Hi everyone, Kate again with another Who We Are post! We had so many submissions for petite sewists that I’m going to have to divide it into two parts – but I can’t wait to introduce you to lots of new sewcialists! Here’s part 1, with great tips on making adjustments to get patterns to fit and flatter. The one lovely theme I found that runs through this post:
Sewing is a gamechanger. Everyone can have clothes that make you look and feel great, you just have to know how. So what are you waiting for?
And with that, time to get started with the sewists (ps – there’s two Kalle shirtdresses pictured in this post – can you spot them?):
Being 145cm tall (4′ 9″in) obviously means taking up clothes is a constant.
This was annoying when bootleg or flared pants was the trend when I was a teen! I had to learn to sew my own flared bottoms. Though I found that even the patterns didn’t cater for my short legs! I often had to alter the line of the leg, making sure they didn’t start flaring too high up the leg. I’m glad that skinny leg jeans are now the fashion, looking back flared leg lines were not flattering for horizontally challenged people such as me! Another advantage is I am now able to buy crop pants and avoid the need to adjust them altogether!
I have always been really cool with being petite at just under 5’ 2” (157cm), although shopping could be a struggle. I bought my sewing machine a year before I had my daughter and I’d never used one before. Initially I ran before I could walk and ‘the big four’ pattern companies had me in tears as everything swamped me, the flaps where my hips should be and big gaping chest flaps made me feel like a boy. I’m not even going to start on ease issues…
Then my machine got dusty as I became a mother. Nobody really warns you of the relationship meltdown with your body post baby. Shopping was horrific as money was tight and getting a baby buggy in a fitting room caused me to get flustered and go home. So I dusted down my machine and with the help of independent pattern houses and their brilliant tutorials I began to sew the clothes that I wanted to buy. Sewing taught me to stand tall (for a better fit) to measure truthfully (to get the bloody clothes on) and to embrace what you really have in the mirror and love it, because every ‘body’ is beautiful and amazing in it’s own way. I started sewing my own underwear after being sent to the teen department… needless to say, I’ve never looked back and never will.
I was once 5’4 ½” (163cm), but I am now 5’2 ½” (158cm). That 2” loss over the years came slowly, but having to constantly ask for help to reach something can get old fast! Learning to adjust patterns appropriately – more than just taking up a larger hem – took time and practice. Proportion is key.
I love fashion, I love sewing, and I love being able to adjust any pattern so it is proportional to my frame. Years ago we learned to adjust patterns from other sewers, but new sewers typically don’t have that experienced support group and accurate instruction has been hard to find. However, social media has made construction and fit instruction readily available. Also, the new, independent pattern companies are forcing the Big Four to improve their patterns and processes. I am currently working on a Big Four dress pattern that is full length with a slit, the pattern shorten line was at the hip! If I used that line, and shortened the pattern my required 4”, my dress would be X-rated, Yikes! Attention to these types of details will give you a proportioned, wearable garment you love.
This gives you the gift of making ALL the pretty things. Do not pass on a garment because of your height/shape – we all deserve to Look Great, Feel Great and Be Great!
I am 5′ 1” (155cm) and people often refer to me as ‘slight’. I am almost 40 and yet my 8 year old daughter is wearing my t-shirts and I lent my 7 year old niece a pair of my trainers recently, you get the picture… I spent years struggling to find clothes that didn’t look like I’d raided a dressing up box to attempt the look of an adult; I wanted to look like a real adult not a child trying to dress up as one! When I taught teenagers in my twenties, I tried (and failed) to find smart formal clothes to wear so that I wouldn’t be mistaken for one of them in the hallways (failed at this numerous times). Shops seem keen to ensure that not many adults take the slightly cheaper kids clothing section option by always just adding a little something to give the game away…anyone fancy crystal hearts on your jeans pockets?
Enter dressmaking! I have been sewing now for around seven years but wish I had started sooner. I can finally wear the style of clothes I want and THEY FIT. I feel good in the clothes I make (I even feel like a grown-up) and on the days when I’m not wearing something I’ve made I don’t really feel like me. It has been a challenge to get to this point; I have to make a lot of adjustments to bodice patterns and I have a cupboard full of failed attempts but it has been worth it. Dressmaking has enabled me to be who I wanted to be for so long – my body didn’t need to change – I just needed the opportunity to be able to wear well fitting clothes. I now teach dressmaking to others and with the money I save on making my own clothes I treat myself to the occasional pair of size 2 designer shoes… that I won’t be sharing with my daughter’s friends.
Christmas 2017 was the last time I bought a ready to wear piece; a dress. I was really fed up with fitting issues and spending money on something I didn’t really want. I am 4′ 11″ (152) cm and appleshaped. Dresses with too long torsos, trousers that have to be shortened. A skirt in general would be easy to shorten but not for me, when the waist was fine, the hips were to wide. So I decided never to buy ready to wear clothes again and started my sewing journey. The real beginning was about thirty years ago.
I will always have to alter the pattern. As well as the issue of the length, waistlines are often too low and the not standard difference between my waist and my hips. I love altering patterns now. Drawing those new lines to lengthen or shorten a pattern without affecting the final view is almost a ritual to me. To be able to do that is priceless. My dream is to make a jumpsuit one day, but then I will have to fight all those difficulties in one piece!
I’m barely 5’1” (155cm) with not much in the way of booty or boobs. For my entire adult life I’ve had very limited options when it came to shopping for clothes that fit well without making me look a 12 year old, or paying more for alterations than what the outfit cost. I took a sewing class back in the ‘80s but didn’t know anything about pattern ease or alterations, so I grew frustrated and gave up on sewing except to shorten hems. I took up knitting instead (where I did know to modify patterns to fit my measurements, but somehow didn’t make the connection that I should do the same with sewing).
In 2016, a wonderful independent sewing space and fabric shop opened in my area. I took a class there and made a dress that fit! The biggest game changer to successful sewing for me has been learning to alter patterns to my measurements and making muslins to test fit. And also indie patterns. I really appreciate the time these designers take to offer detailed instructions, tutorials, tips and sewalongs.
There’s a sense of empowerment in being able to make my own clothes that fit and flatter my figure. Something seemingly as simple as sewing a pair of panties that actually fit comfortably was life changing! NO ONE should have to put up with uncomfortable & ill-fitting underwear!
Someone recently asked online whether people compliment you when they discover you made your outfit. My answer is yes and proudly!!
One of my favourite things about putting this post together was doing the pictures – I LOVE that we have such a lovely variety of sewcialists on here and that this blog is truly a sewing blog for everyone! That’s all for today folks, have a great weekend.
Kate is one of the Sewcialists editors. An import to the UK from Australia, she shares her love for sustainable fashion and sewing over at Time to Sew
This is a GREAT post! I have NEVER been petite but as a sewing teacher and mentor, I’ve seen my share of fitting obstacles. Thanks for sharing your experiences ladies!
These series are so thought provoking! It’s really good to hear about and realize other people’s struggles. Some things you just don’t consider when it doesn’t impact you!!
For sure, my awareness levels of these sorts of struggles and particularly in the diversity space has shot up in the last few months!
[…] A theme that applied to me! I’ve shared my trials and tribulations along with other petite sewers and fashion lovers via Who We Are: Petite Sewists […]
Thanks Sewcialists and Kate for this post. Everything that everyone featured here had said, resonated with me! Sewing for ourselves is the ultimate customisation.
DIY made to measure clothes 💪🏼 Funny how photos we interpret photos as well, for example, a person standing in a park you’d never know was petite or tall if there’s no other point of comparison!
This is awesome! So glad to see so many petites! Can’t wait to read lot of posts from them. 🙂
I can relate. To. Everyone. Sewing really does provide for the ultimate in customization. I’m short too…and I think one of my biggest fitting room disappointments were the times I would try on pants that had some sort of special detail at the the hem…maybe a zip at the ankle. Whatever it was, I’d lose the whole feature when I had to shorten them.
I find the Kalle Shirtdress is a great silhouette for my height. I’ve made several…all shortened, of course.
Oh yeah, the ankle zip, feels like such a shame that you can’t take out the length anywhere else without it looking a bit strange! My biggest disappointment is also pants. I need to do a flat seat adjustment so unless we’re talking skinny jeans, all “regular” trousers make me look like I’m about to break out into an MC Hammer dance !
Wow! I’ve lost an inch in height and am 5′ 2 1/2. I had not even thought of becoming petite as I age. ugh. Possibly another game changer for my sewing.
This was so fun to read. I have had to help women with disabilities shop in the teen department and I thought it was degrading to them. I can relate to these women so much even though my fitting issues are different. That’s why I love sewing and women who sew! :o) Thank You Kate and everyone!
Hi Elizabeth, thank you for sharing your first hand experience with petite women! Sewing is indeed a superpower, lucky one that the ones reading this blog have come to know. Hopefully we can all spread the word about it!
This is wonderful. These ladies echo my own journey with sewing. Can’t wait to see where this discussion takes us..
Happy you have found some kindred spirits!
I’m not classed as petite (I’m 5ft7 and have massive boobs) but I do have a small frame (shoulders, back, legs, hips.) Adjusting patterns is something I want to learn more about – lots of inspiring people in this post!
I love this series – like other commenters said, it’s so interesting to hear about other people’s experiences. I’m amazed how relatable (aside from the children’s clothes nightmare!) it is as a tall person.
Different sides of the same coin I imagine!
Another was is 5’2″ and I can relate to all that you have written. I was very lucky that my Mum made my jeans when I was a child as we couldn’t get any to fit me at all. Needless to say I’ve taken over the sewing and love that you can get the hips to fit, the length is in the correct place but I still need someone to get the grocery item from the top shelf in the supermarket 🙂
Hi Sharon, the grocery store item made me laugh. It reminded me of a time my cousin (who is less than 5″) came to visit and she was setting the table for dinner… and had to ask my 6″5′ mister to get the glasses from the top shelf! Maybe she too will discover the joys of sewing one day like you xx
Thank you so much for this post. I am petite myself and have started sewing clothes for myself but I am still struggling with adjusting the patterns. They always end up being too big for me even though I have chosen the smallest size. Perhaps I am just using the wrong kind of patterns and should probably look for patterns from some other countries (where people are smaller).