As a plus-size woman, I’ve spent years working through Curvy Sewing Collective and the Sewcialists to get more inclusively-sized patterns. But let me tell you, as hard as it is in womenswear, it’s so much worse in menswear!
My husband is a smart, sexy, kind man, and he deserves to look and feel great in his clothes. He has a 55″ waist, which means I haven’t been able to find a single pants pattern that fits him, and only a literal handful of top or sweater patterns. His body is not the problem — the pattern selection is!
So, what’s a sewist to do when the patterns aren’t right? Get tracing, get hacking, and get grading! I’m going to show you some examples of what I’ve made him in the past, and then show you what I made him for #sewmenswearforeveryone !
One of the first things I started sewing for Jamie was underwear… but just in case his high school students ever find this post, I’m not going to tell you much about those! Suffice to say, I drafted them from my TNT leggings pattern, and it might be the only area of sewing where it’s cheaper to sew than to buy.
The next thing I started sewing Jamie is hoodies! I traced off a RTW hoodie, and sewed that many times… then eventually tried out the FreeSewing.org Hugo hoodie, which had some fit issues in the armscye (too deep) and hood (too tall), but otherwise was great. The joy of Freesewing.org is that you get a pattern custom drafted to your measurements. so I didn’t have to adjust or add length for Jamie’s height!
(Did you read our Sewcialists interview with Joost of Freesewing.org in January? It’s a great read!)
This summer I got to test the Thread Theory Sayward Raglan, which goes up to a 4x. I wrote a tutorial for Thread Theory on how to grade a simple tee like this up or down. I know plenty of plus-size women who refuse to buy patterns that will need grading up (myself included), but when the menswear options are so limited, I’ll do whatever it takes!
This summer, I decided to make Jamie some pants. I’ve never seen plus-size mens pants available with stretch, and I feel strongly that everyone deserves some give in their trousers! I stocked up on stretch twill and started hunting for a pattern… with very little success! I muslined two patterns and compared them with a RTW pair I’d deconstructed.
The problem is that round bodies need both height and width, and neither pattern I tried accounted for the height needed. Personally, I feel strongly that is what happens when a pattern is graded too far past the block. It’s not enough just to sell a 5x pattern — it needs to be a well graded 5x, or it’s a waste of time and fabric! That goes for all patterns, not just menswear.
Anyway, I used the best of the two as a starting point, and altered it past recognition. The great news is that Jamie loved the first pair so much that I’ve made him several more! They are in that category of “not perfect, but perfectly wearable”.
So, let’s talk men’s plus size pattern options! I’m only going to list companies that have sizes over a 50″ waist.
- FreeSewing.org will draft patterns for any measurement. They have patterns including hoodies, tees, pants, a coat and dress shirt.
- Wolf and the Tree has a t-shirt that goes to waist 62″. I wish they had more than one pattern option in that size range!
- Thread Theory did extend their size range, but stops short of a 50″ waist in all patterns except the Fairfield Button-Up. For that shirt, they have a standard fit and a “rounded stomach” fit, kind of like cup sizes but for the belly! They do sell many of the options I mention here in their website store though, which is a good start.
- 5 out of 4 have pyjama pants, a vest, boxers, trunks, and a couple tees and sweaters that go to about a 60″ waist.
- Dapper by Laela Jayne offers a polo/tee, vest and pants up to a 54″ waist.
- Toby K Patterns have a tee, cardigan and dressy vest up to a 54″ waist.
- Ellie and Mac have a tank top and tee up to a 60″ waist.
- Twig and Tale have a casual shirt, coat and vest for up to 62″ waist.
- Simplicity has some “husky boys” and “big and tall” men’s patterns: pyjamas and a fancy vest!
Look, you see the problem, right? If my husband wanted to wear a puffer vest, t-shirt and pyjama pants every day, we would have plenty of pattern options! But actual wardrobe basics are thin on the ground, especially since as I said, a pattern can be extended past its usefulness. Personally, whether I’m shopping for Jamie or myself, I look for plus-size patterns that are built on a different block than the standard sizes, so that the fit is more accurate. Sadly, I’m not sure this actually exists in menswear right now.
What can we do? Well, same thing that we do as any under-represented group: let designers know we want options, share projects for plus-size men on social media, and try to take the stigma out of being over a certain size! Sewing is for everyone, and every body!
Do you have any experience sewing plus-size menswear? Would you agree that the pattern options are pretty, well, slim? Let us know your thoughts and any patterns you recommend in the comments!
The Sewcialists is a hyper-inclusive editorial site. We recognize that “Menswear” as we use it in our theme month is a very loaded term, and we use any gendered reference in these discussions to denote the most broadly accepted “traditional” categories only, without wishing to prescribe or proscribe what any person can wear. We recognize all gender identities and the choice to dress how one pleases.
Gillian cofounded the Sewcialists in 2013. She lives in Canada and loves cats, bright colours and sewing! She blogs at www.craftingarainbow.wordpress.com.