The Body Issue

There are few things more devastating for a sewist than trying on a half made garment and being completely unable to join the packets together. The only thing more devastating than this is realising that no you haven’t got the seam allowances wrong, and yes you did check the sizes on the back of the envelope before you cut your pieces. So yes, I am 100% sure that I are not the same size I once was.

People that sew know their body measurements off the top of the heads. There is no getting around talking about bodies, because when you sew you need to talk about waist, hips, ease…  And there is no room for being all like ‘this shop’s sizes run very small’. It is what it is.

So when I attempted to try on my Alder Shirtdress mid-sew I was 100% floored when I discovered that I was no longer the Penny I once was. This is a shirtdress, the plackets would puckers. And before you suggest it yes, the side seams had already been overlocked.

But the thing I found the most upsetting from this whole experience was the camaraderie I found in the company of women. It was like I had joined a club, you hate you body? Oh yeah, I’ve been hating mine for years now. Women I barely knew were sharing their diets, exercise regimes and miscellaneous disappointments with the way they looked.

It was nice, at first, to be part of this club – but it is also disturbing. I don’t want to feel camaraderie with a group of people who hate their bodies – until very recently I’ve been perfectly fine with mine. These conversations should not be normal… But, there is always a but, it’s hard to deny that I spend that vast majority of my day sitting in front of a computer researching and writing essays. And, ok there are two buts, I am the first to admit that I blatantly use my asthma as an excuse to avoid exercise.

So what’s the point in telling my readers this? Because I don’t want to part of this club and far more importantly, I want to confront this issues head on. I need to get over it and realise that there are far worse things than going up a dress size or two. And, frankly, I know only I care how I look. But I do want you to know that there will be some fitness posts on my Instagram. Does this mean that I’m giving in to the club? I don’t think so. I think I’m going to carry on as I have done before – avoiding women’s magazines, diet fads and ‘style tips’ because before I bought into this culture I was perfectly happy. And I think I’d like to return to that state of affairs.

Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 8.50.29 pm

Fear of Squat

6 thoughts on “The Body Issue”

  1. Hi Penny, I’m Melanie. The soon to be new owner of the three lovely pattern you posted on Instagram! I was very excited to find someone selling them in NZ. I’m new to the blogging world but old to the sewing world, maybe old isn’t the right way to put it…… Just to chime in on the body issue post, from the more recent photos I have seen of you, you look perfect. You have no worries at all. One question though, have you seen this particular shirt before?


  2. Okay, I left a comment but then WordPress decided that it was not good enough and threw it away. So, take two:

    This whole body thing is cuckoo banana pants. I mean, between the “me, too!” response of folks who want to dump their full basket of body issues on you if you happen to mention something about the physical body that you walk around in; to the praise that gets heaped on you if you manage to displace less water/take up less space/whatever you want to call it; to the crazy crap that people say on the internet like they know 🙂

    Honestly, the best thing I have found (and dancers are really bad about it, me included), is to try to remember that I’m a human, the folks around me are humans, and that God forbid I get hit by a bus tomorrow, I’m pretty sure that the size of my jeans will not be a major source of conversation or anguish.

    Keyword: try to remember. I fail a lot. It’s a goofy world.


  3. You know, the whole thing is so screwy. Between the “me, too!” from folks who mistakenly interpret your observation as an occasion to dump all their own body issues right out, to the messed up envy-plus-social-validation you get for physically taking up less space, to the crazies on the Internet…

    Honestly, I just try to see all the bull$&@ for what it is and remember that I am a human, the people around me are humans, and that if I got hit by a bus tomorrow I would hope that not too much of my brain would have been taken up with anguish because my jeans don’t fit like they did a year ago.

    I fail a lot 🙂 it’s worth it, though.


  4. I think that being someone who sews, you are already part of a club – a club of people who are matter-of-fact about their measurements, a club of people who what to cheer you on to make things that you feel good in, no matter what size you make up. Going up a size in sewing can be so disappointing, because it’s not like you can walk to the rack and grab the next size, there’s so much time and recourses invested in getting to the trying on point, but all the same, you can make things for your current size, and if it changes, you’ll be able to make clothes to wear then too!


  5. Ah, that sucks. I’ve definitely been there – I’ve been on a long, slow mission to eat healthier and lose weight for the past two years, and I retain water very easily, so I’ve definitely had moments where I’ve misjudged my measurements. But you’ve got it right – as long as you’re happy with the way things are, that’s all that matters. And making an effort to exercise, eat better or anything along those lines doesn’t need to mean you’re joining “the club”, or that you hate your body – just that you want to make a change 🙂


  6. Gahh that’s annoying! The absolute worst thing about changing size is not fitting clothes (whether that’s because you’re getting bigger or smaller). When trying to lose a little weight I think the best thing is to be practical and not obsess about it. I have always found that when I’m busy I naturally stay at a healthy weight, whereas when I get militant about exercise/food I crave naughty treats much more. Everyone is different and the good people don’t judge on looks anyway! I don’t think you need to worry about being in ‘the club’ – just don’t look at those ribb-y glassons mannequins for inspiration, ok 🙂 Are you all finished Uni now Penny? Lots of sewing time or are you busy job hunting?


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