Finding clothes to fit athletic women’s bodies

Physically fit women face a variety of clothing challenges. Tracy has written about the woes of women who’d rather have a choice not to work out in pink.

I’ve written about how I’d rather risk the chance of visible nipples than wear padded bras but that’s a tricky choice these days when it comes to sports bras. (Short version: I don’t like to surround some of the more sensitive bits of my body in foam and it feels weird jogging along with added structure.)

But the indignity doesn’t end with pink or with foamy sports bras.

I had dinner recently with a friend who is in training for a fitness competition. Of course, we chatted about food and about weight training but it wasn’t long before the topic turned to our favourite lament: muscular women’s bodies and finding clothes that fit. Her leather jacket fit nicely around her waist but she was having back and shoulder issues. My fitted black raincoat worked but was obviously straining at the biceps.

We all say, and it’s true, that the standard fear of weightlifting–“But what if I get big?”–isn’t really a worry for women. Our bodies aren’t made, we say, to develop big, bulky muscles. But over time, your proportions do change.

I’ve been shopping for awhile now for jeans, boots, and jackets that fit me without fitting me like academic regalia does, that is, like a tent.

I’m a large woman it’s true but I wear standard sizes of clothes, or at least I would if I could get my biceps, shoulders, and calves into things.

My jeans are a 12 but my black coat is an XL because there is no way to get my arms into a mere large. Or my shoulders actually. I haven’t worn a button up shirt in many years. If they’re fitted, they just don’t fit. And I’m not a fan of tents.

And don’t get me started on cyclists’ legs and skinny jeans. Not a match made in heaven. When Betabrand finally announced they were making their bike to work pants in women’s sizes, many women wrote in and offered helpful feedback–room for calves, please.

Each year I admire friends’ boots and start posting to Facebook about my quest to find boots that fit. It’s almost an annual ritual that ends badly each time. Women cyclists all chime in about how we’re doomed never to wear tall boots.

So my three “problem” areas–a problem for clothing, I quite like these areas otherwise–are shoulders, biceps, and calves.

Do you have muscular bits that don’t fit into standard issue women’s clothing? What’s your strategy?

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