We feel (slightly) bad about our muffin tops

... or what my delightful friend Lou, a francophone, calls her "top muffin".

"Feel bad" is of course borrowed from Nora Ephron, who grieved her crêpey neck, and "feel bad" is an overstatement, but past 50, even thin women can discover that unsettling spread, and not one prays for it. 

Upright, I have a midriff, seated, it stretches wider than a beauty queen's smile. The region just above my waist has acquired a second, pillowy life.

For those of you thinking, Just buy some shapewear: we both hate ugly elasticated nylon. I'd prefer an actual Scarlett O'Hara boned and laced corset to Spanx sausage casing. Lou won't consider underwear like Spanx' Shape My Day camisole because she spends a great deal of time in the tropics.

Trousers are muffin magnets unless well-cut and high-waisted (what used to be the natural waist height till the advent of low-rise jeans.) I buy NYDJ and Talbot's jeans and will pay nearly anything for trousers with a fluid leg and that body-accurate waist. Lou reminds me that skirts always reach the natural waist, and adds, Size up—we try to fit into a size that flatters our vanity, but not our body.

As for tops, sweaters and shirts need some mid-torso ease to accommodate the body shift when you're seated, but a 'big shirt' looks as if the muffin's in its paper bag.  Tip: when shopping, try on anything to see how it performs sitting down, and forego thin or clingy fabrics. Our dream shirt has a shaped yet forgiving fit provided by darts, ruching, or a peplum.

From autumn through spring, Lou and I wear Eric Bompard sweaters; I like the classic v-neck cardigan, which I wear as shown, buttoned like a top; Lou wears the v-neck sweater. Their extra-fine cashmere, though, is dicey—dreamy, but less forgiving.


In warmer weather, I often wear an LL Bean sailor shirt. The stripes, which women are typically told to shun because of their widening effect, work like a patterned swimsuit: they give the eye somewhere to go besides wondering if that's blueberry or bran under there.
Besides the classic navy/white, they offer many colours (shown, azure and grey), sometimes on sale for $20, with free shipping. I've bought French brands (St. James, Amor Lux), but keep reordering Bean's, at least one-third the price. The mid-weight cotton knit washes and holds up well, too.

What else works? Jackets—as any portly man knows—are deft disguises. I wear them as outerwear; Lou wears indoor ones, and just bought this washable Betty Barclay cotton/nylon/viscose ecru to for a spring trip to Australia.


A definitely curvy 5'4", Lou chooses pieces like this Madewell/daryl k mixed-print dress, which she wears over capris or leggings. Blouse-length tunics hit her at the widest point of her hips, which she doesn't like, so she wears a dress (or, what is sold as a dress to those who wear them short) that ends mid-thigh instead.



She also wears vests, zipped over a long-sleeve t-shirt or blouse, and looks for feminine versions like Eddie Bauer's StormDown print:

She is eyeing Belgian designer Sara Pacini's crochet linen poncho, which she will try in the Montréal boutique. "Could go either way, dressed up or down", she says, and sees it worn over her fine white tee, which these days is not being worn on its own.


Dresses could be a post unto themselves, so in short: raised waist, shift, or a-line, rather than fitted at the midriff, unless the dress has a good shot of stretch. Prime example: Lafayette 148's linen jersey pleated dress.  Some readers will be more concerned about arms, but a dress that covers everything is not much fun.


And then there's the simple, pragmatic tactic of Muffin Acceptance. Why hate any body part, especially in one's grownup years? That doesn't mean you're going to see either of us in cropped tees or low-slung trousers. But minimal camouflage is all we're willing to muster, and then meet for a café au lait.

It's spring! We don't want to feel bad about anything, let alone that midsection brioche


PS. Speaking of spring, I want to be sure to alert you to Kojima Company and Pacific Pearl's spring sale, 20% off all items on either site with the magic word SUPEARLATIVE (use in the discount code box at checkout) until April 27!











16 comments

hostess of the humble bungalow said...

I love NYDJ in a higher waist to help smooth out that muffin top area...it was super hot yesterday so I wore a longer tunic top with some touching in the middle and an asymmetrical hemline with some mesh detail at the bottom and popped on some Capri tights. The ultimate in camouflage.
I wear heavier weight tops too that do not cling...will go check out LL Bean and look at their tops. Thank you

Madame Là-bas said...

I have just ordered a pair of NYDJ for summer. The tunic is becoming my go-to piece. I think that in our 7th decade, the hourglass disappears and the midriff comes into prominence. I'm doing My Fitness Pal right now for health reasons but I think that self-acceptance is the way to go.

Janice Riggs said...

Brioche! That's the answer.... rather than the everyday muffin, the much more elegant brioche. It just sounds like a much nicer body part when described this way.
thanks for your thoughtful post - many beautiful things to look at, and clever ideas to ponder,
hugs,
Janice

Frugal Scholar said...

I stand/sit in front of 20-30 somethings when I teach. I've always been self-conscious about my middle. Scarves--the bigger the better--work well for me. When it's hot, I use those meant for beachwear (pareos).

Noelle said...

I have found that wearing an Eileen Fisher silk tank instead of a cami or the dreaded shape wear allows clingy tops and linen sweaters to "glide" over my brioche area.

LauraH said...

Some really useful ideas, thanks. I too wear Eric Bompard fall into spring, preferring the V neck pullover in several styles (can't get past my dislike of patch pockets on cardigans). Summer is linen shirts and linen pants, can't stand anything that sticks to my skin when the heat and humidity hit. I see women wearing leggings, etc. in the summer, can't understand how they do it. Anyway, as you said, the difficult part is finding well fitting pants, an ongoing challenge. I find spring/early summer and early fall a bit difficult - too warm for cashmere (I stay away from the tissue weights, can't pull that off) and not hot enough for linen. I will definitely be checking the LL Bean tops and really like the idea of a vest over a long sleeved tee.

Australia - that should be fantastic. I have friends who have been several times and they always rave about it.

LauraH said...

BTW love that Betty Barclay jacket, wish they had other colours. This is a new brand/store for me, something to keep an eye on.

Sisty said...

You read my mind, Duchesse. I just bought a couple of pairs of pants from a consignment store near me that is closing next month, because, being "vintage," they both fit at the natural waist. One is Talbot's, the other Ralph Lauren. Ditto for more substantial fabrics and the empire waist. And I won't wear shapewear either. It's all in the cut of your clothes.

One thing I have been intrigued by lately are tops by NYDJ that have an underlayer of light webbing designed to hold in your brioche under the shirt. I own one, and am considering another, button-down-type shirt that has a mesh underlayer with a zipper closure -- genius (I think). Do you have an opinion on these?

Sisty said...

Oh, and I also have a small but nice selection of marinieres -- mine are from Boden, but I'll have to check out LL Bean. I completely agree that, above the waist, the fabric is much better when it has a little more substance to it. Not to mention the fact that those tissue-weight t-shirts develop holes very quickly.

Cherry said...

Love the "muffin top in its paper bag"! This post is right up my alley, off to check out some of the suggestions

lagatta à montréal said...

Lovely to get this on a warm, sunny day that is just starting to get hazy. Speaking of muffins, brioches and company, on the 30th, it will be "La fête du croissant": http://lafeteducroissant.com/

I've often seen young women, not particularly overweight, with muffin tops. Simply out of shape, or a garment that is really not designed for most female forms?

The high-waisted solution is fine if one isn't too busty. It can look ghastly on a d-cup or more. The fabric in that dress looks exquisite.

It is the Queen's 90th birthday. http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/apr/21/queen-family-portrait-grandchildren In the portrait with her dogs, she has a shirt or blouse worn untucked atop her skirt, and it looks fine.

Barbara Schieren said...

Oh boy. Of course I have this additional pillow which I not yet can accept in total.
Lately I visited Vienna and there is an EB Shop. The vendor convinced me to try on the "Maxi V Neck Sweater", an item which I never would have thought about b/c of the volume and length( I'm 165 cm). But it's cut is tapered so one can play around with the length. During the Sale I bought a second one and wore them the whole winter. It simply looks great and the V-Neck is just right.
Now in Spring me too wear those striped Tees and for Summer I bought some Tees "Jacksonville" by American Vintage. Although a bit thin in material, the cut is soo forgiving and I love their delicious and subtle colours.
But really, never ever Spanx. Once tried it on and could'nt stand it evenfor a few minutes.

BTW, even Jane gained some weight (saw an Lincoln Center Interview on YouTube) due to the loss of her daughter and following medical Treatments against her depressions.

I think, muffins are not so much the result of too much eating (which I don't). I lost 3 cm in body height and have to take medicine for diagnosed reflux. Both seems to be a reason to gain weight in this area. But a dear friend of mine lately died of lunge cancer because of her longtime smoking. She always has been thin and there was no body fat at all.
Not an alternative.

Carolyn from Oregon said...


I have more of a popover than a muffin and it's a problem at any weight for me. Worse as I age. A high enough waist /rise is the best thing I can do to minimize. I need a very long front rise (10")and it's really hard to find that.

I like Miraclebody and JAG as well as NYDJ. I just discovered Lisette L of Montreal pants and they are the best yet. I prefer the heavier weight in a straight, boot or flare cut.

Duchesse said...

Carolyn: Thank you for mentioning Lisette L, they are terrific. I have a pair for work.
US customers can find them online here: http://www.essentialapparel.com/b/lisette-pants?gclid=CKHh7NznqcwCFQcKaQodfMEB8g

For Canadian customers:
http://www.dream-pants.ca/LISETTE-L-MONTREAL_c_34.html?gclid=CPazr9XnqcwCFZKCaQodSlAH5w

Duchesse said...

Sisty: I have notseen those mesh insert shirts; it would depend for me how constricting they are. So if you try one would love to hear about that. However in general I don't find their tops very exciting- but have not seen many.

une femme said...

I can't abide shapewear either, so often look for tops that S K I M my midsection, some graceful shaping at the waist or a little flare a plus. That linen poncho looks like a fabulous piece for summer evenings that cool down.