mean 4 years ago. Fuck. To clarify: When I took these measurements, I was not bloated. I had not just eaten.

Here's the situation, Ladies: When you go through the Change - the never-fucking-ending-eternal process of perimenopause,  you may observe no meaningful transition in your body, in your mental capacity, in your physical well being, in your sense of self. And if you fall into that category you are either truly blessed (and you have ALL of my envy) or you're totally unaware (and you still have my envy).*

You may, however, expand disproportionately in some areas of your body. I regret to inform you that it's probably a foregone conclusion based on your family genetics. Those also of Puerto Rican and Italian heritage, you have all of my apple-ish-shaped empathy.** Sure, you can starve yourself. I have a friend who eats, shall we say, lightly - but she doesn't particularly enjoy food and she's struggled with digestive issues for her entire life. But the truth is, you may be so fucking beside yourself, half the time, that food and wine will be amongst the only things that you can still relate to.

I'm having an interesting ride - as you know - though my cycle continues to be of German-precision, if changing. I've got the trifecta of midsection thickening, intermittent chronic pain (rather bad right now, sadly) AND sometimes I feel as if I'm going crazy. When I was a teenager, I remember a family relative, by marriage, was admitted to an institution because she'd come unhinged in midlife. When I asked my mother what could possibly have happened, she told me it was menopause-related, that many of this woman's close blood relatives had experienced the same thing. (Note: They have all recovered and have gone on to live happy lives after an extended stay in hospital.) At that time, I told my mother that she was obviously misinformed -  that it couldn't possibly be so. But right about now, I kind of get it.

Don't misunderstand - while I am totally having a midlife crisis, I am not down for the count. Though I'm struggling - because pretty well all of my internal stability has been perfunctorily upended - I still view this as reintegration via disintegration.

But once again, back to the topic at hand...

I'm going to spend the weekend figuring out how to make a spectacular pull-on skirt that looks totally legit and hangs beautifully. I'm going to sew the shit out of that thing. And when I'm not doing that, I'm going to practice my strange version of yoga/bodywork to ameliorate pain, have some meaningful conversation with my husband (as the kids are calling it these days) and eat and drink less than I might like (but more than perhaps I should).

Stay tuned. It'll be interesting.

* And just to reassure you, or to scare you, I (the poster-child of hateful perimenopause) am rather grateful to say that I don't experience many of the dozens of unfortunate symptoms that can inform the perimenopausal experience. Point is that even I fall somewhere on the "it could be much worse" continuum.

**To clarify: I know that I am within weight and height norms. I realize that I am not technically overweight, even if my waist circumference isn't at the healthy low end (according to some possibly fallible medical association). I realize that norms and "scientific" standards are neither normal nor standard and that we are all unique. I realize that all shapes can be beautiful (or not - it's very person-specific) because of and despite weight, shape and size. I know that youth is as it does. I know that age levels the playing-field. I know that style is timeless, but one's style may change. 

All I'm talking about here is ME. I'm talking about how I used to look a certain way that I liked and that I could relate to. I used to feel good in my body, not wracked with pain. I used to feel capable physically and predominantly healthy, not afraid of what may come. And I am not that person right now. But I assure you, I'm doing my very best to be a new person - one with much more insight, intelligence, agility and self-acceptance than I currently feel.  So when I speak of my body issues, they are mine. Don't think for a minute that I extend them to anyone else.


  1. Ain't no shame in an elasticized waistband. I've been considering it for all my pants for a while now. :-)

    It's weird how we see ourselves, isn't it? I mean, right now, I'm at my absolute HEAVIEST--even more than when I was 3 days from delivering my youngest child!! And yet!! People are telling me that I look better/slimmer than I did even a couple of months (and 7-8 lbs) ago. Maybe it's because I've been working out (my biceps are HUGE right now--I'm contemplating arm wrestling my husband, because I think there's a good chance I could beat him. ;-)) but all I can see is the number on the scale.

  2. Go for it! I personally like the wiggle room that a little bit of secret elastic gives a garment!

  3. Elastic has been my BFF for quite some time...I just made the Elenore pants from Jalie. These look identical in their construction, but are slim pant or capris. I made them into a long legged pair of shorts. Best of luck with the skirt. Barb

  4. Awesome post! I really enjoyed reading and I am totally on board for secret elastic waistbands!

  5. There are so many benefits to the elasticized waist...shorter toilet breaks being an unmentioned plus. Good fabric choice and minimising ease means that elasticised waists don't have to be the bulky mess we remember from the eighties.

  6. Elastic waists are super comfortable. I only have them in my pyjamas, which I admit, I put on pretty early in the evening!

  7. I go straight to Pretend You Are An Alt Rock Star baggy. And my waist size is 3 inches bigger than before I had my kids, my weight is only 5 lbs more. That rib cage expanded. I liked my little waist, but, I'm working on accommodating this new one;). Makes me wish I could sew! And I can't. I have no small motor coordination, not of finger not of brain. Ah well.

  8. Right. There. With. You. It was turning 50 last month that daunted me, so much as having to acknowledge the, er, relaxing of my hourglass shape into more of a figure-8. Though I tend toward the opposite of apple-ish, I still feel shock at the softening of my sharply-defined waist. Though intellectually, I knew that was coming, I somehow thought it wouldn't arrive until after the stopping of the German-precision (love that!) cycles. Nope.

    I say embrace the elasticized waist - and fabric! - with brazen joy. We were watching Foyle's War last night, set in WWII Britain. As the Nazis are expected to invade any day, people are stoically victory gardening. In stiff wool skirt suits, as you do. And I blurt out what is clearly the most important issue: "I wouldn't want to live in a world without yoga pants."