Sunday, January 26, 2014

Plus Size Sewing and Body Image


My sewing machine has to be repaired, my latest muslin is built and I am not happy about the photos we took for the project I want to post about. This leaves me with time to think about things that are hard to explain. I have been happily ignoring the subject of Body Image in my blog so far but I think it is an important one. It is very easy to be very positive, advocate upgrading and embrace my curves but sometimes, things are more complicated.

Sewing has completely changed me. The way I dress, the way I see my body, the way I feel about my body. Have you ever taken a body image test ? Or given it a thought ? You can have a few type of issues. My 2 issues are as follow : I am unsatisfied with my body and I sometimes feel subjectively bigger than what I am. What's awesome about sewing is that it helped me enormously on both spectrums. Look at the drawing below :



Exercise 1 : evaluate which shape corresponds to yours : #8
Exercise 2 : evaluate which shape you would like to have : #6
Exercise 3 : ask a friend to evaluate which shape you are : #8

The difference between 1 and 2 can indicate your body dissatisfaction. This changed slightly in the last few months as I have been losing weight. Before starting sewing, I would have wanted to be a #4... Sewing taught me I could look good even if I am rounder. Of course, I am still not satisfied ! I would like to be a little bit smaller to be able to sew more fitted garments and more different shapes that simply do not suit me at the moment.
The difference between 1 and 3 indicates if you have a biased body image. Before I started sewing, I would have guessed that my shape was bigger than the #9. Making my own clothing and using accurate measurements made me understand better how my body is. Knowing my body better actually helped me accepting it for the time being.

Now, I know it may feel wrong when I say that accepting my body helped me losing weight. Oddly it did ! Shall we go through the body changes and influences of sewing and acceptation ?

I have always been rounder, already as a child. I was very aware of it. At that time, my grandma was sewing my clothing. She made beautiful things and they made me feel nice and special but I always felt too big. And I grew up that way. Adding kilos steadily. Food was my safe heaven.




During my studies, I took a leap year and I lost 30 kilos. The adventures and the stressfree life being an aupair abroad made me grow wings.



Of course, after I came back and a break up, I gained all the weight back on. I also met my husband and discovered the sewing world. I tried my first projects. At that point, I was going for ideas that were more special and quirky, bringing the attention to the details of my outfits and less to my size. Upgrading was simply a mean to an end, it never was a restriction to me.






Little by little, I learned new techniques and started to like my body more. I figured out what looked good on me. Of course, I would always keep some cookiness. But at that point, I pinpointed what worked better. Most of the time things went great but I still have the odd “fail” project. Upgrading is still a huge part of my sewing habits.









At this point, I knew my body. I objectively knew that I was (still am) obese. Some projects made me feel like I had to change something. This came gradually. For exemple, I made a dress for a “pre-wedding” event. I hate all of the pictures because you can see my arms. Later in the year, I could not hike as well as others when we were on vacation. Little details adding up month after month.



After a while, I just wanted to do something and started a diet last July. I lost 13 kilos in the first 4 month and I am still plateau-ing. Christmas did not help, neither did a miscarriage. But I am still very happy with the results and I am looking forward to the coming months and how my body will change. I am very active and I am sure that I will keep on getting healthier. In my last projects, my sewing has reinforced the happy feelings. I started working on more fitted garments. And they make me feel great!







In conclusion, I feel so grateful! Sewing was a plaster when I had body image issues and became a motivation booster after I changed for the better.

Does sewing do that for you?
Please share!



42 comments:

  1. For me, the great thing sewing did was make me realise that *anyone* can wear *anything* if it's in the right size. In the past I thought "oh, that style will never work for someone my size" but it was actually just that the shop didn't have it in my size. Of course I'm not going to start showing off my midriff anytime soon but I am definitely wearing things with buttons down the front, or pencil skirts that fit just right. I suspect I sew clothes slightly bigger than what I would buy as well (because I'm not freaked out by the number as much), so they end up looking better!

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    1. I completely agree. Fit is key. I always found it sad that stores don't carry larger sizes. I would love to try out things in shops (like Kara for ex) and than look for the pattern.

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  2. Funnily enough I have had the same discovery. I have just started a blog, a couple of weeks ago and all of a sudden I have to look at myself. I would rarely look at a photo of myself let alone post one for everyone to see and yet I am. Suddenly I see myself. I don't particularly like my size at the moment as i have put on a weight in the last few years with a whole heap of personal reasons. However what I am finding is that I am accepting what I look like and can see what I need to do. So as you have found blogging has helped me to start looking at my health and start to make better choices and face myself, which was the scariest part of all. I like the person I am , I don't particularly like how I look at the moment but I can accept that and start to deal with it. Blogging for me has been very enlightening and in many ways liberating.

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    1. That's great! I also found that sewing a project means doing something, finishing it and get to a result. I am sure it also opens up the way for positive thoughts.

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  3. I went from a size 50 (dutch size) to a 34... After I met my husband back to a 42-44 and after my pregnancy back at a 48. Strangely enough I feel better "big" then I did with size 34. But clotheswise it's a little different, I wasn't sure what I could wear and what not. Which colors, which silhouettes... Clothing companies didn't help much: plus size is in their opinion usualy something in "flattering" colors with a oversized look. My husband made a true comment: "if you are wearing something that makes you feel gorgeous, you shine! So only wear things that make YOU happy and that makes you feel gorgeous. And don't care about what other people think, that's their problem." He is so right!
    I try to wear lots of color, try to avoid a total black outfit, and by making my own clothes (okay, I made one pair of pants so far but I'm a newby) I know I can make something that flatters me AND I can pick the colors. So YAY for DIY...
    I love the pics, you made a lot of stunning clothes! Again I LOVE the poncho!
    I'm very sorry to read about your miscarriage.
    Liefs, Natalie

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    1. Thanks for sharing!
      I have also been extremely disappointed by RTW companies. The H&M plus is baggy, The colors ate Miss Etam are weird, Promiss is also baggy and feels too "ouderwets". I used to like Didi but I stopped enjoying their latest collection. You should try "Monsoon" (bit expensive but great quality). They have a corner in the V&D in Utrecht. They make beautiful dresses. I always find it very inspirational and after trying things on, even if I don't buy any, I come back home with a lot of ideas!
      If you are interested in colorful fabrics, you should visit the Stoffenstektakel.

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    2. Het Stoffenspektakel is marked in my agenda, March 9th in Eindhoven! I'm looking forward to it already... Miss Etam and Promiss, I know... the clothes at Promiss make me feel "bejaard" and the clothes at Miss Etam look (I totaly agree) so weird... I'm definitely checking Moonsoon, maybe the V&D in Eindhoven has the brand but I'll check the internet as well.

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  4. Hi Laurwyn, Love your blog, love what you sew!!!

    If you haven't found us yet - you have to visit our site - it's a not-for-profit project to provide REAL SIZE, ALL SIZE templates for fashion designers, amateur and professional. Maybe it can be useful to you and your sewing friends - let me know what you think!!!
    Thanks! Colette

    www.tracingrealbodymodels.org

    EVERY BODY IS A MODEL BODY Campaign

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    1. Hi, I had a look at the website and it looks quite interesting. I'll think about submitting photos...

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  5. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! You give me courage!
    My history is similar: Always been a 'big round girl', feeling even bigger and rounder than I actually am. I started sewing lessons three years ago, but gave up because my teacher and classmates used to make fun of me 'cause I always had to upgrade the patterns. Silly me! Being an adult and still not able to cope with offensive comments...
    You inspire me to maintain and to believe that it's ok to look at myself in a realistic and positive way.
    I want to say to you that I really love how you turn a piece of fabric into a beautiful, well-fitting garment that flatters you very much. R*E*S*P*E*C*T
    I'm sorry to read about your miscarriage. I wish you a lot of courage...

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    1. You know, all depends on the view you want to adopt. You can be fierceless and go for the garments type you want, or not. For exemple, my grand-ma would always say about patterns I liked "oh they don't come in your side", but once you understand the geometry of it all, it's only a really cool puzzle to solve.

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  6. Sewing helped me to focus on "fit" instead of "flaws". You quickly learn that everyone in the sewing world has fit issues, at every size! Sewing gives you the power to make / alter clothes so that they fit you personally and not some standard mannequin that nobody matches up with. I think wearing clothes that fit can really help tone down the body dissatisfaction talk in your head too. If I'm wearing a RTW blouse with arms that are too tight I'll be thinking about how big my arms are every time I move. If I wear something that fits, I don't think about it at all. I find the change is perspective carries over to when I'm trying on RTW now too. If jeans don't fit I think "these jeans are the wrong shape!" instead of thinking I'm the wrong shape.

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    1. I agree, fit makes you feel the best. But I also feel fabulous when I think of hidden details like the lining etc. I feel like I have a secret!

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  7. Thanks for this brave post! I'm not plus size, but I'm a short person with rounded hips, so making my own garments takes these most frustrating shopping trips from me where I can't find anything that I like and that fits. I never want to be dependent from RTW clothing anymore! Of course, that gives me quite some pressure on my sewing…
    Also I have to say that you and your sewing caused some change in my thinking about fashion! I somehow thought that only thin women with perfect measurements could have really fun with fashion, but when you uploaded your first photos on the burdastyle site, I found that someone like you, with all your joy, creativity and personality showing in your photos, is actually so much more beautiful than any bored looking and boringly dressed model! So now I concentrate more on having fun and dressing my own personal style rather than thinking about my body flaws…
    Keep up your great sewing and blogging, it's always nice to see what you made!

    Kihli

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    1. Thanks a lot Marie! This means a lot! But you know, I also love following what you do. All your projects look so beautiful and classy. You made me feel like toning it down more than once, but in a good way. Your dresses, for example are always nicely fitted at the waist and show your delicate bust and shoulders. I also love the fact we both have "bookcase" shots :)

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  8. My big aha moment was after I lost a bunch of weight, I found that the clothes STILL did not fit me! I dropped 3 pants sizes and I still had the same fit issues, though with a smaller number on the size tag. It was at that point that I realized that my body is shaped the way it is shaped and that's that. The pants are just not cut to fit my shape. I still struggle, mainly because I have not yet mastered sewing a fitted trouser pant so I'm still relying on what the store has to offer.
    Thank you for writing this post! I have linked to it over at Craft Gossip: http://sewing.craftgossip.com/laurwyn-reflects-on-sewing-and-body-image/2014/01/30/
    --Anne

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    1. First of all, thanks a Lot for linking me! It made this post a real dialogue and all the comments are rich with happy and sad personal experiences.
      You know, pants scare the bejesus out of me. I usually stick to jeans because they tuck the tummy in. That's one of my challenges for next year actually. I really want to work on trousers and jeans!

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  9. Thanks for sharing! A 20lb weight gain on a 5" frame recently meant none of my clothing fit me! That's part of what promoted me to start sewing seriously again, but also forced me to come to terms with my new size and shape, because cutting the same size I did before, or cutting the size I think I should be leads only leads to more disappointment! Sewers are forced to be very aware of there body in that way. And while I certainly feel better than I did in accepting my new shape, I'm still not happy about it. Your post validates that I can feel both those emotions, and that's ok.

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    1. Hi Rachel! I found that seeing size as a consequence of numbers (the measurements) removes its guilt properties. Seeing things for what they are rationally helps accepting the emotions that come with them.

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  10. Just wanted to give the results of my body image test. I see myself as #8, and would like to be #5. But when I asked my 4-year-old daughter to point and show me "Which one looks like Mommy?" she eagerly replied, "That one!" and pointed to #1! I had a little bit of a laugh. :)

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    1. That's such a cute story! Kids have a gift to say candidly what will make your day :)

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  11. I love this post. So many of the things you sew are really, really cute and I can see a fun personality in there, too! I haven't sewn something to wear in so long. Maybe I should get back on that - I did a lot of it in college and it always made me feel accomplished!

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    1. Thanks a lot! And indeed, maybe you should get back to sewing! I am sure you will still have the same feeling after completing a project.

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  12. What pattern did you use for your coat??? Real classy!

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    1. I used the Coat Dress pattern from the book of Gertie. It is very easy to assemble!

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  13. Greetings from Prague,
    I am here the first time, but I must thank you for your honesty and courage! I am obese too, and you are BIG INSPIRATION FOR ME.
    I see here many pretty dresses on very pretty girl!
    Please, continue with your blog and with your confidence too. Don´t hide your body to your wardrobe :-)
    I look forward to your next article.
    Anut

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    1. Thanks for your comment! Don't hide either :)

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  14. I really like the long dress, the poncho and the bright pink outfit. I used to sew when my kids were still children, not so much now. I need to rethink this and start sewing again..you are lovely..

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    1. Thanks a lot! And yes, get back to the sewing table, it feels so rewarding!

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  15. I recently read a quote that said "Life is too short not to wear what you want". That's what sewing does for me. And by the way, you look great. Your obviously quirky taste and attitude make you one of the people I'd like to be when I grow up!

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    1. I completely agree with that quote! With sewing, the world is your oyster!

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  16. I cannot sew but loved your blog -and the clothes! I research on and recently started tweeting on our culture of thin ( @weightdebate ) and I just tweeted your blog reference. Before clothes were manufactured they were made by women or for women and never a size - just a measurement. How much hard do we do to ourselves by worrying about what SIZE we are? When did one size fit all? Especially when in the UK at size 10 is a US 14! SO of course I prefer shopping here, where I now live, then in the States, where I used to (although it is cheaper in the US). Keep up the good work Laurwyn, very proud of you.

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    1. This must be the first time I am tweeted about :) It's really cool! I love how passionate you are about body image. I found it so hard to open up and talk about it...

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  17. Well L… I was have recently started sewing, and I have a lot to learn. I started sewing because there is hardly anything out there for plus size that catches my eye. I was looking up "quirky" on the www and found this site. I am glad that I did. You bring a fresh of fresh virtual air to the internet. You have a great style, and I know that I will get a lot of good info from this site. Thanks a bunch my internet pal…..PStokes

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    1. Thanks for your comment P ;)
      If you have any suggestion or would like to read anything specific, shoot!

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  18. For me it is not putting on weight so much as putting on years!!! Sewing patterns often have scooped out necklines that show alligator skin of my old lady chest or armholes that don't flatter or ...you know the song! I wish more patterns had a "mature" version along side of the versions for the young and beautiful. Those of us who are now saggy baby boomers still want to sew and feel good about ourselves!

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    1. I have never seen things that way... But you are right! I also struggle with armholes. My biceps are quite flabby and I rarely show them off :S

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  19. I am shaped just like you are, but I am 61 years old. Harder for me to loose weight. Put I am just getting back into sewing for myself again. Thanks for sharing your struggles.

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  20. Hello Laurwyn !
    I just discovered your blog ! It's nice to read girls talking about how to love their bodies thanks to sewing, and understand their shape, instead of seeing fashion bloggers babling about trends, brands, and "it" clothes of the season for a change ! I've started sewing because I couldn't find the right size in stores like you, expect that I'm on the other side of the scale : 36kg and 1m53... (very tiny) Even when I buy sewing patterns I need to grade down one or two sizes. It's silly really because I do like my body but buying for years clothes that were made me feel like a child and didn't help with finding the self-confidence you need when you're a working adult. Sewing well fitted garments makes me very happy.
    Any way I love that you're sharing your thoughts about this, and I looked at your posts and everything you sew looks so good on you ! I'll definitely be coming back.

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  21. I was just blog surfing and just discovered your blog and this entry. My weight has been up and down (mostly up) my entire life, and I can relate to pretty much everything that you wrote. I'm still trying to come to terms with my body being the way that it is and not how I'd like it to be, but like you, I've also realized that some curves are "okay" as I get older. I also want to say that I am incredibly sorry to hear that you had to go through suffering a miscarriage. My first pregnancy also ended in a miscarriage, and I think I put on around 25lbs from emotional eating in the months that followed.

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  22. I just found you and you should be so proud. I am overweight and started to change my habits and a diet plan on 1/1/14 up to now I have lost 5.2kg and its a hard slog as i cannot exercise at the moment, I normally sew for my granddaughter or make Christening gowns but I have purchased a few of the Deer & Doe patterns and I am going to try and alter them to fit me. Wish me luck, I look so forward to seeing what you do in the future and so excited to read all the other ladies comments

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  23. I loved reading your post! Last year I said it was the year I was going to start sewing for me. I didn't. So I'm saying it again this year. I committed to sewing something for me for another blog, but I hate looking at pictures of myself! ergh... And I went to the doctor this morning and saw how obese I am on that stupid scale! :) This was a perfect blog post for me to read today! Alos sorry to hear of the miscarriage! but glad I found your blog!

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