May 24, 2002
Many Happy Returns

I'm returning another shirt this morning.

My L.L. Bean order arrived in the middle of the afternoon yesterday. ("More bike stuff?" asked The Fed-Ex Guy, as I signed for the package. "Another shirt," I replied.) After the delivery, I buzzed JoAnne and announced that I was taking a fiver. Then I ran down the hallway to The Dirt Company bathroom to try everything on.

I immediately loved the sleeveless, flowery little "muscle T" (size XLG). It's made out of some kind of silky/stretchy/slinky material -- kangaroo foreskin, maybe? -- and it fits me like a dream: snug in the places that need to be snug, unsnug in the places that need to be covered with as many *Fabric Molecules* as humanly possible. If the shirt has any flaw at all, it's the fact that technically it isn't a cycling shirt, so it doesn't have any of those weird-but-handy little pockets in unexpected places. Still, I can already tell that it's going to be a warm-weather favorite, and that I'm going to get a lot of mileage out of it.

(Read this: we'll all be sick to death of looking at it by mid-July.)

Unfortunately, the other half of my order, the raglan tank (also size XLG), is a horror. On the L.L. Bean website, it looked trim and neat and vaguely preppy. Upon closer inspection, it turns out to be dark, ugly, heavy -- it feels like it's made out of an old gunny sack -- and completely unsuitable for sweaty trail rides. Plus the armholes are cut so wide and so deep, you could reach in and unhook my bra, right there in the middle of the Iron Horse Trail. (Not that you would want to do such a thing, of course. But if you needed to, you could.) This morning I have carefully re-packaged the ugly tank top for return, along with the requisite refund request and another politely whiney note about how difficult it is to find appropriate riding wear for the middle-aged cyclist.

And thus the quest to find Secra's Perfect Cycling Jersey continues.

This has been going on for a couple of months now. So far I have ordered and rejected cycling jerseys (or shirts I can potentially use for bike-riding) from, the REI Outlet Store, Lands End, Terry, Trek and Team Estrogen. Mind you: not everything gets sent back. Occasionally I get lucky, and something I've ordered online turns out to fit me as well in person as it did in my imagination. I've recently scored a nice Columbia Sportswear tank top from the REI Outlet store, for instance, and a couple of Roxio jerseys from the Team Estrogen website. Plus I have high hopes for the new little flowery muscle-T from L.L. Bean.

But by and large, I end up sending back more shirts than I keep.

Online shopping itself isn't the problem. I love shopping online. I refuse to give it up, frankly. I love the ease, the convenience, the selection, the challenge. I love the fact that I can sit there in front of the computer and shop in my Happy Pants and my Miss-Clairol-stained T-shirt, and who the fudk is going to care? And of course I especially love the blessed absence of unctuous sales clerks/public fitting rooms/public fitting room MIRRORS.  (If I could have purchased my wedding dress this way ... believe me, I would have.) I don't even mind returning the stuff that doesn't fit/doesn't flatter/doesn't look big enough to fit an Olsen twin, let alone a 44-year-old woman with underwire issues. I figure it's a small price to pay for all that convenience.

The problem isn't trying to find bike clothing in general, either. I've managed to successfully locate and order bike shorts, tights, regular T-shirts, even special cycling socks and underwear online with zero problem whatsoever.

The PROBLEM is that I am a 40DD Lilyette living in a Wonder Bra world.

I'm not fat. I'm not even all that overweight, anymore. From the ribcage down, I'm a nice, average size 12-to-14. It's from the ribcage up that things get complicated. Since the age of fourteen or so, blouse-and-sweater shopping has been this ridiculously complex/needlessly frustrating nightmare. A standard Large, for example, may fit me beautifully through the shoulders and arms, but it makes my chest look like a Saran-wrapped Butterball. An Extra-Large, on the other hand, may give me more room through the chest, but I pay for it with floppy sleeves and sloppy lines. And any of the "Plus" sizes just hang on me like maternity wear ... a look I've long since lost interest in, thankyouverymuch. Shopping for cycling jerseys takes this frustration to whole new levels. Sportswear manufacturers are clearly not designing cycling jerseys with my peculiarly lumpy demographic in mind. The problem is further exacerbated by the fact that cycling jerseys -- like wedding gowns, interestingly enough -- are apparently designed using the same sadistic and misleading "sizing system." If it says "Large," you can bet that it will look great ... on your ten-year-old. Even an "Extra Large" cycling jersey is skewed smaller -- and tighter, and shorter -- than I am comfortable with. It's sort of like squeezing into one of my little brother's Little League jerseys.

It is not a good look for me.

Still, I stubbornly plan to continue doing the bulk of my cycling-clothing-shopping online. I figure that one of these days all of my diligent surfing and research is going to pay off, and I'm going to stumble across My Perfect Bike Jersey: something light and simple and flattering, made out of a silky fabric that "breathes" well and washes easily  ...  in a selection of pretty solid colors or tasteful patterns: no fluorescent unicorns or dancing hula girls, please ... at LEAST mid-hip-length, relaxed across the bust but neatly tailored everywhere else, with tons of pockets all over the place, available in both sleeveless and T-shirt styles. (It would also be nice if the bicycle jersey didn't cost more than my bicycle, but I realize that may be nitpicking.)

I know it's out there somewhere. I just have to keep looking.

And every once in a while one of my 'politely-whiney little notes' actually gets me a response. Witness this nice e-mail I received yesterday from Susan at Team Estrogen, my favorite of all the women's bicycling websites:

... I looked back to your previous orders to see what you had ordered so I could try to figure out what might fit you best.

Terry has two different "cuts" of clothing. The first is the "regular sizing" of xs-xxl and the second is the "plus" sizing of 1X-4X. Although there is some overlap in measurements between a Terry 1X and a Terry XL and XXL, the SHAPE of the jerseys are quite different. As you noted, the 1X is very full through the waist and hips. The plus cut is designed to be very full in those areas. From your description of yourself, you are chesty, but don't require the fullness through the waist and hips of a plus-sized jersey. You might wish to consider a Terry XL or XXL instead. For example, an XL is recommended for a 40-41 inch bust and a 31-32 inch waist. This will give a closer fit through the waist and hips than the plus.

You can find the sizing chart here: sizing chart.

Hope this helps.

Now that's what I call customer service. Plus she complimented *FootNotes* AND she asked if they can use some of the riding-related entries on the Team Estrogen website. (All my most important buttons pushed in one warm-and-fuzzy e-mail.) Maybe I'll visit the T.E. website again this weekend, as a way of saying thank you, and order that bazillion-dollar Paloma jersey I've had my eye on for the past couple of months.

As long as they have it in an XXLG, that is.

Have a great Memorial Day weekend, everybody!

p.s. nope. i'm not ignoring you. and one of these days -- when i remember how to write e-mail again -- i'll prove it.

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