How to Downplay Your Tum

I have a tum. A “spare tire,” to be exact. I learned that term from a Golden Girls episode many, many years ago, and it is the best possible descriptor for my particular tum. It is a small but pronounced ring of flubber that starts at my belly button and ends just above my pelvis. I look like I am wearing a teeny tiny inner tube made of bonus-Sal just above my hips. Oh the joy.

Now, do me a favor and don’t advise me on how to get rid of it, mmkay? My weight has gone up an d, but the tum stubbornly remained. I do about 16 hillion jillion ab exercises of every possible description each week, and believe me, I have UPPER abs that would make a model jealous. And yet … the tum remains. Two words, people: Staying power.

And the thing is – while I certainly have my big bad bloat days when I angrily threaten my tum with lipo or mesotherapy – the experience of writing a letter to my body helped me realize that my tum is simply a part of me. A natural part of me. Something in my genetics coded for “spare tire,” and dangit, there must be a reason.

Yet, I do feel better about how I look when my tum isn’t quite so … out there. So I’ve learned how to dress to draw attention away from – and even disguise – my tum. And since it’s unlikely that every last one of you fabulous readers has abs like Kate Moss, I thought I’d share a few of my secrets, on the off chance that you have a keen interest in tum diminishment!

Tricky to wear

Low rise jeans: As far as I can tell, this style creates instant muffintop on anyone with non-flat abs. The stiff waistband causes your tum to spill out and protrude further.

Fitted sweaterdresses: There are plenty of sexy dress styles that will flatter the figure of a tum-haver. Something that clings all the way down your bod is probably not one of them.

Drop waisted anything: If you have a spare tire, you amy also have a smallish waist and large-ish hips. A drop waist masks your waist, while drawing attention to your hips. And as drop waisted garments are frequently constructed like formless rectangles of cloth, the garment’s front will likely hang straight down from your rack. Your tum will take this formless, flowy-cloth opportunity to create a second rack-like protrusion just above your hipbone. Just sayin’.

Skirts with fly closures: A zip fly adds bulk to the tum area to begin with, and your spare tire is going to push on the fly causing it to protrude even further. As a matter of fact, anything with a fly – including pants – is best avoided. I know, I know, I have uttered a blasphemy. And I certainly ignore my own advice on Casual Fridays when I am desperate to don my comfy jeans. But the fact remains that a tum will work in conjunction with a button and zipper to create the illusion of mondo tum.

Easy to wear

High- and mid-rises: Ideally, you want a waistband that sits above the top of your tum. This compresses your tum a little, which means fitted tops will skim your body and accentuate your upper-half assets. Many bottoms tailored to a mid or high rise also will fit your hips beautifully.

Fit-and-flare dresses: This style of dress typically has a hard waist that sits above the tum and a full skirt that floats over it without clinging. This silhouette that accentuates your waist and skims your hips. Full and A-line skirts have similar effects.

Structure: Take it from me: In many cases, formless clothes will make you look like a sack full of live squirrels. Tailoring, heavy cloth, and princess seams will pull your look together. Don’t try to hide your tum under yards of loose, billowy cloth. Give your whole body some structure instead by choosing fitted garments, and your tum will fall in line.

Wide waistbands: Skinny little waistbands are the sworn enemy of the tum. They tend to subdivide the tum, thereby creating artificial bulges. A nice wide waistband worn directly ON the tum – on any garment – will give you a more streamlined silhouette.

Side- or back-zip skirts: Skirts are a fabulous option for the tum-tastic among us so long as they have a nice, flat front. Avoid fly-fronts (as mentioned above), and seek out skirts with a concealed zip entry. The less frippery you have going on in the tum area, the better.

Hopefully those of you toting a spare tire will find a helpful tip or two within this post, but I’m sure I haven’t thought of everything … anyone else have tum-disguising tips to share?

(Drop waist dress courtesy Nieman Marcus, Long and Lean jean courtesy Gap)

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Gorgeous Clothes for Post-mastectomy Bods

In college, I plastered my walls with posters and prints and postcards, desperate to show my schoolmates how creative and multi-faceted and INTERESTING I was. And that was kinda college-y of me, and I got over it and threw most of that stuff away.

But one I wish I’d kept was a postcard of a woman who’d had a gorgeous tattoo of a vine inked over her mastectomy scar. The photo was gorgeous. She looked a bit like Janis Joplin, with wild, frizzy hair, small eyes, and a welcoming mouth. Her arms were spread wide, and she looked deeply happy. Like she was soaking in some nice, soul-warming sunshine.

But most women who’ve undergone mastectomies aren’t quite so joyous. I can only imagine that living life with one or zero breasts is challenging and confusing on a daily basis.

A friend forwarded me this site ages ago, and it keeps falling to the bottom of the list. But as October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it seems more than apropos to show you these glorious goods now. Everything on the Chikara site is designed for women who have undergone mastectomies, and lemme tell you, these garments are so chic and gorgeously designed that a two-breaster such as myself is wondering what kind of karmic trouble I’d get into by ordering up a piece or two. Take a gander:


Tell me that those aren’t 100% gorgeous. GO ON, TELL ME. And then go whack yourself for being silly because they totally are.

And then after that, pass the Chikara site along to anyone you know who has been affected by breast cancer. Or anyone you know who knows someone. Or, really, any women in your life at all – because you don’t have to dig deep into your network to uncover someone whose life has been altered forever by this dreadful disease.

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The Color of Trust


My mom has fully embraced purple as this season’s “in” color. When I got home to the Chicago ‘burbs on Thursday night, I noticed that she wasn’t carrying the black leather handbag she’d mentioned picking up at Marshall’s a few weeks back. Instead, she was carrying a purple patent Kathy Van Zeeland shopper that caused me a moment of shiny aubgergine alarm. Friday morning, she came downstairs wearing a purple long-sleeved tee, and as she pulled on her sandals, I noticed that her toenails were painted a deep plum. The woman goes whole hog, and I dig that about her.

Mom and I feel the same way about fashion mags: They’re cheap thrills, and we both sift through them as a way to select the seasonal trends that we’ll embrace, and identify the ones that we’ll discard. We chat about what we see, and generally agree on the best new looks. Even though we are so physically different as to barely look related and have vastly different tastes in clothing, we usually hone in on the same styles.

But I’d never seen her adopt a trend so enthusiastically before. Usually, if we’ve agreed on the fundamental acceptability of a magazine-endorsed style, one or both of us will show up wearing it when next we meet. But this purple-palooza was unprecedented. And after spending the weekend with her and noting how much we talked style and fashion, I began to worry that I was actually, factually peer-pressuring my mom. That maybe my increased interest in and activity surrounding matters of style had made her feel like the had to bring her A-Game. Her profoundly purple A-Game.

Growing up, my mom never pressured me to wear anything … or to NOT wear anything. While Dad moaned and groaned at my overall-clad scarecrow-girl phase and begged me never to cut my long hair, Mom just kept her mouth shut. She trusted me to find my own style, and I’m certain that her quiet faith helped me explore and experiment to my heart’s content until I found the me I wanted to look like.

But in addition to allowing me breathing room – a passive kindness – she also did me two active favors: She dressed impeccably to her body type, and she seldom expressed frustration about her own figure.

My mom knows exactly how to flatter her bod and highlight its best features. She wears her fiery hair down every day, and makes sure to minimize distraction from it by wearing simple gold earrings. She shows off her arms and chooses tops that accentuate her strong shoulders. She embraces skinny jeans to show off her great gams. She is careful with color, sticking to a palette complimentary to fair skin and red hair. She is the queen of the statement necklace, and has an enviable collection that rivals my own. The first person to teach me that regular-person bodies can look superbly stylish was my mom.

And although I remember a few flip comments about her quirky shape, Mom never beat herself up about weight or shape or body. She laughed it off, and focused on more important matters. Perhaps she was secretly frustrated, but I never saw or felt her frustration growing up. And I became doubly grateful for that just last week.

Because last week I went to a body image lecture by author Courtney E. Martin. She said a lot of things that surprised me, a few that annoyed me, and several that rang through me like bells. One of which was that moms who turn to their daughters and say, “Honey, you’re beautiful and perfect just as you are!” but then turn to the mirror and say, “God, I’m so fat. I hate my body,” contribute to disordered body-image thinking and behavior in their girl children. That mixed message is powerful stuff coming down from the matriarch. And although I obsess and flagellate and cycle like nearly all women do, I can safely say that none of my body-centric neuroses were handed down to me from my mom.

I’m not sure what to think of Mom’s purple passion. Maybe she’s feeling pressure to keep pace with me, or maybe it’s narcissistic for me to believe that my influence prompted any change in her shopping habits. Regardless, I knew that I had to trust her as she has always trusted me. So even though the sight of her KVZ patent shopper caused me to involuntarily furrow my brow, I kept my mouth shut. I have complete confidence that she will find her own stylistic path through exploration and experimentation at 64, just as I am still doing at 31. And if that stylistic path includes shiny purple handbags, I can totally work with that.

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