Being a seamstress takes some guts.
All the skilled stitching that goes into a project is an absolute labor of love. But in order to be successful, it also requires a good, hard look at geometry and the physical dimensions of a person. Sewing fit that can be achieved with a tape ruler, muslin fabric, and time. It all contributes to improving confidence when you wear out that new dress. Yet to get there, you have to be absolutely honest with the number on the measuring tape and when the sewing doesn’t fit. And that part really sucks, especially when you’ve spent so much time on it.
Add to that, the emotional blow when a sewing pattern says you should fit into a size 16, but last you were at the mall, you fit into a size 8 ready-to-wear (RTW.)
Vanity sizing and its effects all over the garment industry and has been a topic on style blogs, newspapers, and editorials since it has become rampantly obvious over the years. I can only imagine how frustrating it is for someone who doesn’t sew and relies solely on what’s available in stores, not understanding the reasoning behind it, let alone the history of clothing sizes.
Clothing sizes reflect a classic modern dilemma, a conflict between human heterogeneity and mass production. Standardized sizes made inexpensive, off-the-rack garments economically feasible.
- Mis-measuring a pattern wrong along some step of the way
- Cutting fabric incorrectly (bias versus straight grain)
- Picking the wrong materials for the task at hand
- Not treating the materials properly (not preshrinking, etc.)
- Not sewing with the correct thread
Or sometimes, just sometimes, it can be that a little bit of extra weight could have been packed on since the last time body measurements were taken. Weight is not a bad thing (no value judgement here; personal note- I’ve gained a lot of weight since I’ve started this blog- some of the pieces I made years ago no longer fit)- weight changes and fluctuates throughout the month and throughout the years. But the “loss” of a great garment and a great sewing fit achieved through hours of invested work over a matter of 10 pounds… well, that sucks.
How do we overcome when our sewing doesn’t fit?
For me personally, something I spent so much time sewing means infinitely more than something RTW– and when that piece no longer fits me, I’m more than miffed!
There are ways around it: adding a bigger seam allowance to clothing so it can be taken in and out as the body changes, using materials with more stretch, sewing on the bias, and even the most direct, losing the weight. There are plenty of resources online to pour into and play around with when it comes to all the previous list.
Whatever the decision, it still takes the little reality check that dimensions change over time and that’s ok. As a seamstress to counter the change, it simply takes an adjustment to either a number on the pattern tissue or a workflow.