An indie pattern customer revolution
It’s been very interesting to follow the “plus-size” discussion in the sewing community lately. It seems the time has come to fill the gap between the size ranges some indie pattern designers offer and the size ranges their customers want to buy.
There have been some strong voices of opinion and lots of constructive discussions. To the degree that there’s a small revolution started in social media, where ordinary people display their ordinary bodies with their ordinary measurements. It’s an attempt to get the sewing pattern makers to understand where they’re lacking.
And hopefully, to make a change.
This initiative makes me happy. For one, it’s inspiring to see so many women with similar measurements to my own that I can identify with. But more importantly, it’s also paving the way for normalizing and adjusting what we all know is wrong; the prevalent perception that a person with a waist measurement of over 68 centimeters/27 inches is abnormal.
What does XL mean?
The size labeling standard (EN 13402) has recently been reviewed and it serves as a standard for all of the EU.
A re-worked standard? Yay, great!
But wait, the sizes are still labeled Small, Medium and Large? When they had the chance to change it to something realistic?
I love the idea of having a standard as a base for my pattern development. But the Small Medium and Large labels are simply not applicable because they’re based on a subjective assumption.
What exactly is XL? Compared to what? Who’s opinion is it based on and who says that it’s correct? And what does “plus size” really mean?
There is plenty of research that reports the average adult female body is about EU size 42-46/US 14-18. So, what’s supposedly “Large” or “XL” is, in fact, the average.
So, now that we know the average woman doesn’t wear a size EU 36/US 8, one can wonder why the fashion industry and Ready To Wear (RTW) brands still want to make us buy into that story and continue bombarding us with fantasy images of what “normal” looks like?
It’s easy to fall for the trap (crap) and start believing that if you don’t fit into their standards and their clothes, you’re the one that is off the chart. In reality, their clothes have to fit your body, not the other way around.
Just to make it crisp clear;
They are the exception.
Indie pattern brands exist for a reason
This skewed view of the female body of today has inadvertently been spilling into the independent patternmaking industry by not providing sufficient size options for enough sewists to feel included. Here’s my theory of why;
When we study to become patternmakers in fashion school, we don’t get enough training with fitting garments on real people, but practice most of our fitting skills and eye for a good fit, on a dress form.
Unfortunately, this approach makes the beginner patternmaker uncertain of how to go about when drafting for real sized people (i.e. the average measurements) and thus develops her size range within the comfort of the size charts she acquired in fashion school, which isn’t current.
And, if I may speculate, the same goes for self-taught pattern designers. They are simply referred to measurement charts included in the pattern drafting books they decide to use as a base for their pattern line, books that in turn use old standards.
Now, I’m not saying this to slander, anyone, except for the fashion schools that really should know better…
My point is, as independent patternmakers we must recognize that there’s a reason for our existence. A major part of the sewing community makes their own clothes because they want and need something to wear that both fit and looks good. And that is practically impossible to find in a regular clothing store.
As many indie patternmakers now are exploring to expand their size ranges, it should be known to everyone that it’s not entirely straightforward to develop a custom measurement table.
The size chart you as a home sewist compare your numbers to when you want to buy a sewing pattern usually only includes 3 measurements (bust, waist, and hip) but the table used when drafting includes at least 20 and since all people are different it requires practice and experience of fitting real people before adding to a current size range. Those measurements have to come from somewhere. And it takes a lot of time.
Proportions of the patterns and garments are balanced, tested, and altered, often several times per size range. It’s not, what sometimes seems to be a common perception, simply to develop a pattern block (or pick one from a book) and build every garment and design feature on top of that. If it were so, the patternmaker craftsmanship would be redundant.
There’s a lot of trial and error and at some point, there will most likely be necessary to decide which body shape (e.g square, circle, hourglass or triangle) to develop patterns for.
Not every patternmaker will adjust their size ranges.
And that’s OK too.
The future seems bright
No single person-company can accommodate every body shape, style, and taste and they shouldn’t do it either.It may sound contradictory, but by making a choice of their ideal customer’s style, and her body shape, there will be a wider selection to chose from for everyone.
Just like all bodies aren’t the same size, everybody hasn’t got the same clothing taste and style either.
With all of the discussion and action happening in the sewing community right now, you can be sure there will be something for everyone. Because most indie pattern brands were created out of passion. Passion for sewing, for beautiful clothes, fashion, diversity, inclusivity, and awesomeness. I believe that’s a lasting trend. Not to say sustainable.
Therefore, I predict the future is going to be great for the home sewist!
What’s your experience with indie pattern sizes and their clothing styles? Is there something for everyone?
Make any pattern work for you no matter what body type, size or style.
I’ve created a process you can follow so you can wear anything you’d like. Because when you sew you rock, and so can your clothes.