Friday, July 18, 2014

The Body + Anemone Skirt

I was a very early bloomer. By the time I was 14 I wore a C-cup bra, and now I'm around a 36-38 D or DD depending on the brand (yes - they all fit differently). I'm also short - at least I consider 5'5" to be short. I remember shopping for clothes as a teenager and my father having to tell me that I really needed the Medium or Large shirt. Ouch.

I also recall another family member offering to "give me" a breast reduction for graduation when I earned my Master's. This same family member also taught me to keep my upper arms covered, never wear scoop neck tops and generally dislike my body as I knew it. Double ouch.

I lingered in this dislike of my body pretty much until I started sewing. I wore black to work - like head to toe - thinking this was more flattering. I never wore colors, let alone short skirts, dresses or short sleeves. 

So what changed?

Well, when you sew you must have a critical understanding of your body. Your measurements must be accurate lest you wind up with garments that are too large or too small. You also have to develop a keen eye for your "points of interest" and your "cover 'em ups." You begin to see your body in terms of proportion and unique design. You begin to notice styles and colors that flatter. And most important you begin to notice which garments make you feel like a rock star. The numbers you've listed as your measurements don't seem to matter too much after awhile. They are simply there to help you pick your pattern size.

On the topic of measurements, mine are as follows:
High Bust: 36"
Full Bust: 42" 
Waist: 34"
Hip: 42"

Someone on Instagram posted their sizes for their upcoming que of patterns and then lamented on how she used to be skinny. I wear larger sizes than her in all of those and I feel skinny!

What on earth is going on with women today? And what have seamstresses figured out that could benefit all women? I rarely see a sewing blogger complain about her pattern size. In fact, seeing so many different sizes helps the rest of us gauge the success of a pattern on our figure. I don't see the Curvy Sewing Collective sitting around over tea complaining about their bodies. All I see are perfectly fitted garments on a variety of sizes.

If you've made it this far, I have a few tips for those of you, seamstresses or not, who might be feeling pretty down about your God-given figures:

1. YOU ARE NOT YOUR MEASUREMENTS! (Say this 10x if you need to.)
There is no need to internalize the numbers on the tape and turn them into a reason to dislike yourself. Period. Your measurements serve one purpose and that is to help you choose your pattern size.

When hubby and I visited Knoxville a few weeks ago, my mom noticed that I am wearing more scoop neck (read: low cut) tops (Nettie!) and my dad mentioned I was gussied up (Nettie + Zinnia). I don't blame them - they see me once a year so they have no idea that I dress this way everyday as an empowered woman. Either way, their reactions or comments don't have to shape how I dress myself or what I like to wear.

I strive to do this everyday - this includes some make-up, hair, my colorful outfits, and most recently, high Swedish Hasbeens. I learned quickly that black fabric is boring to sew, let alone wear everyday. So now I wear the colors that I love, whether or not some book tells me they are "my colors." 

There are many wonderful bloggers who exemplify this and make no apologies. I won't list them all, but we know who they are. Find what you love and create your personal style based on that, not what magazines or TV tell you to wear "for your body."

A few years ago a church member did the readings for our Lessons & Carols service. She had just had her third child and was proud to wear an outfit that showed off her figure. AND MORE POWER TO HER! She looked amazing and you could tell that she felt amazing too.

And finally...

This one is important. We are told somehow that women who wear make-up/red nail polish/high heels/short skirts/lower cut shirts are somehow less intelligent, competent, pious, good, etc. This is a load of crap. I had my first full-time job at 22, M.S. by 23, bought a house (by myself) and got married at 24, got a better job by 25, etc. etc. And by God, if I want to wear a poufy skirt, scoop neck bodysuit and heeled sandals, while donning red nail polish and a poof in my hair, I will. These things don't say that I don't volunteer my time, lead Bible study, sing in choir, work with children, tithe to my church, etc. Don't let anyone put you in a box based on what you wear.

Speaking of low-cut shirts and short skirts...enter Nettie + Anemone!

I bought the Anemone pattern when Eleanore released Centauree and then it sat and sat, due to some fear that it wouldn't flatter my bit of a belly. (I guess I need to read the aforementioned tome.) 

I feel like my sewing mojo (sewjo from here on out) left me a few weeks ago and that this skirt might be a good pattern to try. I had some kelly green denim from JoAnn lingering in my stash so I pulled it out. 

Turns out, this pattern is super-flattering! I am really liking high-waisted skirts right now and this one is my new favorite. I cut the size 46 and extended the center front 5/8" to give me 34 1/2" at the waist or high ribs. I chose not to line this one as it's technically a wearable muslin - I faced the waist with double-fold bias tape in lavender, and serged and turned the hem about 1".

A sewing pal on Instagram recommended staying the waist so I fused some roll interfacing all along the waistline as well as on the zipper seam allowance. I used a 22" orange zipper cut to 14" for the back. I didn't finish my seams (I honestly thought this would be tossed) and I'm sure I'll regret it.

I used Wonder Tape to secure the zipper before I sewed it and as always, I have a lovely centered zip.

And now, here is the belly in question:

I blame this on singing. At my first voice lesson my teacher told me that women tend to suck in their gut and that in order to take a full, healthy breath, I would need to let this habit go. Four years later I think I've figured it out, but this little ponch is what I tend to hide with my garments. Zinnia, Chardon, Hollyburn view C, and now Anemone all help me achieve this. This singing space is also why I add so much ease at the waist in all of my dresses, but believe me, they are super-comfortable.

I think that's enough rambling for one day.

Pattern: Deer & Doe Anemone skirt
Size: 46 + 5/8" at center front
Fabric: Kelly green denim from JoAnn 1 1/4 yard of 60"
Thread: Gutermann from JoAnn
Needle: Schmetz 90/14 Denim 
Changes: no lining, DFBT at waistline, added fusible to waistline to prevent stretching & zip seam allowance, Wonder Tape at zip

How has sewing improved your body image?


  1. What a great post,I totally agree with you! Sewing has improved my body image too, my body and I have become very good friends. Your skirt is very pretty and such a great match with the Nettie. And I wouldn't worry about the belly thing if I were you, you look great!

    1. Thank you! :) I'm always pleased when a skirt or bottom goes well with Nettie...I'm convinced all of them do!

  2. Well said, an absolutely brilliant post and so true! My measurements are the same as yours and I'm on the short side too being 5ft 2in! Sewing has got me less fixated about size, measurements are now about making clothes that fit rather than defining my body. I'm much more confident now, so much so1 that I happily post pictures on my blog for the simple reason that I am proud that I have created garments that I love and are just 'me'. I love your Anemone, it really is a very flattering shape and is now on my to sew list! Thanks for such an inspirational post, it's wonderful that women are feeling so empowered through their sewing.

    1. Thank you Helen! I think focusing on fit rather than size is so important.

  3. What a well thought out post, just terrific. You're so right - as sewists we just have to become quite objective about our own proportions and size, and I think we see ourselves in the context of other normal looking people (other sewists) rather than comparing ourselves with media ideals.

    Sewing and blogging have made a huge difference to my self perception... I don't want to rabbit on too much here, but there was a period of many years where I wasn't even in the family photos because I couldn't stand the way I looked. These days of course I'm plastered all over my own sewing blog - it's a huge change.

    Oh and scoop necks and bright colors look wonderful on you - and your belly is unnoticeable in these photos, it just looks like a normal, unremarkable amount of belly :).

    1. I can relate! I'm still not 100% comfortable with the photos of garments, but I'm slowly moving in that direction!

  4. I love this post and I love your green skirt. It is very flattering on you!

  5. Thank you for the post. I have a similar body type and I am 51 (it looks different at 51!) I always had a generous chest and I did sports, danced…Sewing has been amazing for my body image as the previous commenter said. I have been posting on Pattern Review and Kollabora and it is great fun. I am going to add another tip. Manage your media feed. Its hard, but consume imagery that supports a positive body. Remember, statistically we are average!

    1. Media feed is extremely important to monitor - I've tried to limit Facebook (for more obvious reasons) but yes I completely agree. We don't purchase cable TV and I don't get fashion magazines. But we're still inundated aren't we? It's important to realize how much we're affected by all that we consume each day.

  6. I love this post! It is very timely for me, as I have been struggling with my size lately. I keep getting hung up on the numbers even though I know I shouldn't. I think that you and I have similar shapes so thank you so much for sharing your measurements! I have a bit of a belly too, so I loved hearing about the skirts and I look forward to trying one or two. Your kelly green skirt and it looks amazing on you! (And so do the rest of your makes!) Thanks again for sharing!

    1. Thank you Heather. The numbers are so crucial to keep in mind so that we aren't wasting our time and resources when we make a garment, but also not at all crucial in that they say nothing about you personally. I think we forget this and too often focus on the hidden implications of the numbers or the pattern size. I found it easier to consider them "friends" than enemies! So far it's worked!

  7. Great post! I think us sewers have it easier in that often (usually?) we have the products we are buying (patterns) presented to us on "normal" bodies. Whether it's Indie pattern companies using pear shaped models, or even themselves, or it's through the huge variety of body shapes out there in the blogosphere. We end up with a realistic view of how we will look. Versus buying RTW sold via a fashion model which then leaves us disillusioned when we don't look the same as the tall, leggy model with the thigh gap!!!! I think it's brilliant to be able to see so many "normal" shapes and sizes, rather than the ubiquitous model shape.

    I love the bit in Men in Black 3 (I think?), when Will Smith's character comments that all models are aliens! I sometimes like to believe that's true!!! 😄

    1. That is so true, Helen! We are very lucky that the fit models are usually all sizes, especially with the latest Colette releases (and really before that if you take a look at their earlier patterns). I'm not sure if you have a fashion sketchbook, but the generic one (i.e. not Fashionary) has very alien looking bodies drawn on the pages - I'm not sure who is shaped like that but I'm sort of relieved that I do not! :-)

  8. What a wonderful lesson for women on self acceptance. I have learned since I went back to sewing for myself that size on a paper means nothing. Measurements are definitely there and important for fit. I love the fact that now the patterns usually have the finished measurements on pattern pieces to include the ease. This is something that I do not remember in older patterns. Great skirt and I think all the mix of different colors makes it unique.

    1. Thank you, Nana! I definitely agree that finished measurements help a great deal! It's hard to really know what will fit based on the standard sloper measurements, and often times with commercial patterns you can be surprised if you go by the finished measurements!

  9. I loved this post!! You look amazing in your photos, by the way. Love your clothes, love your words. Kudos! :)