Hello there, lovely Springboard peeps! Well, it’s September. I’m writing this from the comfort of my cozy, pillow-strewn couch on an unhurried Sunday afternoon. Today is a day for things like laundry and garage sweeping and lazy peach eating set to the soundtrack of 1960s sunshine pop. The leaves are on the edge of turning, the insects have been singing down August, and there is a slight chill at dusk. It’s hard to fathom, but the next series will take us within inches of the end of Daylight Savings Time! And although I prefer cold temps and lots of the white stuff come December and January (and, therefore, try my best to keep my mouth shut around those of you who love your fleeting chance to bask in hot weather), even I am wondering where the heck summer went. By now you’ve had your last beach days, hosted your last out-of-state guests, and, perhaps, have started stacking your wood. I think three cords should do it. . .
Did you click on that link, and are you feeling a little melancholy? If your answer is yes, my evil plan worked, because now I’m about to perk y’all up. This here blog post is the sequel to a piece I wrote almost three years ago about two of my favorite things. Clothing! Pilates! Put them together, and you’ve got Clothing You Wear to Pilates!
To recap: occasionally a client asks where I got a certain especially great piece of studio wear. It’s so fun to share info on some of my favorites with you! Or, some of you might be treating yourself to your first pair of “real” leggings that are made for Pilates or yoga movement, and don’t know where to start or how much you might expect to pay for a decent pair. I enjoy clothes shopping, and by now (four years into my teaching career at Springboard) I am familiar with the fit and performance of many brands of studio and athletic wear. My belief is that we move better and with more confidence when our clothing fits well and is designed for the activity in which we’re engaging. That said, I would never want our clients to feel that we care more about the price tag or brand of your studio duds than we care about you having a fun, rewarding, top quality lesson or group class. And if this post piques your interest in any of these brands and you’re curious about how they’d fit you, I’m happy to compare measurements with you. We will not be allowed to speak of our bodies in a critical manner if we have such a conversation. Sorry; you’re beautiful. Got it? Good.
First up: spotlight on the company that makes my new favorite tops!
I almost don’t dare breathe these words aloud. I may have found the Holy Grail of tops at KiraGrace. Yes! For as long as I’ve been doing Pilates (14+ years now), I have been searching for a flattering studio top that will fit me just right around my narrow ribcage, provide support and pretty but not revealing coverage for my full bust, AND is designed in such a way that my not-small shoulders can actually fit through it comfortably. Kind of a tall order, but it shouldn’t be THAT hard to find, right?
Let me regale you with a little story starring my not-small shoulders. A few years ago, I was happily browsing at one of my favorite consignment stores. I spied a sleeveless designer piece with beautiful green sequins on the deep sale rack, and though I had no special occasion on the horizon, thought it couldn’t hurt to try it on. I added it to the armful of clothes I was lugging around, then ducked into a dressing room. The top shimmered seductively as I held it up to the mirror. I turned it from side to side, eyeballing its proportions. It was a numerical size I was pretty sure would fit me. As I took it off the hanger and slipped my arms inside, I could feel that no Spandex had been employed in its construction. A stern voice in my head warned, “DON’T. DO THIS.” I hesitated for just a moment longer, then yanked it on.
The top fit me perfectly. Too perfectly. I struggled to raise my arms, feeling my shoulder blades press outward and strain the seams almost to the point of ripping. My heart started to beat faster as I realized I might have just trapped myself; it seemed there would be no way to lift my arms high enough to get a good grip on the sides to remove the thing. I stared at my stupid face in the mirror for several agonizing seconds. I had a terrible vision of being forced to exit the dressing room to explain to one of the salespeople that I was stuck and would need assistance. I closed my eyes and silently begged the God of Too Tight Tops to please, please let me get out.
Maybe it was adrenaline. Maybe it was the thought of the complete humiliation I’d feel if I had to ask for help. I still don’t quite understand how I did it, but readers, I finally managed to squirm out of that gorgeous top without destroying it. Now free, I took a deep, rip-expanding breath and returned it to its hanger, almost crying with relief. No one else in the store ever knew what a tense scene had played out behind that dressing room curtain. That sparkling garment had taken me hostage! It was thus that I learned my disappointing lesson: there are just some tops I will never be able to wear, because my father was 6’ 3” and built like a swimmer, and I am his daughter, with his body, except with some feminine touches. In the years since, I’ve never failed to employ the Shoulder Test before I recklessly force a top on. “Nope,” I’ll say to myself as I place my arms through and feel zero give, “just stop right there.”
Where were we? Oh yes – the miraculous tops at KiraGrace! I believe that one of the founders of KiraGrace used to work for lululemon (I could be making this up). And SPEAKING OF lululemon. About a year ago, as I tried stuff on at lulu’s store in Boston’s Prudential Center, all I found were ill-placed micro-ruffles, un-asked-for mesh panels, and strangely tight upper arms. “Am I too old for lulu now?” I thought to myself, feeling mild horror at the side and back views of everything I chose. As I sank into a corner of the tiny dressing room, I listened to the perfectly fit twentysomething employees on the other side chatting in bubbly voices. I slunk out without buying anything, feeling decidedly fortysomething.
To be fair, I still have several older workhorse lulu pieces that are in regular rotation in my studio wardrobe. They feature great design and quality material! But readers, the feeling is gone. My heart now belongs to KiraGrace. Over the course of about a month, I bought one, then two, then three, then FOUR tops. I just couldn’t believe how well they fit and flattered me. It helps that one of KiraGrace’s models has a similar build to mine: a little busty, with strong shoulders. If you need any more convincing to at least check out this company, here are my favorite details: KiraGrace tops 1) fit my chest without mashing it and 2) are stylish enough that I would even consider wearing them to go out and 3) have soft, supportive bra shelves sewn in and 4) are long enough to cover me past my hip bones and 5) are made of compression material that is Spanx-like but not as aggressively smoothing and 6) appear to have been designed with middle-aged bodies in mind. And, 7) is perhaps the greatest reason of them all: my shoulders fit through KiraGrace tops with complete ease! My hair doesn’t even get mussed! (Ha, you guys – I love that spellcheck didn’t bat an eye when I just typed “mussed.” It’s a word, people. Look it up.)
Note: KiraGrace also has leggings that look promising, but I need to get rid of one or two of the 793 other pairs in my closet before I allow myself to add more.
And speaking of all those pairs of leggings in my closet. . .there are cool, descriptive names for groups of animals, right? A murder of crows. An ostentation of peacocks. A charm of foxes. I’ve decided that the collective name for a group of stretchy pants is a MESS. And I have such a large MESS of leggings that recently – more than once! – I came across a pair I had completely forgotten I owned. When this happens – when I literally don’t remember that I possess certain items of clothing until I dredge them up from the depths of my closet – I am a) embarrassed and b) know the time is ripe for a good ol’ clothing swap. Just get in there, clean things out, share the love. For my special clothing swap friends out there, promise I’ll do this SOON. As for leggings I’ve been wearing frequently, here are some of which I am fond:
Oh, alo yoga. Your website is full of gorgeous six-foot-tall models doing amazing yoga things all over the place. How can mere mortals hope to look as good in your garb? However! When I purchased the stylish High-Waist Moto Legging, I was very pleasantly surprised to find alo’s sizing quite generous. Like most women I know, I love a pair of stretchy pants with a super high waist – it’s instantly slimming, holds me in where I feel the most jiggly, and keeps me covered if I bend my spine or hips to any degree. That said, alo’s price tags can be daunting. These are the most expensive leggings I own ($114 – ouch), but they absolutely do not pill, they have retained their shape like nobody’s business, and I never have to adjust them during class. What more could you want?
Beyond Yoga has the softest, comfiest stuff out there, hands down. My latest pair of midi length (in between calf and ankle) leggings from BY is made of their Plush Heather, a high stretch and recovery fabric that has an extremely soft texture and brushed face. These leggings feel like heaven as you pull them on, have a nice chunky 5” waistband, and can be tossed right in the dryer on low after washing. I feel like I sweat more serenely in these babies. Generous sizing. $69-$110, depending on length, how many inches of waist they give ya, and material.
When I first ran across teeki about four years ago, I was instantly smitten with their Love The Elephant Hot Pants design and promptly bought a magical, derrière-enhancing pair of my own. teeki’s Hot Pants “fit like a second skin” (stealing this from their website; they do not lie), are made from recycled water bottles (check mark in the eco-friendly column), and come in so many trippy, hippy-pleasing patterns that you’ll have a hard time choosing just one design whether you are an actual hippy or just lean in that direction. I just lean; the closest I came to being a hippy was when I was a freshman in college and acquired a pair of red harem pants that I took to wearing around campus while simultaneously not wearing shoes. I may have also had an ankle bracelet with little brass bells? My preppy roommate brought my aspirations after a barefoot lifestyle to a screeching halt one evening by asking to borrow the pants. . .for her Halloween costume. But I digress! My teeki Hot Pants have held up well through many washings, and I think they also look slammin’ outside the studio, paired with tall boots and a big sweater or tunic. $72-$79.
Hey Prana? Thanks. Thanks for churning out the same pretty good, decent-enough-looking-but-not-quite-magical yoga pants season after season. Really! If you’re ever feeling kind of normal and you’re doing a little online surfing and are mildly interested in spending not quite as much moolah on a pair of solid leggings that will just get the job done, flip on over to Prana. Frequent online sales with generous discounts. Definitely use the “zoom” feature if there is a pattern that catches your eye; it might be hideous. Or it might be cooler than you thought!
And now, because it’s late and I’ve written quite a bit, I’m going to close by mentioning a handful of websites that are a little off the beaten path. These are brands I’ve stumbled across because they were in my Facebook feed and I clicked, or our sweet trainee Elizabeth (now a graduate of The Pilates Center and a full-time college student) generously donated her castoffs from her awesome job at Shift on Market Street in Portland , or. . .who knows? Some things just mysteriously crop up on my radar.
I found a yummy, perfectly stylish sweatshirt with three-quarter sleeves by Garbe Luxe at Shift, and then, because I liked it so much, went online and bought it in a second color. These twin sweatshirts will be making lots of appearances at the studio and on the streets of Portland come cooler weather.
American Giant has perfected the manufacture of sweatpants and sweatshirts. This stuff is the real deal, guys. As of now, my closet contains their incredibly flattering kick flare pants, regular “weekend” sweatpants, a full zip hooded sweatshirt, and a full zip moto-style sweatshirt. Fall can’t get here fast enough. I am itching to slip on these chunky, cozy pieces of sheer sweatgoodness for errands, staying warm in the studio, and lounging about on Saturday mornings with my oatmeal.
LNA is definitely a West Coast brand, and I can see how the asymmetrical stylings and plunging V-necks of their tees, tanks, tops, and sweaters might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but the fabrics are high quality, and they drape beautifully. Go ahead. Be a little different! After Amy Taylor Alpers’ Portland workshop last month (Amy is the founder, along with her sister Rachel Taylor Segel, of The Pilates Center in Boulder, CO) and her use of a running cheetah as inspiration and imagery for teachers and clients alike, I’m sorely tempted by LNA’s leopard print this season. I know leopards are not cheetahs, but close enough.
Lesley is a California gal and real person who designs her own fabrics and then makes awesome dresses and separates from them; she’s the blonde woman with cute black eyeglasses modeling some of her looks on the website. I have the Fiona in denim (https://lesleyevers.com/fiona-denim) and It. Is. Adorable. I bet I could even do a Teaser wearing it. I could definitely crank out The Hundred in my Fiona. Throw in a cardigan, thick tights, tall boots, and hot apple cider, and you’ve got a perfect Fall Hundred.
Well, lovelies, that’s about it for now. I hope this has been as fun for you as it has been for me! And look – I realize there are far more pressing things in our lives than buying a new outfit for the studio, but sometimes a little diversion is in order. It’s almost time to start thinking about the holidays, too, and this blog post is full of handy links you can shoot over to your loved ones and friends who might be wanting to shop for you (or themselves!).
Remember: email or text me with questions about sizing and fit. We’ll get you fixed right up. Happy fall, everyone!