Measurements, patternmaking, garment sewing, body image, self acceptance

This post is about weight and size. I’ll try not to shame any weight, because there is enough of that going around as it is. Neither “normal”-sized people or people differing from “normality” should feel inadequate, and least of all should people suffering from eating disorders be burdened with more shame than they already carry. However, this is a post where I express my own thoughts about making peace with a body on the big side, and I apologise if anyone should be hurt by any of my views.

This is a topic that’s been on my mind for quite some time now – how making my own clothes means I should be brutally honest with myself when taking my measurements and choosing a pattern size. I confess I’m not good at this, but I’m getting there. I’ve been dieting on and off for several years, and always been under the impression that me working on clothes that actually fit was a waste of my time, fabric and efforts – I was going to get thinner someday soon after all. I decided it was time to change this during the last couple of years, as I became aware of what I was actually doing to myself, living by this sewing philosophy and never being good enough to deserve something made from the good fabrics. During this time, burnout has been a blessing, telling me to slow down and don’t use all my energy on trivial things like body size.  Last year I resolved to be happy with my body by the time I turned 30, which was this February, and in the process I’ve searched around for inspiration. In my opinion, Tara Lynn is one of the most beautiful models around, and it’s so liberating that women her size finally get their due credit as being beautiful beside their thinner co-workers.

Still it hurt my pride, my self-esteem and my self-image every time I was confronted with how big my body was – the measure tape doesn’t lie I tell you, and some particular instances at school could send me spiralling downwards. But I continued to make clothes that fit me, loving the look of something that wasn’t just too tight to be either pretty or comfortable, and I realised that my body had its own unique fitting issues that should be handled, and that this was actually a great asset in the class room – learning to deal with different body types.

My teacher, who’s worked several years as a seamstress, doesn’t beat about the bush when it comes to body sizes, which can be quite harsh sometimes. When I constructed my skirt foundation I ended up with a foundation that was much higher in the back than in the sides. I asked if this could be correct, and she replied it was to be expected because of my body shape (big bum and tum).  I’d lie if I said that this didn’t set some negative though patterns in motion, but in the end I understood why my skirts usually end up looking shorter in the back than in the front – they simply lack the extra fabric needed. The same teacher also made a wonderful comment about bigger sizes when I started drafting my jacket pattern the other week: “You’re fairly big, almost plus-size, and this is a size that can inspire some great fun in a jacket as you have much more fabric to play with!”

Today society and media drills it into us from an early age (and it gets earlier still for today’s children) that our worth is to be seen in context with our achievements, our looks and our weight. Fat is bad, skinny is desired and almost nothing is too skinny (short of suffering from serious anorexia). We are bombarded with weight loss tips, glossy photo-shopped models, lists of heightened risks we meet when reaching a certain weight etc. But which size is beautiful?Skinny is considered sexy and beautiful, skinny people are happier (else, why are there so many weight loss programs out there?), skinny today is considered healthy. If someone says something about accepting your own body as it is, there are always vultures ready to tell you that you are entitled to accept your body only if they consider it healthy-looking, which mostly means skinny. Not anorexic, but still skinny – far away from slight overweight or worse, obese. Sure, there are counter actions out there – big is beautiful, real women have curves etc. But these memes doesn’t do anything about the problem, they just help fuel the ongoing war based on looks and weight. Nobody wins without dragging someone else down.  As a childhood school friend put it: “People can say all they want about me being skinny without me having the right to say anything about them being fat, as skinny is desired and fat is not to be spoken of. But still I’m hurt every time someone mentions my size, as it’s how I’m made after all – I shouldn’t be made to feel bad about it just because they’re not as skinny as I!” Weight and clothing sizes are a reversed currency – your wealth (worth) decreases with higher numbers.

I’m still heavily overweight with a BMI that’s just below the 30-mark. At Christmas my BMI indicated obesity. I still want to lose some weight, mainly because it’s easier to move around without all this extra weight, but I’m aware that this will take time, and I may or may not reach my goal. But meanwhile, I will do anything in my power to make myself feel good about myself body-wise: I will make clothes from the good fabrics, I will even make them for my current size so that they fit me and are comfortable to wear, and I will try to shut out any voices about fat being the worst thing a person can experience. I’ve been skinny once, too skinny for my own liking even, and I’ve found that I’d rather have 10 kilos (22 lbs) to much on my body than being 5 kilos (11 lbs) to thin (my big skeleton was protruding everywhere at this weight, though it was still well within the limits for a normal BMI).

All this comes down to a simple fact: In a society where people are constantly monitoring the looks and sizes of themselves and other, the same people are at a greater risk of not noticing important changes made by their governments or big happenings like a beautiful sunset. While monitoring my body and never felt adequate, I’m sure I’ve missed out on some part of my life that I’d want to experience. Let’s all celebrate the beautiful canvases we are given by buying or making clothes that fit and show ourselves and others that clothes can be fun and not constricting!

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