It started with an untucked shirt. I mean, you put on a pound or two and you want to be comfortable, right? And maybe hide out in something just a little on the baggy side—that seems perfectly reasonable, doesn't it? And clogs are so easy to slip into—nobody really notices shoes, do they? Besides, the baby needs breakfast and the nanny is running late, and I've got to get to the office and who has time to deal with accessories or makeup...or one's reflection in a full-length mirror? Yep, it started with an untucked shirt, and before anyone could say "Stevie Nicks: the chunky years," the baby was ready for kindergarten and I had taken up residence in Shlumpadinka City.
I tell myself that it's obscene and vain and idiotic to think about personal style when the world is falling apart. This despite my mother's keen observation that "refusing to put on a pair of tailored trousers probably isn't doing all that much for the Iraqi people." Here is the truth:
I allowed myself to gain a lot of weight, and maybe as a punishment, or maybe as a form of denial, or maybe because I just couldn't find plus-size clothes that corresponded to the way I wanted to look (simple, sleek, modern, with just a hint of bling), I gave up on trying to look any way at all. I stopped paying attention to myself and hoped everyone else would have the decency to do the same.
Enter Adam Glassman. One part angel of mercy, one part dictatorial devil, all parts swathed in cashmere, Adam is the creative director of this magazine. But his influence doesn't stop there. The man is on a personal crusade to keep America beautiful. He will point out when your hair is too big. He will come to your home and angle your sofa. He will let you know if your hemline dips too low or your heels reach too high. To paraphrase Monsters Inc., he scares because he cares.
We are sitting in his office, reviewing an "O List" layout. "Adam," I begin, "what makes this particular candle so special?" He answers my question with another question, "What the hell kind of bra are you wearing?"
The rest is sort of a blur. All I can tell you is phone calls were placed, clothes were brought in, measurements were taken, and I suddenly find myself in a busy Madison Avenue shop aptly named Intimacy, where Dee (a.k.a. the Miracle Worker) ushers me into a dressing room, looks me up and down, declares me a 36 E (who knew?), and proceeds to fit me in every bra style ever devised. Now it's time for the body shapers. Suddenly Dee is Hattie McDaniel and I am Scarlett O'Hara getting my corset strings pulled till breathing no longer feels like a viable option. "My husband always helps me get into this one," she says with a Herculean tug. "Does your husband live near me?" I ask feebly. We settle on a lightweight little Spanx number called Higher Power. God may be good, but this higher power actually flattens my tummy.
The next day I walk into the office (though technically my chest arrives about seven seconds before the rest of me makes it off the elevator) and receive the following news from Polly, my unflappable assistant: "Adam stopped by." I hang up my jacket, grab a bottle of water, and reach for my glasses. "He probably wants to go over the schedule," I murmur as I click on the morning's first e-mail. Polly shakes her head: "He said he just wanted to look at your boobs."
All righty, then.
I walk the girls over to his place and am greeted with instant approval. "Whoa!" he says. "You're narrower and straighter!" I have impressed Adam Glassman, and life is sweet! "Your blouse isn't gaping at the bust anymore, and you've obviously gotten into your Higher Power. You now have a proper foundation. Do you know what this means, Lisa?" I know serving red wine with fish is generally frowned upon. I know Denny McLain pitched for the Detroit Tigers in 1968. I know love means never having to say you're sorry, but where this particular phenomenon is concerned, I'm clueless. "What does it mean, Adam?" "It means we can get down to business."
Business begins with Adam asking me to honestly describe my look. I think for a while. "Well, I guess I'm doing a second-trimester bohemian Greek widow kind of thing." He smiles—we've been friends for a lot of years. "I mean, I know the flowing earth-mother stuff just makes me look bigger...it might even make me look like I'm off to slaughter a goat in some weird religious rite—but I don't know how to fix it." I can feel my eyes welling up and my neck getting blotchy, but I forge ahead. "For starters, it's hard to look polished in these pathetic grandma shoes—where do I find anything even remotely sexy in extra wide? How do I find bracelets that fit my wrists? And clothes are so expensive," I say as my whine climbs the shrillness scale. "I've seen jeans that cost a couple of hundred dollars, not that they'd even fit me, and..." Adam nods in that way people nod when it dawns on them that they're trapped in a confined space with a crumbling crazy lady. "Take a breath, honey." He is calm but definitive as he slips me a Kleenex. "I'm way ahead of you."
He leads me to the fashion closet (which happens to be larger than my living room), where a rack of clothes is ready and waiting. He puts me in a little black dress—but it's sleeveless and I am horrified. "I won't show my upper arms and you can't make me!" I wail. He quells my hysteria with a purple cardigan and prescribes nightly biceps curls. Then he hands me a crystal necklace, black stockings, and a pair of heels he found on the Internet in an extra wide—and it all comes together. "The dress is double knit," he points out, "which holds you in a bit more." I'm wondering which organ I can put up on eBay to buy that dress. "And," he adds, "it's from Old Navy." He throws a tweed car coat with a funnel-neck collar over the dress: "This works with everything." He hands me another Old Navy dress—a jersey wrap. I don't love it, and I say so, but Adam instructs me to hang on, does some pinning to tighten the sleeves, and puts me back in my heels. "Okay, look again," he commands. I'm shocked by the difference. "You see, Lisa, sometimes a little tailoring takes a piece from just okay to fantastic. Notice how the skirt has some fluidity, how gracefully it moves with you; look at the way it hits right at the knee, and the way your underwear is smoothing everything out." I nod in amazement. "Good! Now quit rushing to judgment before we've even got your shoes and jewelry on."
I try gray slacks with an elongating pinstripe and top it with a silky print tunic. "The bejeweled V-neck creates the illusion of a leaner torso and draws attention up to your face. This is perfect for the holidays," he assures me. He puts me in a sharp black suit from Calvin Klein that drapes beautifully, and he insists I can wear the jacket with jeans. "Adam, I can't wear jeans—if they fit in the waist, they're baggy in the thighs and butt." He explains that this is because I'm not a plus size everywhere, that my thighs and bottom are actually pretty slender. It is a quote I plan to have engraved on my tombstone: "Here lies Lisa Kogan and her slender thighs." It gives me the strength to try 17 different jeans until a high-rise skinny-legged pair by a brand called Evans does the trick. Eureka! He pairs them with my new favorite top, a soft cotton jersey tunic with a bead-embellished scoop neckline (built-in jewelry!), and the Calvin jacket. We are both a little giddy with success. If I didn't know better, I'd say I was thin. I do, however, know better—the fact is, I'm not thin. But here's my newfound reality: You don't have to be thin to look great!
You've read the story. Now, see photos of Lisa in her new clothes! Plus, read more Lisa Kogan Tells All columns.