A round peg in a world of square holes – learning to love my curves


It is thanks to my lovely pen pal (the old fashioned letter writing sort!) that I feel I have had a bit of an epiphany recently. She was new to sewing, her letter was so full of the delights of dressmaking, I wanted to pick up my abandoned pencil skirt five minutes after receiving her letter. The epiphany began with the question why I had stopped doing something I really enjoy, in the first place?- I have put on weight and I simply could not bear to look at myself in the mirror.

Size is a personal thing, to some my dress size would be their ideal, but I don’t like what I see – but why? I am a healthy woman, with curves with a little bit of a tummy if I am honest – where did this self loathing come from?

I am an hourglass figure – big busted, big hipped, clothing just doesn’t fit and when I look at all the pattern illustrations what I get looks completely different. For years I have felt a round peg trying to fit into a square hole!

When do you see women with hips and boobs in films or the media? Yet a with a few clicks I was thrilled to discover there are many beautiful women out there.



When I see these images, I feel better because they reflect my body shape and exude style and beauty. I hope that it isn’t long before we can see curvy women take roles in movies and advertising, the Fashion industry still has a long way to go.

One of the great things about sewing, is that you have the power at your fingertips to create outfits that fit and flatter your shape, whatever it is.

We don’t have to wait for the fashion industry to change, we can make up our own minds about what is good for us, there are some great blogs out there who are doing just that! Big women who challenge the trend – who are beginning to change fashion. They are creating their own fashion lines, writing their own magazines – clothing manufacturers are listening!


Christina Mendez

But in the meantime, there are things I can do!

So here are my eight tips I intend to follow to help me learn to love and accept myself:

1 – Embrace who you are, measure yourself accurately, don’t suck your tummy in or judge the numbers, just accept them.

2 – Know your body shape and work with it, for example I know that anything without a defined waist will make me look enormous, so I choose patterns that have princess seams, or empire waistlines. If you aren’t sure of  what suits try on lots of different clothing styles until you get an idea of what you like.



3 – Wear the right underwear: I make french knickers because they go round the waist there is no such thing as a muffin top! A well fitting bra not only  supports the bust, but takes care of your back as well.

4 -Don’t hide your curves, while fashion mags might be full of size zero models a survey of men revealed that size 14/16 was the ideal body shape in mens eyes. Women’s bodies are supposed to be different, so intend to learn to love my soft body, be voluptuous.


5 -Wear clothes that makes me feel good! Soft velvet, floaty chiffon or cotton jersey. When you make clothes, you can use comfortable seam finishes that don’t chafe the skin. You can add a small section of elastic into a waistband to snuggle the after lunch tummy bloat.


6- Take care of yourself – eat well and move a little! I work with 90 year olds, not one of them has ever set foot inside a gym, but they take a regular walk every day, which is why they can still do it! Find something that you love and do it every day, even if it is playing a few tunes and dancing round the room! (I love dancing round the room!)

7-Take control, advertising might bombard me from every street, but today I discovered body positive images to counteract this – I am reading articles and fashion advice from those who make me feel good!

8- Spend time on my appearance every day – I have been putting my hair in a ponytail, not putting on any make-up or lipstick – and the beautiful scent bottles are gathering dust. Today I sat back and brushed my hair, put on  make up and also discovered I can still wear earrings after nearly a year without them! Needless to say I feel so much better already.



So that was me yesterday in the garden with the dog – no make-up, hair up hiding in mostly black.

Look out world – here I come!

Here are some blogs and websites  that may interest you:

Secret Plus Size Goddess – this lady is awesome!

Fashion and styling 

UK fashion blogger:  the arched eyebrow has an urban style

Curvy and Chic






Note; I have provided links where I can for the pictures when available, unfortunately some of the Pinterest links are dead. If you can help me give the right credit please let me know.





Famous Quotations about Fashion and Style

do it yourself fashion

Such great advice – if you can make your own clothes then you have an unlimited choice of clothing. Not just in the style, but the fabric the way it is cut defines the way it hangs – there are endless ways to play.

Fashion quote Coco Chanel

Who can question the enduring wardrobe staple – the little black dress?

Good clothing will last years and classic style is never out of date.

fashion suggests

You wouldn’t think that from some of his clothes, but I like this quotation.

Vionnet fashion

One of my favourite designers, Vionnet was the Queen of the bias cut dress – fabric flows around the body, enhancing every curve. Cut a pair of trousers on the bias, and they will cling to your feminine curves – even those you never knew you had.

This quote says a lot about style – you should be the one to wear the clothes not the other way around. That is why I am not a fan of designer labels – I always ask myself why a piece of clothing has to have the design logo on the outside? For example GAP stands for gay and proud. When you wear a designer label you are buying into a whole lot of advertising spin – great for those who want to blend in, but if you want to stand out, then be your own label.

wear a smile

I do wish we would see more happiness on catwalks, a smile brightens every outfit, it doesn’t matter what you are wearing – people remember you look happy!

Oscar wilde love yourself

This line from An Ideal Husband is wonderful – the sheer arrogance of this first line! But be honest, we have all had those ‘what was she thinking’ moments. But if we can suspend judgement for just a moment and cheer that woman on – then something unlocks inside us. Fashion Police don’t exist, we can all wear what we want, and if she can, then so can we Isn’t that better?

We shy away from self love for fear of being called arrogant, but no matter what a woman wears – if she is loves who she is it, that confidence shines out often recognised as charisma- any outfit she will be wearing will come second.

be a work of art

Another Oscar Wilde quotation – it is so easy to fall into the trap of not spending time on ourselves – we are fearful of being vain. But caring about what you wear and looking after yourself are acts of self love not selfishness. Treat yourself as a work of art, love and cherish who you are.

Joan Crawford fashion

Joan has summed up the key to finding your own style. I think this is the favourite of all quotations – I particularly like ‘playing many roles’

We are so many things to different people, mother, daughter, colleague, manager. That doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun – dress up, dress down, try a different hairstyle, wear a hat. Life is all about making the most out of every moment – let your clothes reflect who you are. If its jeans and a t’shirt or a ball gown and tiara – then that is great – wear it and never apologise for being you.


Vintage Womans Weekly Magazine – August 12, 1933

01-Womans Weekly August 12, 1933

Sit yourself down, with a lovely pot of tea and some vintage cups and take a perusal of a Womans Weekly, 1933! Over 80 years ago! It is fascinating to look  at what women were reading about back then-when I spotted this in a charity shop I could not resist it!  I am hungry for  vintage details – because you can look at the styling that was taking place back then in context.

As you can see from the front cover – the magazine came with a knitting pattern – for average to large sizes. This gives us a clue that the magazine was mostly aimed at mothers and grandmothers rather than young women – which is still true of the magazine today.

02-Womans Weekly August 12, 1933 1

The inside cover has a advert for another magazine, most likely by the same publishing 04-Womans Weekly August 12, 1933 3house – that includes free patterns. The two button suit is very glamorous –   the hat and gloves completes the outfit – no woman would be seen outside the house without them!

The September issue of Home Fashions caters especially for the late holiday folk who want smart styles for last minute frocks and suits for the sea and the country. Free patterns are included for making the most attractive suit and little puffed sleeve blouse. There is a Coupon Pattern for a charming ensemble that consists of an afternoon frock and coatee suitable for patterned silk. Then there is a special supplement of lingerie fashions showing the newest and loveliest designs and including models with the new on-the-cross cut.

Bias cut had only just been introduced and popularised by Vionnet and it is still a wonderful way to create beautiful feminine lingerie.

Notice the pretty blouse peeking out from the jacket top! You can see how sixties fashions were inspired by the 30’s -with this cropped jacket, pillbox hat!

05-Womans Weekly August 12, 1933 4

I adore this charming feminine blouse, the lace frilled edging is a lovely detail around the button placket as well as the collar, it looks as if it is flat not gathered or pleated.  Lace would have been mostly cotton as nylon had not been invented.  Note also the fullness of the sleeve – a feature throughout the 1930s.

Both illustrations include a six  gore skirt finishing somewhere between the ankle and the knee.

The silhouette is streamlined, after the 20’s flapper style which hid the waistline and saw women flattening their chests – thirties fashion with the bias cut – creates flowing garments that enhance and accentuate curves.

12-Womans Weekly August 12, 1933 11

15-Womans Weekly August 12, 1933 14

On a gingham holiday frock the only relief might be a wide, white pique belt. Smartest, if the lines in the weave run down.

This is the opening page of the magazine – the title ‘Weekly Whispers’ is rather quaint, don’t you think? I have to say that even with my glasses I am struggling to read the small text. Oh imagine – it was usual for readers to visit a dressmaker rather than off the peg! Advice in their letters page is just as useful today as it was then.

‘Women are becoming more practical about underclothes, at last’ remarked a very shrewd dressmaker to me the other day. They are awake to the fact that it is just as important for the under the gown to fit well – as it is for the frock itself. There’s logic of course in her remarks, when a dressmaker has provided a good line to a gown it must be very heartbreaking to have it all spoilt by the basics -ill fitting underclothes.

What great advice – given that a lot of these dresses would be cut on the bias, any undergarment bump or bulge would be visible. It is the same today, the muffin top is a pure invention of badly designed underwear. French knickers are ideal under a bias dress – it also flows around the body without cutting in – as you find in the average cotton brief.

Pleated organdie frilling makes this dainty collar and bow. Two double pieces of frilling joined together and gathered up in the middle. A brooch would cover the gathering stitches.

Pleated organdie frilling makes this dainty collar and bow. Two double pieces of frilling joined together and gathered up in the middle. A brooch would cover the gathering stitches.

A friend of mine, who has no maid, has made the prettiest organdie covers for her tea table. When there is a little party, she gets everything ready and then she covers the table with this organdie square. (It is hemstitched and strewn with little flowers in simple embroidery) It looks so pretty and gives such a feeling of freshness to the tea table.

Imagine, not having a maid… poor thing!   Oh how dreamy this dress is! I imagine it to be made of Georgette fabric – that has enough weight to make the most of these lovely lines! Dresses were often ‘updated’ by maids – to give a garment a new lease of life. Here there are instructions for making an organdie bow.(see caption)

Here is a fairytale design for the loveliest luncheon set.

Here is a fairytale design for the loveliest luncheon set. The flowers are worked mainly in Satin stitch and stem stitch. The pattern was available post free from the Woman’s Weekly Transfer department in Oxford St, London.

It seemed that readers engaged in home crafts – here is a lovely pattern for a ‘luncheon set’ – if you were not using a full table cloth – then smaller sets were made of linen – similar to place mats today, even trays were lined with linen cloths – you can usually pick these up in charity shops or antique markets.

An Adventure to make in two colour knitting - Woman's Weekly, August 12 1933

An Adventure to make in two colour knitting – Woman’s Weekly, August 12 1933

The knitting pattern was a front cover feature – and it was why I bought this particular issue among the six available. Notice how close fitting this garment is – very different from knitwear available today.

08-Womans Weekly August 12, 1933 7

A friendly little jumper – a thing to be gay the Autumn! Woman’s Weekly, August 12, 1933

The use of the colours works so well – and I adore the collar what a lovely finish. Her hairstyle is classic, you also see it on models of 1950’s. Once again the skirt is a tightly fitting six gore skirt – but as it is white the details are almost lost.

Who would have known it - a vicar is a love interest for dear Norah - complete short story in Woman's Weekly, August 12, 1933

Who would have known it – a vicar is a love interest for dear Norah – complete short story in Woman’s Weekly, August 12, 1933

Short stories are still a feature of the magazine today, the tale of Norah and Peter Cunningham had a hundred readers so stirred up enough to ask for a sequel!

Peter Cunningham was a big manly fellow, sufficiently unlike the orthodox parson for tongues to wag in the village when he had first arrived.

It seemed that Norah and Peter were just beginning to have feelings for one another when a silly girl grabbed all his attention! Poor Norah was left alone with a broken heart – and that is why readers pleaded for more! Thankfully – it turns out that Norah and Peter finally found each other again.

Peter drew her hand through his. ‘ ‘Never mind the fog’ he said. ‘The stars are shining somewhere’ My stars are shining here’ Norah answered. ‘Happy’ he asked. ‘Perfectly, perfectly happy’ she answered. ‘You will always be’ he told her.

Little Bill on his Holiday - Woman's Weekly, August 12, 1933

Little Bill on his Holiday – Woman’s Weekly, August 12, 1933

There are a number of little poems scattered throughout the pages, wether or not they were reader’s poems it isn’t made clear. I love the illustrations – similar to Mabel Lucie Attwell who was very popular at the time – she illustrated for the Tattler and the Illustrated London News.

Ponds Advert - Woman's Weekly, August 12, 1933. Endorsed by Lady Hindlip.

Ponds Advert – Woman’s Weekly, August 12, 1933. Endorsed by Lady Hindlip.

It seems that celebrity endorsement is not a modern concept, here is a peer of the realm endorsing Ponds Cream. There are a few other adverts in the magazine, some companies are still trading; cutex, harpic, New Zealand Lamb, Robin Starch and Kraft cheese (foil wrapped triangles!)

Kellogs All Bran Advert - Woman's Weekly - August 12, 1933

Kellogs All Bran Advert – Woman’s Weekly – August 12, 1933

Kellogg’s were advertising back then, but some names are lost in the mists of time. Cepos – monthly pain relief for headaches and Neuralgia  (I am not alone!), could be bought ‘without embarassment’ Fennings Children’s Powders and Southalls rubber pants for babies! There is even a Liquid hair remover called Taky way.

Mrs Marryatt gives some very wise advice - Woman's Weekly, 12 August 1933

Mrs Marryatt gives some very wise advice – Woman’s Weekly, 12 August 1933

Mrs Marryatt was giving advice just as she does today! In this article it is suggested that girlfriends ensure they are not dismissive of their beau’s female relatives.

There is one thing which girls often forget when they are rather keen on meeting young men – and that is the value of being friendly and nice to the womenfolk of the men they meet.

Young women are recommended to take a middle road between disinterest and disregarding women in his life but not to ‘over do’ the friendliness either.

A weariness comes in the society of the too demonstrative friends.

19-Womans Weekly August 12, 1933 18

What a future wife should own before marriage – Woman’s Weekly, August 12, 1933

This wonderful article specifies what a bride should have in her Hope Chest or Bottom Drawer as she approaches her wedding day.

  • 3 pairs of sheets
  • 6 pillow cases
  • 3 bolster cases
  • 1 under blanket
  • 1 counterpane for each bed
  • 1 eiderdown for each bed
  • 3 top blankets
  • 6 bath towels
  • 6 face towels
  • 3 breakfast cloths or sets of mats
  • 6 table napkins
  • 2 roller towels for kitchen
  • a few tray and afternoon cloths
  • 6 dusters
  • 6 tea cloths
  • 3 glass cloths

It is quite a modest list – but entirely made up of textiles in one form or another! Imagine a young girl carefully embroidering her tray cloths – in the hope that she would one day have a home of her own. It is why they are so prolific, and often in good condition – as they would have been reserved for high days and holidays!

Woman's Weekly, August 12, 1933

Woman’s Weekly, August 12, 1933

Food and recipes did not feature very large in this issue – There are a few short paragraphs with sandwich filling suggestions for a picnic. The illustration beside it is delightful – the lady’s hat frames her face, and once again we see full sleeves on her dress. Big florals and geometrics were fashionable in this Art Deco era, and the gentlemen would have worn shirts and jackets. The sandwich filling suggestions are: cream cheese and walnuts, minced ham and cress, cheese and tomato and egg mayonnaise.

26-Womans Weekly August 12, 1933 25

The front cover features this dress which is ‘This Week’s Bargain Pattern’ readers had to cut out a coupon (still intact in this issue) and send it to the Woman’s Weekly offices with enough stamps to cover postage (4 1/2d ) there is an alternative address for Australian Readers. The pattern was created especially to give a slimming effect – with the pattern sizing available from 36 up to a 48inch bust and a special version for ‘short women’. 

Front dress pattern 1933 Woman's WeeklyThis week we have thought of our older readers! We have found them a slimming and gracious little dress for printed silk and the pattern can be had in all the large sizes as well as in the average size. A new afternoon frock is a boon for the late Summer days and for the early Autumn, while later on, it looks so pretty under a heavy coat. This design slims the figure very cleverly with the centre seams and the skirt carried in points above the waist. Notice how the bodice itself comes down in a point into the skirt to keep the figure perfectly flat in front. The little vestee and pretty cowl-like collar give softening at the neckline. I suggest you choose a printed silk in any dark colour, and have the collar and cuffs in cream georgette – so much softer than dead white. 

August 12, 1933 dress pattern layout

August 12, 1933 dress pattern layout

Front dress technical drawing

The layout of the pattern and instructions are also included on the page – there is not a lot of detail! However I really enjoyed reading the problem page at the bottom entitled ‘Is this your problem too? – write to the London Girl if you have dress problems – she knows all the answers’

Skirt length was an issue, women needed to feel they were respectable. Ida asked about the correct length of a skirt from the ground as she had just learned to sew. London Girl replied: For streetwear, skirts are now fourteen inches from the ground. Sports clothes and man-tailored costumes are sometimes worn a little shorter. For afternoon occasions ten to twelve inches is correct, and evening dresses should be instep-length or just clear of the ground. 

27-Womans Weekly August 12, 1933 26

The remnant frock – Amazing what we can do with our gleanings from the sales. Woman’s Weekly, August 12, 1933

There is something very taking about a plain frock well tailored. The box pleated flounce makes pattern 52,415 distinctly interesting, (and box pleats are so easy to manage!) Perfectly simple – the two piece skirt and plain bodice and a neat cape collar. Short or long sleeves are equally smart. 

12, August 1933, Woman's Weekly

12, August 1933, Woman’s Weekly

FUN – IN A NEW DRESS – The special occasion that needs a special frock. What a harassing problem this is unless one prepares one’s wardrobe with an eye to the future. A long frock, prettily cut, will always come in for the dances and social evenings that are soon to be here again. This design with a dear little cape to hide the low neckline when needs be. The two piece skirt has true circular flounces, and is joined to the bodice at the waistline. 

Double Frill dress, Woman's Weekly 12, August 1933

Double Frill dress, Woman’s Weekly 12, August 1933

It seems that London Girl is promoting the Woman’s Weekly patterns and given that there are four pages of patterns in all – it would suggest that women were making their own clothes.

Two remnant dresses

Two remnant dresses

Notice all the patterns have full sleeves, with bows and or dainty button details. Also the cape adaptation – helped when wearing Sunday Best to church.

13-Womans Weekly August 12, 1933 12

Updating coat advice – Woman’s Weekly, August 12, 1933

If you have a light summer coat which needs a spot of ‘doing up’ try the effect of very dark revers on it. These light-and-dark contrasts are extremely chic at the moment. 

32-Womans Weekly August 12, 1933 31

Best Way Outsize Summer Fashions – Woman’s Weekly, August 12, 1933

That ever-perplexing-problem, ‘What to wear on holiday’ is easily solved if you make your choice from the many attractive designs in Bestway Outsize Summer Fashions. This useful book contains a host of flattering designs especially cut for the larger figure. All easy and smart to wear. There is also a FREE pattern for making this charming frock. 

It seemed that most women had little option but to make their own clothes – and there were many pattern companies to choose from. Sizing difficulties is not a modern phenomenon after all!

24-Womans Weekly August 12, 1933 23

Holiday suggestions in the 1930’s Jersey promises fun and gaiety and all possible amusements! 

25-Womans Weekly August 12, 1933 24There is a lot of illustration – mostly of young, slim women and dashing young men! Older women are not portrayed in such good light – our poor Matron and Mrs Marryatt are rather stout!

10-Womans Weekly August 12, 1933 9More advice – this time childcare from a Matron of a big welfare centre. The letters ask about treating stinging nettles (dock leaves) and dandruff. Rub the skin of the head with a freshly cut lemon before washing her hair with tar shampoo. Massage a mixture of castor oil and eau-du-Cologne onto damp hair at every night. Wash hair once a week. 

29-Womans Weekly August 12, 1933 28

I love the way the flowers adorn this gorgeous lady! This is the Beauty Advice section

I am having my first permanent wave shortly, I want to get it in really good condition. What do you advise? -ZITA

Use a good tonic, like Bay Rum and Cantharides. Massage a little into the roots of your hair twice a day. You need not bother to shampoo your hair as the assistant will wash it first. 


Would you mind telling me where I can buy sunbathing oil? CITY GIRL

Most chemists keep sunbathing oil to-day. Several good brands are put up for sale a 1s 6d size.

03-Womans Weekly August 12, 1933 2

I hope you have enjoyed your time travelling tea break!

Enjoy the summer! 

ttfn x