Good afternoon, friends! Today’s post is the third installment in the “Sewing for My Curves” series.
Depending on the day, I’m either a plus-size hourglass or a busty pear shape. The one truth about my figure is that my hip measurements are extremely variable. Everything from hormones to pie consumption levels to Saturn’s location in the sky can change that measurement in a range of four to five inches. However, generally, I have a very narrow waist and rib cage, ample bosom, narrow shoulders, plump upper arms, thick thighs, and extravagant hips.
- High Bust: 41″
- Full Bust: 46″
- Waist: 36″
- Hips: 46″, at my usual size, but up to 50″
- Bra Size: 36E
- Height: 5’8″
In ready-to-wear, I wear a size 16W in bottoms and XL in most tops. At this point in my sewing career, I only buy jeans, sweaters, and lingerie from clothing retailers. The brands I fit into best are Loft and Talbots, which both have “curvy fit” options that accommodate a narrow waist and full hips.
Typically, I start with a size 20 in Big 4 patterns and a 16/18 in indie patterns. However, I pay very close attention to the body type a designer targets. If they use a straighter fit models, like Grainline or Colette seem to, I measure the pattern itself and heavily blend sizes.
- FBA Every. Single. Time. My shoulders and rib cage tend to be much, much narrower than what designers envision for a bustier lady, so even with cup-sized patterns, some bust adjustments are required. As such, I have become a master at FBAs, dart rotations, and splitting darts. I love the geometry of it! However, I do actively avoid princess seamed patterns, unless they come with cup sizes, because adding 6+ inches to curvy seams requires patience I do not possess.
- Reducing armhole gape. Even when choosing sizes based on my high bust measurement, I often end up with extra roomy, too low armscyes. A little dart rotation and redrawing of the curve fixes this nicely.
- Narrow Shoulder Adjustment. Again, those shoulders of mine drive me crazy. Rare is the pattern that doesn’t need 1/2″ or more removed at the shoulder. Luckily, this is a quick adjustment to make. I could choose patterns entirely based on shoulder width, but getting back up to the correct bust size would be an adventure. Choosing based on high bust provides a happy medium, in my opinion. I firmly believe that you can get to a good fit via several different avenues.
- Lengthening patterns. Most patterns are drafted for women several inches shorter than my 5’8″, so I usually add a few inches to hems and lengthen bodices a bit.
- Curving darts. My single most difficult fit battle is fitting my rib cage properly. The area between my bust and waist is always a bit blousy, even in styles meant to be fitted. Curving darts slightly outward, taking in more fabric over this area, gives a better fit.
- Wide Hip Adjustment. I usually blend up a size on the pattern or take an adjustment for wider hips, to account for the variation I see there. I want a garment to fit me all month long, after all, not just two weeks at a time. This is one of the reasons I don’t sew pants often, because it’s much harder to account for measurement variability in those garments.
- Full Bicep Adjustment. My upper arms are beefy and I’ve come to peace with that. As such, I typically add an inch or more to sleeves with every pattern I make. There’s a reason I love sleeveless dresses paired with knit cardigans, friends!
As you might expect from my body shape, I’m most comfortable in fit-and-flare dresses. A fitted bodice and full skirt highlight everything I love about my body–my bust and waist, specifically–but leave parts I’m less comfortable with to the imagination. Necklines are a strong point of variation, as I like everything from bateau to plunging V-necks. Some favorites include Simplicity 1873, which I’ve hacked a dozen different ways, Butterick 5982, and BlueGingerDoll’s Odette Dress (oop).
A variance of the fit-and-flare theme, I am infamously obsessed with shirt dresses. To me, these are the perfect dresses–full pleated skirts to accommodate my ever-changing hips, a belted waistband to cinch in at my narrowest point, and a high collar to frame my face. Bodice fitting has to be spot-on, but I’ve found an altered version of McCall’s 6696 is my tried-and-true pattern. Bonus! It comes with cup sizes, so the FBA is less intense than usual. This pattern is the true workhorse of my wardrobe, on constant rotation in different fabrics.
When I do wear separates, I like to keep the same fit-and-flare silhouette happening. To that end, I’m a huge fan of circle skirts, both the self-drafted classics and designs that embellish the standard. Two recent favorites are Jennifer Lauren’s Cressida Skirt and the Asymmetrical Pleated Skirt from Knipmode October 2015, which are variations on the half circle skirt.
For a large portion of my younger years, I only wore dresses, because they made me most at ease with my curves. However, my late twenties taught me to love the casual look of jeans, as well. My key to feeling comfortable in jeans is the combination of a pretty, flowing tunic top and skinny jeans. I like the modern silhouette this creates and the novelty of showing off my legs, instead of my waist. Once again, my hips are not on display, but I’m also not hiding in fabric. For these tops, I consistently come back to Butterick 5997, with its interesting tucked front, and the charming yoked design of Kate & Rose’s Zsalya blouse.
Finally, we come to my most recent love affair…knits! Like jeans, I avoided knits for most of my twenties, fearing that they would cling to every curve. This fear was completely unjustified and, as I became more at ease with my body, I also became more at ease with stretch fabrics. I still love a fit-and-flare shape, like Colette’s Moneta Dress and Blue Ginger Doll’s Violet Dress (oop), but I’ve also adopted more form-fitting silhouettes. My two most-sewn patterns of last year were Cashmerette’s Appleton, that gorgeous, body-skimming wrap dress, and the draped beauty of the Colette Myrtle Dress. These patterns still show off my waist well, but also play up my other curves in a grown-up, modern way.
So, that’s me! I’d love to hear about your preferences, however. What silhouettes do you reach for, when dressing your curves? Do you have any tried-and-true patterns that you return to over and over again, like I do?