Fitness fashion

Sara Smith knows workout wear. The kinesiology grad and head trainer at OrangeTheory Fitness admits to having over a dozen pairs of runners.

“I basically live in workout gear,” she said with a laugh.

When I wanted advice on the best exercise clothing, I knew who to ask.

As a professional trained in physical movement, Smith is an expert on what to wear for different types of activity.

For running, cycling and any training involving heavy leg movements, she recommends compression leggings. The squeezing action in such tights helps prevent swelling in legs that occurs due to increased blood flow to the muscles and provides core stability.

Leggings can feel warmer than shorts, so look for sweat-wicking fabrics and mesh panels that will allow heat to vent.

Smith recommends Lorna Jane brand for great workout tights.

“They’re pricey, but worth it and last forever.”

Spiritual Gangster is another brand that makes super-soft wear for yoga, and Alo creates stylish leggings that look good outside the gym.

One of the most important pieces of workout wear for women is a good supportive bra, especially for those doing high-impact activities.

Smith, who just ran her first marathon, swears by the Juno bra made by Brooks. Even for women with D-cups and up, the Juno keeps everything in place.

“I’m a big advocate of the jump test,” she says. “Literally jump up and down in the fitting room when trying on a bra and see what happens.”

Save the cute strappy bras for lighter activities such as yoga or weight training.

Good shoes are another essential component of your workout wardrobe.

For cross training and other gym-based routines, you want a shoe with a lower profile that gives you more stability on the floor. Meanwhile for higher impact exercise, focus on cushioning. 

If you have wider feet, check out styles by Brooks and New Balance that make runners up to D width.

When shopping, Smith recommends talking to staff at the store to get suggestions on fit and do some laps to tell what feels best.

“And do a first test run on a treadmill so you can return the shoes if they aren’t right.”

Smith also notes it’s surprising the difference that good socks can make. Long distance runners should invest in pairs that have a thicker patch on the ball of the foot.

“It sucks to pay $20 for socks,” Smith laughs. “But I’d much rather have fewer pairs and wash them more often than use cheap pairs.”

She loves Stance brand for their quality and funky prints. 

Anyone who experiences calf pain and swelling should consider compression socks.

As cooler weather approaches, Smith has tips to help you keep enjoying outdoor pursuits. 

The body thermo-regulates by releasing heat from the feet, head, and armpits. So look for jackets with venting under the arms and wear an headband that keeps your ears warm instead of a hat.

Merino wool has unique thermo-regulation properties and makes for great base layers, including socks. Smartwool and Icebreaker are two brands to check out. 

“And the great thing about merino wool is that it is naturally antibacterial and doesn’t get stinky,” Smith says. “So it’s also excellent for long camping trips.”

All clothing mentioned in this column is available at the locally-owned Play store in Spall Plaza.


Holes in your head

A few months ago, my column on tattoos spawned several comments from readers who felt body art is a sign of attention-seeking. It will be interesting to see if this type of body modification garners a similar reaction.

But like it or not, piercing has become a mainstream expression of self and style for both men and women.

When I was a teen in the ‘80s, it was common for girls to have their earlobes pierced at least once and often twice. For those unfamiliar with the history of body piercing, this was not always the case.

Piercing has been practised all over the world since ancient times. Even mummies have been found with earrings.

During the age of exploration many sailors donned an earring, and male aristocrats in the 16th century wore them to signal wealth. It was not uncommon for women in the 1800s to have pierced nipples.

Piercing has fallen in and out of favour over the centuries, and has since became popular again in western culture over the later half of the 20th century to present.

By far the most common placement for piercings is on the ears. In addition to the lobes, you can also have holes punched through your tragus, rook, helix, conch, or other areas of the cartilage.

You probably had no idea there were so many names for parts of your ears.

Piercings on the nose, lips, eyebrows, and navel have also become popular, as well as...ummm...nether-regions I’d rather not imagine getting pierced.

Last year, I started noticing images of sparkly hoops through the innermost ear fold, called the daith, popping up on Instagram and style blogs. I thought the look was really attractive, so I recently gathered my nerves to have it done.

I visited a professional piercer who used a bit of numbing gel and a hollow needle to punch through the cartilage. Then a simple titanium hoop, which has natural antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, was inserted.

It was pretty sore for a few days, but thanks to frequent saline soaks it is healing nicely.

If you are considering adding any holes to your body, I would highly recommend seeing a professional piercer and thoroughly discussing your ideas.

Each piercing location has its own advantages and issues, such as varying healing times and types of jewelry that can be worn. But with all new piercings, following proper post-care hygiene is of utmost importance to avoid infection or scarring.

As for the bling, there are many specialty body jewelry shops for choosing your adornments.

Culture Craze recently moved from a kiosk to a large store location in Orchard Park mall, signalling the growing popularity of body jewelry.

Bodyartforms.com is an online store based in California that carries every conceivable type of body jewel, in every type of material from glass to surgical steel to gold.

One of the most fun parts of shopping at Body Art Forms is the opportunity to create custom jewelry. For example, you can pre-order titanium, Industrial-strength brand earrings in a variety of metal and gemstone colours.

I kept with classic clear zirconias on a silver-coloured hoop for my future daith earring, but you could choose pink gems with blue opals on purple-tinted titanium, or any other unique combination.

For a luxe look in real diamonds and 18 karat gold, MariaTash.com is the go-to. Known as the “piercer of the stars”, Maria Tash boasts a roster of celebrity clientele and creates stunning body jewelry for each type of piercing.

As another indication of the increasing popularity of piercing, traditional jewellers are now getting into the market.

“Canada’s Tiffany” and a favourite of Meghan Markle’s, Birks has just launched its Iconic earrings line featuring small huggie hoops, studs and cuffs sold singly so you can create an asymmetrical look. Shop in-store in Vancouver or online at maisonbirks.com.

Even if you aren’t interested in adding any new holes, this body jewelry look featuring small hoops layered with delicate studs is all the current rage.

And what I appreciate most is that these baubles are comfortable to sleep in, so there is no fuss putting in different earrings each day.

Curate your own unique set for round-the-clock style.

Sell your style on eBay

You may be harbouring a load of dough in your closet. If you have designer duds you no longer wear, convert them into cash by selling on auction site eBay.

Unlike bricks-and-mortar consignment stores, selling on eBay allows you to market your goods worldwide and keep approximately 90 per cent of the selling price. 

I’ve been buying and selling on eBay for several years, and have learned what works and what doesn’t. If you’re considering becoming a seller, here are my best tips.

First, there are definitely certain items that are better suited to eBay than others. 

Because you will most likely be shipping sold goods across the globe, it usually isn’t profitable to sell things that are very heavy and bulky.

For example, if you list your thigh-high leather boots for $50 and it’s going to cost $80 to ship them, no one is going to bid.

For this reason, small and light items such as jewelry are best for eBay.

Authentic designer goods sell well. As people are bidding on items sight unseen, there is a level of assurance that comes with well-known brands.

For example, buyers will be wary to bid on an unbranded silver bracelet. But if it’s made by Tiffany or Pandora or another popular designer, buyers know what to expect in terms of quality. 

Ready to list? If you are new to eBay, you will have to create an account. 

Create a name for your account that is not personal, but provides buyers with assurance that you are actually a real person. Sellers of counterfeit products often use random numbered accounts and savvy buyers know to avoid them. 

Feedback is a very important aspect of eBay. You can gain positive or negative feedback with every transaction, and bidders look very critically at sellers with no feedback.

To build up positive feedback, you may consider buying a few items first. My column Save Smart on eBay  provides tips on how to buy from the auction site.

If you are selling your first item with a zero feedback score, explain clearly in the description that you are new to eBay and can be trusted.

High resolution close-up photos of the item are vital to your listing. Take pictures of any markings, tags, or receipts that verify the authenticity of designer goods, as well as any flaws or damage.

Include a picture of your item next to a tape measure that will help buyers understand the size. 

Write a thorough description of the article. The description should include all the details potential bidders want to know:

  • exact measurements
  • composition
  • where you bought it
  • how old the item is
  • what will be included in the shipment such as the original box or dust bag.

Be completely honest about the condition of used goods. If the item has flaws not disclosed in the listing, the buyer can report it to eBay and you may have to provide a refund.

What price should you expect for your item? Used designer goods typically go for one-third to one-half of their retail price, unless they are very rare or in-demand goods.

Search eBay for what other similar items are listed at. I usually set my price at the lowest I am willing to let the item go for, and, occasionally, I’m pleasantly surprised when a bidding war breaks out and the item goes for higher than expected. 

If you don’t want to sell auction-style, eBay allows you to set a “Buy it Now” price and entertain offers. However, I suspect there is a psychology to auctions that makes buyers feel like they are getting a good deal.

Before listing, research to get an accurate understanding of what shipping costs will be. CanadaPost.ca provides estimates on their “Find a Rate” page. 

But realize that shipping costs can be barrier for some buyers. No one wants to pay exorbitant fees to get their item.

For this reason, I often set my listing price slightly higher and offer free shipping. Consider if you are going to add insurance and tracking to the parcel. It can add significantly to the shipping costs, but understand you are rolling the dice if you decline these services.

If the buyer says the parcel didn’t arrive and you have no way to track it, you will end up having to refund the transaction. 

EBay has partnered with PayPal so you need to set up a PayPal account to handle the financial transactions if you don’t already have one. 

Still have questions?

There are a ton of articles and a community forum on eBay.ca to help new sellers.

Simply scroll down to the bottom of their homepage for links, and start turning your unused items into cash. 


Ode to the fall sweater

Autumn is on its way, and this season has always been my favourite.

In childhood, it brought the return to school (yes, I was a huge nerd!), the bounty of the fall harvest, and glutting on sugar during Halloween. But, by far, the best part of the season has always been being wrapped in a big, cozy sweater.

As summer’s high temperatures recede, the outdoors becomes a Goldilocks paradise — not too hot and not too cold. Just right for a stroll amidst the turning leaves in a chunky knit.

When looking for that perfect sweater to add to your wardrobe, I always recommend paying extra careful attention to the fabric tag.

Acrylic, polyester and completely synthetic blends may come with a lower price tag, but tend to pill and stretch out quickly. I avoid synthetics unless there is only a minor amount of nylon in the blend to help retain shape and add durability.

Cotton is lightweight and breathable, making it great sweater material for early fall and layering. It can be spun into fine, thin yarn or thick, chunky knits.

When it comes to wool, there are great differences between the types of fibres.

Standard sheep’s wool can be scratchy, prone to pilling and shrinkage, and therefore is often mixed with silk or nylon.

Lambs wool is made from the first shearing of young sheep when they are only month’s old, so it is much finer and softer, and also more expensive.

Merino wool only comes from the special breed of merino sheep whose hair is less course. It has unique temperature-regulating properties so has become a popular fibre to use in activewear and base layers.

Cashmere is considered the Rolls Royce of wool, produced from cashmere goats. While it is softer and finer than traditional wool, it is also stronger and more durable. 

Cared for properly, a fine cashmere or wool-blend sweater can last a lifetime.

Spying through local boutiques and online shops, I’ve noticed that the trend for this fall seems to be sticking with classic shapes and neutral colours. I saw very few ultra-bright or patterned sweaters.

This is a good sign that consumers want to invest in high-quality timeless pieces rather than the gaudy acrylic sweaters of yesteryear, with the exception of the ugly sweater tradition at Christmas.

Some of the most beautiful knits that caught my eye were:

Everything from Everlane.com — This online ethical retailer makes gorgeous sweaters in cotton, wool blends, and classic cashmere pieces for only $100 US. They even make cashmere sweatpants if you want to feel extra-cozy.

Long and lean knits — Many designers have created duster cardigans and vests that skim the knees. These look equally great draped over a casual outfit or belted with a dressy ensemble.

Flared sleeves — For a polished office sweater, check out many of the new styles that feature ballon, blouson and flutter sleeves.

Silhouettes typically done in other fabrics — This fall, designers have embraced creating sweaters in the shapes of other popular top styles such as polos, blazers and hoodies.

Subtle embellishments — Rather than plastering a sweater with tacky decorations, this season’s knits feature simple adornments such as pearl buttons or ribbon side ties.

The new neutrals — Move over black. The most popular sweater colours tend to be much lighter than in previous years. Camel, cream, heather grey and blush pink are everywhere and go with everything. 

With a luscious new knit, I hope you enjoy sweater weather as much as I do.

More Fashion File articles

About the Author

Marla is best known for her 19-year career in the local charitable sector as a fund development and marketing manager with the Okanagan Regional Library, United Way, UBC Okanagan, and Kelowna Community Resources. 

In 2014, Marla and her husband decided to take a break from the work world, and, four years, later they are still enjoying Okanagan summers, winters in Mexico, and extensive travel. 

Marla has had a life-long passion for fashion, designing her own graduation dress and formal gown for the 1990 Miss Interior competition before age 20.

In 2014, she was named one of nine Style Ambassadors for a year-long marketing campaign at Orchard Park Mall. Her motto is “Life is short...you might as well go through it looking good."

If you have a style question or topic you’d like Marla to cover in this column, contact her at [email protected]

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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