Spanx: Not Part of a Patriarchal Plot to Subjugate Women

http://www.thegloss.com/2011/08/16/beauty/pippa-middleton-accused-of-padding-her-butt-for-the-royal-wedding/

The derrier to which we should all (apparently) aspire

I’ve been promising a post on Spanx for a while. Spanx are a mysterious garment, of the type often referred to as “foundation” or “shapewear”. This is confusing, because there is also a makeup called foundation. It seems as though women can be very strongly, er, founded in parts that folks aren’t even supposed to see.

Hello, the 1980s called and they want their pantyhose back.

Hello, the 1980s called and they want their pantyhose back.

My earliest interactions with “foundational” garmets had to do with Control Top Pantyhose – the kind you ordered from the Hanes catalog that came in little plastic eggs. Their purpse, as far as I could make out, was to bisect the wearer. Perhaps this was to facilitate the old “saw the woman in half” magic trick. Or maybe it was part of a grand conspiracy to keep women down by making them so uncomfortable when formally dressed that women would decide to leave the board room just so they could wear some jeans already.

After a very brief flirtation with Control Top, I vowed my top would never be controlled again.

Are we SURE this isn't part of some evil plot?

Are we SURE this isn’t part of some evil plot?

When Spanx came around, I assumed they were Control Top, but worse. They were like Control Middle. Or Control All. It didn’t even occur to me to buy them – and the cover pictures of women non-chalantly standing around in peachy-tube-like-materials on the cover did nothing to convince me I was wrong. I would stay in technology – in jeans! – and avoid the Patriarchal Plot.

Then I was given a really, really cool opportunity to interview for a job that would be a big promotion and would involve me and my family moving to Germany. There are not that many opportunities you have like this. And Germans? They’re formal. A suit was an absolute requirement. A new suit. A nice new suit. So I went to the rarified air of the Burlington Mall, credit card in hand, and checked out the offerings at Macy’s, Nordstrom, Lord & Taylor and Ann Taylor.

You guys should know how dedicated I am to producing good content when I'll put on my best suit at 10 pm on a Tuesday night - just for you. Also, I got the buttons wrong - it usually hangs much better.

You guys should know how dedicated I am to producing good content when I’ll put on my best suit at 10 pm on a Tuesday night – just for you. Also, I got the buttons wrong – it usually hangs much better.

At that final place, I found A Great Suit.It’s cream colored, with some non-traditional tailoring elements. It fit beautifully. It said, “I can comply with German cultural expectations while still bringing my uniquely American flair to hit the right balance of fitting in and shaking up.” It had to be mine. I turned around to exame the posterior view when – to my horror – two vast lines were therein outlined – inverse parenthesis around my derrier.

The saleslady came in. I pointed out my posterior problem. “Of course” she said. “You’ll have to wear Spanx with that in order for it to look right.” Before the sun set, I had in my possession one cream suit, one silk blouse, a pair of extremely stylish (and woefully uncomfortable) high heeded pumps, and a package containing Spanx.

That night, I went over to my neighbor’s house and shared my opportunity and my excitement and my new purchase. My girlfriends insisted that they MUST SEE this amazing suit of mine, so I went into the bathroom to put it all together. But when I came out! Alack! The posterior parenthesis persisted!

“I thought that Spanx were supposed to get rid of panty lines?!” I complained.

“Um…. you’re supposed to wear them instead of underwear, not over them.”

Oh.

“What about the pantyhose? Do they go on top or below?”

“If you need to wear hose, you buy the Spanx that include them, not the ones that are just the tops, but NO ONE wears pantyhose anymore. Even my grandmother doesn’t wear them anymore.”

And this, my friends, is why we all need girlfriends who are more sylish than we are: so we don’t show up a imporant interviews wearing three foundation layers when we should be wearing one.

No pantylines

No pantylines


That opportunity didn’t work out. I didn’t get to fly to Germany to interview. But I did now know when, why and how to wear Spanx, and I’ll happily share this treasured information with you, in case your girlfriends aren’t around next time you need to get ready for a big interview.

WHEN: You should wear a foundational undergarment with any outfit where you wear a tight, clingy fabric on your lower range. You can wear them with skirts, dresses (especially the knit dresses I like so much) or even clingy trousers.

WHY: Spanx do three things: they eliminate the dreaded pantyline, they even out your belly and thighs so what might end up looking like a bulge gets averaged out, and depending on the cut you buy, they can also prevent that annoying bit where your thighs stick together. Despite my early experiences with Control Top, I find Spanx actually quite comfortable to wear: no threat of bisection!

HOW: Wear Spanx instead of underwear. If you are the kind of person who still wears pantyhose – buy the version of Spanx that has them built in. If you sometimes wear shorter skirts, invest in one pair that doesn’t go down the leg, and one that does (for longer dresses).

While I have referred to the original brand name (partially because I find the word “Spanx” inherently amusing), there are bunches of great brands of shapewear – many of which are less expensive. Target, for example, carries a brand called Assets which is literally half the price. Dress Barn carries them up to 3X with great ratings for comfort.

Many dress makers now assume you’ll be wearing these, and design accordingly.

So…. quesions? Comments? Other incredibly obvious things I don’t know, and ought to before I make more stupid shapewear mistakes?

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Cup runneth over

I read a great post on my way home the other day about self-image and bust size. In addition to being very affirming, this post talks a lot about the context of clothing, and at the bottom has some great advice on clothing to deal with unusually large mammaries.

There’s some great advice here!

Cups Runneth Over: Love, Lifestyle, and Clothing Tips for Large-Busted Ladies

Advice for the future

I am hoping that some of you reading this blog are younger women, just getting their start in technology. Some of you might be thinking, “Yeah, that might be useful information in a few years, when I’m interested in managing a technical team. But right now, as a programmer/lab tech/engineer this fashion stuff just isn’t relevant yet. Jeans every day, baby!” I get that. I lived that. I agree – no need to do this stuff before you’re good and ready.

That said, there are three things I’m recommending you do today so that when you are ready to look managerial, you don’t have a big uphill slog. With no further ado, here are three pieces of advice I offer for the 22 year old girl programmer:

1) Moisturizer with Sunscreen
Wrinkles are almost impossible to get rid of. So are liver spots. Go take a moment and google “effective ways of removing wrinkles”. Notice how they are a) painful b) expensive c) quacky . Notice how many times they say, “This one really works, unlike all the other ones that totally don’t work”. Right now, you’re trying to look older than you are. There will be a blessed but brief period of your life where you will be happy looking exactly as old as you are. And then you will spend a long time wishing you looked younger than you are. Percentage wise, the largest period of your life is likely to be the “wishing you looked younger than you are”. But once you get to that age… there’s not much you can do about wrinkles or skin damage. So. Every day, put on a moisturizer with an SPF over 30 – even if you don’t currently care about how you look – just in case you change your mind.

2) Cut out sugary drinks now, while you still have a metabolism that can handle them
In the same way it’s much easier to prevent wrinkles than to remove them once you have them, it’s much easier to take smaller steps to prevent weight gain than it is to take the big steps needed to lose weight later. Now, I don’t think there’s much wrong with being overweight or large. I don’t think folks should strive to be skinny or hate themselves if they aren’t. I don’t think there’s evil in chocolate cake and virtue in celery. However, being overweight is another cultural stigma that has to be overcome to gain acceptance in certain circles. If our goal here is to be taken seriously, it is an easier task for a person of normal weight (however normal may be defined) than a person who is not a normal weight.

Not only that, as any plus-size shopper can tell you, it is much easier to get fun, flattering, professional, inexpensive clothing when you are roughly the size and shape that designers are working on. If you’re in the middle of the size bell curve, you can go to any store and find clothes that you can wear. If you’re at either end of the bell curve, the chore of shopping gets much harder, more disheartening, more expensive and offers fewer options.

Current studies are showing that the single biggest impacts on weight gain is sweetened beverages – even if they have no sugar. Apparently, aspartame and some of those other sweeteners play nasty tricks on your metabolism. So if you’re a perfectly fine weight now, and you drink two sodas a day… well, cut down to one. Cut down to none. Develop a love for coffee/iced tea/water. Chances are you’ll thank yourself 30 years down the road.

3) Keep the tattoos in places you can cover
I have mixed feelings on this one. I’m pretty sure there is a cultural shift from the time I was breaking in a decade ago to now. A decade ago, this would have been no-brainer advice. Now, so many qualified people are highly inked that it may not offer an impediment. But if you keep your tattoo in a place you can choose to reveal (or not), you can play it both ways. You should think about the impact of what you choose to have tattooed as well. Celtic knots/geometric shapes are pretty neutral. Arcane code snippits (ok, I’ve never seen that, but you never know) might make it hard for folks to imagine you as CTO. Anime might make it harder for you to get people to take you seriously. Too much to look at on your skin that people get distracted from what you say because they’re trying to figure out what that bit is right there, and means people will be looking at your body instead of listening to your words. Look at the people in the roles you’d like to be in. Any more ink than they have, and you will have to work a bit harder and be a bit more qualified to get the same role.

So am I completely nuts? Terribly old-fashioned? Did I miss something obvious? What advice would you give your 22 year old self, if you could go back in time? If you’re the younger programmer, are you doing any things differently? What would your top three recommendations be?

Made Up

An Intro To My Makeup

$25 of pretty

$25 of pretty

Just over two years ago, I switched jobs from a pure-programming, behind-a-computer-all-day, best-dressed-because-my-jeans-don’t-have-holes job to a terrifyingly corporate environment. I went from a place where the CEO wore shorts, to one where the click of high heels rang through the halls. This was a job change I wanted to make. I like people. I like writing. I like coding too… but I wanted a mix, and this was my chance to get it.

And I did.

But before I showed up at my first day at the new job, I thought very carefully about how I wanted to look. How did I want people to see me? I could get by with my wardrobe for a while. My hair was ok. (Not great, but ok. That’s another post.) But I had just crossed the threshold of 30, and borne my second child. It was time for me to start wearing some makeup. Oh, and moisturizer.

So I did. Here were some of the things I weighed in my makeup decisions:
1) I didn’t want to wear a lot of makeup (or look really made up)
2) I didn’t want to spend a lot of time putting it on
3) I didn’t want to spend very much money on it
4) I wanted to be able to buy it in a store I already went to
5) I needed to come up with a good, non-obnoxious way of removing the makeup every night, so I didn’t seem young due to zits
6) I didn’t want to feel like I HAD to wear makeup to look normal. I wanted to feel makeup-free and confident on weekends and other days.

I’ve accomplished most of these goals. Here’s how I did it:

1) Moisturizer with SPF 35. (Target – $9.99) I use Neutrogena oil free moisture at least in part because it rubs in quickly and easily, and comes in appropriate portion controls. (I had trouble with some other kinds I tried giving me way too much.) Even if you do nothing else, if you ever might think you could care a little bit someday about how you look…. use a daily moisturizer with an SPF over 20 to prevent wrinkles. And by daily, I mean every day since you will burn much more easily if you use it regularly and then forget one lovely clear day in October. (Not that I ever did that. Ahem.)

2) Pressed powder. I use the Maybelline Shine Free Pressed Powder #4 Beige. (Target) It costs $4.94. The primary purpose of the powder is to reduce the shininess that comes from the moisturizer. (I actually brush my teeth between steps 1 & 2 in order to give the moisturizer time to “Sink in”). I think this has a pretty big impact on how I look – it gives me a more polished, even look.

3) Mascara. I have blonde eyelashes. I like to use brown mascara because I don’t like a look that screams EYE MAKEUP, but brown mascara is not an “in” color so I’m still wrestling with finding the perfect mascara. In the interim I use Maybelline Great Lash. ($4.44 Target) Beware if you wear mascara and have never worn makeup before… if I had even plausibly present eyelashes I’d probably skip it. When you are wearing mascara you cannot cry or rub your eyes while you’re wearing it, or you look awful. Waterproof mascara may be ok, but it’s really difficult to get off afterwards. Try both ways – and not wearing mascara. If you wear mascara, can you keep your hands off your eyes? Are you a cryer? Do you have darker lashes? These should all affect your decision about whether to wear mascara, and what kind to wear.

4) Eyeshadow but… for my eyebrows. I also have blonde eyebrows. They sort of vanish by themselves. So I more or less paint them on with brown powder every morning. You probably don’t need this, unless you also have pale facial hair. Once again I find myself with a $5 Maybelline product (Maybelline Expert Wear Eye Shadow – $4.49 at Target.)

That’s my daily routine. It takes two minutes. Nothing in that set costs more than $10 … you can stock up brand new for $25 at Target. (And most of that is moisturizer.) The powder goes fastest, followed by mascara, followed by moisturizer. I have yet to “finish” an eyeshadow.

At the end of the day, I remove it all with makeup wipes from Costco (~$15 for a bajillion). Chemicals yadda yadda, but awfully convenient and not at all messy.

There are a lot of makeup elements I don’t use, that you may need or want. For example I don’t:

– Use blush. I have a great natural blush and I don’t need it.
– Use eyeliner. I have not the skills. Nor do I want the “made up” look that eyeliner gives you.
– Use eyeshadow as eyeshadow. I only do this when I’m dressing up, and I have trouble making it look the way I want to look. The colors in eyeshadow are very particular to a season or trend, so you can easily go wrong in eyeshadow if you don’t know what you’re doing. (See also: blue, green, purple)
– Use lipstick. Proper lipstick is a dangerous thing, in terms of going where you don’t want it, being hard to maintain, and being hard to get a color that flatters. I use a lip gloss if I am feeling fancy, but most of the time I have naked or lip-balmed lips. Again, my lips have good natural color, so I don’t need it. Some lipstick colors are highly seasonal, so it’s easy to go wrong.
– Use foundation. I just never have. I have relatively good skin, so I don’t really need it. Also, when I see people whose makeup seems excessive to me, it’s usually with eyeliner, foundation and bright lipstick. That may be why I avoid those three.

Do you wear makeup daily? Do you feel naked without it? Do you know how to put it on? What mystifies you, and what have you mastered. Do you feel that expensive makeup is really that much better than cheap makeup at Target? What’s your makeup story? What do you do every day?