Trying New Shapes and Styles for an Edgy Spring and Summer Wardrobe

I tend toward fitted garments. When you’re curvy, you gotta really work your assets, amirite?

But I see all these breezy, loose looks for summer and I think, “Why not me?” Here’s a try at this look:

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Top from Vogue 9246

This top is from Vogue 9246, a “Five Easy Pieces” wardrobe pattern package that also includes two jacket options and two pants options.

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Vogue 9246

(Aside: Every time I see the “Five Easy Pieces” Vogue brand I think of that Jack Nicholson movie of the same name. As if you’d wear any of these clothes to work as an oil rig roustabout. Except for a jumpsuit. Maybe.)

This top hits “edgy” looks for me for a few reason:

  • Deep color and high contrast with the piping
  • Exaggerated shape with cut-on sleeves

It’s not super edgy. I mean, my mom would probably wear this top, but not in this blood-red color. The pattern collection also has wrap pants and a duster, which I like, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself.

Back to the top…

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The yoke seam detail is the only thing that holds any interest for me. I got this in a pattern swap, and it’s normally not my jam, truth be told. I thought that some detail in that yoke seam was essential to make the top work for me. When you’re curvy as I am, you need a detail at the shoulder to balance out a look that would go all boxy otherwise.

I played around with piping that seam. I had some faux leather piping, but it looked a bit much with the red. Same with some black satin piping. But white piping made the top look a bit preppy, which is a whole ‘nother look I am trying to avoid.

Then I found some white twill tape in my stash, and I thought, “Why not?

OK, here’s why not: twill tape is pretty thick, has no stretch or give at all, and just isn’t the sort of thing meant for such a treatment.

So of course I had to use it!

I basted the twill tape onto the yoke pieces, lining up the tape so that the seam would hit at exactly the middle of the tape, where the chevron of the weave breaks.

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Twill tape taking one for the team

I then sewed the seam and topstitched 2 mm above the seam so that the twill tape would lie properly. I like that the tape has this texture and isn’t flat but rather has a bit of movement in the seam.

Let’s talk about fit issues, howevs.

I did a 5/8-inch hollow chest adjustment and a 1-inch high round back adjustment to make this top lie correctly. It sits nicely against my back, but I should have done something to correct for my uneven shoulders. Also, a forward shoulder adjustment could have helped even out the hem line – you can see how it dips up slightly in front.

Overall, though, I like this more than I thought I would. This was a “wearable muslin” top meant to try the fit out. I am planning to make another in a striped white shirting.

 

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Stretches for Posture Correction

For the past few weeks, I have been doing a series of stretches designed to correct posture problems and limber up the ol’ spine. When I am done, I feel about an inch taller, for a few hours anyway. I also feel less stiff in the morning and after a lot sit on the commuter train.

Here are some tips, broken down by the three major spinal regions – cervical, thoracic, lumbar and sacral. Let’s go to the map!

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Cervical Spine

My favorite moves involve sensations of lengthening the spaces between the vertebrae of your neck. Start by nodding your chin toward your left shoulder as far as you can, comfortably, while keeping your shoulders down. Then raise your chin to the left side, again, as far as you can comfortably. Do this a few times to the rhythm of your breath.

When you’re nodded toward your shoulder again, move your chin in a diagonal through space so that you’re raising your chin as far as you can comfortably to the upper right. Repeat the diagonal move a few times.

Then repeat the whole sequence on the opposite side. Be sure to keep your shoulders down! You may notice that you’re more limber on one side than the other. As you complete a few moves, you may find that your ability to nod or rise increases as you stretch and warm up. Finish with a few movements that go shoulder to shoulder in a wide arc, like a big smile.

Cervical and Thoracic Spine

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This move gives the sensation of elongating the neck and upper back. In bare feet, stand straight on a non-slip surface, with a chair or table nearby in case you need help balancing. With feet facing forward and arms at your sides, rise onto your toes and stand, balancing, for 10 seconds. Then lower your heels until you’re standing flat on the ground, while continuing the sensation of lengthening so that you feel as tall as you were when you were on tip-toe.

It helps to imagine that a string emerging from the crown of your head is keeping you up, like a puppet. Repeat this several times with feet facing forward, and several times with feet in a V position. Reach out for support if you think you’re going to fall, but try hard to balance.

Thoracic and Lumbar Spine

I love a classic Pilates roll-up for helping me stretch and strengthen the core spine.

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Stand straight with arms at your sides and shoulders down, knees slightly bent (not locked). Nod your chin to your chest, and slowly roll down, vertebra by vertebra, allowing the weight of your head and arms to pull you into a forward folding shape. When you’ve gone down as far as you can, bend your knees a bit and hang like a rag doll for a few seconds.

Then, roll up, articulating and feeling each vertebra as you go, from bottom to top. Your head rises last. Repeat several times. You should be able to hang further at the bottom with each try.

The Whole Spine

Pretty much everyone who’s had back issues ends up doing pelvic tilts as part of a stretch routine for recovery. Stop me if you know this one!

Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat. Take note of where your head, neck, back and butt touch the floor, and where there’s space between your bod and the floor. You will probably feel space around the middle of your back where the natural curve of your spine hovers above the floor.

Gently tilt your pelvis so the space disappears and your spine feels imprinted to the floor. Use your abs to do this move. It helps me to imagine I’m balancing a bowl of soup on my pelvis, so that when I tilt my pelvis, the imaginary soup would spill all over my belly.

Then tilt the other way – exaggerate the space where your spine is off the floor. That imaginary soup would now spill all over your crotch. (Sorry for the dumb imagery, but it helps.)

Repeat a few times – each time try to feel each vertebra articulate up and down. You can also nod your chin towards your chest to elongate your cervical spine.

Try all these and let me know if you feel a little taller when you’re done!

One Day of Sitting and Standing Up Straight

I tried today to stand up straight and sit up tall all day. I made it exactly 10 minutes before I caught myself in the mirror, slouching while I brushed my teeth.

Sheesh.

Walking to the train, I tried to imagine I was carrying my breasts on a tray in front of me, like a medieval painting of Saint Agatha.

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Are these breasts, or just suggestive cupcakes?

That works pretty well, oddly enough, except when I forgot, and I forgot every 10 minutes or so.

Sheesh.

First thing at work, I had a meeting with about 30 people. We were jammed into a conference room, and I happened to pick the chair next to the speaker. All eyes on me! So I sat up straight. The whole time. I didn’t even let my back touch the back of the chair, I was that straight. My mind wandered to Scarlett O’Hara’s mother in “Gone With the Wind,” a lady so refined that Scarlett “had never seen her mother’s back touch the back of any chair in which she sat.”

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Me? Sit? No. I’m a lady.

Sheesh.

After that I felt a little burning sensation between my shoulder blades – maybe from muscles that hadn’t been used in a good long while, muscles that had been complacent and atrophied in their slouch.

For the rest of the day I tried to sit up as straight as possible. I realized my chair and desk were a bit un-ergonomic for this, so I fussed over the chair a while. When I got that straightened out, I realized my monitors were a bit low, so I fussed with them. I finally got to work on the computer and noticed from time to time that my shoulders crept up toward my ears. I pushed them back down. That little burn between my shoulder blades got hotter.

At lunch I stooped over my soup. I mean, I am all for trying this posture jazz, but I am not going to dribble soup all over my clothes to get there.

A few more meetings in the afternoon, and a few more Ellen O’Hara impressions. “Why yes,” I thought, “I am the epitome of femininity and refinement. Look at how my back doesn’t even touch the back of my chair, bitches.

I walked back to the train, head held high. I stepped in a subway grate and scuffed up the heel of my new boots, tripping and almost falling, but hey, I was walking with my head held high, not down at the ground like some slattern.

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Then I got on the train and took a nap, all slouched into the seat. Hey – I needed a break.

I resumed the walking and sitting when I got home for a while, but later, curled up on the couch watching TV, I caved. Enough for today.

Or, as Scarlett would say it, “Tomorrow is another day!”

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I Don’t Do Woo-Woo

My first stop in my effort to improve my posture was to seek medical advice. At least, I thought I was seeking medical advice. I really ended up seeking a practitioner of woo-woo.

I am talking about chiropractors.

“Woo-woo” is a snarky way to describe everything phony-baloney, magical thinking, pseudoscience, nutsy, mystical and downright bogus. I put chiropractors into that category. They are not doctors, and their practice has little to no medically proven benefit.

Yet, there are lots of chiropractors out there, and lots of people who “swear by” them. Swear all you want. That’s what happens when people are desperately in pain.

Anyway, the woman I saw was offering a posture clinic at my gym as part of a women’s health fair, so I thought I’d check it out. She didn’t bill herself as a chiropractor, which seems deceitful to me. She started by asking me a few questions about my age, health, exercise and eating habits. I showed her my uneven shoulders and my growing dowager’s hump. Then she poked around my back for a bit while I sat in one of those chairs where you plant your face into something that looks like a squishy toilet seat.

She filled out this assessment form for me:

back assessment
Woo woo !

It may be a little hard to read this, but basically it claims that all the health problems of humanity have their causes and cures in your back.

For example, let’s say you suffer from headaches, low energy, sneezing, nightmares and burning feet. This dog’s breakfast of symptoms is connected to your liver, don’t you know, and the cure is a chiropractic treatment of your 8th thoracic vertebra.

That was her diagnosis of me, along with problems with my 2nd thoracic and 5th lumbar vertebrae.

I can see how someone can get sucked into this. I mean, I get headaches from time to time. I struggle to maintain my weight. I have occasional aches and pains. It would be nice if the cure was a simple chiropractic adjustment, instead of dieting and exercising, avoiding headache triggers and otherwise succumbing to almost 50 years on this planet.

Some other health issues supposedly cured by chiropractors seem downright dangerous. If you’re craving sweets, feel tired after eating and get headaches if you get too hungry, your problem might be diabetes, not your 6th thoracic vertebra.

I asked the chiropractor if she could cite any peer-reviewed studies that proved these ideas. “No,” she said, “but I can tell you that my patients all feel better.”

In the first place, I don’t have any pain – it’s really more of an attempt to correct bad posture and its other effects that I’m after.

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Shoulder issues – the shirt is on grain. I am off grain.

If you are in pain, and if you believe the chiropractor can help you, then maybe it will. The brain plays a big role in the power to heal. Plus, maybe it just feels good to have someone touching you and showing you sympathy for your pain.

I don’t believe, so forget it. I probably insulted her when I told her that, but I don’t care. Hey, if you believe in what you’re doing, put some data behind it. Is that so hard?

I have my annual check-up in a few weeks with my real doctor, and I’ll ask her for a referral.

I Feel Bad About My Shoulders

Stand up straight! Don’t slouch!

Did you hear that a lot as a kid? I did. I didn’t obey, and today I am sorry for it. My back and shoulder issues are worsening with age.

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Shoulder issues – the shirt is on grain. I am off grain.

I don’t wear a lot of striped or plaid tops for this reason. This shirt does a great job of showing the problem – my right shoulder is lower and forward of my left shoulder, and I have a bit of a hunchback developing on my left side.

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side view

Because the top of my body slumps this way, the bottom of my body hyperextends the other way to compensate. You can really see it on this pants muslin. Those drag lines from the front thigh around to the back calf tell the tale:

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Doomed from every angle!

Here’s what these back and shoulder issues look like from the front – note the two shoulder heights, plus drag lines on the right at the armpit, pointing to other fitting problems.

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Three issues conspired in my childhood to create this problem:

  1. I was very tall for my age – about 5’4″ in 6th grade – and I was very ungainly and self-conscious. I slouched and slumped to try to make myself look smaller.
  2. I had a mild scoliosis. I should have worn a back brace, but I didn’t get one. I don’t really know why my parents ignored this. My mother once said she was afraid kids would pick on me. Anyway, we had no money.
  3. I wore a backpack to school slung over only my left shoulder, which probably partly explains why it developed the way it did.

My inability to stand up straight ruined my wedding pictures:

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Bride of 1999

And it’s starting to cause me some pain. Things will only get worse if I don’t work on it.

My winter self-improvement plan involves working on my posture. I am going to try a few things:

  • Medical assessment of my posture – how bad it is and what I can expect if I don’t address it
  • Exercises to fix it, or at least to stop it from getting worse
  • Gadgets and garments that might help
  • Sewing and alterations to minimize the cosmetic problem

I am curious if any readers have struggled with this and have tips or experiences that I might find valuable. Please drop me a line if you do.