Who We Are: Tall Sewists, Part 2!

We had so many responses from tall sewists that we had to break them into two posts! You can read Part 1 here.

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Lisa from @sewtall says, 

Who am I?  Don’t we all ask ourselves this question?  It is a difficult one to ask and answer.  The physical answer is easy — I’m a tall (6 ft. or 183 cm), slender person, over 50, who sews and quilts.  The intellectual answer is not so easy. 

I am self-conscious about being tall and envious of woman who are shorter than me.  Shorter women don’t usually have the awkward pleasure of slow dancing with a guy with his head resting on your bust.  Shorter women don’t have to go to the men’s section of the store to buy a men’s shirt to get a shirt with long enough sleeves and body, even if it was too big around.  When I wear my heels to dress up, I am taller than everyone I go to church with except for the guy who is 6’8”.   Don’t get me started on the lack of maternity wear for tall women!

What patterns work best for me?  None!  I have sewn with the Big 4, Jalie, Suitablity, & others and I lengthen every pattern I sew.  Not being ‘average’ height, I add at least 6 inches to dress patterns, usually dividing it up fairly equally from top to bottom.  I also adjust for straight shoulders, small bust & a flat seat  (no bodonkadonk happening here).  I have a Vogue Ralph Rucci pattern I’m trying to figure out how to lengthen because there is nothing on the pattern that says ‘lengthen here.’  I am not a fan of pdf patterns because I don’t want to have to put a pattern together then tear it apart for my adjustments. 

My sewing is more adventuresome now than when I started sewing at 13, partly because I’m paying for my own fabric & partly because why not!  I have sewn pjs, children’s clothing, swimsuits, angel wings, underwear, backpacks, curtains, tailored jackets & slacks, stuffed animals & dolls, cowboy & Hawaiian shirts, and my favorites — leather chaps and an 8-foot-long squid named Sal.  (On a side note, use clear vinyl as the fabric for a toile if you want to make your own leather chaps.)

These sewing projects were helped along with the new tools we have available.  I watched my grandmother cut out quilt pieces with a pencil, cardboard templates, & scissors.  She was pretty pleased to get a rotary cutter & mat!  Sergers are the bomb!  I make my hubby’s shorts start to finish on the serger.  Now I need to master my serger/coverstitch machine.  YouTube, blogs, Instagram, and Pattern Review are awesome!  If you need to see something, look it up on YouTube.  Wondering if that Burda pattern shows off too much cleavage — look it up on Pattern Review.  It is awesome to see folks my age and up showing off their designs on Instagram.  I am so inspired by the people of all ages I see on line.  Envy gets the best of me when I see them posting shots of their meet ups at the fabric stores! 

Being over 50 in the sewing community?  For me it is being invisible.  It is hard for me to be invisible because of my height, but sometimes that is how I feel.  Fashion is not aimed or produced for women over 50, or anyone who doesn’t fit the ‘average’ category for that matter.  This is why I sew.  If I see a wonderful dress on the runway I can use it for my inspiration to sew an outfit that is better suited to me.    

Sewing is a place where I can express my creativity and work with fabulous fabrics.  The real icing on the cake is that I get sleeves that are long enough and I’m not wearing high water pants!

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Sue Anne (aka. @swaan_griff on IG) says, 

When I go clothes shopping, nothing ever fits, and sometimes it feels as though the world is telling me I’m disproportioned. Even the clothes marked “tall” are too short, and usually also too tight in only some spots, because my bust to waist to hip ratio is apparently not what the designer had in mind.  This isn’t a new problem, I know, because my mother (5’10”) faced it in the seventies.  Because the clothing industry didn’t (and doesn’t, though they’re slowly improving) cater to a wide enough range of shapes of humans, my mum sewed her own clothes.

Growing up, I’d hear her talk about how nothing was as comfortable and wonderful as a homemade outfit, because they were made by her to fit her.  I was inspired, and after a lot of learning I’ve reached the point where I wear me-made nearly every day.  Mum was right: it’s incredibly satisfying to have a knee length dress that actually reaches your knees, or a shirt that doesn’t turn into a crop top when you put it on.  I’ve finally talked myself into trying jeans next, because at present I don’t have any that fit properly.  (Wish me luck!)

I also have endometriosis, a feel-normal-most-days-but-have-surprise-pain-on-others type of condition where sometimes, once or twice a month, getting up and about is just too painful, even on medication.  Sewing, and sometimes just reading other people talk about their sewing, is my calming, focus on something besides the hurting activity for when propping myself up on the couch is all I feel up to.  While I know things could be much worse, it’s very frustrating to feel almost-randomly ill, and sewing is such a great outlet because it helps me feel productive and creative even when stuck at home.

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Peach from @la_peche says, 

My name is Peach, and I am a tall, white, cigendered Antipodean (aka New Zealand/Australian). I hit 181cm / 6′ when I was 14 years old — and most of my growth was over the 12 months leading up to that birthday. Or, as the height chart in the kitchen shows, I grew 6″ in 9 months!! I was never a skinny tall person, my curves kicked in between 13-16 years, and I have a classic hour glass shape, with a REALLY narrow waist, and a really deep bust. I’m very proportional, so have both long legs (35″ inseam) and a long torso. I’m pretty anti pedal pushers and crop tops for this reason – all trousers and tops were too short for me for years! I didn’t engage much with fashion in my teens and 20s. I didn’t have much money, and RTW rarely fit well, and when they did, it was usually jeans, and a knit t-shirt with a v neck. When I started working full time, and so had a bit more income, I was frustrated by RTW limitations. Trousers fit at the hips, but gape at the back, and are too short in the leg; shirts fit my shoulders, but are too short in the torso, and gape at the bust. I ended up finding a couple of brands that consistently fit OK, but they were either very formal (and expensive) office wear (bengaline pants for the win!), or completely casual jeans or cargos and fitted T’s — no smart casual in my wardrobe (I have never owned a pair of chinos, or chic cotton cigarette trousers)! Don’t even mention op-shopping (thrift shopping): if RTW was hard to find new, it was impossible to find second hand. This was also early in the days on online shopping — and living down under, there wasn’t a huge range available, and international shipping was cost prohibitive, so that wasn’t an option that worked for me either.

When I hit my mid 20s, I started to travel. And this opened up the world of fashion. My first trips to the US/Europe opened my eyes to the fact that jeans DO come in extra long leg lengths, tops can fit and sit on my hip — liberating! Travelling in South America was entertaining for a different reason — as there was no way in heck I could find anything in my size! I tower over most of the population (so much so, I once had a Colombian man go on tip toes as I walked past him, to my friends delight) — so while I have a few Andean goodies, I rarely wear them, for the above reasons… So for nearly 10 years, my whole wardrobe was sourced while traveling in countries with much bigger populations, and options. (It was obnoxious, people would compliment me on my clothes, and ask where I got them, “oh this? I picked this up in Madrid/London/New York/random little town in Italy.”)

So what changed for me? 3.5 years ago I moved to New Zealand to be closer to my grand mother before she died, and I settled in Wellington. After a few months, I started looking around for ways to meet other people (that wasn’t speed/online dating!), and stumbled over a fabulous craft store (Made Marion), that did classes. So I dipped my toe back into the sewing world with a quilting class (I had sewn as a kid at primary and secondary school).  And one day, when I went in, there was a display of clothes made by a woman called Leimomi (aka The Dreamstress) who taught sewing at the store, and a schedule of the classes on offer. I fell in love with a jacket in the display, and so signed up for the Beginner Sewing course when I got home. And my world changed — part of the beginner sewing curriculum was to make a pair of pyjama pants. The pj pants I made fit me. I was hooked, so I signed up for the next course, and made a knit shirt, then a skirt, and so on I went. These classes opened me up to fabric stores (once mysterious and overwhelming, now my own temple of bliss). Several of the sewing classes I took used patterns from indie designers, which I had to buy, so I started to look them up to buy the patterns, and realised there was a whole world out there of people designing clothes I loved, that I could make, that I could adjust to fit me (and were instant gratification PDF!). And then I discovered sewing blogs, and all the instagram accounts. Suddenly I was exposed to the idea of a FBA (but still figuring out how to apply it!), I learnt to scale patterns up or down, I can insert an invisible zip,  and sleeves, and recently I did my first front fly and placket! I know what adjustments I need to do to make trousers fit my waist, and my hips, and include room for my curvy backside, and that go all the way to the floor! I’m currently learning how to make a well fitted shirt. I have a fabric stash, I have a dropbox full of indie patterns, and a wardrobe that is slowly becoming more ‘me made’. There have been some fails, but not many, and the feeling I get when I finish, and can wear an item of clothing that fits, and is flattering, and totally unique to me, well, it’s addictive… I never realised, or maybe acknowledged, just how much my self esteem was impacted by the lack of well fitting RTW options in Australia and New Zealand. I’m a tall, well proportioned, curvy person, but fashion often causes me to feel fat, disproportionate, left out, and so I chose not to engage for so long.

(And that jacket that started this (r)evolution? I’m just finishing up the lining!)

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And last but not least, Claire says, 

I’m 5’11”. I love being tall. I like taking up space. I like being able to carry off dramatic silhouettes. For the most part, height hasn’t been an issue with using sewing patterns. I’ve only run into maybe two where the whole proportions were so petite as to be truly problematic. Generally adding length is the easiest of all my alterations. I need about 1” in tops and 3-6” in bottoms, depending on the cut and my intended outcome. Sometimes re-blending all those side seams gets old, though. Fitting the different width extremities of my body – that’s the real challenge. I don’t care about how much fabric it takes- it takes what it takes. The only annoying bit is I can’t do much with less than a yard. But that’s as much due to width as to height.

I have to say, as a short sewist (5’2″), I’d never thought much about what it would be like to be tall, other than to dream it would be amazing. I’ve learned a lot from hearing from all the contributors, and I hope you have too!