Friday, May 24, 2013

Butterick B5813: Body Image and Sewing

Here it is, Butterick pattern B5813 number two.  For this version, I added the collar (yay! It turned out great!), and gave it long sleeves.  I also left this dress unlined, which meant that I had to figure out how to make those adjustments to the pattern, and was successful in doing so.  I like my first lined version, but I also felt like an unlined version might be a little breezier for summer.  It really turned out great, and as always, I was excited to learn new skills while making this dress. 
I really loved making this pattern but I loved wearing it even more!   There was a time when I would have thought a form fitted dress such as this was off limits to a curvy girl (side note: curvy is not code for fat!) like me, but sewing for myself has opened my eyes to all of the possibilities out there for me, and new ways to express myself through fashion.  Sewing has helped me in so many ways to express myself creatively, while also helping to broaden my horizons as to what I feel comfortable wearing and how I can present myself.   
This isn’t the first time I have broken out of my shell with fashion to wear something a little more form fitted than I might have dared before I started this blog, but this pink fitted dress really exemplifies how my style has changed and evolved, and also how I have reached a whole new level of self-acceptance through sewing.   
This blog was first created simply as a style and fashion blog that was meant to represent what I see as an underrepresented community of bloggers: average sized women.  While I follow both strait sized as well as plus sized fashion blogs, I was frustrated that there didn’t seem to be many fashion blogs that featured the in-between women like me. 
Although I was already pretty happy with and accepting of my body when I started this blog (years of practice folks), I still had some hang ups about my so called “problem areas” that we as women all believe that we have, and I focused a lot on keeping those areas covered and being careful not to emphasize them.  This can be an important part of learning to style yourself- figuring out what works for you and playing to your strengths.
On the other hand, this idea that we all have parts of our body that are shameful and therefore must be disguised is pretty disgusting to me.  Especially considering the fact that body types can go in and out of style, despite the fact that while you can lose or gain weight, you can’t change (without surgery) the overall composition of your body just because having hips or boobs, or not having hips or boobs, is currently what is or isn’t in fashion.  The whole idea that we need to mold ourselves into the shape of the moment is ridiculous, not to mention impossible. 
Still, saying every body type is beautiful is easier than living that principle when we have conditioned ourselves to believe that certain parts of our body are good, while others are bad and must be hatted and kept from the world at all costs. 
I have loved the billowy, fitted shapes of the 1950’s since my love of fashion began.  It wasn't until I was in my mid-20’s that I got to really play with the shape since it was the first time I had enough money to really dress the way I had always dreamed.  Finally, I could be my own Barbie!  I loved how the hips are free and the waist is cinched just above where my little belly might show, and I feel safe in the layers of fabric that that era can provide. 
But I also loved the loose swingy shifts of the 1920’s, or fitted curve hugging dresses (like this Butterick pattern) that I thought were reserved for thin girls, or at very least girls who are willing to squeeze into ten ponds of foundation garments so that they can mold their bodies into the proper shape (don’t get me wrong-foundation garments that don’t cause pain, have their place in my mind, but that is a post for another day).  Until I started sewing, I thought that this type of body conscious fashion wasn't for me, and I accepted that I just wasn't allowed to wear anything that might show that my curves extend to more than just my boobs and booty.  As it turns out, I also have strong, thick thighs, and yes, even a little round belly under all of that fabric, and that can actually be something to celebrate rather than hide.  I had let myself believe that being afraid to show them was normal, acceptable, and even preferable, and to do so was a shame and a crime against not only myself, but also woman kind.  

The truth is that being ashamed of our bodies, even in small measure, is a slippery slope.  It helps create a culture that believes that a body part can be in or out of fashion, and I want no part of that.  Worst of all, it creates a culture that believes that our bodies are something worth being ashamed of, because as women they are the most important part of us.  But of course, this is crazy and untrue.  We are not bodies with souls, we are souls with bodies.  

Most importantly, we need to be proud of our bodies not just for our own edification, but because the world is watching.  Our friends, sisters, and daughters are watching.  We are creating culture every moment, and we are all responsible for the messages we are sending.  To every pop singer, actress, model, teacher, mom, man, or human being of any kind that says, “I never asked to be a role model,” I say, duh.  No one asks to be a role model and there is no sign up sheet.  You just are one and so is everyone else.  Deal with it and act accordingly.   
Although it is just one step on my personal journey, sewing has been an important part of creating a healthy mindset for myself, and it is helping me to become the person that I want to be, as well as the type of person I want to represent myself as.  It has done so by opening my mind to what I feel comfortable wearing, for the simple reason that I am now able to create clothes that fit me, rather than trying to find clothes that I fit into.  Every curve can be represented (or not) depending on what makes me happy at the time.  The rules of what I can wear and what I cannot wear have been shattered, and I feel free to dress to my mood, not simply stick to what some magazine says flatters my body type.  Although I have worked hard to cultivate a love and appreciation for my body as is over the years, it wasn’t until I started sewing that I finally truly embraced it for all of its curvy, lumpy, strong, fragile, beautiful and useful glory.  If you truly believe that you are a beautiful whole person, moles, cellulite, chipped nails and all, then your world and how you are able to present yourself opens up to you. 
I’ll admit, than when I started looking through the photos of me in this dress I was tempted to not include any photo that I thought made me look too big or too curvy, but then I noticed that those were also the photos where I looked especially happy.  And I was happy that day in my little form fitted dress, and to not celebrate that part of that happiness came from a place of love for myself as I am is a missed opportunity.  

For me fashion is pure joy.  It is a way of expressing myself creatively, and as an art form I think that it has some merit in this world.  But fashion is only the opening act to the real show.  Our bodies are the truest art forms, and the most uniquely beautiful.  And we must never forget that nothing is more beautiful than confidence and a true sense of who we are underneath it all. 


  1. This dress looks really fantastic! It's so flattering, and it's clear that you feel good in it too. I agree that sewing can have a very positive effect on body image because your "problem areas" become fitting challenges that you can actually address. I feel a lot better about my shape now that I can easily make a buttondown shirt that doesn't strain at the hip. It's empowering!

    1. Thanks Kelly, and it is so nice to be able to make clothes that fit your own specific body type rather than having to try stuff on at a store and hope that they will fit. :) It's awesome when you figure out what works for you and can make it and re-make it with your own two hands!