I love lifting weights and getting strong again but none of my suit jackets fit

It’s a long standing complaint of mine, finding women’s clothes to fit broad shoulders and muscular arms.

I know that the fitness industry spends a lot of time trying to reassure women that you can get strong and lean and toned (whatever the hell “toned” means) without getting bulky. Yeah, yeah. And while I’m sure that is true for lots of women, it’s never been true for me. When I start doing sprinting drills on the bike, my quads grow. When I start lifting heavy weights in the gym, ditto my arms and shoulders.

There was a blog post that I shared to our Facebook page some years ago (and now can’t find of course) by a personal trainer who always threw on a jacket when meeting with traditionally feminine would-be clients because she’d learned that some women didn’t select her as a trainer because they didn’t want to end up looking like her. But I don’t mind that I have that kind of build. If I were a man, I’d be “brawny” or “burly” or maybe even “husky.” But we don’t have words like that for women. See Where are the muscular, larger women’s bodies? Really what I want though are just clothes that fit.

During the pandemic years I’ve mostly been working out at home and then with knee surgery I’ve been focusing on rehab. The only upside of all the home exercise is that without the big weights at the gym my arms finally fit easily in my suit jackets. Ironically the was the one time I wasn’t wearing them because #wfh and zoom.

All that is finally letting up. I’m back in the gym. I’m bench pressing again once in a while. I’m doing lat pull downs and shoulder presses. I’m very happy to be deadlifting again. I wrote here about loving the landmine exercises. And once again my suit jackets are feeling tight.

SheHulk is okay wearing tank tops but she struggles when she’s got to go from her regular human body to her super hero form. It’s an an issue both on the show for the character and for the people making the show. There’s even a character, Luke Jacobson, who designs clothes for super heroes.

She Hulk

See How to dress for work if you’re a She-Hulk sometimes.

“Buying ready-to-wear clothes is already a bit of a challenge, and the idea that you could buy clothes that would fit the waist, shoulders, and legs of a woman who’s both 5 feet, 4 inches (the height the internet says Maslany is) and 6 feet, 7 inches (She-Hulk’s in-show height, per the creators) tall depending on her mood seems tough to imagine. But She-Hulk director Kat Coiro says while they were certainly aided by some good old-fashioned Marvel CGI, they worked to make sure all of her fashion choices actually had some foundation in reality.

“We absolutely discussed and tested out methods of how you would do that in real life,” Coiro tells Polygon. “6-foot-7 is large, but it’s still very much human scale. And we had a woman on set with us, an actress named Malia [Arrayah] who is our double, and she is 6-foot-7. And what was surprising is that things would actually fit her better than you would think.”

Here Jen is in her super hero suit made by Luke Jacobson.

Probably there’s a fair bit of spandex involved.

And while I’m no She-Hulk I am going to start to look for some formal work clothes that have stretch built in. My sense is that the pandemic and the rise of athleisure wear have made this more possible. Wish me luck shopping once my year of no buying clothes comes to an end in July.

6 thoughts on “I love lifting weights and getting strong again but none of my suit jackets fit

  1. You have my sympathies, but also I laughed because this is why we have so many stock photos of women lifting tiny weights.

  2. This winter I have been buying dressy clothes in wool jersey-knit fabric. Most women’s clothing made from woven fabric is just not a good fit for my hard-won lats and traps and delts. A nice dress with a well-made cardigan isn’t quite the same as a suit, but it’s been my recent uniform.

    I’ve actually been doing the Wool& 100-day challenge, which is an interesting undertaking. At the same time, I’m reading Peggy Orenstein’s new pandemic memoir, Unraveling. It is a fascinating feminist exploration of the world of textiles and clothing, and it is making me think hard about sustainability.

  3. Do you find it especially tricky when you’re looking for a cycling jersey? I am a short woman, fairly thin, but also fairly sturdy in build. I, too, tend to find parts of clothes a bit tight. In the winter, my jeans waist is a bit tighter and my upper legs looser. (Oh, and “skinny” jeans were never an option for me. Glad they seem to be going out of style!) Once the weather gets warmer & I am spending more hours on the bike, that reverses. But the arms? I often think back to when Tour de France was fairly popular here, and we heard so much about the pros and their ways of shaving tiny bits off their times up those Alps. One of the ways that struck me was that they carefully avoided upper body strengthening to have a few less ounces to carry. So, in this case at least, I choose to blame those guys for the fact that many of my favorite jerseys are quite tight in the sleeves!

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