What is vanity sizing?

Logo by SamI can remember when I wore size 12 or 14, but now I shop for size 6 or 8. Did I find the secret to successful weight loss? Am I actually that much smaller than I used to be? On the contrary, I now weigh approximately 20 pounds more than I did in my younger years. My drop in clothing size has nothing to do with me getting smaller and everything to do with something called vanity sizing.

Vanity sizing, or size inflation, is the phenomenon of ready-to-wear clothing of a certain size becoming bigger over time. Apparently, putting smaller sizes on larger clothes boosts the self-esteem of customers and encourages them to purchase more. As a result, brands have gradually shifted their metrics to make shoppers feel thinner. So much so, in fact, that a women’s size 12 in 1958 is now a size 6! In 1967, teenage fashion model, Twiggy, wore size 8. Today a girl the size that she was then (bust 31″, waist 23.5″, hips 32.5″) would wear size 00. This is definitely something to keep in mind if you shop for vintage clothing.

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Source: The New Yorker

A recent CBC Marketplace investigation found that the waist sizes of jeans are commonly bigger by an inch or more than what the label advertises. One brand was off by a whopping 6 inches! I can attest to the fact that this is true of men’s jeans as well as women’s. Hubby recently bought a new pair and the waistband is exactly two inches bigger than what the label says.

Another aspect of vanity sizing that is even more confusing is inconsistency between brands. Some deliberately skew their sizes, based on the idea that people might feel better if the tag on the clothing says a size or two smaller than they wear in other brands. Again, it’s all about trying to increase sales.

While customers like vanity sizing because it makes them feel better about themselves and retailers like it because it boosts their sales, it has become a significant problem with the increase in online shopping. Billions of dollars worth of apparel is now purchased online each year and an estimated 40% of that is returned because of sizing issues. That’s a hassle for shoppers, a nightmare for retailers who are stuck covering the cost of “free” returns, and as I wrote about here, it’s estimated that more than 25% of those returns end up in the landfill!

With all of this in mind, how can you avoid the complication that vanity sizing adds to shopping online? Use a measuring tape! Know your bust, waist, and hip measurements and check the brand’s size chart. Though these charts can provide valuable insight into which size to order, they aren’t always completely accurate, so also pay attention to what other customers say about sizing in their reviews. Finally, in case you still end up with something that doesn’t fit, be sure to check the retailer’s return policy before placing your order.

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I can’t help wondering how much further vanity sizing can go. I used to laugh at the concept of size 0, but the way things are going perhaps someday we’ll see labels with negative numbers on them!

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How to wear mismatched earrings

Logo by SamIn last Friday’s post, when I mentioned that mismatched earrings are on trend this season, I included a photo of this pair, which I love. Unfortunately, I found the picture on Pinterest with no explanation of where or whether they’re available, so I guess I won’t be adding them to my collection.  😦

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This pair from cabi’s fall 2021 collection is my only mismatched pair. They’re among my favourite earrings and I wear them quite often. The difference between them is subtle and might not even be noticed by some because they are identical in length and the shape doesn’t differ much.

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While there are plenty of mismatched pairs to be found, some cutesy and others elegant, you don’t need to buy more earrings to try this trend. Instead, why not mix and match from your existing collection? The key is to ensure that your choice looks intentional, not like you crawled out of bed and accidentally put on the wrong earrings! Here are a few tips to help you do that effectively. 

  • Choose two earrings that are obviously different from each other so that it doesn’t look like you simply mixed up two similar looking pairs.
  • Ensure that there is some correlation, some connection, between the two. It could be a common theme. For example,  earrings that are sold as mismatched sets often feature moons and stars. Choosing earrings made of the same metal  could also be a connecting factor as could colour. 
  • Play with lengths. Perhaps try wearing a stud in one ear and a longer or more dramatic earring in the other. 
  • Mix up shapes. For example, wear a round stud in one ear and a star shaped one in the other. Try a round hoop in one ear and a square or triangular one in the other. 
  • Experiment with sizes. Wear a small hoop in one ear and a larger one in the other. 

Here are a few examples from my earring collection that I’m going to try wearing. 

Wearing mismatched earrings might seem a little quirky. It’s a departure from tradition and may take you outside your comfort zone, but it’s an easy way to add an element of creativity to your look. There’s also one more advantage to this trend… if you’ve ever lost a favourite earring and it’s partner is sitting alone in the bottom of your jewelry box because you can’t bear to part with it, now’s the time to take it out and find it a new companion! 

Do your ears hang low?

Do your ears hang low?
Do they wobble to and fro?
Can you tie them in a knot?
Can you tie them in a bow?

When we sang this silly ditty around the campfire at girls’ camp when I was growing up, we didn’t know that when we reached our senior years, our ears might, in fact, begin to droop! As we age, our skin loses elasticity causing the tissue of our ears to sag and stretch. Sometimes this is worsened by wearing heavy earrings which can also cause the piercings themselves to stretch. 

Logo by SamI’ve been wearing pierced earrings for approximately 50 years, but I’ve always been very careful about their weight. I clearly remember two pairs over the years that felt heavy when I put them on for the first time. In both cases, that first time was also the last. I wasn’t going to take a chance on developing droopy earlobes if I could help it! Thankfully, there are many earrings, even large ones, that are made of very lightweight materials including aluminum, titanium, and stainless steel as well as plastic and acrylic. 

When my children were very young and there was the possibility of one of them grabbing an earring and pulling, I wore mostly studs. While a torn earlobe can be surgically repaired, I certainly didn’t want to have to go that route! 

If you have a pair of heavy earrings that you can’t bear to part with or if your earlobes are beginning to sag, there’s help for you! Easy to use, clear and unnoticeable, EarLite patches applied to the backs of the earlobes Screen Shot 2022-11-16 at 4.56.24 PMprevent stretching or tearing or provide relief for already damaged lobes. While I haven’t used these myself, I’ve been told that they are effective. “Bullet clutch” earring backs with plastic pads also provide extra support for larger, heavier earrings.  

And finally, while we’re on the topic of earrings, let’s look at some of the popular trends for fall and winter 2022. These include hoops, geometric shapes, florals, colour, pearls, crystals, chain links, and mismatched sets. 

Sometimes I just have to write

Sometimes I just have to write. I don’t know why, but something in me tells me that I need to. My fingers hover over the keyboard wondering how to begin. Sometimes the words flow and other times, my mind is blank. What could I possibly have to say that anyone would want to read? At times like those, I usually resist the urge and try to find something else to do, but this time I decided to simply start. Where this is going, I really don’t know!

Although I love to lose myself in a good novel, I’m  not a writer of fiction. I never have been. I’ve tried dabbling in it once or twice, but it clearly wasn’t my forte. Neither am I a poet. No, though nonfiction seems somehow less exciting, it’s what I do.

Scripture tells us that we’re made in the image of a creative God. As such, I believe that we all have the innate ability to be creative. I create with words. What do you create with?

I have a friend who is an avid quilter. She creates works of art with fabric and many of her quilts bring comfort to people living with cancer. (see Victoria’s Quilts Canada or Victoria’s Quilts USA) Another friend is an artist in the kitchen creating culinary masterpieces and a cousin is a songwriter. My daughter knits and crochets everything from sweaters and slippers to teddy bears and stuffed animals. Some people are artists in the traditional sense creating drawings, paintings, or sculptures. Others design and build with wood. Still others create online games and programs.

Releasing creativity, whatever form it takes, can be therapeutic. It can help people resolve issues as well as develop and manage behaviours and feelings, reduce stress, and improve self-esteem and awareness. There are things that I can’t write about, or at least I can’t publish, because they would be hurtful to people that I care deeply about or because they’re not my stories to tell. Writing about my cancer, however, especially in the early days, helped me process and better accept and understand what was happening. Some cancer centres even offer art therapy classes to their patients.

We all have gifts and passions. I’m thankful that I found mine a long time ago. Even as a child, I enjoyed writing reports for school. As a university student, I much preferred essays to exams. By the time I graduated, I knew that even though teaching was my chosen profession, writing would also be part of my future. Of course, there was no internet back then. I did a bit of freelance writing, selling a few articles to small publications, but it was retirement and the advent of blogging that really opened the door to writing for sheer enjoyment. To date, I’ve published over 1300 posts. Together they’d equal the length of an average novel!

The only problem with not knowing where this post was going is not knowing how it should end, so I’ll simply finish with a couple of quotes from science fiction writer, Isaac Asimov.

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Hello snow! It’s time for boots!

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Here on the Canadian prairie, boots are more than just a fashion item. Winter arrived all of a sudden early last week. With it came snow and temperatures as low as -30ºC (-22ºF).

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The snow is pretty, especially when the sun is shining on it, but boots are absolutely essential! So, is six pairs of winter boots enough, or should I add another pair? That is the question!

Let’s take a look at my present collection.

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Two pairs of tall boots by Taxi, identical except for colour. The first time I wore my previous pair of tall winter boots out into the snow in November of 2019, I discovered that they leaked. Wet feet at subzero temperatures is more than uncomfortable; it’s dangerous. I knew that I needed to replace them, but since I live 85 km (53 miles) from the closest shoe store, I decided to check one of our local second-hand stores on the off chance that they might have something in my size. That’s when I found the brown pair. They were like new and now, going into their fourth winter, they’re still in very good condition. They’re comfortable, stylish, and reasonably warm and perhaps best of all, the elastic panel at the back means that they fit my slim calves. Last winter, I decided to keep my eye out for something similar in black and eventually I lucked out again when I found the exact same pair in black, also second-hand! Score!

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These three pairs of ankle boots, two also bought second-hand, are really just for show. They have smooth outer soles that don’t provide traction on ice and snow, the insoles aren’t cushioned for comfortable walking, and they don’t have warm linings. I love them, but they aren’t practical for spending much time outdoors in the depth of our winters.

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Then there’s this rugged old pair. And I do mean old! I distinctly remember buying them while on a high school basketball trip with my youngest son when he was in grade 11 or 12. That was over 20 years ago! In fact, he now has a daughter in grade 8! Although I used to wear them a lot, I pretty much only use them for snowshoeing now.

So, with six pairs of winter boots, why would I be thinking about buying more? That’s easy! I don’t have a pair of warm ankle boots that are safe and comfortable to do much walking in. The old rugged ones used to serve that purpose and perhaps they’d still do if I added a pair of comfortable insoles, but I’m thinking that I might want something a little more attractive and in style. Vanity, I know! I’ve been thinking about something like these

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these

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or maybe these.

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NET Cancer Day 2022

ncd-logo-newOnce again, today is Worldwide NET Cancer Day, a day set aside to increase awareness of neuroendocrine (NET) cancers and to promote improved diagnostics, treatments, information, care and research. As a patient who has been living with this cancer for the past nine years, this is, of course, very close to my heart.

Once again this year, we are urging people to

Know the symptoms.

Push for diagnosis. 

Less than 30% of neuroendocrine cancer patients receive a correct diagnosis the first time they reach out for help. In fact, it often takes five to ten years from onset of symptoms to correct diagnosis. During that time, of course, the cancer quietly spreads.

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Here are some facts about neuroendocrine cancer:

  • NETs are a unique group of cancers that arise from neuroendocrine cells and can be found in many organs of the body.
  • NETs generally affect people over the age of 50, but not always.
  • Symptoms of NETs vary and are often non-specific due to their ability to secrete an excess of different hormones.
  • Symptoms depend on the organ where the tumour is located and may include abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, weight loss, skin flushing, chest pain, coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and/or back pain. 
  • As a distinct class of tumours, NETs require specialized tests and treatments.
  • NETs are often found unexpectedly during unrelated medical procedures or imaging tests.
  • NETs are the second most common cancer of the digestive tract.
  • Gastrointestinal NETs are often found in the appendix, colon, and rectum, but can also affect the stomach and small intestine.
  • Lung NETs comprise 20 to 25% of all invasive lung tumours.
  • The incidence and prevalence of pancreatic NETs (the form of neuroendocrine cancer that claimed the lives of Steve Jobs and Aretha Franklin) have been steadily increasing over time and now comprise about 7% of all pancreatic cancers.
  • Merkel Cell Carcinoma, a rare skin cancer, is a form of neuroendocrine cancer.

One of the most important things I’ve learned since my diagnosis is how important it is to advocate for yourself. Know your body. Know what’s normal for you. Pay attention when something feels off. Take note of unusual symptoms and talk to your doctor as soon as possible. If you don’t get the answers you’re looking for, PUSH! Don’t give up.

Thankfully, at this point, my cancer is stable. Constant surveillance is important though, so I’ll be having CT scans and other tests again next month. In the meantime, since hubby’s diagnosis with prostate cancer this summer, my health has temporarily taken a back seat. Now that his name is on the five to six month waiting list for robotic prostate surgery, we’re breathing a sigh of relief and getting on with life. Though there is no cure for me, I continue to trust that I’m not dying of NETs, I’m living with it! 

How to dress for confidence

Logo by SamIn last Friday’s post about fighting invisibility with fashion, I wrote that we should wear what makes us feel confident, but how do we do that? To begin with, let’s think about what we mean by confidence. An article in Psychology Today, defines it as “a belief in oneself, the conviction that one has the ability to meet life’s challenges and to succeed – and the willingness to act accordingly.” It went on to say that projecting confidence helps us gain credibility, make strong first impressions, deal with pressure, and tackle personal and professional challenges. It also helps put other people at ease. So, what does all this have to do with how we dress?

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When you know that what you’re wearing looks good, it’s empowering. It gives you a sense of confidence and strength. It makes you feel like your best self and helps you hold your head a little bit higher. In psychology, this idea that what we wear influences who we are or how we think, act, or feel is called enclothed cognition.

Style confidence is something you can learn. Here are ten tips to help you dress confidently:

1.  Know which colours look best on you. 

Knowing whether your skin has cool or warm undertones can help in choosing the colours that are best for you. An easy way to figure this out is to look at the veins on the inside of your wrist. Do they look blue or green? If they appear more blue, you are cool-toned; if they’re more green, you’re warm-toned. The study of colour can be a complex one, but essentially, if you are cool-toned, take your inspiration from the cool end of the spectrum. Bright blues, deep purples, emerald greens, and frosty shades of lavender, ice blue, and pink will look good on you. If you’re warm-toned, look to the warm end of the spectrum for your best colours. Think fiery reds, peach, coral, oranges and rusty tones, creams, camel, and earth tones.

2.  Know your body type.

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While exercise and healthy eating can make some difference, your body shape depends largely on genetics and skeletal structure. A quick search online will result in many videos and articles to help you dress to flatter your unique shape. Designer, Justine Leconte, created a video series on this topic several years ago. You can find the introductory video here and then go from there to explore your own body type.

3.  Emphasize your best features and play down your least favourite. 

This tip goes hand in hand with the previous one. Once you’ve identified your body type, consider which of your features you’d like to highlight and which you’d prefer to draw attention away from. For example, if your waistline is one of your best features, you may want to show it off by tucking in your top and wearing an eye-catching belt. I, on the other hand, have a rectangular body shape with very little definition at the waist. Add the thickening of that region that invariably seems to come with age, and that’s a part of my body that I’d rather not emphasize.

4.  Know your personal style. 

Style is how we personalize what the fashion industry produces. One way to identify your personal style is to choose 3 to 5 adjectives to guide your fashion choices. Check here for an exercise that will help you do that. Pinterest is another excellent tool to help you identify or clarify your own style. This post will show you how that works.

5.  Dress for the occasion. 

When it comes to clothing, we seem to have become an anything goes society, but you will definitely feel more confident when you dress appropriately. That doesn’t mean following a bunch of archaic fashion rules, but simply being sensitive to the occasion and the location. For example, if you’re going to a job interview, find out what type of company it is and what the work environment is like, then dress accordingly. For any event, when in doubt, I recommend erring on the dressier side.

6.  Wear what you feel most comfortable in. 

I mean that literally. If you find walking in high heels uncomfortable, choose flatter shoes. If a particular fabric is uncomfortable against your skin, avoid it. If something feels too tight, don’t wear it. In my opinion, comfort is key to feeling good in what we wear.  As far as styles go, while I encourage you to step outside your comfort zone and try new looks, if something is going to make you feel self-conscious or uncomfortable, don’t wear it.

7.  Get rid of clothes that make you feel second-rate. 

If there are pieces in your closet that don’t fit, aren’t the right colour for you, don’t suit your body type or your personal style, or that make you feel uncomfortable, now is the time to move them out! Reserve the space in your closet for things that make you happy.

8.  Don’t try to copy someone else or be someone you aren’t. 

Don’t compare yourself to others or try to copy them. Take inspiration from women whose style you admire, but be yourself. Mimicking someone else won’t give you the confidence you’re looking for.

9.  Don’t be so hard on yourself. 

What do you say to yourself when you look in the mirror? What negative thoughts do you repeat about yourself? A woman who values herself accepts and appreciates who she is, including her imperfections, so stop beating yourself up! Instead, practice positive and respectful self-talk.

10.  Wear what you love, not what anyone else tells you you should wear. 

Shopping with friends can be a lot of fun, but their taste might be different than yours. Consider their advice, but resist buying something that they like unless you know that it’s actually right for you. Similarly, don’t let the fashion industry dictate what you wear. As I said in my last post, wear what makes your heart sing!

Fighting invisibility with fashion

Logo by SamIf you haven’t read the first two instalments of this series about age related invisibility or Invisible Woman Syndrome, you can find them here and here. Today we’ll bring the series to a close by looking at how style can help us be more visible.

We could dress like 101-year-old style icon, Iris Apfel, but that might not be our best option!

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Instead, let’s begin by thinking about style adjectives. What do you want your appearance to say about you? I’m sure you wouldn’t pick words like old, tired, or boring. No! Instead, we want to tell the world around us that we are current, confident, approachable, and comfortable with who we are. So, how do we do that?

Notice that I didn’t include words like young, youthful, or trendy. We want to be noticed for who we are, not for trying to be something we’re not. Those of us who’ve been around for 50 years or more are never going to be young again, nor do most of us want to be, but great style is possible no matter how old you are. Pay attention to trends, but add them to your wardrobe judiciously. Stay abreast of what’s modern, fresh, and relevant, but consider adding bits that are on-trend to an otherwise classic wardrobe.

Vibrant, visible women ignore so-called fashion rules and dismiss antiquated ideas of what’s “age-appropriate”. Instead, wear what makes you feel confident and present. Wear what makes your heart sing! When you do that, you’ll walk into a room with a bounce in your step and your head held high and people will notice. Being visible is about more than what you wear; it’s about attitude!

Don’t be afraid to wear colour. Neutrals might form the core of your wardrobe, but you don’t want to look drab. Even a small pop of colour can add interest and visibility to an outfit. Just make sure that you know which colours suit your skin tone and wear those close to your face.

Play with accessories. A statement necklace, an interesting bracelet, a colourful scarf, or a unique handbag will help you stand out.

Finally, wear a smile! It’s an inexpensive fashion accessory that’s available to everyone! Research has actually shown that people who smile regularly appear more confident and are more likely to be approached by others.

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And it doesn’t cost a cent!

You don’t have to be invisible

In yesterday’s post, I mentioned that 7 out of 10 women feel that they become invisible as they get older. Personally, however, that hasn’t been my experience, so I’ve been asking myself why. Why, at 70, don’t I feel invisible?

In spite of the fact that I’m naturally an introvert, I’ve learned to live my life out loud. Writing the blog has helped a lot with that. I’ve also taken to heart my father’s teaching that there’s no end of interesting things to do in retirement as long as you don’t need to be paid. I live a busy and productive life. 

Positive vibrant women aren’t invisible, but remaining visible as we age does require energy and intention. Here are some tips that might help:

  • Be interested and interesting. 
  • Live audaciously. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and try something new.  
  • Stay actively involved in life.
  • Be curious. Ask questions and continue learning.
  • The world is constantly changing, but try to keep up! Even if you don’t use all of the latest technology, keep moving forward and don’t live in the past. 
  • Reading or watching the news can be depressing, but you need to know what’s going on and be able to discuss it.
  • Show an interest in people of all ages.
  • Maintain connection with interesting people; people who “see you”, who hear and respect you, who inspire you, and who value your input.
  • Be positive and engaging. Initiate conversation with those who don’t seem to notice you.
  • Learn to be upfront about what you want or need. Speaking up and making yourself heard comes easier for those who are extroverts, but we can all do it and the more you try the easier it will become.

Although women tend to experience age related invisibility more often and at a younger age than men do, these suggestions apply equally to both genders. No one should accept being made to feel inconsequential!

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In tomorrow’s Fashion Friday post I plan to bring this series to an end by looking at visibility and style. I hope you’ll join me.

Do you feel invisible?

“One’s reward for marching through the decades is a gradual process of erasure.”                                  The Book of Lost Names, Kristin Harmel

If you’re an older woman, whatever you define that to be, have you ever been made to feel invisible? Maybe you’ve been overlooked for a project or a promotion at work. Maybe you’ve felt unseen when you entered a restaurant, a garage, or another place of business. Perhaps you’ve been ignored while younger customers received all the attention from shop attendants. Maybe you’ve felt invisible at a social or family event. If you’ve ever felt this way, you’re not alone! There’s even a name for it, Invisible Woman Syndrome.

A survey by Gransnet, a busy social networking site for people over 50, revealed that 7 out of 10 women feel that they become invisible as they get older, beginning as young as age 52. Nearly two-thirds believe that older women tend to be more invisible than men of the same age. Nearly two-fifths of the respondents said that younger people have patronized them as they’ve gotten older and a quarter said that if they’re out with a younger person, people tend to talk to the younger person rather than to them.

Many of these women are well educated and have interesting careers. They may be well traveled and involved in a variety of worthwhile activities, so why are they made to feel invisible? What is it about an older woman that society finds unpalatable? Why does she lose relevance as her body ages?

Unfortunately, age discrimination is real, especially for women, but it’s more than that. Ageism walks hand in hand with sexism. Older men are often seen as powerful and distinguished; their grey hair a sign of knowledge and experience. Women, on the other hand, often feel pressured to appear younger than they are in order to be taken seriously.

Personally, I’ve really only noticed the onset of age related invisibility in one area. I no longer have to put up with the unwanted and sometimes inappropriate sexual attention from men that seems to go along with being a younger woman. I see that as positive, but it doesn’t work in favour of those older women without partners who are interested in dating and forging relationships with members of the opposite sex. Too often, they go unseen while older men look instead at women who are twenty years younger.

So, do we simply accept being invisible? Short of jumping up and down and screaming, “CAN’T YOU SEE ME?” what can we do to be more visible? In order to keep this post from becoming too long, that will be the topic of tomorrow’s post. In the meantime, though, I’d really like to hear your thoughts about this topic. What has your experience been? If you don’t feel comfortable sharing here, please feel free to email me at elainedebock@gmail.com.

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Artwork by Hanna Sidorowicz