My body positivity journey and how I sew a wardrobe for a permanently fluctuating body.
I wish I could tell you that I hadn’t needed to go on a journey of self love and body positivity, but unfortunately it is not something that has come naturally, and it’s a journey that I am still working on. I’m also sad to say that I suspect many people feel the same, or have felt the same in the past. It is something I feel so very passionately about, so I feel very honoured to be able to put together this post for Lamazi Fabrics, and I hope that if you’re reading this, you find it useful in some way or another.
Ironically, for someone who now loves clothes, prior to sewing I used to very much dislike clothes shopping. Shopping was always such a slog, trying to find something that fit, never mind something that I liked. Often I wouldn’t even fall into the size ranges of the shop I was in, which I found particularly upsetting as a teenager shopping with my friends. I would end up buying and spending as little as possible, waiting until I had the body I thought I longed for, the imaginary ideal that never would have existed.
As much as I now feel liberated by sewing my own clothes, sewing is not something that has always ‘made me love myself’. Back when I first started teaching myself to sew garments I was very much sewing for that body I thought I wished I had still, the body that I thought my hand sewn garments would be worthy of.
Then I had my daughter Iris, and that was the key changing point in my feelings, there was no way I wanted my children to feel about themselves, the way I feel about myself, something had to change.
My children, and also falling deep into the sewing community is what really got me to address my issues. Seeing other makers of a similar size through the Measurements movement introduced by Rachael of MinimalistMachinist on Instagram, and realising that I don’t have negative feelings towards other people’s bodies, so why do I have those feelings towards my own. Listening to the Love to Sew Podcast when they guested with Stavia Stavasuk, she said ‘the clothes are the issue, not your body’ and that’s something that very much stuck with me. The realisation that sewing for whatever body I have is never a waste of time, because if my body changes and it no longer works, I will make something new. My husband very rightly said to me ‘you constantly want to sew new things anyway, I don’t imagine that will ever change.’ As well as building confidence in taking photos of myself, I used to spend so long trying to take a photo that I liked, eventually I realised the only person with the issue was myself, and the more photos I take the more I get used to and accept the way I look.
So here I am today. I would be lying if I said that my mind didn’t occasionally revert back to some negative feelings - like I said before, it’s very much a journey I am still on. But, what I do know, is that I love and appreciate myself more than I ever have done. My body is not the issue, it’s the clothes and their fit, Ready To Wear clothes are not designed for everyone, and that, there, is the beauty of being able to sew.
Sewing has finally allowed me to feel liberated, not only because of the never ending options of garments and fabric, but because I am also no longer restricted by the shops and what is mass produced with the (very much false) allure of fitting any one, with any shape and size body. My body is no longer an issue or restriction to me being able to feel good in what I wear and being able to express myself.
Sewing tips for a fluctuating weight
That leads me on to a few tips and tricks I’ve found along the way with sewing that help me to create a wardrobe that accommodates my fluctuating weight. This has helped hugely in my journey as things are comfortable and don’t feel wasted if my body changes from day to day.
I naturally have a love for garments with ease anyway, but these are also great for fluctuation. The hinterland dress by sew liberated has waist ties incorporated into the pattern and a gathered skirt, I find this style of dress ideal as it has more ease in the skirt and the waist ties can cinch in the waist or be loosened as and when I need it so you can still achieve a more fitted look. Another note is that I have also found this style of dress has seen me through pregnancy, post partum and with layering the button front works for breastfeeding - it really has been an all round winner for me.
If you have another top or dress pattern you like already, then it is a simple hack to add waist ties and a gathered skirt. The dress that I’ve made to go with this blog post is a hacked Anthea Blouse by Anna Allan.
I really love the sleeves and fit of the bodice on this pattern. I have shortened the top bodice to 2 inches above the ‘waist’ marker in the pattern pieces, I have then added two gathered rectangles to form the skirt, and created 2 ties which I have sewn into the side seams of the bodice.
To make this dress I’ve used the Happy Vacation Viscose voile - it has the most beautiful drape without compromising how the fabric handles, it is not only lovely to wear but also to work with, and I love the bright bold fun print. I also lengthened the arms of the pattern because I love how the fabric drapes and billows with the gathering of the sleeve.
Another way you can add some fitting definition is to add an elastic channel to the back waist of the dress. To do this you simply add a rectangle to the back of the dress at the waist, on the wrong side of the dress, you then top stitch along the two horizontal ends and then sew the two shorter ends into the side seams of the dress to also secure the ends of the elastic.
If you are sewing trousers, culottes or skirts with solid waist bands you can swap these for either elastic backs or full elastic waistbands. Helen's closet has an excellent tutorial on how to do this for the Winslow Culottes, but the same principles can be used for other items that have either darts or gathering - You can also sew your waist bands with side seams so it is easier to take out or in the sides of the trousers/skirts if you needed to.
There are lots of great patterns now that already incorporate elastic into the waist. If you don’t like the look of the elastic you could always add a belt so it isn’t as obvious. The Chandler Pants by Untitled Thoughts are a great example, they have pleats or darts at the front for details and shaping, then they have elastic at the back, and belt loops.
I almost always find that with the sizing my bust and hips are a few sizes smaller than my waist, if I’m sewing a dress or skirt I will grade out for my hip size and then continue that sizing for the remainder of the skirt, I find this always gives me some extra room and ease to play with.
Jersey is great for comfort and fluctuation, but if you don’t fancy jersey you can also sew a pattern designed for woven fabric using something with some slight give/stretch so you have a little extra comfort and wiggle room. Some examples of these sorts of fabrics are Cotton twill , The range of stretch linen viscose , Atelier Jupe cotton, Mind the Maker art flower viscose
For construction tips, if you finish your seams separately and don’t trim the seam allowance this will make things an awful lot easier if down the line you need to let out your seams for a bit extra room.
I really hope that you’ve found this post uplifting and insightful, and that it may help you on your own journey. If you take nothing else from this, I hope that you know Your Body Is Never The Problem.