The Sewcialists Interview: Jenny Rushmore of Cashmerette

Jenny started her blog, Cashmerette, in the same manner many of us do… a record of and ode to her personal creative time, and if someone out there finds information we’ve worked hard to share, the better. Now years later, as she runs Cashmerette Patterns and co-edits the Curvy Sewing Collective, she’s known as changing how we all approach our sewing today: it’s ok to ask to be represented by the companies that want you as a customer, and it’s ok to only buy from those companies that represent you. 

Jenny showed us all the power of our voices in a collective; she showed us that we can organize and make change for the greater good. And let’s not forget “Fighting Hate with Cake.” If you didn’t know that it was Jenny that cofounded the Curvy Sewing Collective (CSC), that it was Jenny behind the push for expanded sizes in other indie companies before Cashmerette Patterns launched, and it was Jenny and the CSC that inspired Gillian to relaunch Sewcialists… consider this our ode to Jenny.

Becky (B):  For those around the world that may not know of Jenny Rushmore, Founder and Owner of Cashmerette, tell us a bit about the start…when you had this online sewing blog, when was that?

Jenny (J): That’s eight years ago right? Yeah, that makes sense.    

B:Yeah, and just as more “backstory,” so in 2010, and you’re in Boston, and you’ve got this blog with some quilting, some crafternoon social time, you have this great audience who are into you great fitting tutorials. I particularly love your participation in Abby Glassenberg’s Series: The Pattern That Changed My Life. And people were really responding well to you, then you launch the Curvy Sewing Collective in 2014 (CSC), which is this amazing and supportive community, obviously filling a need no one else has really taken the time to singularly focus on… Then you launched Cashmerette Patterns in 2015?

J:Yes, October 2015.

B: Here at the Sewcialists, we often try to give light to people in the sewing community that are marginalized, and don’t get a lot of focus. A common rhetoric marginalized people hear is, “It’s a lot of WORK …” to focus on a particular segment, or that it “takes a lot of time…” We want to know your opinion or thoughts on that topic pertaining to focusing on the Cashmerette Patterns size range. The idea that it takes time for things to change… how do you feel about that?

J:I think what’s interesting is plus size women and women who have a bust bigger than a B or C, it’s considered a “niche,” right, so people sometimes say to me, “oh you have a great niche!”  The thing that kind of makes me laugh and drives me a little bit crazy is this is literally not a niche.The majority the population of women in America are a size 12 to 28. The vast majority. There are many more women who are like a size 18 than a size 8. It’s the same with bra sizes. Most patterns are drafted for a B or C cup, but the average woman is a double D cup. Double D is average! 

If we’re looking at the Curvy Sewing Collective (CSC) data (Note: survey data is on the CSC site, and there is an optional full data file download), and I know this is a bit skewed in terms of who we surveyed, but the curve is showing there were more women with an H cup bust than a B cup. Often when people are trying to expand, to be “more diverse” and things like that, they’re kind of trying to pick up the people in like minority populations, which is fantastic and I one hundred percent think that’s a fantastic thing to do, but we’re not a minority population. Plus-sized women and women with big boobs are the majority of the [female] population. So, yes, I think it is frustrating when people are like, “Oh we’ll get to you later,” because in a way it’s like, “Well, why did you pick a size 6 as where to start when 3 times more women are at a size 18?” 

I do have sympathy, like I have a lot of friends who are pattern drafters and designers, many of whom do not have plus sizes, and it is really hard to move into them if you didn’t start there for sure, and so from a business point of view, it makes total sense to me why they don’t necessarily do it but there is obviously this huge gap in the market. Not a niche, but a gap in the market.

I think the thing that’s hard sometimes is you don’t want to be told that your body is difficult to draft for and honestly it’s not difficult to draft for plus sizes but you do need to have a knowledge and it’s notthe same knowledge as if someone’s a size two.

B:I want to get down into those details. Getting a large and modern data sampling of body measurements is notoriously difficult. Among pattern drafters, we know the old standbys that are taught and still used to this day. Pattern drafting is taught on the same basic metrics, with the same growth ratios, and mostly still just sizes 0-18 with a B-cup as it has been for decades. A current larger range is even more difficult to come by, which brings me back to the CSC survey and how do you go about this? What did you use?

J: When we originally started, I did look at the different approaches that you can take, and one thing I think is a common misconception about a lot of pattern drafters is that people think that you based it on yourself, and I didn’t. Aside from anything else, I don’t have the “average plus size figure on a couple of levels, and I actually grade between sizes on my own patterns. I’m very close to one size, but not exactly in it. 

I looked at all the various methods, and I was working at the time with a drafter who led a lot of the plus size work at really big apparel brands. She was actually doing fittings on plus-sized models. Most people are not taught plus size drafting, like in a classic fashion education. There’s a lot of nuance and it is pretty different in plus size drafting. After my conversations with the drafter, we went with her recommendation of the Alvanon System. Patterns and fit do get refined in addition to using the forms/system, of course, through the process of designing and prior to launching a pattern. What’s nice about AlvaForm is that it was developed by scanning women’s bodies in malls all around America. They’ve developed a new set of guidelines, and I immediately knew they were on to something because it was so close to my actual proportions. 

So, I got my mannequin it looks soooo much more like me… still not exactly like me of course, but so much closer, and there are some features on the AlvaForm that have made it into the Cashmerette block like the tilted waist, the forward, sloping shoulders, chunkier upper arms and she has a squidgy tummy, although I’ll be honest, not *that* squidgy, but softer than other styles. I believe the bust size is around D-cup, so she’s really a good starting point. It took about 6 months to develop the blocks and what it ended up being is a sort of like mashup between Alvanon, things that were fitting me but keeping in mind that it wasn’t going to *precisely* fit me.

Of course, there’s lots and lots of testing, and you know, we do continue making tweaks. For example, in a pattern if we have fairly consistent feedback come back from testers about one feature, we’ll work on that. The nice thing about Alvanon is that they’re not just grading up and down, like it’s a true reflection of a real person, so what that means is that the proportions are good. For example, the arms are the right length and the shoulders… the kind of stuff which gets off track when trying to grade from a “straight” size to a plus size without different blocks. **

B:It was explained to me that you actually do two different blocks to account for different weight distributions? For example on the Cashmerette Ames Jeans, there’s an “apple” and a “pear” fit.

J: Not exactly. We did develop three blocks based on the three bust sizes, and while they’re not physical things (I don’t have three mannequins in the studio), we do have different blocks because the kind of geometry of a bust, especially the bust-shoulder-upper-arm-area, is so very complex. So, when we originally did the development, we made sure it worked all around there. It does triple the amount of work that I have to do on the back-end, and while we don’t have two totally different full blocks for weight distribution, the 3 cup size ranges are built and represented.

Cashmerette is all about fit, and it’s all about trying to get you as close to a good fit as you can without adjustments. Obviously many people will still need to adjust but it’s like if we can give the tools to get as close as possible, that would be good. So, as we were developing the jeans, we actually did three or four rounds of testing, and we scrapped and started again. Three times, I think, not even adjusting but completely back to the beginning and trying again and one of the insights I had actually with another drafter as we were working on it was that there were fundamental proportion differences in the bottom in a similar way that bust sizes change. 

Now obviously, there’s an infinite number of combinations of like tummy and hips, and bum and hip, and width and the like, but there did seem to be these two buckets. The one bucket was what I am in and we call that “Apple” for the sake of having a name, which is basically bigger tummy flatter bum, and straighter hips, and not super curvy really on the on the bottom apart from having a tummy. For me and others in this shape, classic pants issues would be like the waist would be too tight and the hips would be too baggy, and there’d be handfuls and handfuls of fabric underneath my bum because my bum is not pulling the fabric up enough. 

But then loads of our testers are in the “Pear” shape. Pear shaped is by far the most common body type of all women. The average woman is pear-shaped — I think it’s like 65% or something. Pear shaped needs more generous curves with a slightly bigger hip and a kind of scoop in the lower back.

So, the point is we realized the same jeans pattern is not going to look great on both of these shapes and that was when we decided to do two versions.  By the time this interview is out, our next patent will be released, a skirt (Ellis skirt), and it will have the same apple and pear options.

B: Ahhh, that’s so great. (I’m going to stick this in the interview for those readers who may wonder why the 2 pant blocks and the 3-cup sizes are such a big deal: We’ve gone over some of this in the IG Sewcialists 20 questions, and Gabby will be going over these things in her fit series, but as you start your personal fitting journey, altering things can start to create other issues. For example, grainlines may get skewed or your side seams may not true up anymore, and other things like that when doing more than minor adjustments. Having a base-block made for your shape makes the adjustments come out better — and even possible. A full bust adjustment is not the same for someone who needs to pop it up to a D-cup vs an H-cup. It’s important to have understanding here — while, yes, “everyone does adjustments,” it is not the same amount of work across the board. That, and it’s just nice to have some of the “heavy lifting” done for you.)

Speaking of, a reader gave me an anecdote about doing a fitting class with you and how an attendee didn’t think that anything would ever fit her, and she cried at the end of class — it was so validating to have someone fit her. We also hear from readers a lot that classes don’t have teachers that know how to fit plus sizes, or sometimes classes won’t even bother teaching sizes that go above a size 18. Do these sorts of things keep that fire in your belly going? Is having a similar experience the impetus behind your work?

J: Oh absolutely! The single most rewarding thing about running Cashmerette is the emotional reactions of people to making the patterns. We regularly get emails or messages on social media or people crying in classes — I often make a joke at the beginning of my classes that some people will cry but it’s not because I’m mean! It’s incredibly rewarding.

I had thought about setting up my own business for many years because I come from a family of entrepreneurs, but I knew that I wanted to do something that like felt meaningful to me and felt purpose-driven. Learning to sew and stopping having to wear ready-to-wear garments really fundamentally changed my body image. I know I talk about all that all the time, but it’s really true.

It’s very rewarding being able to help other women. If you can’t find sewing patterns close to your body, it’s not that dissimilar to going into a shop, you know? It’s unpleasant to feel like, “I’m this weirdo that has to have all these changes made”when in reality being “plus size” isn’t weird at all. 

We have messages from people telling us that they’ve worn a certain kind of garment for the first time.When the Harrison shirt came out, dozens and dozens of people told us that they had never worn a button-down shirt in their entire life, or people would say things like, “I have an H-cup bust and it fit me without adjustments! Can you believe it?!”  

B: I get particularly concerned about how women sometimes refer to their own bodies; if there was something in the world I could fix, it would be that. I’ve experienced it doing custom work, and Leila and I discussed it in her interview… do you see a lot of that? The internalization of these experiences?

J:Right, that’s incredibly common. In my classes at least one person will say, “Oh I’ve got a really difficult body”or I’ve even heard “impossible body.”In the end she was crying because she fit something; but people are often told that and think that a lot of sewing teachers can be really pretty brutal. It’s probably not intended, but I think some instructors are thrown by facing someone with a figure that they haven’t worked with before, and you know, I’ll be totally honest sometimes people come to my classes and I’ll have to work out something slightly new too. It’s all just problem solving first of all, it’s not rocket science right? We know all the principles. Second, I know how it feels. So even if something comes up that’s new, I’ll chat to Carrie, who works with me and helps with these classes, and while on the inside of my head I’m like, “I don’t actually know. This might be quite tricky,”I would never express that to someone. At the end of the day it is ALL solvable. Even if I don’t know immediately off the top of my head which flat pattern adjustment to do, I DO know that if we have someone put a muslin on and I treat it a bit like draping with the pinning, then we make the adjustments and we look, and we make another muslin and so on, we’ll get there.

It’s literally not possible for you to be too small or too big to fit. That isn’t a possibility. Anyone can be covered and it can fit. 

B: What is your opinion is on why some companies don’t expand what’s your opinion on some of the indie pattern companies that don’t expand their size range, and also, will you be extending your size range to the lower sizes?

J: I’m sure it might surprise you to hear but I actually have a lot of sympathy for small businesses and the cost of expanding their size range. 

On a principle standpoint, absolutely yes, I am frustrated by people who start in the niche of “straight size” women and kind of project something like they’ll get to you outliers later. Which to me is a little bit like if you draft for 6’6” and say you’re going to do sizes up to 6’5” later, it’s going to be pointed out very few people are 6’6” except very few men. We’re not outliers. It frustrates me that people don’t start at a more reasonable midpoint.

That said, as a small business owner, I one hundred percent understand why most people don’t expand. If you’re going to expand, you need to do it right. It’s not something you want to do poorly. You you need to be working with someone who knows how, if you’re not plus-sized and you haven’t personally lived that experience. I could speak for hours on the proportions of plus-sized women and how things work and what doesn’t work. If you’re straight sized and you’ve never experienced any of that, you’re starting from a very different point. Of course, financially that’s very difficult. Most pattern companies are tiny. Cashmerette is ultimately tiny, and to invest in effectively starting again on a block and having to do a lot of things twice, not to mention printing. My print costs are so much higher than the straight-sized.

Say I wanted to expand down… the costs of that are very hard to cope with when you’re a tiny company. I think for a lot of us if we were a lot bigger already it would become more of a no-brainer… and while it would be easier to expand sizes on really basic patterns, some of my patterns have taken over a year, and that’s a really long time, just to figure it out for plus sizes.

While I have a hundred percent sympathy for those people who say, “Please don’t tell me I’m too expensive.” Sure, that’s not a pleasant thing to hear or a pleasant message, and I agree, it annoyed me when I heard it before Cashmerette. But if Cashmerette is going to keep on running, I have to be able to make enough money to pay my bills and I have to think of the return on investment of things. So I have a lot of sympathy as a result for pattern designers who are struggling to expand. They really should expand, but I understand.

B: Have you considered doing the reverse and expanding into smaller sizes? 

J: I do get asked to go smaller quite often, and obviously it’s from women with a larger bust size because obviously you can be a size 2 and have an H cup bust size and face many of the same challenges. I’d say firstly people who are below a size 12 do have a lot more available to them; like, a huge amount more available. Basically, you can fit in any sewing pattern as a starting point and if you have just a larger bust you can do a full bust adjustments. I get that is frustrating and I 100% understand not wanting to do them but you can do it. If you’re a size 26, it’s very difficult. You don’t fit in almost any patterns, and also you will face many, many issues with grading up the sizes. I won’t call anyone out, but sometimes you’ll see the comment along the lines that “everyone has to make adjustments” and it’s like, no no no no. Being a size 8 and having to do a two inch FBA is not the same as having to grade something up 6 sizes, or add 7 inches to a waist. It’s fundamentally very different.

So, I am kind of focused on this group of women, who still have very little available to them. I think also at this point I do stand for something. Some brands stand for certain styles or certain fashion, or things like that, whereas for me it’s more similar to Sewaholic, right? If Sewaholic suddenly drafted a new pattern that wasn’t pear-shaped, it doesn’t make sense because they specialize in pear-shape and they’re really good, they’ve really honed it. That’s a parallel example for us. We specialize in curvy, in terms of boobs but also in terms of plus size. So, for now, we’re not intending to expand. 

B: A question the Sewcialist Hive Mind comes up with a lot for indie pattern designers is how do you feel about being the face of your brand? You model everything, your customer base connects you and your body in your patterns and the clothes… how do you reconcile that? In your day to day life, how does it affect your self-image?

J:Yeah, it’s interesting. It is something I thought about quite a lot when I started the company, even down to whether I would keep using the name of my blog. I have a classic brand management background, you know, the funny thing is, is that all big brands want something like what I have and a lot of pattern designers have. Big brands will have meetings and ask things like, “what if your brand had a personality?”and “what if your brand was a person?” and “what’s your brand story?”. The thing is, I have all of that already, right? It is me and I’m not pretending to be anyone else. I mean, this is just me, who I am, and I think that because my brand came out of my blog and my blog obviously was me, I don’t really have a problem with it from that perspective. People already knew me five years, and they knew what I struggled with, what my body type was, and what my personal journey had been, I think that is pretty relevant. I think that people prefer, understandably, interacting with a human rather than a corporate PR department.

I don’t model everything, and I do really want to show our clothes regularly on people who aren’t me.  We always do that, you know, a lot of brands only use one model in their patterns, but we always have at least two, very often we have three women. We want to show different body types and we want to have as much diversity as we can. 

For the new Ellis skirt, we actually have a 12 size model and a size 28 model, along with a size 16. So, with 3 models you really can see the different options.

Cashmerette Ellis skirt, modelled by a size 16 and size 28 models.
Say hi to Sewcialists Editor Meg in the blue t-shirt!

I think that’s important because not everyone’s proportioned like me. That said I do think one value, and it wasn’t intentional but I’ve realized that it in retrospect, is because I model most of the things and people know what my body looks like, it’s like this gauge. If you haven’t seen a model before, you have no idea what looks like in her “normal clothes” right? Whereas with me, you know like what size my boobs are; you’ve seen that before. I’ve sewn and modeled a swimsuit, so people have that mental image. Therefore when I’m seen in different things, there’s sense of familiarity to my body. Obviously for people who are like very close to my shape, this is super helpful, but even for other people they can see how it might work on them as well.

I’ll give you a funny example. The Washington dress model, the original one (we’ve since changed the packaging, but the original was my friend Andrea). We had a bunch of feedback from people saying things like, “she has a flat stomach”and “someone who doesn’t have a flat stomach couldn’t wear the dress.” Andrea, in fact, and she will not be bothered by me saying because she is loud and proud, looks about seven months pregnant at all times. It’s just her shape. People give her seats on public transport all the time because she has a prominent tummy, much more than I do. What was actually the case was that the dress with a purple upper and black bottom made her look like she has a flat stomach. Which you know for some women is an aspirational thing, and so we have this really ironic situation. We were we were getting criticism for using a model with a flat stomach, when in fact is the absolute opposite. It’s the garment doing this illusion-type thing because of the proportions and how it fits her. Andrea was thrilled with this dress.

This so all of that is to say I think there is some benefit to people seeing me in things because they have this benchmark. 

B: It’s amazing what a good fit and some fabric can do. Some ITY knits are like secret power mesh magic and can be slimming, or I can drape something to make my shoulders look much more broad than they are with the added benefit of I don’t look like I’m slouching. Good pattern cutting and fabric choice can create all kinds of illusions if one chooses.

J:We don’t, very deliberately, don’t talk about things being slimming. Even when we do certain tutorials, I’m very careful about it. For example, I did a blog postthat was really popular about waist heights. Plus-sized women tend to have a higher waist. I was demonstrating how I look because a lot of people will say to me, “You’re very hourglass.” It’s actually funny because I’m kind of not. There are only about 4 inches difference between my bust and my hip. It’s because of the proportion I used. If you want your waist look smaller, which you might not and if you don’t that’s totally fine, but if you do, then here are some proportions that will work. 

Ultimately that is part of why curvier women like Cashmerette patterns. The style lines have been thought through and chosen very deliberately to especially balance the proportion of someone with a big bust. That’s the big one, right? It’ll fit you in a literal sense in that it gets around your body, but we pick styles that are balancing if you have a big bust because it can be challenging sometimes not to look like a Wall of Boob. If you want to look like a Wall of Boob, cool, but a lot of us don’t. (laughs)

Technical illustration of how moving a waistline up on a curvy size will change the body proportions - from Cashmerette Blog

B: How do you assess demand? I assume you have a backlog of design options that can go on for years, how do you pick your backlog as you go?

J: Yeah, we haven’t hit every category yet. These days it’s less about, “Hey, how about if we made jeans but in a slightly different style?” I feel like people can do a bootleg hack of our jeans really easily so that’s not something we need to do. We have one coat but it’s a trench coat; it’s a specific type of coat. We don’t have a winter coat and we don’t have a blazer. We don’t have a cardigan and until recently didn’t have a standalone skirt. There is a long list of stuff. We do develop stuff very far in advance, so for instance, 2019 is all done, with 2 already even printed. We do things in batches; we don’t do them one by one. For example, we don’t develop one thing, launch it, see how it does, develop the next thing, and so on. We do them in a group, for many reasons. It’s just a more efficient way to run a business. 

So, what we try and do is make sure that we have a good portfolio of things going at the same time. I’d say for that, there are two considerations. The one is an internal consideration, which is how much effort the patterns are on our end. Some patterns are masses and masses more effort than others in time, resources, and cost. Obviously, you’ve got really complicated things like the swimsuit, the jeans, the trench coat… It always makes me laugh when people say we already have basics. They’re not basic things at all. Then you have other things that are simpler, which I will say sometimes it’s really deceptive, right? You think simple things as being really fast but it wasn’t. It did take a fraction of the time to do the Montrose top, and to do the Turner dress was relatively fast. So we have to look at that because we can’t launch five really complicated things all at the same time. We just don’t have the capacity to do that so we balanced that way. Then we also balance between things that will be universally appealing versus things that we think are going to be more limited in appeal, for various reasons. It may be things like difficulty in sewing, or climate, or not everyone wants to sew a swimsuit, whereas who wouldn’t want a Montrose top, right? It would literally suit everybody. 

So, yes we have those kinds of considerations, and we do not do fashion-led stuff, like almost at all. I know some of my friends who are patent designers think I’m crazy that I’ve done stuff a year in advance but for me it doesn’t really matter because I’m much more about style than fashion. Not to mention that if the type of fashion doesn’t really work very well on curvy bodies, then I’m not doing it. I don’t care that it’s “in,” and obviously that’s subjective. Everybody can wear absolutely anything. You can wear whatever you want, that’s totally fine. But I can tell you right now that certain asymmetries over my bust look really interestingI don’t want to look like I have seven cup size differences between my boobs.  

I think that my customers want things that fit really well, that look proportionately beautiful on them, and then you can always follow fashion by changing the fabric you’re using, or the color, or the hemline. Overtime, sure, that might change, but for right now and as long as we don’t have a cardigan (cheeky grin), following niche fashion is not going to happen.

We want people to be able to have a wardrobe of Cashmerette. Sometimes we get frustrated emails that we don’t have more, but we’ve been out for 3 years, and we have 22 patterns (not including the sleeve expansion or free pattern hacks in the blog.)I feel that’s pretty good! So, it’s not that we’re not coming out with things fast enough, it’s that it’s only been 3 years. 

Sewcialists Editor Gillian wearing Cashmerette every day for a month in 2018
Speaking of building a Cashmerette wardrobe, Sewcialists cofounder Gillian is a pattern tester for Cashmerette and just for fun, she and some friends decided to wear Cashmerette every day for the month of Fabruary 2018!

B: What about classes and teaching? Are you looking to host your own online classes? 

J:We are looking to do more online classes that we will host on our own site at some point. Those are on the horizons.

B: How about fabric shops and the availability of teachers and patterns that are inclusive?

J: I’ve had I have had a lot of feedback from fabric shops about how grateful they were when we came into the market. Aside from anything else, it’s very awkward when you’re in a fabric shop and someone brings up a pattern and you can tell by looking at them, they won’t fit in it, and having to tell them that. If you can’t offer them an alternative you know, that’s a really bad experience for someone in a shop. We’ve also found the same thing true of classes. There are multiple classes out there that will teach both the Archer shirt andthe Harrison shirt or that will teach the Ginger jeans and the Ames jeans. It’s obviously up to those stores to have the presence of mind to have options. I mean jeans are jeans, realistically, in terms of construction, for the vast majority of patterns, so it’s no skin off their nose at all to teach my pattern as well.

I think you know that’s increasingly happening and that’s good. I also have my Fitting for Curves online class which is by far our most popular one. In that, I demonstrate on myself. I don’t just say, “If you need an FBA, here’s how to do it.” I actually show you. It was funny. We had to make all these samples that didn’t fit me, so we had to retroactively unfit Cashmerette patterns to my body, which was quite amusing. Actual discussions making samples like, “Let’s make this more gape-y!” We show the signs that on the samples that prove I need an FBA; we point out all the different indications. Then I show you how to do it and then I just try on one that fits. After putting on the one that fits, we point out all the things that have changed so you know so that once it’s demonstrated, you can do it yourself.

I agree that I think it is a really big missed opportunity if you just want to go to the local store and get fit. I mean I could also know even if I were teaching fulltime, I still wouldn’t be able to hit every person who wants to learn this stuff. I think it behoove fabric stores and sewing studios to have more people who know about this. 

B:I always like to ask if there’s some big burning statement that I’m forgetting to ask you about; some story or something you wish people knew?

J: I’m quite an open book to be honest… I’m not sure there is anything… oh, well, it’s not necessarily something I wish people knew but…

I wish people realize that those as much diversity of what people want to wear in plus sizes as it is at all other sizes. That’s a big issue especially in RTW, right? They kind of assume that all plus-sized women want X, Y & Z. The example I’ll give you which is very tangible is that every time we launch something sleeveless, we get large amounts of mail from people who are angry that it is sleeveless. They say to us, “No one wears sleeveless. No one plus-sized wears sleeveless.” To which I always want to send them all the emails we get when we launch something with sleeves. All the other emails with people telling me they only wear sleeveless garments… In reality, huge numbers of plus-sized women only wear sleeveless garments, and a significant number never wear them.

They’re just different people. We also have people saying plus-sized women can never wear dresses, so why do you have so many dresses? If I were to open all the books and show you all the numbers, you would see that’s not the case. So it is a little bit funny. I think there’s a natural tendency to assume that everyone has the same opinions. What I always do is just direct people to is, first of all, the majority of our patterns have sleeves. It takes time to have variety; it’s just the case of growing the catalog. There are those people who ask why everything is low cut. Well there’s a reason and a lot of it has to do with boob-proportionality. That said, we have lots of things that have closed necks. I think sometimes that people kind of extrapolate out if a pattern isn’t what they want, then there’s no one who wants it, right? 

It’s gotten predictable; it amuses me every time. You know, the more we launch, the more options there are. You may not feel that every single Cashmerette pattern is for you, but I hope that for the vast majority of people there’s at least four or five. 

B: Do you think this comes out of women who’ve been told they’re in a niche group, who really are not in a niche group, who’ve been told they’re too hard to design for… and since as a collective their negative experiences are often the same, their opinions would be? Only to come to find out their opinions and preferences are as wide and varied as all women…

J: I actually ultimately think, and I’d remind myself of this if it ever gets to be hard, that it’s actually really flattering because what means is women are saying, “I love Cashmerette so much,  I want to be able to buy everything you make and I’m disappointed that this thing you just launched isn’t going to suit me.” If they did’t really care about our brand they wouldn’t care to comment, right? Like when the swimsuit came out, some people said it has too much coverage. You could say, well, whatever, just use it different one… but there is no different one.There’s only one swimsuit pattern that goes up to an size H cup with underwire. So, I have sympathy for someone going like, “Oh, I already have one option and you didn’t make exactly what I wanted!!” I understand it and in many ways it’s a flattering situation for us. People are so emotionally invested that they would feel disappointed by something that we do. It can be sometimes a bit difficult on a lunch day when you spent a very long time launching something and then you get lots of angry emails. That can be emotionally a little bit tricky. Although at this point my non-sewing friends will make jokes to me when they see new pattern coming out and ask if it’s sleeveless. I don’t think McCalls gets angry emails because one of their 40 patterns they put out in a day didn’t come out exactly like they wanted… So, I put in perspective and realize it’s only because people care so vehemently. I do want to make everyone happy and we very deliberately alternate between things with sleeves and things that don’t have sleeves, and things that are fitted and things that are really quite loose.

But at the end of the day, that there is a broad diversity. Just because you go above a size 18 doesn’t mean everyone wants the same thing. 

B: People are identifying enough with Cashmerette, they want to see themselves reflected?

J: And, honestly, it also links to some extent to body acceptance. Some people swear they would never wear things that are fitted or would never wear sleeveless never wear shorter hem lengths because they’ll say the have fat knees or whatever they’re used to saying about themselves. Sometimes it’s driven by how they feel about their own bodies, and I’ve had many women in classes either making the wrong size (always too big), or say things like they can’t wear something with a waistline. Or they’ll say they “can’t wear” knit dresses. One of the reasons we get such big emotional reactions is because there will be women saying they don’t wear knit dresses because they’re clingy and they feel like they look really fat. I’ll encourage them to give the Turner dress a go because it’s been developed for your body shape and that they’ll find they don’t have that reaction. Then when they try it on and that’s when it’s a huge revelation that it wasn’t that they couldn’t wear a knit dress; it was that they weren’t wearing knit dresses that were drafted to their body.

**Note from Becky: Alvanon has different options to choose for forms and grading metrics. I add this here because not everyone using an Alvanon form is using Alvanon proprietary data, let alone adding in their own collected data. Alvanon also makes forms with ASTM data which is based from body scanning done by US Gov and FAA originally for use in building airline & car seats; they also have forms with EU data, UK, China, Mexico, etc. You can see the full list of optional grading data & dress forms here. I could write an entire, probably very boring series on this alone, but wanted you to understand the point of all the above is that Jenny spent a lot of time and effort making her special sauce.

The Sewcialist Interviews are a chance to hear more from some of the leaders in our sewing community. We will search out pattern makers, fabric designers, teachers, designers, and all-around awesome people that embody the Sewcialist spirit, and bring you interviews to help inspire your sewing journey.

(All images property and courtesy of Jenny Rushmore and Cashmerette or Gillian Whitcombe, as noted.)

Author Bio: Becky Jo Johnson is a blur in various places, but Instagram is usually a safe bet.