It's the time of year where the sun is shining and lots of people are packing their suitcases for a spring break getaway. I am going to be in Los Angeles next weekend where the temperatures are going to be in the 80s and 90s! Here in Chicago I am still wearing boots and scarves, but I will be stepping off the plane into 95 degees and sunshine. That is going to be quite a shock!
Luckily, I have been thinking about my vacation wardrobe since Warby Parker reached out to tell me about their newly launched Daydream Collection of sunglasses. No suitcase headed towards warm weather is complete without the perfect pair of sunglasses, so I have paired up a few of my warm weather vacation outfits with my favorite sunglasses from Warby Parker's new collection.
My shopping total for two tops, two pairs of running shorts, and a pair of full-length compression tights came to under $60. That's equal to the cost of ONE pair of running shorts from Lululemon! But my favorite part of today's shopping trip was seeing all the options. I prefer my athletic tops to be long and loose and I found plenty of pieces that fit those criteria. But there were also tops that were short and fitted. There appeared to be something in any color, pattern, and style that you could want.
Today's post will be another installment in the not-quite-weekly column reviewing Genevieve Antoine Dariaux's book, A Guide to Elegance. For more about this series of posts, check out the introduction (here) and previous posts (here). We are almost through the remaining C chapters and I am beginning to realize how much longer it will take me to get all the way to Z (which includes Zippers and Zoology). It looks like we all will be having a standing date with Madame Dariaux for at least the next year. But that is getting ahead of ourselves; today we will be discussing comfort.
"[M]any of the details which were considered to be a mark of elegance some years ago are condemned today for reasons of comfort." (pg. 31)
It is easy to argue that flat shoes and pants with added stretch are not as elegant as the clothes that Madame Dariaux considered the norm when she wrote the first edition of this book in the 1960s. However, that would overlook the clothing options that manage to meld comfort with style. Shoes are a great example of this. Madame Dariaux mentions shoes as being the one form that is "absurdly and absolutely the contrary of good sense and good comfort" (31), but I don't think she has browsed through the comfort section of Zappos recently. Granted, not everything looks like something you would see in a magazine editorial, but brands like Clarks, Rockport, and Softt have been really stepping up their game. After all, your clothes should be designed to both look and feel great.
"However, if women continue to seek comfort above all twenty-four hours a day, twelve months a year, they may eventually find that they have allowed themselves to become slaves to the trainer, Lycra from head to toe, ready meals, organized travel, functional uniformity, and general stultification." (pg. 32)
I agree with the beginning of the sentiment about comfort and have written about why you should avoid wearing spandex and other athletic wear (here and here). However, the doomsday predictions that she lapses into are more than a little bit extreme. (Also, if she is so quick to snub ready meals, then she has obviously never experienced the wonderfully delicious convenience of the Trader Joe's freezer section.) I believe that a big part of being stylish is knowing what clothing is appropriate for a given situation. The reality is that for most of us, sneakers and yoga pants won't cut it as our main outfit. That doesn't mean that we cannot strive to be comfortable in the clothes that we do wear. Who needs Lycra when you can rock a stylish ponte dress that is just as comfortable as your pajamas?
Dariaux, Genevieve Antoine. A Guide to Elegance. New York: William Morrow, 2003. Print.
When you are trying to improve your style, it makes sense that you would focus on the items of clothing that are visible. Except in the case of a major fashion faux pas, your undergarments should be, well, under your clothes. However, they do play an important supporting (pun intended!) role and deserve more thought than we normally afford them. Today I want to remedy that and talk about bras.
I have always found bra shopping to be an incredibly frustrating experience. This frustration seems to be a near universal experience, but my own particular brand of difficulty comes from the limited options available in cup sizes D and larger. It felt like I had to either resign myself to a granny-style bra or make due with a less-than-ideal amount of support. I wanted the support, but the "old lady" bras severely limited what clothes I could wear because of their wide straps, bulky designs, and coverage that seemed to reach up to my neck. No bra is great enough to justify never being able to wear a tank top or v-neck blouse! Here's the thing about a great bra: it makes you feel confident from the moment you put it on and helps your clothes to fall in a flattering way.
Even if no one else will see your undergarments, it is likely that you are going to want a variety of patterns and colors. While basic beige and black are staples, I like to have something a little bit more fun to boost my mood on a grey day. The tagline for this blog is "love what you wear everyday" and that shouldn't only refer to your visible clothes. But sometimes it feels like the styles that fit are doomed to only come in bland colors.
For probably the past decade, I have been on a constant hunt for a better bra and although I have found some decent options along the way, it has never been easy. This past summer I went into Macy's looking for a racerback bra and when I asked for help, I was informed in a not very nice tone that "no one makes that style in your size." That might sound harsh (and I did call my mom crying afterwards), but it was not an outlier experience. Since most bra sections are set up by brand, not size, it feels like an impossible task to sift through everything and you are forced to rely on the expertise (or not) of the sales associate.
In a fit of desperation last August, I resorted to online shopping for bras. At the time I was sure that it would be an utter disaster since I had spent many hours in fitting rooms trying on bras just to come out empty handed. However, Nordstrom offers free shipping and free returns on all online purchases and I figured that at least I could endure the humiliation of poor fitting bras in the privacy of my apartment instead of being cajoled by sales associates to show them off to the entire fitting room. This is going to sound like an exaggeration, but the entire experience was magical. I could filter search results by size, read reviews from other customers and when my order arrived on my doorstep, I could try each option on with multiple tops and dresses. No more searching through racks of bras and no more wondering if the bra would look okay under a variety of fabrics. I was on such a roll that I then headed over to the Bare Necessities website, which also has a good return policy. Not all of my purchases fit, but the success rate was well over 50% and I discovered my new favorite brand, Freya (which is carried at both Nordstrom and Bare Necessities).
Freya is based out of the U.K. (so check that size conversion chart before ordering!) and is great for women with large chests. It was the first time that I put on a bra and really felt like it had been made with me in mind and wasn't just a bigger version of something designed for an A cup. I didn't realize the importance of that until I finally experienced it and now six months later I can say that the excitement hasn't worn off. There are quite a few pieces of clothing that I feel much more confident wearing because my undergarments aren't interfering with the fit. I especially love their longline bras which have fabric that extends about an inch and half below the bust because they help smooth out my sides and back. But the most important thing is that I feel like there are options for me to choose from, not just a style that I am stuck with. (An added bonus is that they also make swimwear in their bra sizes!)
This is embarrassing to admit, but I used to wear camisoles with built-in bras over my bras so that I would have extra support. Now all of those camis are sitting unworn on a shelf in my closet. It is freeing to be able to throw on only single layer. Before I could only do that if I was willing to wear an undergarment that resembled armor more than a bra. You can probably imagine that my outer layers also look better without the added bulk underneath. There are probably a few of you who have also made compromises or modifications because you couldn't find the perfect fit. You shouldn't have to settle.
If you are looking to try a variety of brands (which I suggest if you go the online shopping route), I have also had success with Wacoal (though their larger sizes come mostly in neutral colors) and Cleo by Panache. For sports bras, I am a huge fan of Lynx Sportswear which creates an incredibly supportive bra that is unlike any other you have tried (seriously, watch the video and you will be amazed).
When you are updating your wardrobe for the new season, take a moment and evaluate your undergarments. They are unseen most of the time, but their importance should not be underestimated.