We have all been frustrated in our search for quality plus size ready-to-wear. However, plus size activewear is even more difficult to find. Recently, I began playing pickle ball, a sport that is–essentially–the baby of tennis and badminton. It is played with a lightweight plastic ball, slightly bigger than a tennis ball, and requires a free range of movement. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anything to suit my needs. What little existed was poorly sewn, made in sticky, unbreathable polyester fabrics, and exorbitantly expensive. What was an active plus size woman to do?
After my fruitless search for comfortable pieces to wear while playing, I had an idea. Why not sew the perfect activewear garment? I went through my patterns and examined my TNT dress pattern, McCall’s 5232, which is now sadly out-of-print. This dress is versatile, with princess seams running the full length of the dress, a back zipper, and several neckline variations. As a pear shape, I find the princess seams extra flattering and have made this dress over a dozen times! While I love the plain square-necked version, I’ve also color-blocked it with a print in the middle and solids on the sides. I even made the v-neck version in denim with denim print godets in all seams! One of my favorite versions is in a green and black print, which looks great worn with black cardigan. Obviously, this dress works for me and my shape.
The big question, though: Could this tried-and-true pattern be used for pickle ball? Well, yes, it could. It already had a swingy shape and simple design lines, ideal for a tennis dress. After several muslins, sorting out a sporty fit and design variations, I made a final version in medium-weight navy blue cotton, with a white neckline binding as an accent. To better suit hours of pickle ball, I also shortened the hem and switched out the full length zipper for a 9-inch zip at the center back.
On the back of the dress, I even inserted a pocket into the seams! Using a piece of white mesh, I crafted a large rectangle, then folded its top down by 1/2 inch to create a casing. Then, I threaded the casing with two strands of elastic thread and sewed the ends right into the back princess seams. This back pocket is not only lightweight, but it’s the perfect size to hold pickle balls. It’s such a useful little design feature.
For the hem of the dress, I sewed two lines of topstitching, for extra security. Unfortunately, the hem is now rippling a bit. Once I get a bit of time, I intend to redo it with some added reinforcement from interfacing.
With my easy alterations, this dress is perfect for activewear. It’s comfortable, allows me a large range of movement, and–best of all!–there’s no polyester in sight. Hooray for tried-and-true patterns, right? Such a dress would work equally well for golf, tennis, running, or even biking. Throw on some leggings or bicycle shorts underneath and you’re ready for action. This altered pattern would also work well in medium weight cotton spandex knit, which I might make next…as soon as I perfect my pickle ball serve.
With a simple change of fabric and design, there’s no limit to what a good base pattern can make. If you’ve had trouble finding plus size activewear, I encourage you to re-consult your own stock of tried-and-true patterns. There might be a gem hiding in your stash, waiting to become the perfect pattern for your everyday, active lifestyle.