Hello readers! Today’s entry in our Sewing for My Curves series is from Erica, curvy sewist and founder of MyBodyModel, a web app to create fashion sketching templates based on your measurements. Erica is on a mission to create body-positive design tools for garment makers and designers. You can learn more about Erica’s sewing makes on her personal Instagram @stitchinschmitz and find MyBodyModel on Facebook and Instagram @mybodymodel.
My Body Shape
When I was a teenager, a “doctor” told me that some women are built like Corvettes, but that I was built like a mack truck. I remember feeling mortified instead of outraged that he would say such a thing. If I could go back in time, I would tell my younger self that her body is beautiful and perfect. And I would get that guy fired!
Today, I would describe my body shape as curvaceous. I have broad shoulders, ample bust, and generous belly and thighs. In general, I try not to compare my body shape to inanimate objects! But I do find it useful to categorize body shapes for comparing fit and proportion. So for that purpose, I would say that my shape is hourglass-ish.
My measurements tend to cycle up and down, but at the moment my numbers are:
Bra Size: 36DD
Full Bust: 41″
High Bust: 37″
Waist: 34-36″depending on time of day!
High Hip: 39″
Full hip: 43″
I’m a total cheater here! When I first started sewing a few years ago, I downloaded the free Colette Sorbetto top pattern. I sewed up a muslin like I was supposed to. The fit was all wrong, but I was determined to get it to look good. My method involved lots of safety pins and cajoling of my husband to help me get the fit just the way I wanted. I ended up making about a dozen adjustments (and shed a few tears in the process!) and somehow, it worked! Which is good, because my husband said he was never doing that again.
My resulting sorta-Sorbetto pattern ended up becoming my basic bodice block. I’ve used it for drafting my own patterns for tops and dresses. I’ve also used it for checking and modifying other patterns so that I know they will fit.
My sewing time is rare and precious, and I want to spend it making garments that I will wear the heck out of! Over the past couple of years, I’ve started to hone in on what I like and don’t like to wear, which has helped me to focus my sewing. Reading the Colette Wardrobe Architect blog series was a total a-ha experience. I realized that I can have a “style” (who, me?) and not only that, but that I can decide what my style is! I’ve also learned a lot by joining social media challenges like #winter10x10 and Me-Made-May. Taking selfies still feels weird! But it’s helped me to better define my style and my wardrobe-building priorities.
I’ve realized that I like to wear simple shapes in soft, breathable fabrics and earthy or muted colors. I like my clothes to be loosely fitted, but not baggy, and my skirts to be straight or slightly A-line, never gathered. I like to wear big scarves in the winter, and long earrings in the summer. I wear heels almost never. I’m blind to wrinkles. And, I like my waistbands to be forgiving!
I’ve learned that I’m not much of a pattern-follower—I’d much rather figure things out as I go. My favorite jacket is a hacked Grainline Hemlock tee with some shaping at the waist. I wore it almost daily this winter and spring! I want to make a summer version in gray linen, with 3/4 sleeves fold-up cuffs and big patch pockets.
My absolutely favorite top pattern is one that I drafted myself from my basic bodice block (a.k.a. very modified Sorbetto). I rotated the darts and added a drop sleeve. I’ve sewn about 20 different versions so far. I’ve made it in different sleeve lengths (short, long, and everywhere in between), different woven fabrics (linen, rayon, voile, lawn, double gauze, quilting cotton) and knit fabrics (usually minus the darts, but I’ve kept the darts when sewing with sturdy knits like French terry and it totally worked!).
My other TNT is the original Plantain T-shirt by Deer and Doe patterns. I used my trusty bodice block to adjust the pattern so that it fits almost perfectly. I’ve made it several tunic and dress versions.
I’ve also hacked the Plantain tee into a cardigan. I made it in a navy blue linen jersey, so I can wear it with everything all spring and summer.
For skirts and pants, I’ve only made my own patterns so far. I made a basic skirt pattern using the instructions from Design-It-Yourself Clothes by Cal Patch (such an inspiring book!). My favorite skirt pattern is slightly A-line with an invisible zip and contoured waistband. I’ve made a couple of linen versions that I wear constantly. I also made a casual elastic-waist pant pattern traced from my favorite pair of pj’s! I wear my navy linen pants all the time, sometimes even more than once per week (shhh…).
I’ve been experimenting with minimalist silhouettes. I’m inspired by Japanese book patterns (which would never fit) and slow fashion brands (which are beyond my budget)! My challenge is how to make them work with my busty figure. By sketching out my ideas beforehand, I can “try on” different shapes to help me decide what to sew. I’ve decided that I love the idea of an unstructured sack dress, but for me, bust darts and waist shaping are a must!
I’ve also been considering sewing culottes! When I first saw culottes popping up on sewing blogs a few years ago, I thought, “NO WAY.” But recently I started wondering… “Hmmm…. Maybe in the right fabric?” I made a few sketches, and now here I am, thinking the unthinkable: “Midi-length culottes in rusty red linen would be AWESOME!”
The online sewing community has inspired me to experiment with different styles. I’m dreaming about styles that I would never in a million years have considered before! I’ve put my foot down at cold-shoulder tops. But never say never! Maybe in the right fabric…