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Power is Fitness is Beauty: What I Learned from Roller Derby

Roller Derby Hips & Curves

By the time I hit my teens, exercise was about what was wrong with my body, not about how I felt doing it. Gone was the joy of gliding through water, or the satisfying thunk of catching a ball.

But shame, it turns out, isn’t a great motivator. I couldn’t keep climbing the stair machine in the gym, watching the calorie counter slowly absolve me for breakfast, and then lunch, every day for very long. My pattern of pursuing fitness came in short spurts: I’d be dissatisfied with the curve of my stomach, arms, and thighs, and try to run or stretch my body away. Eventually, I’d realize I didn’t hate the way I looked enough to endure the drudgery of daily activity I didn’t really like; and I’d stop. Until the process started again, a few weeks or months down the line.

And then came roller derby. At first, I was drawn to it for the same reason I was drawn to any physical activity — it’s quite a calorie-burner. But after a few weeks of practice — once I no longer looked like an awkward baby giraffe on my skates — I realized something new: it was actually fun.

Roller derby is played entirely on roller skates around an oval track between two teams. Each team has a ‘jammer’ and four ‘blockers’, the jammer wins points by passing their opposition’s blockers — the blockers try not to let that happen and help their own jammer pass the opposition. It’s complicated, but it’s one of the most fun sports to watch — and to play.

In derby, we get so close to others that we can feel their body heat and sweat; we can sense their breaths and heartbeats. We are relentless.

But, playing roller derby, I have a feeling of strength I’ve never had before. I don’t know where my tireless motivation to keep going — even when it’s very hard — comes from. And I now see my body as effective and competitive. It can exert influence in the world. It’s not something I care to whittle away anymore.

Watching women skate is a thrill. Sometimes they make their way around the whole track in only a few strides, the sound of their wheels echoing around the venue. Players leap on their toe stops, jump while rolling, stop on a dime. I’ve never known my body to be great at balance, but I’ve started to do these things too.

Off-track, the derby community is fundamentally nice. We about the stench of sweaty protective gear and how to fit in more squats in our day-to-day lives (squats while doing the dishes, squats while waiting for the kettle to boil or the bus to come). But it’s also deeply accepting.

This is a place for a diverse set of body types. Thin skaters can be particularly speedy. Tall skaters are good at strategy because they can see the track in-play from a vast distance. They can also take big, powerful steps and glide past everyone else. Short skaters have a lower centre of gravity, which means they’re advantaged when it comes to balance. They can also get into tricky spots and can be difficult to defend against. And bigger skaters are hard to knock down, or pass.

Turns out, good endurance and agility are within reach of all body types.

When I started roller derby, I began to accept myself.  The challenge for me physically isn’t changing my body anymore; it’s learning how to work with it. Exercise, something that once felt psychologically toxic and begrudging has become a well of enthusiasm and stimulation. For the first time in my adult life, physical activity has been about becoming stronger and learning fun and challenging skills. My weight is completely beside the point now; the point is how fitness makes me feel.

Lingerie Diaries

It’s What’s Underneath that Counts

It's what's underneath

True confession: I’m a matching-underwear fanatic. It’s a little out of control, but I have it down to a science. When I shop for underwear, I look for a color I like first, and then a cut and fabric, and I always buy one bra and three matching panties: The one bra is because I don’t always wash them after every wear, and the three panties are so I can have one pair sized up one from what I usually wear for the bloaty time of the month, and the other two for whenever.

And if I can’t find three matching panties in stock, I move on to the next bra.

I’m not sure why I do this. It’s not out of allegiance to personal style, or any one color; or any one maker of underwear. And, as my friends who know about this particular affliction of mine regularly say, “It’s not like anyone sees your underwear.” “But I know,” I say back to them, but that’s such a weak rejoinder, automatic, something right out of a self-help book from the mid-90s, or Dr. Phil.

Anyway, when I first started the whole matching-underwear thing, I was dating a lot. Hey, I was in my mid-20s! It was New York City! Other people were definitely seeing my underwear.

But there was something else that was going on: I was feeling pretty good about life. I was meeting a lot of people, living in a fantastic place, experiencing and seeing new things every single day. I didn’t love my job, but I didn’t hate it, either. I think I was in what some people call the prime of life.

Plus, most of my clothes were black and I actually had two or three three-piece suits in my wardrobe from my day job. Yep, I was put together, but I also probably needed something to liven up my closet.

You know, in some circles, underwear is referred to as “foundation garments.” I know, doesn’t it sound so clunky, for something that can be frivolous, and fun, and frisky? But I like this idea, for something that’s so basically a part of your daily dress, for the thing you put on first.

But I like it even better for the idea that I first started wearing matching underwear during a specific period in my life–that it was a good time in my life that made me go in search of foundation garments that matched my state of mind.

Because, let’s face it. I’m in my 40s now, and I don’t live in New York anymore. I go out maybe once a week, and my wardrobe has divested itself of black suits and somber colors and seems to entirely comprise colors (Melon! Teal!) and jeans.

Maybe that’s why I keep on buying matching underwear. Because even if it is just me, my husband and my dog knowing what I’m wearing, well, at least I know that somewhere deep below, only as far away as my tank top and jeans, is the firm bedrock of someone who likes what she’s made of herself.

What’s your go-to, feel-good piece of clothing? Tell us in the comments below.

 

Be Fully You True Confessions

Cold Plaster

Hips & Curves Cold Plaster Blog

When I was young and crazy and living in San Francisco, I met a man with a beautiful Italian accent, a mane of dark hair, and an annoying clove cigarette habit. He called himself a sculptor. We will call him Ignazio.

Ignazio told me he sold his work to the fanciest restaurants in town, where the pieces were used as mock-ancient décor. He took me to dinner at one so I could see.

Hovering around our pasta al’oglio and zuppa di pesce were ghostly female shapes —torsos with arms outstretched or hands crossed at the heart and full-length bodies in classical poses, some holding drapes, others in repose. His “sculptures” — a mute and frozen Greek chorus — were actually plaster life casts of nude women.

A few were burnished on hips and hands with gold leaf. Others had been dusted at décolletage and derriere with sepia-toned powder. All were backlit, spot lit, or warmly glowing from hidden Christmas lights.

After fishbowls of cheap house Chianti, he asked if I would model for him. He couldn’t pay me, he wanted to be clear, but I’d become “himor-tal” as he put it. I blushed and stumbled over my words–but of course, I said yes.

Preparing for our session was anxiety provoking and time-consuming. He had warned me that the plaster would stick to body hair. That meant I would actually have to shave my armpits (he hadn’t mentioned the bikini area, so I just assumed I was posing for a waist-up torso). I wasn’t thrilled about the shaving. But I made it happen.

Ignazio worked his magic in a borrowed garage in the Sunset district, a typically grey neighborhood facing the Pacific Ocean. The place where he expected me to strip down was as cold and damp as a basement, and lit by the harshest fluorescent lights I’d ever seen.

He had a space heater the size of a toaster and a bucket of paste already prepared. I had a robe in my messenger bag, but there was nowhere to dis-robe without being seen. I had to doff it all right there in front of him; instinctively, I turned my back as I removed my heavy sweater and jeans.

The first red flag went up immediately. When I turned to face him, cheesy smile, goosebumps marching up my spine, and hands protectively placed over my groin, I noticed The Look. That’s the way a man will telegraph his disappointment without saying a word. “Hmmm,” he frowned, his gaze lowering to my belly. “A few sit-ups wouldn’t kill you.” My mouth opened, but nothing came out. I closed it, and he moved me into place and got to work.

He asked me to hold a drape, which was just a thin thrift store bedsheet soaked in plaster. He took my right hand, folded the slimy fabric into it, and positioned it at my right shoulder. Not only was the drape uncomfortably cold and slippery, but it was also heavy. Ignazio arranged my left hand low on my left hip and moved to tuck another part of the fabric there, when he stopped. “I told you to shave!”

“Riiiight,” I said, questioningly. “And I did …”

“No, no–you did not take it all off. This is not good. The plaster, it’s going to stick.”

I thought he was going to tell me to leave. I was blushing, but he was not looking at my face.

“Oh, the plaster …? I’m fine with that. Really.” I panicked, embarrassed, wanting to be The Muse at all costs. “I’ve done waxing before,” I lied, “ripping off a little plaster won’t bother me.”

And so he proceeded. The drape was moved into position across my body, smoothed again my skin from shoulder to thigh, breast to bellybutton, and below.

Still mortified about my pubic hair, I soon had another problem. The drape was so heavy and the plaster so cold that I started to shiver uncontrollably. I began seeing little glimmers–stars–at the edges of my vision. Please don’t let me faint.

I asked Ignacio if we could take a break. “I’m not feeling so great. I think I need some water, maybe a snack.” The Look shot my way again. He shrugged and turned away to wipe his hands on a rag.

“Uh, would you mind handing me my bag?” Clearly, I was pretty much glued to the spot where I was standing.

This seemed to be too much to ask. He turned back to me. “You know, maybe you actually shouldn’t eat anything. I need my models to be nearly perfect, and I’m already dealing with your pot-belly stomach.”

And with that, something snapped in me. Being a muse is clearly overrated. I dropped the sheet and scraped clods of half-dry plaster from my skin. Pulling my sweater on and shoving still-sticky legs into my jeans, I told him I was done. Without waiting, I grabbed my bag and bolted.

I waited at a rainy bus stop, with plenty of time to think over what I had just experienced. Predictably, I was depressed and, worse, self-critical. I felt fat — and stupid. Why did I ever think I could be someone’s muse?

As those doubts morphed into a burst of rage, I felt myself rise up inside. As the bus headlights finally came my way, the anger shifted into exhilaration. I’d taken myself out of a bad situation, and now I knew:

A muse should be worshipped, not criticized.

Be Fully You

Season of Gratitude

season of gratitude hips and curves

A friend of mine keeps a gratitude journal. In it, as her only concrete reminder of the day, half daily diary, half meditation, she lists three things she’s grateful for, every single day.

I find this a nice idea. I adopted for a little while for myself, actually– scientists and multiple studies regularly point out the benefits of such practices, including better productivity and happier outlooks on life–but while I did find myself smiling over my trifecta of gratitude, or whatever, each night, I also found it far too easy to lapse into generalities. My list of three items, I found, would veer into nebulous territory like so:

  1. Husband
  2. Dog
  3. Clean sheets

I mean, seriously. So I was thinking about ways to narrow this down, to keep myself more, um, centered, I guess, if that’s not too mushy of a way to put it. I think I was looking for a way that I could really focus on something tangible that made me feel grateful.

And then I realized: I was already in it, the thing that makes me the most grateful: My own body. I’m grateful for it, every single day. I’m grateful for the way I look in jeans. I’m grateful for the fine tendons in my wrist that show up when I tie my shoelaces. I’m grateful for the fact that it moves mostly fluidly, at 42, and even on days like today, when I’m fighting a cold, I’m grateful that my body can tell me when I need to take a break at watch Gilmore Girls reruns.

We’re all so busy preaching things like living simply and loving ourselves, that we forget to take stock of the fact that those things can be hard. I mean, living simply is a complex mechanism, a set of steps, a whole process. And loving yourself is a lifelong work. We all have days where we wonder how we made such a hash of an entire 24 hours.

But being grateful for brains, which think; our hands, which feel; our hearts, which can both hurt and give great joy; our feet, which move us forward every day? That’s a piece of cake.

What about your body makes you feel grateful? Tell us in the comments below.

Be Fully You H&C

Donate A Bra, Support A Woman In Need.

Donate Your Bra, 20% Off!

Do you have extra gently used bras that no longer fit?  Your old bra could benefit women and girls in desperate need, and help the environment.  The Bra Recyclers is a leading bra recycling company that has partnered with Ambassadors around the world to recycle over 1 million bras and support over 80 non profit organizations.

In partnership with The Bra Recyclers®, Hips & Curves will offer a 20% discount to anyone who donates a bra in November.  Bras and undergarments are recycled and/or distributed around the world through exporters or Bra Recycling Ambassadors to deserving families.  Support women and help the environment!

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Follow these 3 simple steps to donate your bras:

1. Wash It. Recycled bras that can be worn again should be washed. Prosthesis and mastectomy bras are accepted!

2. Return your bra to Hips & Curves 11099 S. La Cienega #170 Los Angeles, CA 90045

3. We will email you a 20% off coupon towards a new bra (or anything else on www.hipsandcurves.com) when we receive your old one.

Questions?  Call or Chat M-F from 8am – 5pm Pacific Time.

 

 

Be Fully You

My #BeFullyYou Story: Evelyn

Be Fully You My Story Evelyn

We asked women to share stories about that moment something inside them changed and they made the decision to be fully themselves.  Share your stories with us at [email protected] or by tagging us on Instagram @hipsandcurves using the hashtag #BeFullyYou

A moment for me that I can say I took a huge step was back in 2013. I was going on my fifth date after my horrible divorce and all the men I dated seemed to not flare anything inside to even kiss goodbye or hello. That’s not me.

I’ve always been the shy old fashion person to let the man take control and of course I’d know when to say no. Well, that night something about him made me feel as if I was back in high school and just getting to know boys.  I was raised in a Christian boarding school for so long and never was allowed to speak to boys.

Chris, my fifth date took me to a bar and we had one beer as we talked and spent the night as if it was only us two. It started to get late and we both had to work the next early morning. As he was driving me home I asked him to stop close to this turn out (mind that we live in wooded area in Northern California) it was dark and the stars were out and beautiful. He turned off the truck and I asked him to come closer and that’s when I took him by his shirt, pulled him in and I kissed him. I almost took his whole body weight and dragged him to me. Makes me laugh because I felt like some sexual beast getting ready to pounce.

Never in my life have I took that first step and a big one for that matter. I felt strong and independent as if “that’s right, I got this” kind of feeling. Chris and I are getting married this October and if it wasn’t for my crazy bold move I would have never been so happy in my life as I am now anticipating wedding day.

That kiss was my bold and big move that I can honestly say changed me for the better. Thank you all for reading my superwoman story.

———

UPDATE: Evelyn & Chris were married on October 8. 2016 🙂

Be Fully You

Alicia Machado’s Lesson for Us All

i-say-if-im-beautiful

Encouraging body positivity is what we do here at Hips & Curves. We don’t usually get involved with politics. Frankly, we don’t think our bodies should be used as political talking points at all.

We’re talking about Alicia Machado, folks. We’re talking about how it is that one woman’s body became someone else’s property–in the twentieth flaming century.

For those of you who have not heard the story, Alicia Machado was Ms. Universe 1996. She gained a little weight following the competition and was subsequently publicly shamed by Donald Trump, who ambushed her with news reporters at a workout, called her “Miss Piggy,” after some weight gain, and “Miss Housekeeping” because she’s Latina. He stood over her, in his suit and tie, monitoring her workout, and said to reporters gathered for the occasion, “…this is someone who likes to eat”. You know, wink wink, nudge nudge. These experiences left Machado with years of eating disorders.

Look, we get it. It could be argued that when you enter and win a beauty competition, you are contract-bound, or something, to keep up with your looks.

But that’s not reality. Bodies shift, and change. And, most importantly, ladies, your body is yours. You want to run for a beauty pageant? Be our guest, you gorgeous creature. You want to model? Go for it. You want to wear that corset, that teddy, that miniskirt, that sleeveless top? Go on. We’re with you.

But no one else owns you or your body: Exercise when the mood strikes you. Dance if you feel like it; take a long, luxurious morning in bed if you want. Have a snack. Enjoy a good meal. Pole dance. Salute the sun, or the moon, or go for a swim. Or not.

There is one part of you we would like to influence though, right here and now: Your self-talk.  It’s easy to fall into the trap of caring what people say about you. Someone telling you you’re fat? Use those legs to walk straight away. Someone saying you like to eat? Show them the hand. That person over there saying your body is causing trouble? You open up that mouth of yours, and you tell ’em.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  The only one that matters is you.

True Confessions

I Was Afraid To Dance

Afraid to sing and dance at concerts

I can’t believe I wasted so many years of my life feeling self-conscious at concerts. You know what I used to do? I used to sit in my seat and rock back and forth to the music. (Years ago I met a guy who worked in a psychiatric hospital and he said the patients used to sit and rock like that.) Sometimes when the people in the row in front of me stood and blocked my view, I got on my feet, crossed my arms and bobbed my head a little. What a knotted-up little shoelace I was.

And yet when I’d listen to the same music at home, I’d be all over the place. Especially if I was home alone. Sometimes music can transport me so completely to another place, I can’t even see the room around me anymore. I teleport to a concert in my mind. A private performance for me and everyone I’ve ever met. People from seventh grade, my first job, therapists. They’ve all been flown in and given first class hotel accommodations because I just won the lottery and this is my one big treat to myself before getting down to the business of saving the world.

I finally decided I didn’t want all the best concert experiences of my life to be in my head. I was going to dive into those shows like a crazy woman. I was going to flail around, scream like a fourteen-year-old girl, dance my ass off and sweat. And I wasn’t going to care what anyone thought.

What was holding me back? I was afraid of looking like an idiot. AT A CONCERT. Can you believe it? I mean, come on, this wasn’t an audience with the queen. I was afraid to stand up and move my body when there were rows of spectators sitting behind me who could turn my spastic dance moves and quivering body parts into a joke. I was afraid someone sophisticated nearby would think I was childish for shouting “OH MY GOD I LOVE YOU!” and roll their judgy little eyes. I was afraid of shocking people with my drenched appearance because I sweat a lot and it doesn’t take much for me to look like I’ve just stepped out of the shower. I was afraid my shirt would be so wet, everyone would be able to see the outline of my bra. OMG.

I remember asking myself once if I only had a week to live, what would I be sorry I didn’t do? And I thought, Acting like a nutball at a Duran Duran concert. Because Duran Duran is my favorite band and  has been for thirty years. But in my younger years I attended too many Duran Duran shows applauding primly from the edge of my seat and basking in the dryness of my armpits and scalp. WHAT a WASTE!

Those days are long gone. Ask anyone who’s been to a show with me lately. In fact, not only do I enjoy myself with wild abandon, but I shamelessly carry a ratty old gym towel to concerts with me, and a hand-held fan, too. No, it’s not hipster and I don’t care. You might even say it’s bordering on advice from AARP magazine. Why? It’s about enabling myself to party on longer. The towel keeps the sweat out of my eyes so I won’t miss a thing. The fan keeps me from passing out so I’m conscious for every number. Because I want to be there, mind and body, one hundred percent.

Be Fully You

Dating With Low Self-Esteem

Dating With Low Self-Esteem

I would always pull the same guy — the bencher. You know, the guy who likes being around you but doesn’t want to be in a relationship with you, so he keeps you around until he can find something better. He is the one you only hear from once every two weeks to a month. He always texts you, but he never calls. This is the same guy who never takes you out in public or spends time to get to know you better.

There was a time not too long ago when I felt I needed a man. Finding someone who could really love and adore me was high on my priority list. I would go every day trying to figure out how to make myself look more available and approachable to the opposite sex. I needed someone to caress my self-esteem and nurture my confidence. So, I decided to start seriously dating. Basically, I began my manhunt.

I had just finished talking to a guy who looked good on paper (and in person, might I add). I’ll call him Benjamin. Benjamin was very sweet, intelligent, tall, handsome, very muscular, but a bencher nonetheless. I said to myself, “This time will be different,” and I let him know my intentions upfront. Ten months, a couple of meet-ups and many text messages later I reiterated my intentions. I told Benjamin I wanted to move forward with him and he agreed. Two months later there was still no progress. That’s when I realized Benjamin was my fourth bencher in a row. I shook my head and thought, a year of my life wasted.

A couple of weeks later (right on time) I got a message from him. “Hey. How are you?”

I politely cut the string because I no longer cared to sit on someone’s bench.

Instead, I decided to work on the reasons why I felt I needed these “relationships” in my life. I stopped trying like a mad woman to land my next boyfriend. I finally started spending time with myself and realized I was settling for any kind of love, because I did not feel I deserved the right love for me.

Just to feel a man’s arms around me used to make me feel more confident. Even if it was only for a few minutes, it felt good to have someone in my presence with the intent of romance or love. Even during sex, the act itself wasn’t something I desired. It was the intimacy I craved. It was the way he would kiss me, look into my eyes and slowly try to please me and make sure that I was comfortable. In that moment, he needed me. It was that sliver of a moment that always got me hooked — when it seemed like he cared. It fed my self-esteem but offered no other value. It was like I needed permission to feel sexy in my size, and for a little while I felt like was getting it.

I stuck around because I wanted more than a quick fix. I wanted love so much I would hand my heart to any man willing to take it, whether they deserved it or not.

This past year, dating with low self-esteem has helped me learn a lot about myself. I realize it’s time to appreciate my value as a woman.

One day I sat down and listed everything great about myself — things I might have been too afraid to say out loud, or felt I needed permission to believe. I read that list and said Eff it. I will love myself no matter who has a problem with, whether it’s a man or a woman.

I decided to hold off on dating for a while. I wanted to make sure I was more confident in my own skin. Any man could cross my path, but only the right one could walk into my life and add value.

I love myself! And I know it has only been a few months, but I have grown so much. When it comes time for me to date again, I will be better prepared.

I will have clear standards.

I will recognize when it’s time to walk away.

I will not settle.

And despite the outcome, I will love myself fully for exactly who I am and without needing anyone else’s permission!

I Love My Hips & Curves

Michelle of Laces, Bows & Secrets

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#ilovemyhipsandcurves features stories of Hips & Curves’ community of amazing women, who are on the journey to be fully themselves. Tell us why you love your hips & curves and share your love of lingerie with us on Instagram–tag us @hipsandcurves, and include the hashtag #ilovemyhipsandcurves 


Plus size self confidence. Having lingerie has changed my life in ways that I never dreamed.

Everyone knows that confidence is sexy. I knew that. I wanted that for me.  But I couldn’t find my self confidence. It was hiding from all the well meaning store clerks who looked at me with pity when they told me that they didn’t carry my size. It was hiding from me while I avoided mirrors in my foundation garments.

Over the past 12 years my body had changed dramatically with age and pregnancies and life. I hadn’t fit into core size lingerie for over a decade. My experiences of trying to find pretty bras had left me in tears. My underwear predominantly came in packs of 6 from Target. My bras were medicinal. “Sexy” meant wearing black. My lingerie drawer was humiliating. I was living in a lingerie desert. It was pretty depressing.  Until my father’s cousin’s daughter, who I haven’t seen in a lifetime, changed my life with a Facebook post.

Finding links to lingerie stores that carried beautiful items in plus size was akin to a spiritual eureka. I made my first purchase at Hips and Curves a few weeks later. It took a couple of weeks to sift through all of the gorgeous items available to me. I will always remember my first order. The Burlesque corset, and the All Over Lace Short Shaper Skirt with garters and stockings.

I became obsessed learning all that I could. I became obsessed with beautiful lingerie in plus size.  I went from having essentially nothing, because that’s all I thought a woman my size could have (should have?) to a woman with a dedicated boudoir in a little over a year. I now have opinions on stockings! Believe me, eighteen months ago my only opinion on stockings would have been “maybe if I lose weight…”

My self confidence had been hiding deep inside me. And in finding the plus size lingerie industry that welcomed me, I found my buried self confidence. And she is sexy as hell.