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The Brains, Beauty and Brawn Behind the Out & About Dress

Kelly V Out & About Dress

I have always been an athlete, even from my youngest years. I have been a gymnast, a runner, a weight-lifter, and even a pole vaulter. And I always wanted to be comfortable in my clothing. I have distinct memories of myself at around age 12: I had gotten a new leotard, but it pinched me at the armpits and I hated wearing it. Another time, I recall having a pair of pants that didn’t fit right at the waist, and when I crouched down, it gaped at the back. To this day, I still get many of my shorts and pants altered so they fit at the waist.

I suspect that my desire for comfortable clothing made it more difficult for me to make friends in high school. For me, comfort always overruled stylishness, so when I had pants that were too big (but exceedingly comfortable), I simply put on a pair of brightly flowered suspenders! My favorite type of workout shirt was a T-shirt with the arms and the lower seam cut off. I was quite a sight! But I was also a bookworm, and my desire for a high GPA and extreme strength overshadowed anything fashion-related.

In college, I made a valiant attempt to get a degree in dietetics. The stress level of the science courses was so great that I needed to offset the stress with physical activity. One semester, I took three PE courses: two of them weightlifting! I come from a muscular family, and by the end of that semester, I had bulked up so much that the only shirts that I owned that fit me were T-shirts.

After five painful years of working toward a dietetics degree, I came to the difficult conclusion that perhaps a career in dietetics wasn’t going to be a good fit. So after examining my options, I chose the degree that would get me out of college in the fastest manner possible: Home Economics. I already had seven food or nutrition classes, so all I had to do was throw in a few courses in fashion, interior design, and personal resource management. So that’s what I did!

Home Economics wasn’t a huge leap, because I’ve always been interested in needlework and baking. I learned to crochet at age 8 and I started knitting when I was eleven. I even won the grand prize award at the county fair for my afghans. (It’s not too difficult to win when there is basically no competition!)

In college, I started attempting to knit sweaters. I made a half dozen or so, and was always sorely disappointed by the way they fit. You see, most traditional sweaters are box-shaped: knit a big square for the front, a matching square for the back, add two sleeves and some ribbing at the bottom. And voilá! You have a warm, unflattering sweater!

In my Nutrition classes, I learned about different body types (pear shaped, apple shaped, etc), and the health risks and benefits of each type. I learned about hip-to-waist ratio, and after comparing notes with other classmates, I learned that I had a pretty significant difference in my hip-to-waist measurement. And my primary fat storage in was in the rear-end region (as opposed to the belly region). Aha! So that’s why most pants didn’t fit me properly.

In my Garment Construction course, we furthered our studies about the human form, learning about the different shapes of shoulders, bellies, breasts, hips, and how those measurements affected garment fit. I learned that, compared to the general population, my shoulders were uncommonly square and somewhat broad, and that I had thick muscular arms, and short, thick thighs. I was also large-busted, and had a smallish waist. My classmates and I compared measurements; not from a judgmental point of view like is so common in the fashion magazines, but from an objective point of view. It was enlightening to finally understand why clothes didn’t fit properly: they weren’t made for my body measurements!

unnamed-1Today, my desire for comfortable clothing continues. But now I’m better aware of what is flattering and what is not. I have the amazing good fortune of working from home, as my own boss and thus, I live in comfortable clothing. But on occasion, I need to visit clients to take photographs of their construction projects. On those days, half my time is spent in the office, talking with engineers, and the other half of the day is spent literally crawling around boats under construction; it’s like a combination of yoga and photography. Those days require special clothing that needs to look professional, but perform like yoga pants. Those types of days are what inspired this dress design. I wanted a high-performance dress that looks like I’m headed out to dinner or a meeting; but it’s tough enough that I could workout in it, if I wanted to. 😉