Friday, March 30, 2007
Underneath it all...
After making two trips out of town within the span of two weeks, as well as having company for several days, I've taken today to just to take a deep breath and say "ah". Now, however, it's time to get moving.
Yesterday, with the help of my mother-in-law, I cut four napkins out of a yard of plaid homespun fabric. I'm fringing them and sewing a zig-zag stitch just where the fringe meets the rest of the material. There's no way I could buy four cloth napkins for the price of one yard of material, so I am very pleased with my little project. I hope to have it finished soon.
At some point this spring, I need to turn my attention to my lingerie and undergarment wardrobe. As far as undergarments are concerned, I love the old-fashioned term "foundation garments". These items truly are the foundation of a good wardrobe. What you wear underneath has everything to do with how well you look in your outer clothing. I have some things that are past their prime and no longer provide a good foundation, if you know what I mean. (I'm not usually prudish, but I can't believe I'm discussing undergarments in the blog-0-sphere. Blush, blush, blush).
Good foundation garments should flatter your figure without calling attention to themselves. In fact, the ideal is that your undergarments should be invisible helpers.
One important goal of undergarments is to give your figure a smooth appearance. If undergarments do their job well, your clothing will hang attractively. Items you will need to achieve a smooth shape are bras, panties, slips (yes, slips!), perhaps a camisole or two, and perhaps a body shaper or girdle type garment.
The actress Dixie Carter says in her book, "Trying to Get to Heaven", that she does not buy matching bra and pantie sets. Instead, she buys a number of each in whites and blacks. Whites or beige/nude are always essential basics, especially if you are wearing them underneath white or light summery colors. But, who can resist some fun colors, as well?
Finding the correct undergarments to wear under white clothing can be tricky. When buying white fabric or a ready-made garment of white, put your hand underneath the material and hold it up to the light. If you can see your hand through the material, chances are the garment is too sheer to wear without your undergarments showing through. Before Princess Di became fashion savvy, she was photographed wearing a sheer summer skirt without a slip underneath it. She was standing in front of the sun, and her bare legs showed through her skirt. This was considered to be a gaffe on her part.
Even if a white garment is of the right material, you still need to give your undergarments some thought. Generally, wearing something that is close to your own skin tone is best. For example, a fair skinned woman usually wears white or nude underneath white, while a very dark-skinned woman may choose black.
There are many darling bra and pantie sets. Usually, these sets are adorned with lots of lace and perhaps some ribbons or other decorative items. While it's fun to have sets like this to wear, they won't serve as the mainstay of your foundation wardrobe.
Under many fabrics, highly decorative bras look bumpy. They catch a shirt or dress top in a way that makes it bunch. Of course, you can combat the bunchy effect by wearing a silky slip or camisole between your top and bra. Save your frilliest bras for wearing underneath garments that don't bunch on the lace. But, for your everyday bras, looks for ones that have smooth cups and little to no decoration. You can find smooth cupped bras in glamorous fabrics and in pretty styles. So, don't feel that you have to totally sacrifice beauty in order to wear a good bra.
A good fitting bra is essential for fighting the effects of gravity on your figure. If you are nursing, be extra vigilant to wear a bra with good support.
Some women hope to retain the youthful shape of their upper figure entirely through exercise. The problem is that there are no muscles in the breasts, themselves. Exercising the muscles underneath the breasts does help our figure. But, exercise alone can't stop the effects of time and gravity. Unless we wear good bras, our breasts are destined to droop with age. Even small breasted women benefit from wearing the right bra.
There are many charts available that teach you how to measure yourself for a bra. However, it can be difficult to size yourself. And, our size changes throughout life, for various reasons. So, we may continue to buy a size that no longer is our best. In fact, many articles have been written that warn that most women are walking around in the wrong size bra. So, a little professional assistance can't hurt. If you undergo a figure change -- say after weaning a baby -- it's a good idea to help a qualified sales woman to help you determine which bra size is currently best for you. Once you've bought one good bra from someone who knows how to fit you, you can take the information she gave you and look for less expensive bras on your own.
Of course, you've probably already discovered that good fit not only requires the right sizing, but also a style of bra that suits you best, as well. The style that suits one woman may not work for someone else and vice-versa. So, it's a good idea to try on a variety of bras to find what works for you. Again, our figures undergo changes throughout life, so it's good to stay up to date on the best style and fit for you at the moment.
A good rule of thumb is to buy two new well-fitted bras every six months. I don't always follow this rule. Instead, I just keep an eye out to see if my bras are looking worn or droopy. Proper care of a bra will help it last longer.
While it's nice to have several bras, you can get away with having only two for normal use. If you do this, wear one one day while you rinse out the other one and hang it to dry. That way, you will always have a fresh bra to wear. When adding bras in addition to your two mainstays, you may want to consider a sports bra, a strapless bra, and a bra that is so pretty it makes you smile just to wear it.
When I was a young girl, women wore girdles or garter belts with hose. Then, pantyhose swept the nation, and girdles became a thing of the past. At the same time, ideas about abdominal health changed. The experts used to be think that a little abdominal support was healthy for a woman. Then, they decided that girdles were too restrictive on a woman's inner organs. They also pointed out that we are created with our own natural "girdle" -- the inner muscles that support our abdomen and lower back. Thus, unlike the breasts, our abdomens do have the musculature to fight gravity and stay smooth, provided that we keep these muscles in shape. So, in the 1970's, health experts began to caution women against wearing girdles. It was thought that when women rely on outer girdles for support, the abdominal and back muscles become lazy. It was decided that the healthiest choice for women is to maintain proper abdominal support through exercise and posture.
In theory, I believe that it is good to maintain our abdominal shape by exercise and posture. When I first learned this theory, I was very young. I was able to maintain a smooth shape simply by staying fit, and I assumed that would always be the case. Even several years later, I found that I could regain my youthful figure after childbirth simply by burning calories through nursing.
Now, a lot more time has passed. I've had some health challenges. And, though I'm working on it, I haven't maintained the level of fitness that I desire. So, like many baby boomer women, I've decided that I now need a little outer help from time to time.
To cater to an aging population, stores sell many different types of body shapers. These shapers provide anywhere from lightest support to heaviest support. These new body shapers are marketed so that we baby boomers won't think we're buying "girdles like mother wore." In truth, these body shapers can do as much as an old-fashioned girdle did to help skirts, pants, and dresses hang in a flattering way.
You don't have to be a baby boomer to appreciate a little support in the abdomen and thighs. Younger women may want to investigate these types of shapers, as well. This is especially true for women who have given birth. As long as you do not rely on a body shaper every day , you need not fear that using one will restrict your inner organs or cause your abdominal muscles to lose tone. Find the one that gives you the level of support that's right for you, and use it only when you most need it.
(Also, don't keep wearing a body shaper or girdle if you become pregnant. Perhaps, your doctor may encourage you to wear a supportive abdominal sling or undergarment made especially for pregnant women. Otherwise, do not wear anything restrictive to the abdomen when you are carrying a child.)
Of course, no matter what your age, using a body shaper to help smooth your figure is no substitute for staying as fit as you can be. Letting too much fat accumulate around our abdomens is good neither for our cardiovascular health nor for our feminine organs.
Whenever you buy something to wear, think through what undergarments you will need to wear with it. Purchase what you need before you wear the garment for the first time. This is especially true if you are buying a new dress for a special occasion.
If you have a small, basic wardrobe of well-fitting undergarments, its likely you won't need to buy anything that you don't already have on hand. But, do give it some thought. You won't be happy if you slip on a new dress or a pair of slacks, and you find that they don't hang right becuase you don't have the proper undergarments to go with the item.
When you first get dressed in the morning, look at yourself from all angles in a full-length mirror. Check to make sure that you don't have any loose bra straps hanging out or other problems, such as obvious pantie lines. While you're at it, check for things like runs in your hose or a hem that's coming loose or a spot you didn't see or some other problem you may not have anticipated. Take care of small problems before they become large ones.
Once you've insured that your appearance is fresh and neat, forget about how you look and enjoy your day. Of course, you may need to freshen up later on in the day, or you may change clothing from day to evening. But, if you start the day with a good evaluation in the mirror, you can be confident you've taken care of the basics.
Undergarments can be mended just as regular clothing can. A bit of lace that is tearing loose can be tacked on; a loose snap can be replaced; etc. And, up to a certain point, you may be able to employ a washing method that renews the freshness of a faded undergarment. The amount of effort you want to put into maintaining a particular undergarment might depend on how much you spent on it in the first place. A treasured bit of lingerie from a higher end store might be worth more upkeep than something you bought from the sale rack at Wal-Mart. Set your own priorities in this.
When it comes to cleaning undergarments, I always wash hose by hand. I make a pretty good attempt to wash my bras by hand, though I have been known to throw them in the washer. And, I confess to throwing other undergarments in the washer and dryer more often than not. The truth is, any undergarment or piece of nightwear will last much longer if you wash it by hand and let it air dry. You may want to try the special mild soaps that are made especially for undergarments and lingerie. Woolite also works well. And, liquid dish soap will do the trick, too, though perhaps not as gently as special cleansers.
When washing lingerie by hand, it's nice to add a drop or two of perfume or a drop of essential oil to the rinse water. Do not put these directly on the garment, as the oils in the perfume or essential scent can leave stains. Instead, add it to the water and then place the garment in it to rinse. Another nice effect is to tuck sachets into your lingerie drawer.