Legs take their turn

Bee-Shyuan Chang / New York Times News Service /


Published Aug 29, 2012 at 05:00AM / Updated Nov 19, 2013 at 12:31AM

NEW YORK — Marcy Stein, 46, a former competitive power lifter who lives on Manhattan's Upper East Side and manages large construction projects for a consulting company, keeps an eye on the shape of her legs.

“When you're power lifting, your legs are amazing, but they're big and muscular,” she said.

Now, like many women in New York City, Stein has a workout regimen that includes a thigh-busting ballet barre routine, specifically, the Figure 4 class at Pure Yoga in her neighborhood.

“The workout has elongated the muscles,” she said on a recent July evening, pointing to her upper quadriceps. “I look more proportioned and feminine in my skirts.”

Ever since Angelina Jolie bared her right leg on the Oscars' red carpet in February (generating countless parodies), exposed legs, smooth and coltish, seem to have protruded at every turn. They rippled impressively at the Olympics and peeked from beneath the split long skirts that have been trendy this summer, and are a focal point for fall.

“People want their legs and butts to look their best,” said Kate Albarelli, the creator of Figure 4. “It's the complaint I've been hearing the most lately. You can always cover things up top with flouncy shirts, but the legs aren't as easy.”

She said her clients and students often point to toned celebrities, like Cameron Diaz and Fergie, as having the legs they want. And Jolie?

“I never get Angelina,” Albarelli said. “She doesn't have muscle tone. We're not in the time of the waif look anymore.”

A former ballerina, Albarelli recommends mixing up both range and tempo when exercising thighs and calves.

“A lot of the traditional knee-bending exercises, like squats, don't do much,” she said. “You have to vary the movement so you're hitting 360 degrees of your leg muscle.”

Not everyone is so eager to hit the gym. With fall merchandise already on store racks, some women are seeking quicker fixes.

Dr. Adam Kolker is a Park Avenue plastic surgeon who performs microliposuction to contour legs.

“Women tend to store fat in the upper outer thigh region, or what's unfortunately called the saddlebag area,” he said. “There is never a substitute for hard work, but even if a woman is thin, it's an area that is most diet- and exercise-resistant.”

Kolker charges from $3,500 to $10,000 for the procedure; recovery can be as long as 12 weeks.

“The results from microliposuction are fairly permanent,” said Robert Anolik, a Manhattan dermatologist and clinical assistant professor at Weill-Cornell Medical College. “And there is a bit less downtime for the patient than liposuction because the rods that are used are smaller. But you're still cutting the skin and running all the risks associated with surgery.”

He prefers Cryolipolysis, or CoolSculpting, a noninvasive fat-freezing procedure.

To those wary, perhaps, of both knives and machines, Reserveage Organics has found success marketing an over-the-counter supplement, Beautiful Legs. The capsules ($24.99 for 30) contain diosmin, a derivative of citrus rinds that originated in Europe and that the company claims promotes circulation and helps maintain smooth skin tone. They sell particularly well in the Northeast, said Naomi Whittel, the chief executive of Reserveage, adding, “Our primary customer base is the working woman who is sitting all day.”

A leg pedi?

And then there is the temporary balm of self-tanner. At Salon AKS on Fifth Avenue, the “perfect leg pedicure” ($95), introduced in July, has been so popular that the owners are extending the service into the winter. Along with toenail polish, the 75-minute treatment features exfoliation, a hot stone calf massage and a full-leg application of St. Tropez's bronzing mousse.

“We're getting a range of ages that come in for it,” said Susanna Romano, a partner in the salon. “Younger women like their legs darker than the rest of their body. They think it makes them look thinner. And older women, who are getting rid of their nude hosiery because it looks dated, find the mousse camouflages spider veins.”

St. Tropez also created a targeted spray, called Perfect Legs ($18), which comes in an aerosol can and began selling in Sephora in May. On celebrity clients, Sophie Evans, St. Tropez's skin-finishing expert, will spray a dark stream along the inner thigh for a leaner, lengthened illusion.

“It's also good for slimming down cankles,” she said.

Hollywood professionals have other tricks up their sleeves.

“First step is to moisturize,” said Ricky Wilson, a celebrity makeup artist for Dior.

For his clients, who have included Jane Lynch and Sharon Stone, he will sometimes blend in cellulite cream or serum with body lotion before a red carpet event.

“It's only temporary,” Wilson said. “But it can help with bloat.”

To cover imperfections, Wilson uses Dior Airflash foundation ($62), dispersed through a fine-spray nozzle. Like car paint, the makeup, which was created for the face, is misted on in light coats. Wilson prefers to go a shade darker on the legs, “because the face is normally lighter.” The foundation can “cover up sun damage, too,” he said.

Troy Jensen, a makeup artist in Los Angeles who has worked on Elle Macpherson, Cameron Diaz and Kim Kardashian, prefers to sponge on makeup (he likes Revlon's ColorStay face foundation) up to five shades darker than a woman's natural skin tone.

To finish, he'll run a shimmer product, like Benefit's Bathina rose-gold balm ($28), down the shins.

“It's like adding seams to the leg,” Jensen said. “It gives a beautiful line and there's a pearly sheen to it that almost buffs out flaws.”

Jensen finds “body makeup and highlighting skin from head to toe” is now part of his everyday job.

“Not everyone, not even movie stars, are born with perfectly shaped legs,” he said. “That's why we find a way to cheat the system.”