clothing · fashion · fitness

Ethical sportswear and the true cost of fashion

So for the last few years I’ve been teaching a class on Feminism and Fashion. The section on the ethics of fashion has started to hit home. Like the ethical problems posed by eating meat it hits a lot of different bases: the environment, sweatshops and unjust labor practices, affluence and excess…

I was reminded of it again when this story made the rounds: No one wants your used clothes

The rise of “fast fashion” is thus creating a bleak scenario: The tide of secondhand clothes keeps growing even as the markets to reuse them are disappearing. From an environmental standpoint, that’s a big problem. Already, the textile industry accounts for more greenhouse-gas emissions than all international flights and maritime shipping combined; as recycling markets break down, its contribution could soar.

Mostly I’ve made the shift to only buying clothes made in North America. Like my decision to not eat meat, it’s a rule that’s straightforward. In both cases I can see making the case for exceptions. There are clothes made elsewhere with fair labour practices, just like there are better and worse farms in terms of the treatment of animals.

But the easiest rule, the one that requires the least amount of research, thinking, and willpower, is to stick to clothes made here.

I do buy used clothes from anywhere in the world. I’d also buy used fur for similar reasons.

So I shop locally, I’m more selective, and I pay a bit more. Fine.

There are exceptions. One notable one, relevant to the blog, is active wear. Cycling clothes are pretty much all made overseas. Ditto clothes to wear to the gym.

I discovered SuperFit Hero a few years ago and that solved some of the problem. But they don’t make all the things I want.

How about you? Where do you buy athletic wear? Do you worry about where it’s made? What’s your approach?


From bike dresses to swim dresses? Sam mulls them over but decides against

Four years ago I blogged about running skirts (I’m not a fan)  and this year I blogged about bike dresses (I recently bought one). I guess as a result of all the related googling other kinds of active wear skirts and dresses have made their way into my social media newsfeed.

The latest is the swimming dress.

Here’s my favourite of the lot.

On the plus side, it’s cute. And while it doesn’t look like a great choice for actually swimming in, that doesn’t matter so much at the beach. Lots of the time at the beach you’re not actually swimming. You’re sitting around making sandcastles, playing frisbee, finding snacks, collecting shells, reading books, and so on. Also, the nice thing about dresses, as opposed to bikinis, is that with less skin exposed there’s less of you to sunscreen. And swim dresses might get some women out to the beach who wouldn’t otherwise go. All good.

There’s a big wide world of beach dresses out there. Some, like the one I like, are targeted at women hanging at the beach with kids, dogs, and friends. The motivation seems to be cute and comfortable. Also, less worry about holding your tummy in all day.

Others are definitely targeted to women who’ve had skin cancer and they feature high necks and full leg and arm coverage 

Still others are targeted at those women who observe modesty norms for religious reasons.

There are lots of different reasons to show less skin.

And yet….

For me, I’ve worked hard to be comfortable at the beach in a bikini. Many years ago, younger thin aspring me held out the bikini as an example of the sort of thing I couldn’t wear yet but that I could wear once I’d lost enough weight. Once I realized that wasn’t going to happen and that life is really very short, I started wearing them, also cute dresses and short skirts.

Sometimes I fling on shorts and a t-shirt over the bikini if I’m running around lots at the beach but mostly I hang out in my two piece bathing suit.

And the thing is I think if I started wearing swim dresses, pretty soon that’s all I’d wear at the beach. I’d be part of the crowd of fifty something women who stop wearing bikinis because they’re too old. Bye bye bikinis, bye bye cute dresses next, and definitely bye bye mini skirts.

I also keep thinking of the fight by early feminists for women to have the choice not to wear dresses to the beach.

So I think I won’t buy a swimming dress, as cute as they are.

I’m going to be that fifty something woman in her bikini.

This is just about me, my life history as a beach going person, and about my tendencies and approach to life. You do you, of course. No judgements here 

(Oh, and there’s also beach leggings if dresses aren’t your thing.)

How about you? Do swimming dresses hold any appeal? Why/why not?

fashion · fitness · weight lifting

Moving from involved to committed

By MarthaFitat55

Image shows two bent tubes of neoprene fabric in black with red accents
Martha’s new gear! Image shows two bent tubes of neoprene fabric in black with red accents

What’s the difference between being involved and being committed? The business fable uses bacon and eggs to explain: the pig is committed, while the hen is involved.

When we talk about fitness, it’s a bit of both. This week, I made the leap from involved to committed. I bought a pair of knee sleeves.

For the last three years, my fitness clothing has been nothing fancy. I originally started with a pair of ratty yoga pants and a tee shirt. Then I graduated to a pair of capris found on the sale rack.

Occasionally when it gets superwarm in the gym during the summer, I rescue one of my old rowing tanks. And while I’ve always invested in good footwear, when a friend offered a pair of deadlift shoes at a discount, I bought them to save her the hassle of returning them. Luckily they turned out to be a good fit, and if I ever decided to stop lifting, they could probably work for something else.

So my approach to workout gear has been minimal at best; involved if you like.

But these knee sleeves are the first thing I have thought about, tried out, and decided to expend the funds necessary for me to have my very own pair so I can lift well and with the proper support.

That’s because these sleeves are simply miraculous, and I don’t use that word lightly.

This winter, my trainer and I have been working on developing greater depth for my squats. I have a regimen of exercises to strengthen my hips, and over time, I have been able to drop lower and lower.

It’s been all good. Except when I watched videos of fabulous women lifters getting their “ass to grass” in squats, I admit I felt a wee bit jealous.

During a cold spell last month, my knees became cranky. My trainer suggested I try the sleeves when we reached higher weights on the bar. I borrowed a pair for the session, and I did not want to give them back. As I worked my way through the sets, I began scheming how these sleeves would be mine.

Since I like the owner, I decided they should stay where they belonged. I did borrow them again a couple of times to be sure they were as good as they felt the first time, and this week, I went online and committed.

The sleeves provide a level of support I did not think was possible, and yet, when I wear them during squat sessions, I have no hesitation standing up after dropping down. Though they are working on the knees, the sleeves send a message to my hips that the knees are in charge and stability is the goal. And while I’m not as close to the level as I see on the training videos, I am achieving very creditable squats that pass the form test quite well for depth and control.

I see you grass and I am coming for you.

— Martha lifts and writes in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

body image · clothing · fashion · fitness

Not about our health, not really, not at all actually

So Nike introduced plus sized clothing, and that’s good. A bit late, but still a good thing.

Ragen Chastain writes, “Nike makes clothes for sports and physical activity. They figured out that they could make those clothes to fit fat people, and the Nike plus size line was (finally) born. As someone who has been both fat and an athlete for as long as I can remember, I would just like to say — it’s about damn time. To be clear, this line has size limitations. Most items go up to 3x, and the sports bras only go up to a 38. But it’s progress.”

And then there was a backlash, not good at all.  Lots of awful stuff was said about Nike encouraging people to be fat.

Again Ragen writes, “If these trolls would prefer that I work out naked, I have no problem with that (except maybe for the chaffing). But somehow, I doubt that would please them either. What they are looking for is a world where fat people live in shame — hiding in our houses, unable to participate in a world that, if they had it their way, wouldn’t accommodate us at all.”

What’s striking about the backlash is how much vitriol there was aimed at people who wear pus sized workout clothing,

See Nike Backlash Proves It’s Not About Fat Peoples’ Health.

I shared Ragen’s story on our Facebok page and our community responded. With permission I share their comments here.

“I think it’s worth noting too how much shade we get when we try to work out in public places. Straight sized people seem to be offended when I work out near them. Or sit beside them on the subway, or eat near them. Or exist.”

“I don’t really get this. I mean, I get making clothes for larger people – I’ve suggested as much to a few lines of athletic clothing (it’s an untapped market! Why wouldn’t you?), but I don’t get why people care so much about what other people do with their bodies. Don’t they have their own to worry about?”

“When I lost weight about 6 years ago I went to the gym every day. I wanted to look good and be comfortable, which made going to the gym easier. Working out in daggy stretched pants and an oversized shirt that absorbed the sweat didn’t cut it. Kudos to Nike for meeting this need.”

“They hate fat people and want us to be unhappy or ashamed. Nothing new here.”

“People hate fat and fat people so viscerally it’s actually terrifying.”

“Because then they might have to look at us? How dare we befoul public spaces with our bodies!”

Thanks everyone! 

Like many of you, I don’t get the hate. I mean, I get it. I’m sometimes the recipient of it. I wrote about being yelled at for being a fat woman on a bike in this blog post.

But I’m an unreasonably cheerful, resilient person and I reset to my default of expecting good from other people each time after something like this happens. When it happens again, I’m surprised anew.

How about you? What’s your reaction to the negative response to Nike?



fashion · feminism

Sam has mixed feelings about sports dresses but loved axe throwing in a skirt

It’s spring and my social media newsfeed is full of ads for summer clothing. But it’s me, and lots of it is sports related. So many beautiful bike jerseys!

But this year, there’s a new thing there, cropping up from time to time, the sporty dress. I confess that often my dress wearing ways (see biking in a dress and I hate pants) are at odds with my resistance to normative femininity.  For a taste of that, go read my running skirts post.

Basically I don’t like being told how I ought to dress. And often, for women, being told how you ought to dress involves skirts and dresses. When I dipped my toes into journalism as a career, women still had to wear skirts or dresses in the parliamentary press gallery. As a young punky person I had to carry a skirt in my back pack if I planned to visit.

School uniforms were the same. I’ve blogged here before about being taught by nuns. That certainly required skirts.

I’m the kind of person who couldn’t live in a suburb with rules. You know, the kind of place that has rules against clotheslines, and wildflowers, and funny coloured house paint and leaving your garage door open. I’d move in and right away paint every wild colours, plant all the flowers, and hang up scandalous underwear in plain sight. You know the type. That’s me.

So what about the sporty dresses!

Here’s an example.

A woman with hair tied back, wearing glasses, and a pink flowered dress is walking her bike. From
Image description: A woman with hair tied back, wearing glasses, and a pink flowered dress is walking her bike.

Like these skirts, which I also like and even tried on several times over the winter, I can’t decide if they are about warmth and function or butt modesty. And if the former, I’m all in, and if the latter, I’m a bit uncomfortable.

Image description: Women's Rocket Skirt Black/Gray
Image description: Black sporty skirt with zippers., from Garneau,’t%20decide


On the one hand, so cute!

On the other, I want to reject norms about women not being to be show our bodies and especially as a larger person (Fat or big?) who is mostly comfortable with her size, I like opportunities to express that. (yes, I love wearing bikinis, stretch marks, tummy rolls and all.)

Okay, I’ll keep mulling about sports dresses and butt-warming skirts, but I know one thing for sure. I love throwing axes in a skirt! (We were encouraged to wear plaid and this is the only plaid item I own.)

I think it’s skirts and dresses in rebellious contexts I like best. Prom dress rugby! Fishnets in roller derby!

Oh, also I’ll wear pants on June 11. It’s Wear the Pants Day.



What do you think of sporty skirts and dresses? Love/hate/to each their own?

bras · equality · fashion · fat · fitness · gender policing · inclusiveness · men

Liberation, two nipples at a time (Guest post)

When all the fashion magazines featured women with hands (their own or others’) covering their breasts, a thought flickered that hands are much more comfortable than the average bra. Hiding women’s breasts, one way or the other, is standard media fare, and of course in some places women aren’t allowed to go topless in public, a clear gender disparity.

Fashion in the last few decades has even come to erase to nipple that might protrude from a shirt — again only for women like Serena Williams, not for men like Andy Murray.

It’s become really hard to find a non-padded bra, even for sports. Yet it’s seriously unpleasant to exercise with sweaty padding. Does anyone really believe in “breathable padding”? Sorry Victoria’s Secret, but my skepticism was well placed.

However, in recent years fashion has shown glimpses of the saucy braless 70s, including the bralette and bandeaus, all pleasant options for small-breasted women. The news even declares that bralessness is in fashion.

Many of us may sneer “how nice for you!” Bralessness and even lightweight bra alternatives are not realistic choices. Many heavy breasted women are simply not comfortable and even experience back pain without support from a bra. Sizes small, medium, and large rarely do the work we need them to do either. Sports bras tend to be sized that way and create a special kind of hell. We end up pinched and unsupported on top of being sweaty.

So I suggest the new move away from bras and padded bras may be good for all women. It marks a greater diversity in the types of breast support and sports tops available for women. The less women are expected to hide our breasts the easier it will be for us to demand comfortable functional support.

body image · fashion · Guest Post · interview

Affirmational Art and Body Positivity: An interview with Jenn Seeley (Guest post)

One of our bloggers has recently opened an online store offering Affirmational Art on cute things. The offerings are a little different than what you may have seen before so Sam thought it would be cool to highlight the site on the blog. Here is my interview with Jenn Seeley.

So Jenn, this is quite the store you’ve put together. It’s filled with familiar objects that have slightly unusual messaging. What was the need you saw for these kinds of objects and art?
I guess some might consider it unusual – radical even – to want to be bothered with speaking positively to and of yourself. It’s a tricky area for many people. For starters, speaking and believing affirmations require a person to know what to say, know what they want to say, and believe they have the right to say it. That’s the kicker. The believing it part. I guess that’s where I saw the need. People give so much of themselves, pouring out all that they have, that it’s easy to forget to fuel up and remind ourselves of truths that get us through. Affirmations are simply a way to assert the right to make bold declarations of anything from intentions and desires to important reminders of our own worth and value. With so much direct messaging and marketing trying to tell us who to be, and define for us how to measure our worth, we have quite the battle to win in staking our claim over own own attitudes towards ourselves. Oh, and the funny objects? It’s just nice to have something to look at that’s not the stereotypical motivational misty forest and mirror top lake. I just chose things that I liked, and went with what felt ‘right’ for lack of a better description. Don’t worry though, I really like trees. I’ll probably have to include them somewhere just because.

Do you see yourself as filling this need or trying to create a desire to display these kinds of messages?

Do a Google image search for affirmations, or for a particular mantra you like to live by, and several people may have put those same words on images of some sort. I don’t expect my art to be everyone’s first choice or for everyone to get what I do and why, but in my own circle of super cool people, many of my friends and framily (that’s not a typo) share these declarations by way of Facebook posts of cute images with words, or via text messages as reminders in solidarity to friends dealing with something hard. I have to imagine that in the privacy of their own space and solitude, they also sometimes pull from memory the words that help ground them and hold them steady in tricky times. I know I do that, so surely others do too. What I’m doing with Sunny Braveheart isn’t unique entirely, but it is my heart and I hope that it is ultimately my heart that’s heard.

This is original art done by you, correct? What inspired these pieces?

Yeah. They’re my original images. And it’s still pretty mind-blowing for me to say that out loud, but I’m doing it! I can’t really put a finger on the actual inspiration for the current collection overall. There’s kind of a mix of a few things going on. By far my favourites are the uniquely shaped people. I like their general look and feel simply for the quiet calm they represent. At least, that’s how I see them and hope they are seen as calm for others, too. My intention was to create these ‘people’ in ways that they feel oddly familiar despite being unlike anything I’ve seen or drawn before. I paired quiet images with strong statements. It’s not always necessary to shout and punch to feel the feels!

Ultimately, I felt an urge to create and I wanted to create things that reminded me of things that I know are true for me. Things I try already to live and breathe, and things I love to see and hear shared.

Do you have a favourite?

You mean they’re not all my favourite? Ok. So if I have to pick just one? I have big feelings. That’s my cat Percy and the truest statement I can make about myself. I feel BIG when I feel and stopped apologizing for that a long time ago. I say this out loud a lot. That was a big hurdle jumped. If I was allowed to pick more than one, I would say that I Will Be Gentle With Myself and Sometimes Bravery Means Trying Again Tomorrow would tie for second!

These images are either body or emotion positive. Can you elaborate on the importance of emphasizing those two things in your affirmations?

Oh, this was and is super important. Thank you for noticing! There are all kinds of affirmations out there that speak to success – like careers & finances – and that isn’t the intention of Sunny Braveheart. Too often, (because: patriarchy) having emotions and feelings is considered weak and undesirable. Talking about feelings is hard! Especially if you fear ridicule or being misunderstood. And where to start on body positivity? Thanks to so many crummy social constructs that attempt to dictate what a ‘good body’ is and so few people (mainly women) who can’t begin to live up to standards that shouldn’t exist in the first place, people’s self-image and ideals take a brutal hit.

Think about this: so far, forever, we have been told all kinds of gross things about how our bodies must look. We have been told many conflicting messages about how to parent and how not to parent. We read thousands of words in fear every night on multiple web pages just trying to determine if we’re a good partner to our lovers. We are called weak for crying. We are put into boxes and labeled based on the colour of our skin and our spiritual practices. We are told from within the communities we belong to that even on the inside there are people who do-the-things-that-we-do better/faster/stronger/longer/smarter than we do.

Whether directly or indirectly, we get these messages at an alarming rate. Every. Single. Day.

What if instead of that I told you: You are enough. You are exactly enough. Your body is good. You are strong. Bravery doesn’t look the same for you and that’s okay – you’re still brave. Your feelings are valid, important, beautiful, and real. YOU are valid, important, beautiful, and real. Your body can tell you things that the internet can’t, so go ahead and listen to it. Give yourself permission to filter out the ideals of the world, and join a collective that wishes to change the narrative.

If I could flip the bird to patriarchy and the very oppressive standards that were created to keep me wanting to jump through hoops in order to be something that I’m not, I would. But I’m not alone in that desire, am I?

Do you hope to add art to the selection? How often? What themes or images might we look forward to?

Expect to see more ‘people’ and more animals for sure. And I’m working on a few ‘active’ themed images. But I’m going to be very clear about what those images will represent. You will still expect body positive and emotions/feeling positive words to accompany anything that appears athletic by design. Simply put: There will never be an ‘affirmation’ found at Sunny Braveheart that shames you, guilts you, pushes you to perform in ways that cross your boundaries, or anything at all similar to what’s her face – the woman whose name I won’t mention who wants to know what your excuse is while posing with her family. Nope. There will be no shame.

Why Sunny Braveheart? Where’d the name come from?

I guess the sunny part is harder to answer. Maybe because I get read as having a ‘sunny disposition’ all too often – especially among people who don’t know me well. My closest circle has the blessing of seeing my raw self – melt downs and all! Despite the range of feelings, I do see the sunny side of life when I can, all while giving myself permission to experience and navigate the less sunny moments. That’s important, too! I want all of the feelings with no apologies.

Braveheart comes from my personal journey involving lions, but you can read that here. Further to the brave bit, it was actually a really scary thing to just allow myself to create emotion driven art versus strive to be perfect. Yeah, I’ll say it. My art isn’t perfect. It’s art. And as much as it’s also scary to say this out loud? I’m the artist. It’s mine. So yeah. Bravery is a theme to my project because I know that, as a person who struggled her whole life to see herself as good enough in many areas, I’m displaying a giant piece of me and can definitely expect to be critiqued and/or mocked and/or ridiculed. Fun!

Bravery is also in the name for you. It’s a brave step forward to allow yourself permission to change the way you speak to yourself.
You can see for yourself what Jenn is up to at Sunny Braveheart. 

What kind of Big Feelings might you have? Let us know.