Who We Are: Not “dressing for our size”

As fat women, it was first implied that we should be dressing to hide our bodies, and now we’re all told that we should be dressing to flatter and embrace our curves. We should be ‘nipping things in at the waist’, showing off our chest fat as much as possible and giving the impression of an hourglass figure (especially if we don’t have one). This isn’t to embrace our bodies, of course, it’s just a new method of obscuring them. If you’re not embracing and flaunting your curves you might not be ‘woke’. It’s a lot to keep track of.

I’m not sure how I would describe my clothing “style”. It’s minimalist-ish, simple-ish — I aim for comfort. In addition to a preference for sack dresses and oversized shirts, I also like horizontal stripes — another of the many fashion faux-pas for fat folks.

For years it was enough to have found something that fit my body. I couldn’t be picky if I wanted to be clothed. When I eventually realised back in 2015-ish that I did have style preferences and a preference for natural fibres, there were almost no companies selling clothes like that for fat bodies, but when they did I couldn’t afford them anyway.

I started looking online at clothes I couldn’t afford by companies like Alice Alexander, Universal Standard, Elizabeth Suzann (who only recently extended their sizes to include me), Eileen Fisher (who don’t bother to photograph their plus range on plus size bodies), and eli & barry (who don’t really make clothes in my size).

Collage of images of plus size indie RTW: A fuchsia blazer, a burnt-orange top, a white top, and khaki ankle trousers.
Clothes I love, clockwise from top left: @alicealexanderco, @elizsuzann, @eliandbarry, @elizsuzann
Collage of images of plus-size indie RTW: a bright blue top with bright yellow-orange wide-leg cropped trousers; an all-white top and trousers; a grey vest worn over a long-sleeved white tee and orange trousers; and a white tunic top over light trousers.
clockwise from top left: @alicealexanderco, @elizsuzann, @alicealexanderco, @eliandbarry

Sewing was obviously the answer to not being able to find clothes for myself that ticked (checked) all the boxes! Unfortunately, sewing was a whole new lesson in exclusion. It was incredibly difficult to find patterns in my size, let alone patterns that I liked the style of! I lusted after all the Indie patterns that weren’t made in my size. It seemed that lots of the styles that I wanted just weren’t made for large bodies — is it because companies thought I didn’t want clothes in styles that didn’t necessarily flatter? Were they thinking they were doing me a favour by not offering me a sack dress pattern? Patterns that did come in my size often spoke of ‘flattering’, ‘hiding trouble areas’ and suggesting you ‘add a waist tie for definition’. Did I need to sew the frilly, flouncy, booblicious polyester RTW duds that I’d been trying to avoid by getting into sewing? What about all my style mood boards?

A moodboard collage filled with images of plus sized sewing, with simple and modern patterns featuring clean lines and dramatic cuts.
Style mood board example from my instagram saved folders.

Since the ‘Great Sizing Shakeup of January 2019’ Indie Pattern Companies, whose aesthetic I love, but don’t fit in to, have announced plans for increasing the sizing of their patterns and I hope their new size ranges will include me! I’d love to have a Kalle Shirtdress, Tamarack Jacket, Olya Shirt, Cleo Dress, Wiksten Haori, Helmi Tunic Dress, Kabuki Tee and a Geodesic Sweater hanging in my closet (or folded neatly in my drawers).
But, in the meantime, I’ve started hashtagging my plus size makes to make them easier to find, since I’m always trawling instagram to find larger bodies in any pattern I’m thinking of trying! Any hashtag you can think of gets a plus added at the end, so #stylearc becomes #stylearcplus; #zadiejumpsuit becomes #zadiejumpsuitplus; etc.

I’d love the hashtag #plussizeminimalism to become a constantly updated source of inspiration. I’d especially love if companies stopped assuming I wanted to be flattered and squeezed into society’s idea of a ‘good fat’ and let me dress for me.

Jess is a southern hemisphere dwelling sewist with a penchant for natural fibres. She’s on instagram as fat.bobbin.girl and when she’s not ‘gramming she’s in the kitchen baking, preserving and pickling or in the garden trying to avoid bees. Go check out her brand new blog at http://www.broadintheseams.com !