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When Spandex Attacks: The Top 5 Worst Wardrobe Malfunctions in the Gym

Posted Dec 20 2008 7:17pm
It's the part they never show you in the glossy magazine pictures and peppy fitness videos: what happens when gym clothes attack. From small things like wedgies, camel toe, and muffin top, to big things like split pants, nip slips, and moonings to weird things like sweat stains in places people like to pretend they don't sweat, I've seen it all. So heat up a nice mug of schadenfreude because today I'm giving you a rundown of the top 5 worst wardrobe malfunctions in the gym. And you know most of them involve me. Sigh.

[Edited to add: One early commenter on this post was concerned that I and/or my commenters were making fun of individual people for their fashion sense or body type. I hope that that is not the case! In this post I try to keep the emphasis on what bad clothes do to good people. It doesn't matter what shape you are in or how long you've been working out, wardrobe malfunctions happen to the best of us and sometimes the only thing you can do is laugh at yourself:) I hope everyone feels safe here. Feel free to call me out if you think I'm bodysnarking!]

Five: Aerobics Instructor Splits Her Pants... And Keeps on Teaching
A classic example of good gym clothes gone bad, I had an aerobics teacher attacked by her spandex capris. There she was, teaching a great class and singing along to the tunes when she jumped into a deep squat. We couldn't hear the tear over the music but it became immediately apparent courtesy of the mirrors that line every flat surface in cardio rooms. What was also apparent was that she wasn't wearing undies. That was bad enough but the real hijinks ensued when we realized that she didn't seem to realize what had happened. At first I thought perhaps she was just going to finish out the track and then discreetly cross her legs for the rest of the class. But the next song started and she just kept on going, in spite of all the looks and muted giggles from the (thankfully all female) class. I mouthed to Gym Buddy Allison, "Should we tell her?" Allison shook her head as this teacher was not known for appreciating comments from the peanut gallery but changed her mind after the next song when it seemed the tear was widening. Before we got an impromptu class in Stripperobics, we approached her together. I politely pointed out the problem and Allison offered her sweatshirt to tie around her waist.

She waved us away with an impatient, "You girls worry about the silliest things!" And she finished teaching the class.

Four: Turbo Jennie Loses Her Top
I've shared this moment before - with her permission - but it was just so classic that it had to make my top 5. Jennie is known for her impeccable taste in workout attire. She always looks cute and put together but not in that I-spent-$700-to-buy-a-perfectly-coordinated-Lululemon-set way but rather I just rolled out of bed and happen to always look this darling. And on this particular day she was wearing a grey halter top that fastened behind her neck with a hook. A hook apparently made by Fredricks of Hollywood. It chose the moment when she was instructing the leg track in BodyPump, complete with weighted bar across her shoulders to disengage. Upon feeling the draft, quick thinking Jennie, turned around - bar and all - so her back was to the class. Which would have helped had she not been flanked by mirrors. Thankfully she was rescued by another instructor and in true fit teacher form didn't even drop her weights. Strangely attendance in her classes increased 10-fold after the incident;)

Three: Woman Aerobicizes in See Through Pants
There's a reason those super tight cotton leggings went out in the '80s. And it's not just because of the color blocking down the sides or a waistband you can tuck into your armpits. See, the thing is - they're thin. You wouldn't think that would be terribly worrisome as long as the wearer kept up on their personal grooming. But then you weren't staring them down while laying on your back doing abs. The combination of the thin cotton stretched too tightly, bright lighting and no underwear caused the Gym Buddies and I to come face to face with - well, there's just no polite way to say it - some distinct female anatomy. It was so shocking that I actually did a double take. It was Lindsay Lohan does group fit, minus any cutely placed smiley faces. Nobody needs to see that.

Two: Men in Split Shorts
So far all the victims have been women but men do not escape the wrath of Lycra scorned. Those of you who run in Serious Races (as opposed to the rest of us who "run" in "races") are well accustomed to seeing men running in side-split shorts. For those of you not so acquainted with this fashion delight, they're basically running shorts but much shorter and with a slit up each side that goes to the waistband to allow for greater leg movement (see above). For some reason I cannot comprehend they usually don't come with built-in undies and some men decline to wear any at all. Split shorts are fine and dandy for Serious Racing. They are not appropriate gym attire as demonstrated by not one but several charming older fellows at my gym. Evidence One: riding a stationary bike. Every time his leg went up, so did his shorts, causing Gym Buddy Allison to christen them the Cleavage Shorts. Evidence Two: the lifted quad stretch. This gentleman proceeded to lift his leg behind him in an elegant quad stretch. Sadly, I was right behind him and got to see what is normally the territory of nursing home or hospital staff. My mother, who is a nurse, says that if you've seen one set of twig-n-berries you've seen them all. I disagree. Ahem.

One: My Photoshoot for First
Last month I did an interview with First Magazine on how to get comfortable enough with your body to feel good working out in a gym (look for me on newsstands in January!) and part of the interview was a photoshoot. My previous experience as a fitness model was super fun and so I was all psyched to do this shoot. I had my own stylist! And makeup artist! And camera man (who giggled like a Teletubby)! And lighting assistant!

They all descended on the Y to transform me into a workout nymph and then photograph me in my natural setting. My first clue that things might not go as I envisoned should have been when they turned me into Sarah Palin in yoga pants. "Hmmm.... Does anyone ever tell you you like Sarah P..." the makeup artist started to ask as she covered up the burn marks on my neck that look like hickies despite being over 6 months old. "Tina Fey?" I interrupted hopefully. "Um, yeah, Tina Fey. You definitely look like Tina Fey." Because I'm sure Tina Fey works out in Tammy Faye worthy makeup and a bouffant.

My first top was cute: a little blue Danskin number with a built-in bra that actually made me look like I have something on top other than what belongs in a Kleenex box. I held 10-lb weights and preened and curtseyed and looked pensive and otherwise really ticked off all the people on the weight floor who had to walk around my circus to get to the weight rack. (Note: I started out curling 20-pounders as is my usual but then I realized that we weren't stopping at 3 sets of 8-12 reps. Nope, I ended up bicep curling for a solid half hour straight. While smiling. Which is how I ended up with wussy 10 pound weights. I have new respect for fitness models and their tiny baby weights. I was sore for days.)

The second outfit was where it all went wrong. We were well into hour two by this point and when I went into the bathroom to change, I discovered the second top - a super cute Champion dip dye tank - had no built in bra. I had no bra. The stylist had no bra. (For me. I'm sure she was wearing one. Not that I checked. Anyhow.) So I sucked it up and went commando, hoping it wouldn't be too obvious. It was terribly obvious. Especially when the flash went off. For the first time in my life I had empathy for Sharon Stone. I blushed and roundhoused with my arms clamped to my chest. The photographer tried to reassure me, "Don't worry, that's what Photoshop is for!"

And I might've been okay. There I was sitting in a full lotus bathed in golden light and trying my best to look ethereal and not constipated. I was relaxing, it was fun. But then the woman who was there to powder my scalp and smooth out the wrinkles in my shirt and pick the lint off the butt of my pants leaned down and whispered "Sweetie, could you lift those up? They seem to be, uh, falling." At first I thought she meant my feet. She did not.

I blushed from head to toe and then in true Charlotte fashion exlaimed, "I can't help it! I've had 4 children! AND I BREASTFEED!" The photographer burst out laughing. The assistant almost dropped her light reflector thingy. And the stylist looked as if I had just convinced her to never ever procreate. I couldn't stop myself. "You think these are bad? You should see my stretch marks!" Then I made them all turn around while I put the girls back where anatomy charts say they are supposed to reside. I'm sure they will remember me always.

So, think of that when you see me in First magazine next month. All I can say is I'd better be photoshopped.

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