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).
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?
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 !
I truly hope pattern makers will hear you and all the other sexists out there who need to be served as valued consumers.
That was supposed to be sewist, not sexist! My love/hate relationship with autocorrect 😡
Haha, I hope so too!
Great read, thank you. All your points are so well made and I like that you have illustrated what you mean. I think for me this is about “feeling comfortable in your own skin”. I also have (age 66) the same issues over “mutton dressed as lamb” to get over. The Curvy Sewing Collective, Sewover50 and following other hashtags on Instagram have really helped me towards finding my own style and your idea for hashtags is equally good. Well said!
Isn’t it great that there’s so much more representation coming through? It’s also handy for all the extra inspiration that it’s providing!
I love this post. Thank you.
A very honest post. I am also not convinced about celebrating the extra weight that we are supposed to embrace. The thing is that no matter how comfortable your head is with extra weight, this has no influence over your internal organs and joints which will be impacted the same regardless. Sewing your own clothes does give you the special bonus of making things that fit and that you are comfortable in and with. As fat distributes itself differently on different people the loose styles are the most adaptable, and pattern companies should reflect this in the larger sizes.
Hi Helen, Health isn’t anyone’s business but the individuals, but more importantly I think people should wear the close they want to wear, regardless of their size. It just so happens that I like a particular style of clothes that might lead people to thinking that I’m trying to hide my body, which is not the case!
I’ve probably conveyed this sentiment here before but…as a black girl growing up in a predominantly black area through the 80’s and 90’s…the worst “body image issue” I had was that I had no butt. In a freshman English class in college, there was talk about pressure to fit society’s beauty standards…another black girl and I were so confused because…there was no reason for me to feel bad that I didn’t look like the model on the magazine. I did not identify with her in any way. And so I’ve lived my life without even considering these body issues.
Until I started sewing.
I did not know or understand the ways in which the majority of women were made to feel shame about their body. I’d never heard so much about trying to “flatter” the body until I started sewing.
And while I’m not plus-sized, I fully relate to the feeling of lack of adequate representation. It’s tough to feel a connection when you don’t “see yourself”. I was PUMPED to see these discussions finally make it to the sewing and knitting world. It is not something to side step or sweep under the rug because we have to “be nice”. I was pleased to find a large number of pattern companies who DID offer extended sizing — I happen to be a Burda/Big4 lady and much less into the Indie patterns — but I totally noticed that designers in the “popular” Indie club who offered extended size ranges were few and far between.
Also, the no horizontal stripes thing is definitely one of the most ridiculous “rules” for dressing EVER. So…no rules besides, “Wear what you want and feel comfortable in!”
That’s great that you were able to avoid the body image issues for so long but terrible that sewing was what introduced it all to you! I really hope there are improvements on the horizon for big4 and indie sizing and how they talk about bodies!
This post caught my eye right away. The empowerment, self-assurance and self-confidence in your writing really excites me. I feel so happy to have stumbled into this community during a time when I needed to hear from strong women like you. It’s almost ridiculous how much control we can take over our lives by taking control of our garments. Thank you.
Thanks for your kind words Paula! It’s great to be able to make your own clothes, but it will be even more empowering when there’s more than a few companies making patterns for larger bodies!
Loved you post. So well written and clearly thought out. I am a betweenie – I’m often at the top of size ranges – and also just wear what I like and make what I like to wear. I wanted to mention that I think the photos of you dressed in your preferred style are incredibly stylish. You look comfortable and happy and I wish that I could look so put together in my own me made wardrobe.
Thanks for your kind words! Quite a few of those pieces aren’t me-made. In fact, a lot of my clothes that I wouldn’t consider my ‘dressing up’ clothes aren’t me-mades but I would love to have all the clothes that I felt most ‘put together’ in to be made by me!
I love this post! I would also love a #plussizeminimalism tag + the #xxxxplus frame suggested. IDK about you, but I spend a lot of time scouring for pictures of patterns on people with bodies like mine to judge how it will work for me. 🙂
Yes! I spend so much time looking for bodies like mind on Instagram, and the hashtags are often sadly empty. I also set up a Pinterest account recently so that I could ‘pin’ plus size minimalist clothes, but the difference in the style of clothes between ‘minimalist clothes’ and ‘plus size size minimalist clothes’ is appalling!
Great post Jess. I too am looking forward to some of the indie patterns being released eventually having promised a more inclusive sizing for fat folk. It’s been soul destroying quite honestly in the past on social media with new releases that don’t go beyond basic scope in size, very niche. I don’t want to show off my curves either, or follow any of the rules that are laid out for those of us who are more fleshy. I’m hoping in the future that we won’t have to label ourselves either by calling ourselves/being called by others – plus size or curvy and that we are just people who sew and are given the same options as everyone else to make whatever patterns are out there. Even pattern review YouTubers mainly forget to mention any larger size options. We do exist. I like your hash tagging with the plus extension, it’s very useful for others to see and be inspired by what they could make too (out of what little there is at the moment out there) Like I said, ideally all our differences in representation across the board will hopefully be well balanced in terms of ethnicity, ability, age and size and labels will not be necessary. Unfortunately they are now though to highlight the discrepancies in representation. I love your posts on IG, you’ve already made me aware of the Zadie jumpsuit being released to include extra sizes and it being something I would want to make and wear myself, very inspirational – thank you.
You’re absolutely right! I hope for a future where it’s not so hard to find bodies like mine online, and additions to the hashtag become unnecessary! I’m always so excited when I come across a new pattern that I love in my size, because there’s so much ‘thrill of the chase’ involved in uncovering these rare gems!
I love your handle, and your inspiration roundup! Everybody deserves the soft linen bags of their dreams, dammit, and I hope you are supported in your quest for yours by designers and brands. C’mon capitalism, be a pal for a change!!
I don’t think your signature silhouette looks like you’re trying to hide at all, you look comfortable and chic and lovely, chest fat out on parade (lolol by the way, I love that description) or no!
Thanks PoundCake! I think fat folks are going to look great in all the patterns I hope will be opening up to us soon. I can’t wait!
Would it be weird to say I LOVE YOU?! Ha. I mean that in the best possible way 🙂 I SO relate to everything you said and had to laugh at you searching on #plussizeminimalism cuz I have done the same SO many times and usually like three pictures come up (sad, so sad) and I get discouraged and return to the Old Navy website cuz I gotta hang SOMETHING over my body to go to work.I believe they require that. I don’t have the budget for the “beautiful” minimalist, size inclusive clothes, and I really don’t want to wear the “body conscious” styles that seem to be be pushed on us plus sized ladies these days. There is nothing more wonderful than putting on a piece of clothing that stays where it’s supposed to and just skims gently over the body, ahhh. Why should THAT be SO HARD?
I’m NOT a sewer. The first class I ever failed was Home Ec in junior high cuz I didn’t finish a simple jumper. And now, while I dream of creating simple garments from wonderful body friendly fabrics, my sewing machine dreams of killing me. I kid you not. First Sewing Machine…and now Son of Sewing Machine. They hate me. Bobbins. Bobbins are the bane of my existence.
So I scroll longingly through sites like Elizabeth Suzann and Farmhouse Frocks…and then sewing and fabric sites…and then I try to make the best of putting on my mainstream fashion that never quite fits right to go out into the world.
I might try a simple sewing project again. Like a nightgown. SIMPLE. Because I have DREAMS of being able to dress AS I PLEASE.
Thanks for your reply Bettye! I’m still hoping for an explosion of plus size bloggers who are into minimalist style so I can get my hashtag fix!
In truth I’m only a sewist because I can’t find clothes I like in my size that I love! I would definitely say you should give sewing another go, but I too am living in hope for the day where it’s not necessary!