Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Hourglass shapes and Curvy women

Fashion-associated terms have always confused me. The media delights in assigning all women into a few specific categories - pear, triangle, apple, hourglass, rectangle - and then telling them what they look good in based on their shape.

image from thebarbertoo.com
One of the terms in particular has always confused me: "hourglass figure." Most of us can immediately conjure up an image of what a woman with an "hourglass figure" looks like - generally the media portrays this as a woman (often a larger woman) with very defined bust, waist, and hips.

But what exactly is the definition of an hourglass figure? Wisegeek gives an interesting and specific definition: "In a woman with a true hourglass figure, the measurements of hips and bust are essentially the same, and the waist measurement is equal to less than 75% of either the hip or bust measurement. The result is a very curvy figure which emphasizes broad hips and large breasts."

I found other definitions as well, from "waist must be about 9 inches less in measurement than the bust" to "shoulders and hips are the same width" to several (differing) specific measurements (40-30-40, 36-24-36).According to the first definition at least, it doesn't matter what your overall weight is, as long as your hips and bust are about the same measurement, and your waist measures 3/4 of that. By at least the first two definitions, I fit into the category of an "hourglass figure," my waist measuring less than 75% of either my waist or bustline and being at least 9" less than either of those measurements.

However... this still confuses me. I never really felt that I was an hourglass figure. I started doing some research, and I noticed that there seem to be several, slightly differing "looks" that are presented as being hourglass shaped. But looking at all the images in articles about fashion, the vast majority seem to be of heavier or larger women - for example, here and here. Even of the examples aren't of women who are on the heavier side, they're almost always shown as having very defined/larger hips. I definitely don't have stellar hips that could stop traffic. They're just... normal.

Both of the example links above present several choices to a woman and tell her that she must be one of these shapes - pick one so we can work with you. What if you don't look like any of those women in the pictures? (And what's with the monikers - what woman wants to say, "Honey, I just found out I'm Tube-shaped!") And why do articles like these (especially the last one) assume that you hate so many things about your body? Why must women forever define themselves as a "banana" or a "brick"?

Image courtesy of popularandposh.com
More confusion ensued with more research. The woman above, for example, does not look like she has at least a 9 inch difference between her waist and bust or hip measurements. Another site I found describes "hourglass" women as "may be fuller-figured" (another euphemism for larger) and having "fleshy" arms. Has "hourglass figure" become another word like "curvy" in that it implies having defined bust and hips, but has come to generally be used as a nicer way of saying "larger women"? I think of myself as "curvy," but I learned early on that the "curvy" sections of stores or websites contain clothes exclusively for plus-sized women. Are stores saying that only plus-sized women are curvy?

Can you be thin or slender and still be "curvy"? I would say definitely. Can you be thin and still be an "hourglass figure"? By definition, at least, it seems so, although I'm not sure I will ever really associate myself with being an "hourglass" shape, if only because of the confusing (and often conflicting) portrayal of what an hourglass shaped woman really is. Even if I fit the strict definition, it doesn't really seem that hourglass+thin are really "supposed" to go together.

I had always hoped that in my search to understand exactly what each shape and label meant I would finally find out what I was - dare I say, who I was - and settle comfortably into a preset shape that had clothing rules and regulations to follow. But I've come to realize that we don't all fit so nicely into molds. And the molds that stores and the media present us with are often misleading, conflicting, and wrong. And you know what? I think all body shapes and types are beautiful. I don't think we need to be told what we should and shouldn't like about ourselves.

I'm not quite sure what label I fit into. But I have my own words that I like to use to describe me - busty, curvy, thin, short, broad-shouldered, round-faced, leggy, sturdy. I'm a mix of apparent contrasts, according to what the stores tell me. But maybe - just maybe - I like it that way. 

Monday, June 27, 2011

So you want to try Kefir?

Ever heard of Kefir? It's basically "fermented" or "cultured" milk - think of it as kind of a super-yogurt (another cultured milk product). I started drinking it a couple of weeks ago for the health benefits. I admit I was kind of scared when I was standing in the refrigerated section of the local organic store; I was afraid kefir would taste as strange as it sounded. In faith, I reached out, grabbed a bottle, and took it home to try it.

And you know what? It wasn't that bad. It tastes like tangy, slightly sour yogurt, and it's very slightly bubbly(the label says "effervescent"). I started out with trying Lifeway brand's Blueberry and then Strawberry flavored "smoothies," then moved on to the regular plain drink.

If you're interested in trying kefir, I would recommend starting out with a flavored drink before jumping right into plain kefir - it helped me transition into the overall taste. I now can say I honestly like kefir (especially the flavored kind - yummy!), and I'm going to branch out to trying other brands next shopping trip.

Also (at least in the brand pictured), the flavored kefir doesn't contain any unnatural dyes. For the Strawberry and Blueberry flavors, only additional ingredients besides what's in the plain kefir are organic cane juice, strawberry or blueberry concentrate juice, and red beet juice (plus the ubiquitous "natural flavors").  The flavored kefir has 20 grams of sugar and 20 grams carbohydrates per serving, as opposed to 12 grams of sugar and 12 grams carbohydrates for the plain.

If you're looking to branch out from plain old yogurt, you should try kefir!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Bra Roulette

So, you've tried everywhere. And not just Vicky's, Freddie's, or even Nordie's - you've even gone to the "specialty shops." Yet, those perfectly-fitting bras remain elusive. What's a girl to do?

Well, lovies, you have three options, depending on your funds:
1. Beg free bras off of friends
2. Scour the internet for cheap bras
3. Buy new bras from fancy European websites

No option is perfect. Option 1 only works if you have friends that are about the same size as you (and are willing to part with their probably hard-won lingerie).

Option 3 is the ideal option for getting nice bras, but only works if you have sufficient funds (at least a few hundred $$) and patience.
For example, say I found two bras I liked online that I decided I would try. The first is $54.44 (weird amounts happen when you convert from British currency), and the second is $51.14.

Now, if I just got one of each that would be $105.58, plus around $14 shipping, giving a grand total of about $119.88. But wait! I have no idea exactly how these bras fit. They might run large or small - the Cleo brand (the $51.14 one) is known to run small, but you never know. So I would need to order a few different sizes to be sure I got one that would fit. Otherwise I would have to gamble on one size, and then pay for shipping both ways to exchange it if it didn't fit.  $14+ shipping adds up fast.
Since the Cleo bra doesn't have a wide variety close to my size range, I would only have to order, say, 3 different sizes to see if one worked for me; same with the Freya bra. So now we're up to:
(51.14)3 + (54.44)3 + 14(at least) = 153.42 + 163.32 + 14 = $330.74.

Thus, if I wanted to get these two bras, I would have to have about $350 free to do so. I would get refunds for all the bras I returned (so, if one of each kind fit, I would get a refund of $211.16, but I would have to pay for shipping to send back the bras).
To top it all off, if none of the bras ended up working, I would get a refund for the cost of the bras themselves after I sent them all back, but I would have to have paid probably $30+ for just shipping, plus there's the wasted time and effort and having over $300 in limbo.
On the other hand, if you find a new bra online that you know fits you, then you only have to pay for the cost of the bra plus shipping, so you'll only be paying in the $50-$90 range without having to worry about refunds, exchanges, and all that.

*phew* On to Option 2! Well, if you don't have friends with excess bras in your size and you don't have hundreds just waiting to be spent, then you get to work with this option, or what I like to call Bra Roulette. This involves scouring sites like ebay and/or secret underground online communities. Often you'll be able to find bras on ebay for $30 or much less, and if you're part of a small online community, you may even score free bras (making this very similar to Option 1, except you don't really know the people and you pay shipping). This option allows you to get a whole bunch of bras for the same cost (or less) as one brand spankin' new bra. Thus, even if you bought 10 bras from various places online and only one works, you've only paid $40 total and thus you still got a deal. Plus, you have a much better chance of getting at least one bra that works.

My recent and much-put-off Bra Roulette gained me 6 bras for the total cost of $36 (shipping included) - so $6 a bra (plus I have one more in the mail that I'll just pay shipping for, adding about $2 to the total cost and driving the price down to $5.40 a bra).
Of the so-far 5 that I've gotten:
-2 are the wrong size (I can pass them off to a friend - yay option number 1!)
-2 are the wrong shape (Not sure what I will do with these yet, besides not wear them)
-1 works after a little modification (repairing a tear and taking in the band)
-1 fits perfectly

Thus, I've gained 2 bras for $18 each, plus several bras to give away or exchange, plus more knowledge of different brands and how they fit. $36 for 2 bras is a heck of a lot better than $120 for 2 bras.

I want to say this has never happened...

Now I'm curious, where and how do you get your bras? Maybe there are still better ways.