Who We Are: Not Included

Vogue 2960, 2013

When I started reading sewing blogs around 2010 and became a sewing blogger in 2012, I don’t recall coming across many plus size sewing blogs. I was so inspired by all of the interesting and unique creations that sewists were making that I didn’t think much about how most of the bloggers I read fit into a similar mold (i.e. slim/white) and different sizes and ethnicities were not represented. That isn’t to say that sewing bloggers of various sizes and ethnic backgrounds weren’t blogging — I just did not see them among the popular blogs in my feed. I was used to being underrepresented as a multi-ethnic woman of size and the fact that no one ever looked like me wasn’t unusual. The popular indie patterns had small size ranges and there wasn’t much diversity. I never felt like I was included in any of those cliques. I had to grade patterns up to fit, which is something that never really bothered me as I just assumed that I was different from the norm.

Colette Moneta, 2014. The year of the Curvy Colette Plus-Size Blog Tour and the start of the Curvy Sewing Collective.

In 2014 we created the Curvy Sewing Collective and I discovered an entire new part of the sewing community that I actually fit into. As our site grew to 100k + followers, I found out how many other people did not fit into that small size mold. I’m not sure why this surprised me as I can look out at the women in my community and most look more like me than that small size mold that was prevalent in the sewing and fashion industry. The average size of an American woman is a 16, so why was (is!) the sewing community focused so much on a small size chart? More than half of the sewists I’ve encountered in the last year identify themselves more with being “curvy” than small, slim, and/or petite. It’s obvious that a change was needed as more pattern companies attempted to fill that void by expanding their size charts or developing patterns drafted for plus-size bodies. Moving forward, the last few years have felt like a renaissance not just for curvy gals, but I’ve felt a more inclusive place for everyone. I no longer felt like the anomaly.

Decades of Style ESP Dress, 2015

That is until now….

In December 2017, a group of bloggers created a year long sewing challenge with a list of indie sewing patterns. None of those patterns went into the plus-size range. It felt like 2010 again. We weren’t moving forward, we were moving backward with a focus on that small size sewist again. Then in January I noticed that one of the “Big 4” companies was ignoring plus-size sewists on their social media and had not shared a plus-size image on social media since July 2017 — and it was one of their pattern samples. I looked through their social media feeds and saw how the white/slim sewist dominated. I sent an email to that company and three months later, I have yet to hear back and nothing has changed. Another Big 4 company started a sewalong this year featuring a group of bloggers without a plus-size sewist (*edit — they have now added a plus-size sewist*). Just when I think things are changing, the sewing community regresses.

Cashmerette Appleton, 2016

If you don’t fit into that mold that the sewing community seems to think is the “average” person, how do you feel? As someone whose ethnicity and body shape is rarely represented, I often feel like these pattern companies and sewing bloggers just don’t care. If they did, they might expand their size ranges, develop inclusive sewing challenges, or at the very least share images of a diverse range of sewists wearing their patterns. I know I’m not alone as I often hear others complaining of this same thing.

Simplicity 8504, 2017

This lack of size inclusivity and ethnic diversity makes me feel unwanted. Like others have acknowledged, I often feel like I shouldn’t be supporting pattern companies that don’t bother to expand their size range or include non-white models in their pattern photos and advertising. To me, it’s even worse when you share sewing projects of many different sewists and not one of them is plus-size. In this age of hashtags, how hard is it to include diverse body shapes and people from different ethnic groups? Why are we being left out? It’s discrimination. There’s no other way to say it, especially when we write letters, leave comments and voice our opinions and we are still ignored. To me, it’s starting to feel like not only are we not included, we are left out for a reason, and there’s no positive way to spin that.

Closet Case Charlie Caftan, 2018

Tanya is an editor at the Curvy Sewing Collective, and blogs at http://tanyamaile.com/ . You can find her on Instagram at @tanyamaile

Editor’s Note: We are still accepting 1-3 paragraph submissions about your experiences being a plus-size/curvy sewist! Email us at sewcialists@gmail.com if you want to share!