Archive for July, 2013

Skinny Fashion: How to Flatter Your “Figure”

22 Jul

twiggy“It’s not what you’d call a figger, is it?” — Twiggy Lawson

Those women who never grow out of the “gangly” stage can strongly identify with the above sentiment of Twiggy, uttered as she reflected upon her own famously thin frame. However, unlike Twiggy (who ultimately did develop a womanly figure), the rest of us probably don’t have stylists on hand to help navigate the waters of fashion, nor do most retail clothing associates know what works best for the super-thin (unless you are shopping on Rodeo Drive).

Shopping for clothing as an extreme ectomorph can be very frustrating, especially for the ladies. Pants are generally designed to accommodate hips that we don’t have. Ditto for lingerie and breasts. And shopping in the juniors’ section only works if you are short and desire to continue dressing like a child well into adulthood. Ahem.

Fashion magazines aren’t much help, either…unless you can afford the clothes the models are wearing on the catwalk. Advice columns for the general population will not feature any words of wisdom for the ultra-thin (sadly, if they did, they would probably experience terrible backlash from their readers).

So what’s a skinny gal to do? Turn to The Skinny for a little guidance! I have long wanted to address the topic of fashion because it is so difficult for skinny women to find information of this nature.

Let’s start by covering the ground rules:

(1) Never EVER waste your time in a store that simply does not make clothes for your body. In general, these clothiers cater to the American general public, which means all their pants will fall off of you and the shirts will be loose and baggy. In my experience, this includes Levis, The Gap, Banana Republic, and pretty much all department stores.

(2) Wear dresses and skirts as much as possible. Pants, and especially jeans, can drastically accentuate thinness. You’re either swimming in baggy pants or cursing the clinginess of jeans that leave nothing to the imagination regarding the size of your legs. Skirts and dresses are your savior in this dilemma. The right cut adds femininity, can make you look curvier in the hips, and only exposes as much leg as you desire. I find just above- or below-the-knee to be most flattering.

(3) Regarding pants/jeans: it is difficult, but not entirely impossible, to find a pair of pants that strikes the right balance. These will most likely be found at expensive clothing stores, but they are worth every dime. Avoid tapered ankles, and especially stretch and/or skinny jeans, which will make you look utterly ridiculous. Stick with slim fit (i.e., narrower hips) in straight leg or boot cut. I’ve had the most success with pants and jeans from Bebe, Fossil, Theory, and 7 For All Mankind.

Debra looks great in horizontal stripes. So will you.

Debra looks great in horizontal stripes. So will you.

(4) Yes, horizontal stripes really do make you look bigger. So wear them! Striped long sleeve tees and sweaters are particularly cute. Think Debra Morgan, who makes perfect use of the horizontally striped tee in almost every episode of Dexter season 7 (I’m really glad she’s out of the plaid phase).

(5) Layers are great for adding a little “weight” to your frame and for helping you keep warm or cool as needed in various environments.

(6) Unless you want to look like Ronald McDonald, steer clear of chunky and/or wide shoes. This can be difficult when sneaker shopping, but stay vigilant and you will succeed. Additionally, really high heels, aside from being terrible for your feet, will elongate your already non-existent calf muscles for a stork-like effect. Aim for a shorter heel or flats instead.

(7) Don’t be afraid to buy something that looks great on you but doesn’t fit quite right in a couple of areas — you can always have it tailored. This is especially straightforward for shirts that are loose around the neck, arms, or breast, but just about anything can be fixed if it’s not too extreme.

Wearing the right clothes for your frame can make an enormous difference in how others perceive your body, which can reduce unwelcome comments. And, as everyone knows, looking good = feeling good! I strongly encourage all people to make an effort to wear clothes that flatter their particular figure, and I hope that the above information is helpful for those super-thin women who, like me, have struggled to figure out what works for them and where to find it. Please feel free to add your own experiences in the comments section!

Future fashion-related posts will showcase specific ensemble ideas and clothing comparisons.

How to Add Curves

11 Jul

If you are a very underweight person, you have probably been told many, many times by many, many people how to gain weight. Just eat more.

Frankly, that is a very simplistic approach and I am here to tell you that there’s more to it than that.

If you are suffering from low self-esteem due to low body weight and the associated issues that come with it (not filling out any of your clothing, for example, no matter how small it is), you may be tempted — out of desperation and ignorance — to take this sage advice. So you do it. You “eat more.” You eat a LOT more. Mostly fatty, sugary, and dense foods. And when you can’t eat any more, you supplement. Weight gainers, Ensure Plus, calorie-laden smoothies. Whatever. The whole point is to get those calories in, right?

And you gain a little weight. You fill out a bit and people say you look good. But then something weird happens — you plateau, well under your target weight. No matter how many thousands of calories you cram into your “diet” the scales simply don’t go any higher. And what’s worse is that you feel. like. crap. You lack energy, feel bloated, and your skin may be oily and greasy. Your face gets rounder to the extent that you begin to look like someone else. And if you were to check your blood chemistry at this point, your doctor would probably yell at you.

I tried this tactic seriously when I was 26, consuming well over 3000 calories a day for about 5 months. Starting at 90 lbs., I plateaued at around 105 lbs. — still a good 20-25 lbs. under average weight for my height. I didn’t know enough about my metabolism then to understand why that was the case, but facts were facts. Unless I started gorging myself even more, the scale wasn’t going to budge further. And at that stage I already felt awful. I’m at least smart enough to know that if you don’t feel good, you can’t be doing yourself any good.

So I tried something new — bodybuilding. Turns out that’s the trick (for me, at least). Starting in April 2006 at around 93 lbs., I began hitting the gym 3-4 times per week for an hour. By August I weighed 112 lbs. And the best part was that I felt great. My stamina and balance improved, I had lots more energy, and my mood was through the roof. I looked fantastic — muscular, not soft — and felt even better. I fondly remember this period as one of the happiest in my life.

However, it was superceded by the happiest in my life, that of meeting my husband. With the whirlwind of meeting, courting, and marrying, I quit going to the gym. And quickly, not slowly at all, I lost all the muscle I had worked so hard to gain within a matter of a few months.

And it stayed lost. We celebrated our 6th anniversary in April and I had long been back at my body’s favorite weight to be– 90 lbs. For most of those years, I had been telling people who wondered about my extremely low weight that I can gain weight by giving those calories something to do besides burn. By giving those calories (especially those from protein!) some muscle to build, I can not only gain weight but also become less fragile, build stronger bones, and become less susceptible to injury. As a small frame woman at high risk for osteoporosis, these are nothing but good things to do.

So why wasn’t I doing it? For the same reasons anyone else isn’t in the gym, or any other place they can get some exercise. I was busy. Really, really busy.

Thankfully, I got a lot less busy last May. And I immediately knew what I wanted to do.

I started lifting again in late May, when I was struggling to stay above 90 lbs. This week I have been hitting 99 lbs. for the past few days consistently. Here’s what the difference looks like.

Before (left): 90 lbs and feeling okay. After (right): 99 lbs and feeling fantastic!

Before (left): 90 lbs and feeling okay. After (right): 99 lbs and feeling fantastic!

Obviously, the biggest change so far has been in my thighs, but I am also making impressive gains in upper body strength — particularly the shoulders. Importantly, I can tell you once again that I feel fabulous and look forward to each and every workout with renewed energy and enthusiasm. We’ll talk more in a future installment about why this is the case, and why simply “eating more” doesn’t work for people like us. But until then:

Quit stuffing your face and go to the gym, hard gainers. Do not be afraid of the weights, they are your friends!

The Skinny

Life as an extreme ectomorph