When I started sewing my wardrobe about two years ago, a whole world opened up. Other sewists have said it before (and said it more eloquently), but sewing made me love my body. I realized that when RTW clothes don’t fit in the dressing room, it’s because there is something wrong with the clothes, not something wrong with my body. Sewing my own garments has made me realize (not just in my head, but in my soul) that truly, no two bodies are alike and I should never feel “less than” because I don’t fit into something off the rack.
That said, even with sewing, I am still running into “fat girl” syndrome – that sinking feeling when I realize I am outside of a given pattern’s size range. I’m not talking about having to blend a few sizes, or do a standard alteration like a full bust adjustment. I’m speaking to the not-so-infrequent situations where a pattern stops short of what a reasonable person would consider “plus size.”
Here’s what runs through my head when I see that this pattern isn’t “meant” for me:
I am too fat for this dress/shirt/pants.
Um, no. This concept makes me want to say all the bad words. If sewing for myself has taught me anything, you are NEVER too fat to wear anything.
Ladies of all shapes and sizes can rock whatever look they want (and do it with awesome results) if given the proper tools. But still… what does it say that the pattern doesn’t come in my size? Maybe it’s that…
This pattern designer does not want to see people “like” me in his/her designs.
Much like the fat-shaming incidents with Lulu Lemon and Abercrombie & Fitch, I’m sure there are some pattern designers out there that don’t want chubby chicks messing up their cool image. Again, cue all the bad words coming from my mouth. Or maybe not – perhaps these designers are all about inclusivity. But given the notable lack of curvy (let alone outright fat) girls incorporated into the branding of most pattern designers, I do wonder. (Colette and Cashmerette, you two are a blessed oasis – rock on.)
Maybe I’m over-reacting.
Once I dig my way out of the shame spiral, I am able to clearly articulate reasons why a pattern designer might not choose to be more inclusive in their sizing:
- There are fewer women in the upper reaches of the sizes – there simply isn’t enough market to justify designing a plus-size range.
- Plus sizes have a different body block – that is, going from a size 6 to 8 to 10 is not the same (geometrically speaking) as going from a 22 to 24 to 26. Fat bodies are different than skinny bodies in terms of general proportion – while our busts get significantly bigger, our shoulders generally do not, nor do our arms grow in length at the same proportion that our waists do.
- Doing *good* designs for a range of sizes may double the work – since it’s not just a matter of extending out the current sizing method. And if there aren’t enough fat ladies buying the larger pattern sizes, the return on investment goes way down.
- People outside the range of the current sizing can simply grade up a pattern. We’ve seen lots of examples on the CSC of pattern grading (Tanya’s ridiculously awesome trench coat comes to mind.) My current size 20-22 means that I often fit in the top half of the largest pattern size, but need to grade out the hips a couple of inches.
So what do I (or we, as the CSC) do about it?
Obviously, I want pattern designers to be commercially successful. I recognize that people gotta pay their bills. Still… do I want to give my hard-earned money to a designer who doesn’t think it’s “worth it” (for whatever reason) to include people of my size in their offerings?
What message am I sending to myself, to the designer, and to the world when I buy from a designer that doesn’t include me in their sizing? On the flip side, what do I give up when I choose to boycott non-inclusive pattern designers? For one, I would be dramatically limiting myself to only a few designers that do consistently use inclusive sizing.
I’m on the fence – I want to make a point in “voting with my pocketbook” to support those designers that officially see me as part of their target demographic. But on the other hand, I’m not sure how effective a boycott really is.
Would it be more effective to grade up patterns and show the designers how awesome their patterns can be on a larger body in hopes of convincing them to be more inclusive? Or would doing that simply emphasize that fat ladies are willing to grade up and therefore designers don’t need to do the work?
Curvy ladies, I am eager to hear your opinions. Tell me what you think.