Real Quick: Kathy Najimy offers confidence through spandex, sizes S-XL only.

By | November 30, 2010

Ch'arms. No, really.

Don't you just hate it when people can see your arms?

Kathy Najimy is an “award-winning” actress who spent over a decade as the voice of a character on one of my most hated television shows of all time, King of the Hill. I don’t know what character she was, because as I’ve already noted, I really loathed that show. She’s also been in a bunch of other television shows and movies, though I mostly remember her as the fat nun in Sister Act.

Evidently Kathy’s had some free time even with all that acting, and has invented something that already existed, which she is now peddling on HSN under a name so precious and clever I would want to stab it if it had a body to stab. They’re arm-Spanx, and Kathy’s calling them “Ch’Arms”. The apostrophe makes it look French, right? That makes them fashiony!

But what are they for? Kathy, explain yourself!

“Ch’Arms is a garment problem–solver. For those of us who love the look of short sleeve or sleeveless garments but sometimes choose to have our arms covered, Ch’Arms gives us the best of both worlds.  No more bulky layers either under or over your cute shirt or dress.  Ch’Arms is lightweight and seamless and allows its wearer to feel comfortable and confident, covering your arms without covering your garment or body!”

I’ve mentioned that these things already existed, and they did — as dancewear, or as another product with another cutesy name that I have blocked from my memory, which was offered to me whilst shopping at Lee Lee’s Valise a couple years ago. And even before that! In my goth-clubbing days in the 1990s, we used to achieve the same effect by taking a pair of tights, cutting a neckhole in the crotch, chopping off the feet, and yanking the result on like a shirt, repurposing the legs as sleeves (custom thumbholes optional). It’s true that this was most popularly done with fishnets, but pretty much anything from Leg Avenue‘s line of “costume” hosiery would work. And this DIY sheer top was equally effective for plus sizes too, as I can reluctantly attest.

But I digress.

Kathy says above that this product is for people — oh let’s be honest here, we’re talking about women — who love the “look” of short sleeves, but would prefer them without all that pesky shortness in the sleeve area. Which begs the question of whether these people love the look of short sleeves at all, or whether what they don’t love is the look of their arms. Describing arm-coverage as a “choice” is also interesting; this language strives to avoid judgment. It’s true there are numerous reasons, many of them unrelated to a lack of arm-esteem, why a person might want to keep her arms covered: some women may do so to repurpose warm-weather clothing for winter wear, for example, while others may do so for religious reasons. However, this product is pretty obviously aimed at women who are simply insecure about the appearance of their upper appendages. This is about the freedom to hide your arms, ladies! You don’t hate freedom, do you?

Watching the videos on the HSN site is a must here, as Kathy refers to the Ch’Arms-clad mannequin by name, and at one point says, “You can see here that Margaret has changed her outfit, and now she’s wearing the beige [Ch'Arms],” when Margaret is quite clearly a mannequin and therefore incapable of changing her own outfit. I wonder if Kathy thought they were going to photoshop in a live model in post-production, especially since a flesh-free mannequin is hardly a great spokesmodel, given that Margaret’s arms look the same whether they’re Ch’Armed or not. And in a final ironic twist, this garment is not even available in plus sizes. Evidently slender women are entitled to a means of hiding their arm-shame, but fat women are not, and must do penance for their fatness in all those bulky layers until they can lose enough weight to merit a sleek arm-covering option. Thanks, Kathy Najimy! (Correction: Apparently they do go up to a combined “2X/3X” but they seem to be mostly sold out.)

This product is gimmicky, and at $30 a pop, grotesquely overpriced, not to mention a clear effort at exploiting women’s body-insecurities for financial gain. Oh sure, I hear Kathy say she’s trying to help all those ladies who choose to exercise their god-given right to cover their arms for vague and subjective reasons, but I’d argue that what would really help is assuring all women that their arms are fine just as they are, and certainly nothing to be ashamed of. So long as women are made to feel that their various body parts are unacceptable or ugly, this is not a choice. Arm-coverage can only be a choice when women are no longer pressured into hiding, obscuring, or altering their physical attributes that fail to be “perfect”, and Kathy Najimy is working to reinforce that influence, rather than to free anyone from it.

Meanwhile, somewhere in Southern California, Carnie Wilson is kicking herself for not thinking of this first.

H/T to Jezebel.


38 Comments

Rehaam on November 30, 2010 at 12:00 pm.

Wow she should come to Egypt where we have a store called Carina that sells every spandex-like garment available. Actually it started out making things just like these things for veiled women to be able to wear sleeveless tops and cover their arms. Now they even have spandex turtleneck things so veiled ladies can wear regular gowns to parties or weddings while covering their chests and necks.

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Laura on November 30, 2010 at 12:15 pm.

Never being a goth, but now a derby girl, thanks for the wisdom of the fishnets turned shirt. I’m always busting out my crotches and need a new use for those fishnets!

BTW, maybe she didn’t publicise this on the show, but the website you linked to shows this in up to size 3x. Also, why are the boobs cut out? Hide your arms but show those knockers!

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Erin on November 30, 2010 at 12:59 pm.

The boobs are cut out so it won’t interfere with the neckline of whatever top you wear over it.

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Hsofia on November 30, 2010 at 12:51 pm.

I would have loved these when I was Muslim. It is astonishing how few dresses (even casual ones) have long sleeves. And fashion generally dictates that if a garment is long, it must have a plunging neckline and/or short sleeves. But $30 is too much.

I have a friend who refuses to wear short sleeves because she doesn’t like her
arm fat. I think it’s sad to be self conscious about that, but I haven’t been able to convince that her arms are FINE. So she just never wears dresses, even at formal occasions. :(

I’m the same way about cleavage, though – never show it. I need one of those turtleneck things Rehaam mentioned.

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DaniFae on November 30, 2010 at 1:00 pm.

I think the boobs are cut out to accommodate necklines, no chance of your fake sleeves peeking out of the top of your shirt, if it’s cut like that.

That said, as a former goth, and a native Ohioan, I kind of like fake sleeves. The whole removable/addable bit of warmth thing worked great in the land of go to school in 70 degree weather, walk home in three inches of snow.

I used to pull the fishnet trick back in high school. No need to try and sell them centering around insecurity, they’re practical.

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Twistie on November 30, 2010 at 2:58 pm.

So basically it’s a long-sleeved spandex shirt with the boobs cut out. Yeah, that’s going to save me all kinds of heat from a second shirt I could actually wear by itself if I got too hot or decided to be brave and show off my shameful, shameful lady arms.

Plus, for thirty bucks I could find a deal where I could probably get two or even three long-sleeved plain tees in cotton or a cotton blend that actually breathes.

This is so far beyond bogus I can’t even imagine how to express it properly.

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Constance Kent on November 30, 2010 at 2:59 pm.

If you wore those “flesh” colored ch’arms, some people would assume you’d been badly burned. What a strange product! Thanks for the tip about using cut-out stockings on arms though — that idea might come in handy some day.

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Lampdevil on November 30, 2010 at 3:00 pm.

Wh… wha… uh? Hey! You can DO THAT with a pair of tights? Really?! OMG!!! This is going to revolutionize my wardrobe! :D Thanks, Lesley!

(Oh yeah, and I suppose that these Ch’arms things are pretty dumb, too, but… but but but OH MAN my head is just swimming with the crazy things I could go make for myself to wear! EEEE.)

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Christine on November 30, 2010 at 3:07 pm.

I think these could totally be practical as a way to winterize certain dresses, but for $30? Crazy. (Also useful for religious purposes), but as a way to cover arms that you might be self conscious about? I don’t know, even covered in spandex you can still see the shape and size of my arms, you know?

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Heather on November 30, 2010 at 3:20 pm.

Alright, so, even though I’m not personally crazy about the long sleeves under short sleeves thing, I get that this type of item might be useful to multiple-sleeve-wearers in that it could provide extra warmth and/or allow you to rock some sleeve-on-sleeve action with various necklines. After watching the video, however, I’m pretty convinced that these are not the reasons Ch’Arms were “invented” – and, more importantly, not the dominant reasons why these things were selling out. In the presentation of the spandex-blend option, Ms. Najimy refers to both the trunk and sleeve portions of the garment as providing a degree of “control” over their corresponding body parts, then adds, “…and you know what spandex does, women.” Wait, do I know what spandex does? Up until now I was pretty sure that all spandex did for me personally was make me feel a little sweatier and slightly more constricted than I usually do whilst wearing clothes. But you’re hinting, Ms. Najimy, that spandex possesses some intrinsic capacity for magic and that, apparently, all of us women know how to rub that particular lamp. Did I miss the Secret Spandex Handshake day during How To Be A Woman week? Am I just now finding out that wearing spandex will make colors seem brighter, food more delicious, orgasms more awesome, and kittens even cuddlier? Because, if so, I will totally give spandex another chance.

Oh…No. You’re saying that spandex makes our fat look less fatty. Poof. Real magical.

Even in the presentation for the “comfy cotton” option (favorite descriptor: “it’s like wearing a cloud”), the hosts present the garment not mainly as a warmth-provider or fashionable layering device, but as a tool for covering up our bodies when we don’t feel comfortable with them.

Ms. Najimy says, “I love my arms – whatever, god bless you, whatever you have. But the times you don’t feel comfortable having your arms show, you need to have the choice – the freedom and the choice – to go and shop in the short-sleeved section – which I never get to go in! – and buy any top you want.”

Well, look, I really would love the freedom to go into whatever store I want and buy any top I want, but that ain’t happening until way more stores carry clothes that will fit my fat body. Putting sleeves on is not going to do a damn thing about the real and quantifiable choices I have in the realm of fat fashion. However, putting sleeves on to “control” or “hide” a certain aspect of my fat body because I feel like body shame (and, specifically here, fat arm shame) is a natural, normal and defensible part of being a woman in our culture WILL affect my freedom and my sense of choice in dressing myself.

Thanks, Lesley, for calling Bullshit on this.

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Lesley on November 30, 2010 at 9:21 pm.

You’ve really nailed the thing that’s making me bristle most — the idea that some women are barred from shopping in “the short sleeve section” (is this actually a thing?). As I noted in the original post, and as a few other commanders have mentioned, there are lots of value-free reasons why someone might not want to wear shirt sleeves — but this product is clearly aimed at arm hate to turn a profit.

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Lesley on November 30, 2010 at 10:13 pm.

“Commanders” — LOL. Damn you auto-correct!

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cindy on November 30, 2010 at 3:30 pm.

I gotta say this makes me sad, because I mostly remember Kathy Najimy from The Kathy and Moe Show, which was possibly an HBO special from the early 90s, and I remember them as being somewhat subversive, although maybe not, I haven’t seen it in almost 20 years. I remember her from that more so than anything else she’s done since (which has mostly been mainstream and mediocre, imo). Huh. Saddening.

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JupiterPluvius on November 30, 2010 at 6:54 pm.

Yes, they were, on “The Kathy and Mo Show,” often very funny about body expectations and sexism in the media (Mo Gaffney still self-describes as a feminist activist, and was part of the Greenstone Radio experiment).

Kathy Najimy seems to be completely on board with the whole Hollywood thing now. Sad.

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Lesley on November 30, 2010 at 9:16 pm.

I remember this show too! I dig Mo Gaffney so hard.

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Michele on December 14, 2010 at 9:12 pm.

Yes, the K&M show was good (occasionally great), and I remember it being quite non-sexist, non-sizist, and otherwise feminist in every glorious way. Coincidentally, I recently viewed a YouTube clip of their skit “The Disney Moms Support Group” (am portraying Ethel Mermaid in a live performance of the one-act play version, which is in their collection Parallel Lives). *Sigh* Ah, well. Guess even Kathy has to make a buck these days….

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shyvixen on November 30, 2010 at 7:54 pm.

I’d like to announce a totally new product I’ve invented for women. I call them G’Loves. They’re for women who love the look of hands but also want the FREEDOM to cover their hideous looking, unattractive hands.

I don’t know why no one else has thought of these – only $30! Just in time for the holidays!

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Lesley on November 30, 2010 at 9:13 pm.

Oh shit I laughed so hard.

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KateJ on November 30, 2010 at 8:39 pm.

Lesley, I don’t think I’ve ever disagreed with anything you’ve written, so I’m surprised by and very interested in your King of the Hill hate (it’s a show I’m kinda fond of – but I’m not from the US so may be missing some context). Why do you loath it? Have you written anything about it in the past?

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Lesley on November 30, 2010 at 9:10 pm.

In fact, my hatred is TOTALLY IRRATIONAL! I know so many folks who love it but for some unknown reason the show irritates the crap out of me. And I even liked Beavis & Butthead. I can’t explain it anymore than I can explain my powerful disdain for beets and Taylor Swift.

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KateJ on November 30, 2010 at 9:23 pm.

I love beets!! I’m relieved that your KOTH hate is irrational – I was worried that I had missed something egrariously sexist/classist/whatever in it. My partner and I like it because our fathers were both Hank Hill types who got a thrill out of paying their bills on time.

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Nicole on December 1, 2010 at 10:32 am.

I generally don’t care for KoTH, BUT, Bobby’s character makes it worth watching on occasion if the episode is focused on him. There’s actually been a number of fat/body positive story lines and he is generally a character that marches to his own beat in a way you don’t see on tv much. Bobby sees himself as handsome and unique and often encourages others to accept themselves as they are.

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Michele on December 14, 2010 at 9:15 pm.

Taylor Swift disdain needs no explanation, Lesley.

Your (or anyone older than 8′s) love of Disney, however…..can’t quite get behind that…. ;-)

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thirtiesgirl on November 30, 2010 at 9:12 pm.

Ok, I’m down with the Ch’Arms dislike. Absolutely ridiculous, including the marketing and the price. I’m disappointed in Najimy for adding her name to this product. …But the thing is, otherwise, I really LIKE Kathy Najimy.

First of all, I LOVED her as the voice of Peggy Hill, Hank Hill’s wife on King of the Hill. Having known people who live in Texas, they’ve all told me that Peggy Hills are a reality in Texas, and I have met many women of a similar nature in California, although without the Texan drawl. Having loved KotH for it’s snarky take on American ideals, while having an earnest, heartfelt side, too, I’d be very curious to know your reasons for hating the show. It’s a piece of pop culture history, as far as I’m concerned, and I’ve never laughed so hard as I do at some of the crap that comes out of Dale Gribble’s mouth (he’s the conspiracy theorist in the orange ball cap, permanent mirrored shades and constant cigarette in his mouth).

I also love Najimy for being one of the first noticeable attractive fat women on tv, aside from Delta Burke and Mindy Cohn (although Delta might qualify as more of an ‘in-betweenie’). After Najimy’s humorous role as the fat nun in Sister Act and Sister Act 2, she lost some weight and eventually ended up on Kirstie Alley’s short-lived sit-com, Veronica’s Closet, in the late ’90s. Najimy’s body size was close to what it is now, although perhaps a little bigger.

The flimsy premise of Veronica’s Closet was that Kirstie Alley was a lingerie business mogul; her company, Veronica’s Closet, being a thinly veiled reference to Victoria’s Secret. Najimy was either her business partner, or perhaps a highly paid personal assistant…I can’t remember that far back into the ’90s. Whatever the case, a majority of the show happened at the Veronica’s Closet business offices, at which Najimy got to wear a business professional wardrobe that was slightly on the casual side. (We’re talking about a lingerie company, after all.)

When I first saw Najimy on Veronica’s Closet, I had just recently moved to Los Angeles and was working as a legal secretary at a big law firm. I had no idea how to dress my body in business professional wear, and still maintain a slight sense of individuality with my wardrobe. But when I noticed the clothes Najimy was wearing on Veronica’s Closet, on a body shape that was not too dissimilar to mine, I realized how I could dress professionally and still maintain a little individuality. Najimy’s presence on the show inspired me and helped me learn how to dress myself for my job at that time.

For that reason, and her Peggy Hill voice and characterization, I’ve been a Najimy fan for years. She’s also considered to be an outspoken feminist, human and gay rights activist, and was chosen to be “Woman of the Year” by Ms. magazine in 2005. She won $100,000 on Celebrity Poker Showdown and donated her winnings to V-Day, an organization that helps stop violence against women. …Yeah, the Ch’Arms thing is a big misstep, but I still can’t hate Kathy Najimy.

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Lesley on November 30, 2010 at 9:22 pm.

Thanks for supplying a fuller context for Najimy’s career — I wasn’t aware of a lot of this!

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kbryna on November 30, 2010 at 9:52 pm.

I kind of don’t understand this product. Is it like the wonderfully-named cuddl’duds, meant to keep you warm in the miserable cold of winter? or is it like spanx, meant to suck you in and leave deep indents and/or red marks in your skin?

From seeing a photo of my mother’s grandmother (circa 1955), I have realized I am genetically destined to have big round peasanty upper-arms. Thanks to HUGE, I am more comfortable in tanks & tees, but I do admit that it is sometimes hard to find fitted longsleeved shirts that accommodate peasant arms. Still, I won’t ever buy this moronic Ch’Arms thing, even if it gives me a wider range of shirts to choose from.

Also, unrelated to this discussion, the actor who appeared on HUGE and GLEE has (at least temporarily) actually been included in the Glee Club itself. She demands cadbury eggs as a requirement for joining, pitches a fit over raisenets, and is shown eating pretzels (basically, she’s a stereotypical fat person), but I like that actor and I’m glad she’s getting more screen time.

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Erina on December 1, 2010 at 6:34 am.

RE: the actress from HUGE who is now on GLEE – yes, there were fat stereotypes. However, she was also shown doing push-ups and there was a mention of her being a wrestler. So I like that she’s portrayed as an athlete and not a blob. And in the last song/dance set she gets some dancing screen time.

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Mulberry on November 30, 2010 at 10:40 pm.

As long as we’re talking about products meant to make some money off insecurity, I’ve thought of one, which I’ll call Gr’Eat. You don’t put it on your body – you put it on your food so nobody will see what you’re eating. What do you think?

Also in development: D’Ears, which are meant to cover those embarrassing ear flaws.

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Savannah on November 30, 2010 at 11:20 pm.

What’s next, Spanx for the unsightly chubby neck? It could even be called “What’s Neck’st.”

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Jami on December 1, 2010 at 12:45 am.

I hate my arms for three reasons.

1: I have the dreaded bat wings. I think they’re gross and I don’t want them seen.

2: I have stretch marks on those same bat wings. The doctor says this is because of my PCOS which apparently causes stretch marks everywhere – according to him at least.

3: I have a tattoo I really wish I could have removed. (I also have one on my leg I also want removed. I wish I never got them!)

That being said, when I wear short sleeves – that means I want my forearms to be cool. I want sleeves that fall to just above my elbow and NOT those bunch in the armpits slash sleeves or those make my arms look 5 times fatter cap sleeves.

If I want long sleeves, I’ll wear long sleeves!

I have, however, been looking for a SHORT sleeve “nude” arm shaper to wear under a top who’s sleeves are too sheer for my liking. I have a black Dr. Rey’s one is also “shapes” the back, sides, and belly, but he doesn’t seem to make them anymore. And all the others are too long like these. Where did all the short sleeve arm/back shapers go?

Course it would be nice if these things were made for women with short torsos like me. The one I’ve got always rolls up at the bottom because it’s so long it comes over my hips, which it’s not suppose to do.

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JonelB on December 1, 2010 at 4:42 am.

I join you in your hatred of King of the Hill.
I too, am surrounded by believers whom often wish to watch and rewatch entire seasons, as they all own it on dvd.
I pleadingly ask for perhaps a movie, or anime.
Nope.
My main problem is how the blonde is so ditzy, the mother as well, and how often Hank does the same crap my own father does, and the son is just…I dunno, I can’t really connect with anyone, it strikes a little too close to home–my dad has the red truck, we don’t live in suburbia but we have a dog and although my mom is the breadwinner my dad is in a blue-collar job, not propane but construction work/plumbing. For everyone else it’s amusing and far away but for me it’s just…blegh. Why watch a tv show about my crappy family? The only non-scifi or fantasy show I really got into was Huge anyways…

Anyways, this is like selling the “assfat” pants. Ashamed of your ass? Put it in them! Ashamed of your arms? Put these on them! Ashamed of your neck? wear a Nesk’st! Which companies sell junk like this when what we really need is body acceptance and confidence. Of course, you can’t really sell confidence or body acceptance, so these are the next best things!

As said before, such products already exist at specific places for real reasons–modesty, religious reasons, etc. And I daresay they’re cheaper there anyways…this one is aimed at selling with arm hate/body hate. I’ll put it on the pile with spanx, assfat pants, and other random anti-fat body shapers which we DO NOT NEED to be peddled to us.

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Veronica on December 2, 2010 at 9:42 am.

I don’t have it in me to get riled up over this. Just more of the same, methinks. The worst part for me is that it’s coming from someone who is “too big” herself, the self-hatred of so many “too big” people is so wide-spread and tragic.

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Christina on December 3, 2010 at 12:35 pm.

First of all waaaaayyy too expensive
Second I agree with you, Lesley, that it is being marketed to those with arm shame and that I don’t like.

All that being said, I work in healthcare and have a half sleeve tattoo that I have to cover up so the patients won’t think I am a biker criminal hooker slut (sounds like a compliment to me, anyway). I need to cover my arms (well m y left one at least) you tight idea is GENIUS!!!!!
I am sooo going to do this, the world of cute shirts has opened up to me with coordinating armings (aka tight legs) ha ha ha ha <– maniacal laughter

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Holls on December 3, 2010 at 1:44 pm.

I would very much like you to write more about ‘KING/hill’.
The ‘people like us’ classist creepiness that stays ~just~ this side of jerry springer level exploitation by masquerading as ordinary folks positive has always made me feel really icky.

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Holls on December 3, 2010 at 1:50 pm.

Ha. Nevermind. I shoulda read the comments first; clearly your aversion does not stem from a similar take on it to my own.

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Meowser on December 9, 2010 at 6:33 am.

Is the thing you tried on at Lee Lee’s called a “Molly”? I tried on one of those while I was there; it’s basically a short-sleeved, snug-fitting half-shirt you can wear under a spaghetti-strap dress. Since spaghetti straps are like the bane of my existence — the dresses are so cute! but just TRY finding a low-cut strapless bra in a G cup! — I contemplated buying them, but the price (a two-pack for $68) scared me off. Screw that, I could find a beige or white shirt in a thrift store and use it for that. (Or maybe try your tights trick, I never thought of that.)

So if the purpose of this product was to hide bra straps, that I could understand. But it’s supposed to be a flesh-hider? If you must, what’s wrong with a shrug or a shawl? At least then you wouldn’t get outdoors and find out that it’s a lot warmer than you thought and the damn sleeves make you sweat like a bottle of Gatorade, and then have to find a bathroom to get them off.

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Lesley on December 9, 2010 at 12:01 pm.

YES! That was it. Actually that was the shopping trip in which the Fatosphere descended upon Lee Lee’s en masse, correct? That was a good time.

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Meowser on December 9, 2010 at 10:26 pm.

Yes, that’s right! Whoo, that was fun.

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