I turned to sewing out of sheer desperation.
Changing rooms in clothing shops were woeful experiences – seeing my body under harsh shop lighting; mirrors creating multiple reflections of parts of me that I did not usually see. The clothing either stretched out of place across my hips or it simply slipped off my shoulders. Trousers gaped at my waist and sometimes would not pass beyond my thighs. I would leave clothing shops downcast and empty handed.
There is no standardisation for clothing manufacturing, with the increase in internet shopping companies experience huge returns for clothing mostly because women have to order a range of sizes. The industry identifies four main body types, most women in the UK are considered pear shaped yet manufacturers use a standard hourglass figure size 12. Some movement has shifted towards using body shapes with ease created in the style and use of stretch fabrics.
Women are graded by numbers – its quantifiable, smaller is better, size 10 used to be desirable now it is size zero, but hold on isn’t zero nothing?
Women blame their bodies for diverting from unrealistic standards. Talk to any woman about buying clothes and she will tell you what she believes is ‘wrong’ with her body: broad shoulders, narrow shoulders, or a small bust, or she is too busty, or her hips are too big. It is the cause of so much loss of self esteem in women and it is responsible for so much misery.
Thankfully times are changing, there are small rays of hope. Wasn’t Marilyn Monroe the icon of beauty – a size 16?Manufacturers recognise that in order to sell clothing and reduce returns, they have to change.
Women are using blogs and social media to challenge the system of the ideal, the internet has given every woman a voice and the ability to speak in huge numbers.
Dove’s advertising campaign embraces women’s differences but imagine advertising where all the body shapes must be represented in order not to cause offence!
You no longer have to fit into a standard. If you are turning to sewing you will discover similar blocks in patterns, but with a little skill and knowledge, you can overcome them.
The dressmaking industry has used a method of standardisation that was last reviewed in the 1970’s and only 1% of women studied were over the age of 55. Women bodies alter as they age, but patterns were designed for a 20 year old woman before childbirth.
Standards are set using a B cup bra, most women today are a DD – so if you have to do a full bust adjustment you are in good company. Its a great idea to use the upper bust measurement rather than the full bust measurement to determine the size.
To sew your own clothing is to go on a journey of discovery about the wonderful home that serves us faithfully every moment of our lives.
As we begin measuring, adjusting, altering, refining the patterns we use, we are learning to work with our bodies.
We learn a new language, there is no part of us that is wrong any more, certain parts that need a little more fabric or a dart here and there.
We begin to understand how particular styles make us feel good about ourselves – and then we can create these in an infinite number of ways.