Finance Friday: Wardrobe Rebuild

It’s Friday again! Today’s episode of Finance Friday is about a situation that folks who have either gained weight, lost weight, or have generally seen their bodies change have to deal with: rebuilding their wardrobe. As I’ve mentioned before, my body has changed a lot in the last couple of years that I’ve been weightlifting. And here I am again–it’s time for a wardrobe rebuild before the fall semester starts.

The situation

Last summer, I bought new pants for the fall term only to have them all barely fit in the spring. Most of the stuff I’d gotten the year before–beloved, seriously expensive stuff from Stitch Fix, for example–I donated when it no longer zipped over my lower half. I bought new shorts this summer as only one pair I had last year remained. My jackets don’t fit as my shoulders have broadened, and my blouses don’t fit over my biceps. Now don’t get me wrong–I love my strength. I love my muscles. But I hate replacing clothes every few months. It’s expensive and irritating. So I have a new plan so that I can replace my wardrobe with enough flexibility that hopefully, I won’t have to do it again anytime soon.

Here’s My Thinking
Diana, Kickass *and* Fashionable

I should tell you that Wonder Woman as Diana, working at the Louvre, inspired my fashion aesthetic here.

The perk of having to have a wardrobe rebuild is that I can use it as a chance to plan, essentially, most of my clothes deliberately. I’m aiming for a modified capsule wardrobe–a moderate amount of clothing, nearly all interchangeable (ie, tops can swap with other tops with all of the bottoms). Outfits can be changed up with accessories: I have lots of scarves, costume jewelry, shoes, and so forth for that.

So far, I’ve replaced my multiple too-small work-suitable jackets with a Prime Day purchase: a nice trench I scored for a fraction of its MSRP at $35. I used my head, looked at the size chart and the comments, and made sure to size appropriately, rather than buying the size I have usually been. It arrived Thursday and it fits my shoulders beautifully and my biceps well. Hopefully it will last a long while. I’ll try not to spill coffee on it too often.

Sew on

I’m a skilled seamstress, which allows me to tailor much of the rest of my new wardrobe. I’m making it primarily out of knits. Thus they’ll stretch if I grow a bit, and I can take them in if I shrink a bit. I’ve made myself two pencil skirts using the remarkably easy and FREE pattern at Patterns for Pirates–one’s a charcoal knit (Ponte de Roma is the fabric type), so easily paired with any top, and the other’s a pink and black gingham, for fun. I lined the front of both with a little Power Mesh, cut to a smaller size and stretched to provide just a little belly smoothing. The charcoal I’d bought last year, so that’s not even on my cost tally this year, and I got the pink gingham and mesh from Purple Seamstress for $25 shipped. The mesh will last me through probably four or five skirts.

Next, I took advantage of a sale at Joann Fabric and Craft to get more of the charcoal and some black Ponte de Roma as well as a McCall’s pattern to make some wide-leg pants. They’ll end up coming in at about $22 a pair. That they’ll be adjustable with their stretchy though formal enough goodness has me hoping they’ll make it through at least a couple of years. (I got a nice Ibotta rebate on this, too–we’ll talk about that another day.)

So, assuming my skinny pants still fit (super stretchy poplin), with these two pants and a few skirts, I should be good with bottoms for a while.

Squeezing into Shirts

In addition to several surviving tops from last year, I picked up two blouses on thredup for a song. They’re classic in styling, one black, one white. They were already inexpensive enough but I found a 40% discount code I could use as a first-time buyer. I got them both for $13. That black blouse and the gingham skirt are going to be smashing together.

I have some shirt fabric in an online cart but I’m not read to pull the trigger yet. They’ll replace the too-small ones I bought on clearance a few years ago that do not fit at all now. Stretchy knit fitted tops are my go-to. I also have some sweater fabric in there to make myself a nice cowl neck.

All of these pieces should be easily swappable for nice, professional outfits. I can wear them to work, to conferences and casually. All told, I shouldn’t spend more than $150 to replace my wardrobe, and replace it well. Here’s hoping, anyway.

**If you want to try thredup, here’s a referral link I’d love for you to use: http://www.thredup.com/r/F3ITO7. You get $10, I get $10! Everybody wins!

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The Battle Against Chub Rub: Part 2

In case you were wondering about my battle against chub rub since we last spoke, I’m here to fill you in. Last we talked, I’d picked up  Monistat anti chafe cream to try after other stuff was a bust. Alas, it is only ok. It’s a little messy to put on (not entirely on-the-go since you need to be able to wash up after applying). It lasts only so long before sweatiness wears it down–maybe a few hours. I’ll pick up some BodyGlide this week and see how that goes.

To recap

Slip Shorts: nope

Deodorant: nope

Monistat cream: enh

Here’s hoping Body Glide is the champ in fighting chub rub!

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Complicated Feelings: Bodies and Guilt

Complicated feelings: bodies and guiltSome time ago I wrote here about weightlifting helping alleviate my focus on the scale and size. Welp. I feel like I have to be honest with you: I don’t always feel that way. Lately I have felt like a tangle of emotions regarding weight, size and the gym. Guilt becomes my overriding feeling. And that is the worst.

Six or so weeks ago I decided I wanted to see my muscles more. I wanted to stop buying pants every six months, too, so I figured stabilizing my size by shedding some body fat is the way to go. I would LOVE to see my muscles more. It’s not that I feel like I should take up less space (usually) or that I’m not entitled to just be me (ok, sometimes that is an issue. We’ll get there). But I work so hard on these muscles I would very much like them to pop a bit more.

Since it’s summer and I’m not on contract I have more gym time. I’m a regular gym goer–I try to lift three days and do some conditioning like the rowing machine 2-3 other days. I love the gym once I’m there, but getting there isn’t always easy. And 5-6 days is serious.

I’m also not rushing so much and thus–theoretically–have good control over what I’m eating. And eating is the issue. At my request, my trainer gave me a calorie and macro target. And, consequent to my tenacious behavior in all things (not always a positive), I’m a religious food tracker. I’m generally on target, tho not always.

Complicated feelings: bodies and guilt
hello, beery, my old friend

He also told me to cut out sunny summer cocktails, cold beers, and the like. I confess, that kind of instruction is hard for me to swallow (ha). I don’t like being told what to do, and I don’t like feeling like I’m setting myself up to fail (cough). And so, we get to guilt.

Did I not make it to the gym? Guilt.

Did I eat more than I should have? Far too many carbs? Guilt.

Did I have a margarita? Guilt.

These feelings alternate with “I’m an adult human. If I want a Saturday margarita, I’m having one” feelings. The “I am not here to deprive myself” feelings. I don’t know about you, but this whole situation becomes for me a vicious circle. And I start having bad feelings about my body, it’s various squishes. I forget about my strength. Then–ready?–I FEEL GUILTY ABOUT FEELING GUILTY BECAUSE I’M A MODERN FEMINIST, DAMMIT, AND KNOW THESE FEELINGS ARE BULLSHIT.

My head spins. Rationally, I know all of this is not worth the emotion they cost, but I’m not great at not-feeling what I’m feeling. Right now, writing at a friend’s house, having completed one project’s page proofs and now drafting this, I’m feeling like a lunch with beer sounds awesome. But later–having missed my Monday lift and had god knows what–I’ll feel less awesome about it.

And I know that this feeling cycle is likely rooted in self-perceptions that I’m not worth flexibility and treats, that I fear not being in control, that I’m somehow letting myself down by not sticking to the program. I tend to set up rigid parameters (“ok, one little splurge a week!”) that set me up for frustration because I’m not about to turn down the occasional request from a friend to go out.

The solution isn’t “well, get a salad for lunch!,” I’d argue, because it’s not getting at the underlying issues which I guess are that I have complex feelings about my worthiness, that when I’m not adhering to my regiment (whatever it is) I feel like a failure. And I know that these feelings aren’t true–I know I am awesome, at least in my head, but my head and my gut don’t always align.

Do you have complex body feelings? How do you (or have you) deal(t) with them?

 

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The Fight Against Chub Rub: Part 1

get itOne of the side effects of being a great Quadzilla, particularly if your quads are shaped like mine (hugely expansive at the top with muscle when standing, but squishy when seated), is chub rub. Partly this is genetic—even when I was 110 pounds I didn’t have a thigh gap of any sort—but my leg growth has led to leg chafe. If I wear a skirt without any kind of tights or hose I end up with angry red rashes. And because of my leg shape, even shorts can repeatedly ride up, leading to the same problem. It’s irritating on multiple levels.

Since I’m not about to stop working out for the sake of a little chafing, this year I need to find a solution. I’ll include you in that process. I’ve tried two solutions so far, and no dice.

Solution 1: Deodorant.

This would have been a nice way to ease chub rub since I already have deodorant. I tried it on a not-so-hot day, and got not-so-hot results. It worked well for the first fifteen minutes, but once my legs rubbed together much more than that, it wore off. You’d have to reapply all day long.

Solution 2: Slip shorts.

I had really high expectations for these, not just because I spent $12 on them at Target. Y’all know I hate spending money unless it’s on fun things like happy hour. This felt like an investment, and women I’d polled on the Girls Gone Strong facebook group recommended them highly. But because of my leg shape/movement, they didn’t work well. They’d start out fine, but after standing and sitting a couple of times they just rolled up. I made the mistake of buying the one with a top smoother as well (I figured I might as well get more bang for my buck since I was going to wear it under a fitted dress) and the top just rolled down, too. This left me with two bulges where the rolls were and chafed legs. Rats.

legs
Legs. I have them.

So, I’m about to start round 3, also recommended by the Girls Gone Strong crew: Monistat Complete Care Chafing Gel.* I have decided not to think about what it’s intended for (chafing labia? God that sounds awful) and will let you know how a test run of the stuff works out. If that doesn’t work, I might have to splurge on some Bandelettes.* I will solve this chub rub.

As an aside…

While women generally are built with wider thighs than men and more fleshiness there, we aren’t the only ones who have them. When I googled “stock photo thighs” for an image to add to this piece, the photos that came up were abhorrent. Now, half of them were chicken thighs, which is funny. But most of them featured women measuring or grabbing their thighs. One theme that was particularly awful is when the thighs are marked up for surgery (or, like a butcher diagram, if you will) reducing the already-small thighs beyond what’s probably the width of the bone.

Now there are a couple featuring women who aren’t small, but they’re rare and still feature squeezing. The entirety of thigh-related stock photos implies women’s inferiority–or reasons why women “should” feel insecure and inferior.

If you look up quadriceps, there’s far more variety in imagery, and images include men.

Thighs=bad  quads=good? Food for thought, as these photos turn up everywhere across the internet.


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How I stopped worrying so much about my weight and came to love heavy lifting

Get it!
Full disclosure: post contains affiliate links

For many, many years, I, like many people, hated exercise. I also wasn’t too keen on my body. I saw exercise mainly as a tool for body modification, but one which left me generally tired, frustrated, and easily thwarted. I am 5’ tall. I am genetically predisposed to big ol’ legs, and I saw these as a penance rather than a gem. When I was 28, I lost something like 30 pounds so that I was a mere 117 through strict food control, limited booze, and walking. So.much.walking. I did this after seeing a doctor at the university where I was a grad student for an indigestion-and-tightness feeling. Her advice? Lose weight. (didn’t help, btw.)

run, Jen, run!
A blurry, young me, in one of my very few action shots.

Man, if I had a nickel for every time I heard or felt that impulse to drop pounds. BMI is too high. Clothes are too tight. Self-love was not part of the equation, ever, even though I went to a feminist university for undergrad and was a believer in the rhetoric. Knowing something in your brain and your gut are two different things. I was a chubby youngster, and even as my weight went up and down over the years, that kid’s voice tended to be the loudest in my head.

Magazines, websites and TV pitch cardio to women as the be-all end-all of exercise, because it’s trumpeted as the best, fastest way to lose weight. The equation is thus simple: women should primarily exercise to take up less space. Thus, run, use the elliptical, or in my case as a young person, get down with those awful Cindy Crawford workout videos. Do not do so for reasons of personal accomplishment, unless that accomplishment is to become smaller. In which case, good for you.

When I see photos of myself at 117 pounds, I’m kind of floored by how scrawny I was. I am forty pounds heavier now. I am not always good at accepting that. But my god, I am strong.

I started lifting heavy weights a few years ago at the university gym. It took a lot of swallowed pride to put on my gym clothes and be vulnerable—gasp—in front of my students. But the gym was free, and I had a book—The New Rules of Lifting for Women: Lift Like a Man, Look Like a Goddess—I’d taken out of the library and eventually ordered on Amazon. I watched videos to get an idea of good form. And then I tried. I used the barbell, the plates, the dumbbells. Within a year, I could lift my (then-smaller) bodyweight. And I loved it.

That’s evidently the trick with exercise: Find something you love, and you won’t mind doing it (as much—I do still have those days where I don’t want to go to the gym). And for me, I hated cardio. It generally left me bored and feeling bad about myself. But lifting? It’s always a challenge. Successes are exciting—new personal bests!—and failures are motivating. Don’t get it today? Get it later. It’s a very different motivation than “yay I made it through half an hour on the treadmill,” which is something I don’t find even remotely motivating. At all. Even better, it allowed me to eat more (I wrestled with guilt cycles about counting highly-restricted calories) because you have to eat to lift and make gains.

It’s the best exercise ever.

I no longer work out at the university gym. When I was on sabbatical, I started working out elsewhere so as not to get sucked into university stuff. Now I just prefer my other gym; it’s the one “crazy” annual expense in my budget. I also spring for a trainer.

I can lift 200 pounds off the floor.
I can carry all the groceries in one trip.
I can move my own furniture.

My bones are strong as a consequence of resistance work, which bodes well for me in the future.

And while I use a lot of serious gym weights, you can do a lot with your own body and stuff you can find—google and see for yourself.

The traditional ways of knowing you’re doing well, health-wise, don’t quite work for me, and that’s taken getting used to. My pants are always becoming too small (I’ve stopped buying any at full price and hit up thrift shops) because my booty is huge. I have great quads—sure, they’re huge, but they support my whole body and let me do pretty much whatever I want. My shoulders are broad—these are great for filling out shirts, sure, but also help stabilize my growing arms.

Exercise is important—it can help stabilize mood (it keeps me from killing people), improve bodily function, ward off disease, and promote community. But don’t exercise for some mythological state of smallness, or because you feel you have to for reasons tied to the awful covers of “Women’s Health,” a misnomer if I ever heard one. Do it for you. Find something you like, and to hell with the rest of it. Find workouts that challenge you, that hold your interest. For me, that’s heavy lifting.

Being strong kicks ass. Being big kicks ass. It’s all infinitely better than spending your life seeking smallness. If you’re looking to feel good, carry all your own stuff, and rival Beyonce’s thighs for strength, you should give heavy lifting a go.

We’ll talk about all of this more later, when I interview my trainer. He’s ALL about empowering women in the gym, so I adore him. Just wait until I ask him about the pink dumbbells.

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