Saturday, May 31, 2014

Plus Size Labels

Lately I have been thinking a lot about body image.  It is a struggle when you are into sewing and fashion and you are over a size 6.  And for the record, I am well over a size 6.  I usually cut a size 12-14 for the top of dresses, and if it is fitted, I cut a 16-18 for the bottom - a full two sizes bigger for the hips.  I am classified as plus size.  For me, this has been a tough term to own.

Some of the issue is the models.  They look like this:
(I want to take them home and feed them, the poor, hungry things.)
And I look like this even when some good lighting and clever angles are employed. 
Which, when you spend too much time comparing yourself to, can set you down the path to some unnecessary and unproductive self-loathing.  (This dress is Burda 7053, which I haven't blogged about yet.)

 To make things more difficult, it seems like you have two choices - hate your own body and constantly be on a diet with the goal of being unhealthily thin and then hating yourself more when you always come up short, or in a state where you say "I'm ok.", which is totally frowned on.  You can't embrace your size if you aren't a size 0.  You can't win.

I do plenty of this to myself, but outside forces don't make it easier.  These are all things that were said to me or about me in the past:
  • That is a great outfit for a larger woman.  Read:  It is really the best you can do given that you are dealing with all that fat.  I mean, a thin woman would do something else better, but this hides you pretty well.
  • You have such a pretty face.  Read: the rest of you is kind of a wreck, but if I just look at your face, I can see something ok.
  • She is nice, but the thing is, she has a big butt. I overheard this one when I was 17.  For the record, I was 20 pounds thinner than I am now.  A guy I went on a couple dates with but we decided we were just friends  was talking to the guy I thought I was flirting successfully with.  The second guy did an about-face after that conversation I overheard them having.  I was hurt at the time.   I found out 15 years later that the second guy is gay and likely looking for an excuse, but I didn't know that at the time.
  • Since you've had kids, this kind of jeans will work for you.  This one was from an employee at a clothes store when I was  getting help picking out jeans to try on.  For the record - I have never had children and didn't mention anything about it during our 15-second interaction when I asked for help.  But apparently, my hips tell a story of multiple births.
I am hardly alone in my struggles.  A lot of women struggle with the same kinds of issues. But I now officially am going to own the label "Plus Size".  And I am also going to still exercise and eat clean and know that it doesn't mean that I hate who I am.  Spending any amount of time hating our own bodies is destructive and I am not going to do it.  I recognize that I may have to remind myself of this again. 

I'll close with a shout-out to someone who I think is doing it right.  It's Carolyn from the blog Diary of a Sewing Fanatic. In a world of very young, adorable and popular size 2 sewing bloggers, Carolyn is a plus-sized grandmother.  She has posted about the unkind comments people have made about her size and it is so nice to see her get so much support from her readers.  Plus, I love seeing her projects, reading about her obsession with Olivia Pope's wardrobe on Scandal, her positive outlook on life and her addiction to buying fabric that I totally relate to.  She doesn't define herself by her size and neither should the rest of us.  If you don't read her blog already, check it out. 

15 comments:

  1. Love this post!
    I too am not a size 6, doubt I ever will be, but Im ok with that because I love my body. Its worked hard for me, its let me down too but its mine...& its healthy & I always think - there are worse things to have to deal with than wider hips & a few extra kgs. IMO, bones are not a good look :-)

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    1. Thanks for the support. Bones are not a good look, I agree. There are worse things to deal with for sure. That is good to remember.

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  2. Love it! For the record- I think you look great! I have such ups and downs with my feelings about my body- it's to be reminded that other people have those thoughts too (even ones who I think look great!

    A few weeks ago a woman I've never met came up to me in the copy room and said "Oh! You're expecting!!" When I said no- I'm not, she actually said, "Are you sure??" I haven't worn THAT dress since...

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    1. Oh! "Are you sure?" That is the part that is really terrible. Um. Yes, quite sure, thanks. Thanks for the compliment. That made my day.
      By the way, yours is the best profile photo I have ever seen.

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  3. What a wonderful post. Later that night, with your post still in the back of my mind, I was reading My Wish List by Gregoire Delacourt. One of the words mentioned in the book is callipygous, a Greek word coined in 1640 meaning “with beautiful buttocks.” The word refers specifically to a statue of Aphrodite, who art has never depicted as our current model-sized non-butts. So, really, art and history have always loved your butt.

    You may enjoy the book, it’s about a woman in a small French town who owns a fabric store and starts a wildly popular blog. She wins the lottery, but decides to wait to tell her family and friends. Instead, she creates wish lists as she tries to reconcile the path her life has taken with the one she had planned.

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    1. Haha! I love that Greek word! I will check out that book. It sounds like something I would totally like. "Art and history have always loved your butt". That is awesome!

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    2. I just finished the book, and although it's not the cheeriest read, it is thoughtful.

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  4. Thanks so much for the shout out! I'm really glad that you enjoy my blog, my garments and my ramblings. It's nice to see so many more sewing blogs being written by curvy and plus size women...we need to represent because not every sewist is a size 2/4/6!!!

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    1. Yay! The person I am a fan of totally just commented on my blog... *gush*. I do love reading your blog. You are so talented! I hope to get to a place where I've made almost all of my clothes. I'm not there yet. Can't wait to see what you sew next!

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  5. Fabulous piece, thank you. Body image is such a fraught topic. I have a 15yo daughter and it is bloody hard making sure the right body image messages are getting through and that she understands that the models like you have illustrated are NOT normal and girls like us are. And even though we both know the models are not normal, tiny parts of us want to be that way because those are the images we are constantly bombarded with. At that point I give myself a sharp slap and get back to preaching a healthy body.

    One of the reasons I love sewing for myself is that I am not beholden to a number on a tag. I am size ME, with all the lumps and bumps!

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    1. It is a fine line to walk, isn't it? It would be even harder trying to be a good example for a daughter. It is definitely nice to be able to sew things that fit.

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  6. Goodfor you! And those models look positively anorexic!!I think you look wonderful!

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    1. Thanks. That is lovely of you to say. I appreciate it.

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  7. I am the same size as you and I don't think of myself as plus size. Your clothes look really good on you and it gives me a chance to see what a certain style might look like on me.

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  8. Looking at the your great pictures, I would not say you are a plus size! For myself, sewing means also a liberation from the dictate of RTW sizes, having clothes which fit perfectly, suit me well and emphazises what I like on me, which is rarely the case of RTW. Which is totally the case of your projects!

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