This is a post from 2014 that's been hanging out in my drafts for years. However, while cleaning out the blog, I couldn't delete it since the observation still holds, so I'm publishing it now, unchanged.
I have wanted to write about this for a while but I didn’t know how to start…
77 = 30
102 = 40
Do you know what that means? If you sew, you probably do.
Those were my waist and hip measurements in metric and imperial. I seriously need to memorize the metric ones because more independent pattern companies are using them.
Those measurements are important in another way. For the last two downloadable patterns I had printed, those have been the measurements for the largest size available. This is considered a size 10.
Let me go back a bit. When I was in high school my measurements were 32-24-34, generally a size 4 in RTW. I was proud to have the same measurements as the model Amber Valletta but I still had problems with being skinny and feeling weak. In the Big 4, this was a size 8 and at that time I could pick one pattern size to fit me. As the years go by, I grew taller and filled out a bit more.*
The weight gain that finally gave me the fuller bosom I wanted in Jr. High, also enhanced my hips. The good thing was I finally felt curvy but now different pattern sizes were needed for different zones of my body. I no longer fit into just one size, in some brands I spanned three separate ones. But this isn’t why I wrote this post. I wrote this because of a change of view.
Having once been firmly in the lower numbers I have now reached size 16 in the Big Four (36-30-40) and I can now understand the pattern buying frustration of many women. Not only did I sometimes span multi-size groupings (8-10-12)(14-16-18) but in many patterns I am now one size away from the last of a pattern's available sizes. Which for any non-sewers means a simple 2-inch gain on my bust, waist, and hips would separate me from what the pattern companies consider the “normal” sizes. Even though a size 18 in a sewing pattern is considerably smaller than an 18 in the stores, (it's actually a 12 in retail) the optics are the same. At size 20, you are now in plus sizes.
In sewing patterns, above a size 16, it is no longer guaranteed that a pattern style will even be produced in your size. Some Misses designs stop at a size 16, while others go up to 22, but not all. The designer licensed patterns are even more of a problem.**
So, I will admit my mind has been blown. When I was much smaller, I thought that there was plenty of room for more women in the Misses’s sandbox. But, no, that is not true. Forgive my ignorance but it wasn’t until I started reading sewing bloggers that didn’t share my shape, read about their issues and then began having my own issues that I really looked at the size chart measurements and saw the light.
Yes, I already knew and agreed about the lack of good design and patterns for “plus-size” women but I really did not understand just how small a woman could be and be classified as plus-size. Four inches larger than me was not my idea of plus-size. To me, 4 inches shouldn’t limit the design of any of the clothes I could wear and grading up should not be a huge problem. If pattern designers start with a size 6 or 8 and then grade down and up for patterns, why can’t they start using a 10 or a 12 as the base?
Coming up: more on weight gain and my response to the whole thing.
*In High School, in order to gain mass and muscle I began bodybuilding with my own 110 lb weight set. By age 19, I had an enviable six -pack, believe it or not.
**Since I wrote this, the majority of Big 4 patterns include size 22.