accessibility · clothing · covid19 · fashion · fat · gear · snow · winter

Winter fun is for every body

This post brings together two common themes here at Fit is a Feminist Issue.

Theme one is making our way through COVID winter. Winter isn’t easy for some of us at the best of times but this year hiding out indoors until it passes isn’t really an option. You can cozy it up, sure, hygge style, but you might be lonely. Possibly also depressed. Maybe both.

So along with hygge, people are recommending that we adopt the attitude of friluftsliv. Read about the latter concept here.

Friluftsliv is a word used by Swedes, Danes and Norwegians. It translates literally as ‘fresh-air life’, and is all about embracing the great outdoors whatever the weather, being active, and immersing yourself in nature.

Scandinavians spend time outdoors no matter what season it is. For Kim Lindqvist, a volunteer with the Swedish Outdoor Association, Friluftsliv means “to be outdoors and in the air, and just enjoy it in nature. To listen to the leaves, or watch the clouds”.

Friluftsliv sounds like a good fit for the FIFI blog community. We like to spend time outdoors. We’re active. And we all want to enjoy the company of friends through the pandemic winter.

Here on the blog we’ve been worrying about this since the end of summer. Catherine wrote about making plans to spend time with friends outside in the winter way back in August! Cate waited until September, after Labour Day, to post about her plans for a fit distanced winter.

I completely agree that spending time outside is key to enjoying winter. I’ve been recommending winter biking, here and here. But the thing about friluftsliv is you’ve got to dress for it.

If you choose not find joy in the snow, you’ll have less joy in your life but still the same amount of snow.

OK, on to the second theme that we talk about lots on the blog. Theme two is about finding gear that fits all bodies, in particular plus sized bodies. It’s not always easy. See our post about finding plus sized cycling and hiking gear.

It’s not a far away problem. It’s an issue for some of the fit feminists who blog here, me included. See Catherine’s post and my post about the challenge of finding winter coats that fit. We’re not even particularly large plus sized people, shopping in the L to XXL range. Also, we’re professors with reasonable salaries so we’ve got the option to buy new. It’s harder still if your income means you’re trying to find discount clothing or used gear.

This matters because of the message we send about which bodies belong outside in the winter. It’s symbolic and meaningful and all that. It’s also practical. Winter (in Canada at least) means we worry about frostbite and getting cold. Spending time outside–even just walking the dog–sometimes requires snow pants, parkas, hats, mitts, scarves, and good boots.

This year, more than ever, we’re all going to have get outside and spend time with friends and family during the winter. My kids are talking about winter camping in backyard so we can all spend Christmas holidays together!

So I was thinking about these themes–getting outside and enjoying Canadian pandemic winter–and the necessity of finding the right gear, when along came these guys Plus Snow.

I first read about the company in this story: Online entrepreneur launches plus-size snow gear store in North America. The article talks about the company owner Mon Balon and her motivation for making plus sized snow clothes.

“What she wants to see is more of the joy that her customers share when they can finally play in the snow with their kids.

Balon said she is looking for people to model the clothes she sells. She currently uses #curvystoke to raise awareness and celebrate people who wear plus sizes playing in the snow.”

What I didn’t expect when I shared the story on our Facebook page was thanks from Mon Balon herself,

“Omgosh you guys!!! Thanks so so much for sharing this article about my business and my launch in North America! It’s not a perfect model (you have to wait about 2 weeks to get your gear) yet but I do have lots of CHOICE and lots of measuring charts and our help and customer service is unparalleled (I think anyway!) Shop Your Shape is our brilliant feature which helps you find the perfect fit if you need it https://plussnow.com/shop-your-shape/

I also didn’t expect the flurry of readers with their own issues finding plus sized snow gear. There were a lot of comments on that post.

One of the commentators was Richelle Olsen who owns outdoor wear she bought from Plus Snow.

Here’s Richelle modeling her gear.

Richelle: “All my current wet weather gear is from these guys, they don’t just do plus snow gear, but they do plus outdoor gear in general. Love that they celebrate that adventurers come in bigger bodies 💚 Plus Snow – Plus Sized Snow Gear. Plus Outdoor.”
Writes Richelle, “Here’s one extra pic of our group of body positive adventurers, near the Tarkine, at a place called Cradle Mountain.”

I asked Richelle if I could share the photos and she said yes.

Thanks Richelle.

Here’s what else she had to say:


“I’m in Tasmania, an island off the south coast of Australia. I lead body positive adventure trips for Escaping Your Comfort Zone 2-3 times a year, and each time I go a few days early and just drive and see where I end up. This time I ended up in this prehistoric rainforest called the Tarkine, in the rain, camping amongst giants with no one else around.


I’m wearing the Raiski Fuchu R+ Women’s Longline jacket in size 22. I love it because it’s super long and covers my butt, its slightly stretchy and is reliably waterproof after days of constant rain in Tasmania. It’s from Plus Snow – Plus Sized Snow Gear 💚💚


Fun fact: The Tarkine Wilderness Area is one of the last undisturbed tracts of Gondwanan rainforest in the world, and one of the highest concentrations of Aboriginal archeology in the Southern Hemisphere. This place, which remains largely as it was when dinosaurs roamed the planet, is currently at the mercy of destructive logging and mining. There’s an amazing short film about this called “What if running could save a rainforest?” Featuring a good friend of mine, Nicole Anderson, who is a doctor, ultra runner and passionate rainforest protector”

Are you a plus sized snow loving person? Are you planning to get out this year? Where’d you buy your gear? What counts as essential for the snow loving activities you do?

FWIW, and in case you’re wondering, this is isn’t a promotional post. I didn’t know Richelle or Mon prior to sharing the story on our Facebook page.

fall · fashion · fitness · gear · Seasonal sadness · self care · walking

Thoughts about walking and about rain boots minus gender

Nat’s post about walking in the rain prompted me to take action. Now, I’m no Nat. I meet my very modest step goal most days but I try not to care. My Garmin watch gives me fireworks when I’ve met my step goal and I smile at this little mini celebration but when it asks me to increase my goal, I decline.

About eight months ago I wrote a post about the wonders of walking that asked what if you can’t walk. I can walk but not very far with my damaged, waiting to be totally replaced, knee. There are still reasons to walk, even it hurts, and lots of studies show that walking won’t make the situation worse.

So I do walk a fair bit still thanks to Cheddar the dog but increasing my step count isn’t among my fitness goals.

Cheddar and the fall colours

But Nat’s post inspired me in another direction, the direction of dry feet and dressing for the weather. Like Nat, I’m well kitted out for winter. I have all the gear I need to stay warm on my fat bike, on snow shoes, or while walking Cheddar in January. But rainy weather? Not so much.

I don’t mind winter when it’s here. In January the days are getting longer, there’s snow to play in, and often there’s sun. But November? Ugh. Dark, cold and often rainy, November is my toughest month. I’m on record as hating November.

Given the pandemic, I don’t need any extra anger or resentment in my life. I need to make friends with November. First step, getting better rain gear. I’ve got an excellent rain coat that I bought while on sabbatical in New Zealand. But I don’t have good rain boots. My calves are too wide for traditional knee high rain boots.

The boots needed to be bright and cheerful, because November. And short, because calves.

Here was my short list of choices:

Boots

In the end I chose the Pride boots. I thought seriously about the pink fishing boots but they aren’t available in my size.

But I need to tell you a thing I love about the Pride boots. They’re available in two different kinds of sizes, wide and narrower. Not men’s and women’s.

I’ve written before about gendered sizing, about lady backpacks and women’s bikes, and why they drive me up the wall. Why not just wide shoulders, or long torso? Why tie things to gender even they’re not about gender at all? If some men fit women’s boots and some women need men’s boots, then it isn’t really about gender, is it?

Thks. Hunter boots for getting it right.

Black boots with rainbow heels

Now, assuming they fit, these boots likely aren’t enough to make me love November when it gets here. But I just have tolerate November and likely I will tolerate it better with dry feet.

Thanks for the prompt Nat.

Enjoy your walks with Michel and Lucy. Cheddar and I will be thinking of you!

And Happy Thanksgiving y’all!

A small orange pumpkin being held in two hands outstretched.
clothing · fashion

Winter nap dresses! Sam is holding off, for now

Cate asked us to tell her what our closets look like right now.

I’m mostly wearing yoga pants or leggings with black tops and scarves or even a suit jacket over top for weekdays. I swap the suit jacket for a hoodie for dog walking. I swapped out my summer clothes for my winter wardrobe last weekend. Bye bye sundresses! You’re in the basement box for out of season clothing now.

My winter work clothes are more formal. And I’m not wearing dry clean only clothes around the house. Here’s looking at you, Cheddar! So lots of them got put away too.

My summer dresses are pretty comfy. I even bought a lovely nap dress in keeping with pandemic fashion trends. Lol. It was easier in the summer months wearing clothes that did double duty as both work and work from home clothes. I don’t think I’ll buy a winter nap dress (see above, middle image). They need leggings underneath to be warm enough and why not just wear leggings. Also, they don’t look that practical for midday kettle bell swings, TRX-ing, or Yoga With Adriene.

My newsfeed now is full of ads for soft, comfortable clothes: ethically made in Canada bamboo PJs, cashmere jogging suits, and things called nap shirts. Lately I’ve been seeing ads for enormous fleece lined hoodies. These look perfect for when I am working in the back room and Sarah’s riding her bike on Zwift with the porch door open to the outside and the fan on high. I confess I’m a big fan of fresh air and leaving the door open for dogs. That means my house isn’t toasty warm. The giant hoodies come in family packs. What do you think kids?

cycling · fashion

Bike dresses in white?

It’s finally here the first bike friendly dress now in white.

Dear Frank and Oak,

Have you ever stopped to fix a flat? Have you ever tried to put a dropped chain back on?

CLEARLY NOT. Because if you had you’d realize that of all the colours for a bike dress, white is just not on.

I realize you don’t have to do what I tend to do–wipe bike grease off on my black bike shorts–but still. Even for the most fastidious of cyclists–say one who carries wet wipes for wiping their hands (here’s looking at you Martin!), white isn’t a colour that works.

I’m not sure what makes this a bike dress. Almost any dress can be a bike dress. Like the nap dress. I’m sure it has special features that make it bike friendly but still, no matter how good those features are, they are overruled by the not very bike friendly colour.

Thanks,

Sam

clothing · fashion · rest

Okay, I gave into another pandemic fashion trend and bought a nap dress (and it has pockets)

I know, I know, all dresses can be nap dresses. You can also nap in just about anything. I’m sure I’ve done it. I’ve regularly napped at work through the years since I often have to stay on campus (back in normal times) for evening events.

But now we are in pandemic times and I’m still working at home, working out at home, and napping at home. I’m starting to make clothing choices that make sense for not much leaving the house.

I’ve written before about what to wear when working at home and working out at home.

The nap dress is one answer to what to wear when working at home and napping, because (in my case) very long workdays, inconsistent sleep due to nightmares and pandemic anxiety, and late evening bike races.

Besides, they’re summer dresses and they’re on sale, so I bought one.

Read Rachel Syme on the allure of the nap dress in stressful pandemic times.

“Since sleeping through the night was not happening, I figured an outfit specifically designated for daytime dozing might be just the thing. One could theoretically wear a Nap Dress to bed, but it is decidedly not a nightgown. (For one, it is opaque enough to wear to the grocery store.) It is not the same thing as a caftan, which, though often luxurious, is more shapeless and more grown-up. It is not a housedress, which we tend to associate with older women shuffling onto the stoop to grab the morning paper, the curlers still in their hair. A housedress is about forgetting the self, or at least hiding it under layers of quilted fabric. The Nap Dress, on the other hand, suggests a cheeky indulgence for one’s body, and a childlike return to waking up bleary-eyed hours before dinner.”

Or for more a critical analysis of the trend, read The Uneasy Privilege Of The Daytime Nightgown in which Veronique Hyland talks about the politics of who gets to wear a daytime nap dress during the pandemic. It’s not frontline workers, grocery store clerks, transit workers, and people driving UberEats to pay rent. I used to teach about fashion and I confess if I were teaching about fashion this semester I might give a lecture on pandemic fashion and the nap dress.

I don’t need to know if you don’t like it. I do! Also, yes, I know white is impractical.

fashion · fitness

News flash: fashion discovers that bike shorts are a thing

Even amidst all the COVID news and political strife news and racial injustice news and climate disaster news, sometimes there’s a bit of a lull. In that lull, journalists are searching for something, anything to write about that will satisfy our perceived need for news all the time.

Enter bike shorts as proposed fashion item.

A woman wearing bike shorts, a mask, a Balenciaga sweater, a Chanel purse, looking at her phone. In Paris.

The New York Times eagerly reports the latest pairings of the humble bike short with high-fashion runway looks:

So maybe bike shorts were always destined to have a moment in the summer of 2020. But as with 1,000-piece puzzles and sourdough bread, quarantine has given them new appeal: Bike shorts are a comfortable, practical item of clothing that can seamlessly transition through the vague shifts between work, exercise, worry and rest that characterize a life spent mostly at home.

Depending on whom you ask, bike shorts are an enlightened choice for the times or a tumble into a life of permanent sartorial laziness. Either way, they work.

4 images of models on the runway, each wearing bike shorts and about $10K worth of other clothing and shoes.
4 images of models on the runway, each wearing bike shorts and about $10K worth of other clothing and shoes.

The article burbles on:

Bike shorts, on the other hand, walk that careful line between loungewear and actual clothing. Plus, some have pockets. The fact that they are comfortable and form-fitting makes her feel tucked in and dressed, [an Instagram influencer] said.

Tess Gattuso, a 27-year-old writer and comedian in Los Angeles, took it a step further. “I think they’re super sexy,” she said. “I need that excitement in quarantine.”

Sexy? Exciting? Bike shorts? Do I detect just a tiny bit of an overreach here? I get it– it’s mid-August. Even in the middle of these unbelievable times, there’s just less to report on. And people have to make a living. So okay– bring on the bike shorts.

I might add that this is not the first time the New York Times covered a high-fashion/humble activewear collabo with such enthusiasm. In early summer 2019, they wrote about how Tevas (the utilitarian sandal) all of a sudden got cute, courtesy of pairing up with fancy designers and fancy clothing manufacturers.

People wearing color-block design Teva sandale, in a variety of pastels and bright colors. High fashion? You make the call.
People wearing color-block design Teva sandals, in a variety of pastels and bright colors. High fashion? You make the call.

The article is quick to acknowledge that they know these shoes aren’t cool, but their uncoolness, when worn by cool people, rehabilitates them:

Tevas — often grouped with Birkenstocks, Dansko clogs, Uggs and Crocs as “ugly shoes” — are popular in part because of their outsider status. “There’s something so normal about them that if you’re a fashion person and wear them it’s kind of funny and cool,” said the stylist Kate Young, whose clients include Selena Gomez and Sophie Turner, in an email. But that doesn’t rule out genuine appreciation for their functional design: Ms. Young wears Tevas in the summer while camping and swimming in streams with slippery rocks.

“They were way too crunchy for me when I first saw them. Lately they hold this sort of nostalgic minimal sport appeal for me,” she said.

I’m not sure what “nostalgic minimal sport appeal” means. Let me just say that I don’t need nostalgia for Tevas. I can just look down.

My white Tevas. I have these in brown and black, too. And I have a red fancier pair.
My white Tevas. I have these in brown and black, too. And I have a red fancier pair.

Honestly, I think it’s fun when designers take a humble piece of everyday wear and elevate it or incorporate it into something new and creative. What is less appealing is when wearers of the new-new-fashion item feel the need to distance themselves from those of us who’ve been wearing the aforementioned everyday item, well, everyday, and doing just fine.

Long live bike shorts and Tevas!

Hey readers– what items of clothing do you wear that you noticed have become fashionable, or become un-fashionable? I’d love to hear from you.

clothing · fashion · rest · sleep

Aren’t all dresses nap dresses?

The ads in my digital media news feeds know what I’m up to. Which is to say staying at home, working from home, exercising at home, spending time with family, and napping. I’m also dressing differently now my life is one big blur of working, exercising, doomscrolling, eating, sleeping etc.

Enter the nap dress. I swear ads for different versions of this dress make up half of the advertising I see these days.

And that makes sense given that I’ve declared myself the Pandemic Nap Queen.

Haven’t heard of this pandemic fashion trend yet? See Meet the Nap Dress — Summer’s Biggest Must Have, Meet The ‘Nap Dress,’ The Latest Pandemic Clothing Trend, and Why a nap dress is about to become your new summer staple.

This New Yorker piece explains the allure of the nap dress.

Rachel Syme writes, “Since sleeping through the night was not happening, I figured an outfit specifically designated for daytime dozing might be just the thing. One could theoretically wear a Nap Dress to bed, but it is decidedly not a nightgown. (For one, it is opaque enough to wear to the grocery store.) It is not the same thing as a caftan, which, though often luxurious, is more shapeless and more grown-up. It is not a housedress, which we tend to associate with older women shuffling onto the stoop to grab the morning paper, the curlers still in their hair. A housedress is about forgetting the self, or at least hiding it under layers of quilted fabric. The Nap Dress, on the other hand, suggests a cheeky indulgence for one’s body, and a childlike return to waking up bleary-eyed hours before dinner.”

Here’s what some of them look like:

The nap dress is part of the daytime nightwear trend.

In “The Uneasy Privilege Of The Daytime Nightgown,” Veronique Hyland talks about the politics of who gets to wear a daytime nap dress during the pandemic. It’s not frontline workers, grocery store clerks, transit workers, and people driving UberEats to pay rent.

“I can appreciate the aesthetic appeal of a nightgown. I get that they’re comfortable, and who doesn’t crave comfort right now? It’s possible that I’m projecting way too much onto a few yards of fabric. But the nightgown, especially as daywear, strikes me as reactionary. Its evocations of passive Victorian and pre-Raphaelite femininity feel like an uncritical throwback to those eras’ mold of white female fragility. The styling of these images evokes sleeping beauties or Ophelias, or worse, invalids. Fashioning yourself as a tubercular Victorian might once have felt ironic; with millions in the grip of a real pandemic—one that is disproportionately affecting Black and brown communities—it feels Marie Antoinette-at-the-Hameau-level out of touch. And in 2020, the idea of “checking out” and into the seductive world of blameless slumber that the nightgown invites us to, does too. It serves as a reminder that while some people are taking to the streets, others are taking to their beds.”

You don’t need a fancy new specially designed nap dress to get into the spirit of the being well-rested. And maybe we can be well-rested, including naps, so that we can work and protest. Tracy’s posts on naps as a form of resistance talks about that connection.

This is speedy, short post, quickly written before I zoom away for holidays where there will definitely be lots and lots of napping but also definitely not any special nap dresses!

See you when I’m back after a week of canoe camping in Algonquin Park.

The Nap Ministry

bras · clothing · covid19 · fashion

What do you wear when working and exercising at home?

Unlike Cate, up until the pandemic, I’ve never been much of a work from home person. I’ve been a pretty strict compartmentalizer. In my usual life, I relax at home and work at work (mostly). I wear work clothes at work, gym clothes at the gym, bike clothes on my bike, and PJs (or PJ adjacent yoga pants) at home. A change in clothes signals a change in activity.

But there are no boundaries any more. Life is one big blur of working at home, exercising at home, and relaxing at home. I occasionally look at my shoe collection in puzzlement. Will I ever wear real shoes again? I still have underwire bras hanging off a doorknob, neglected, and I’m wondering why I ever thought they were a good idea. These days only my comfiest of sports bras are in regular rotation.

I do wear earrings once a week or so but that’s just so the holes in my ears don’t grow over.

I’m not wearing anything that requires dry cleaning. And mostly I’m wearing clothes that also do double duty as workout attire. But I’ve now got a broader definition of what that entails. In the blog post #StayAtHome Sam Looks Different I talked about working out in sports bras. That’s still true, especially Zwifting in a heatwave. But I am also doing yoga in machine washable dresses with sports bras and fitted shorts underneath. If it’s hot I whip off the dress.

On a good day I walk Cheddar the dog in the morning, lift weights or use resistance bands at lunch, and either do Yoga with Adriene or Zwift at night. The only bit of specialized clothing I’m wearing are bike shorts and my bike socks. I still have too many bike jerseys but they are not getting much wear.

So now my wardrobe, like my life, has blurred into one or two laundry hampers of clothes. I’m wondering when I go back to working at the office, with people, how much will change? I’m not throwing out the underwire bras and the fancy shoes just yet. But my social media newsfeed is still full of ads for leisure wear and “relaxed, comfort pants.”

What you about? What are you wearing to work out at home? What are you wearing to work at home?

Sam working from home, using resistance bands at lunch, in her Eddie Bauer sports dress. What makes it sporty? It’s quick dry and has a special pocket for keys and phone.
cycling · fashion

Sam dresses up her avatar for casual rides

Most cyclists have different kinds of things they wear, depending. When I was riding with Coach Chris, I wore Coach Chris kit on group rides. But I didn’t ever wear it on casual rides with friends. I felt it was my speedy outfit! Club kit is for riding or racing with the club.

I also have other serious cycling clothes for long rides, like my very best (expensive) bib shorts. And then I have the old beat up, worn out bike shorts I wear under dresses when commuting to work or out and about running errands.

Then there is the fun casual cycling variety of clothes. Star Trek jerseys and Simon the cat jerseys (thanks Susan) fall into this category. Their message is that I’m out riding to have fun.

Zwift is sort of the same. You get awarded kit by doing events and by riding certain distances and leveling up. I now have a wide range of virtual jerseys, socks, helmets, gloves, and sunglasses. I’ve even been known to do some events (Hi Betty Designs!) just to get the kit.

I wear club kit when racing in Zwift so teammates can recognize me but if I’m noodling slowly around Watopia on a recovery day, I want to wear something fun and casual, that matches the speed I’m riding.

Last night I was doing the Monday night race series with my team and just off the start I caught sight of my socks. Eek! I was wearing purple Pride socks with my yellow team kit. They clashed horribly. Still, they made me smile. Stealth Pride rider in the race.

Pride On!
covid19 · cycling · fashion · feminism

Women can wear dresses and bike to work. Lots of us do. Get over it!

There are lots of photos of Catherine McKenna–Mom. Swimmer. Climate advocate. Ottawa Centre MP/Députée. Minister of Infrastructure and Communities/Ministre de l’Infrastructure et des Collectivités–riding bikes. My fave are the Winter Bike to Work Day images. But this Bike to Work Day McKenna wore a dress (and a mask) and shared photos and the internet blew up with meanness like Twitter had never seen a woman riding a bike while wearing a dress.

Cute red bike and pink dress, right? That’s what I thought but I might be in the minority. There were lots of negative comments. I won’t share the meanest.

One Twitter user wrote, “So a short dress and a mask while riding a bike with a goofy basket wow. You look ridiculous.”

But feminist Twitter and women cyclists everywhere came to the rescue.

I added my “biking in a dress” photo.

Catherine McKenna responded with charm and good humour.

But the thing is women can’t get it right. If we wear dresses while riding bikes, we’re ridiculous. If we wear form fitting bike shorts and a jersey, we’re ridiculous too. It’s hard not to care but it’s somehow easier when you realize it’s your very existence that’s upsetting people. I shared my story of being yelled at for biking in a dress, Sam has a good day and a bad day commuting to work wearing dresses but I’ve also yelled at for wearing cycling clothes. You can’t win.

I an going to keep wearing dresses for bike commutes to work (once I’m back in my office) and when I am trying to go far or fast, or both, I’ll wear cycling kit.

More:

Riding bikes in skirts and dresses, totally fine if that’s your thing

My new cycling dress: Complicated thoughts on femininity

Bike ride, pants optional!