My name is Katherine /Kat (@unapologeticallykat on Instagram) and I began sewing clothes for myself very very recently. I started primarily because I couldn’t find the clothes I wanted to wear in my size. I am fat. I have always been fat. I wear between a size 20 and 26 in Australian brick and mortar stores and at online retailers like ASOS. I have always felt excluded from mainstream clothing stores and from fashion in general. So much so that I avoid bricks and mortar stores like the plague. Too many horrifying incidents with shop assistants. And even when do try to find something most of the offerings for fat women are dowdy, garishly coloured or patterned and adorned with diamante’s for some reason. Maybe they think that the shine from the diamante’s would distract people from realising that I’m fat. Who knows? I have always struggled to find the clothes I want to wear. I’ve been fixated on fashion from a young ago and would sketch out outfits for myself on the daily. Growing up though I realised that most of the clothes I wanted to wear either didn’t exist or where only available to smaller bodies than mine. My love of clothes has never gone away and that’s wear sewing my own came in.
I was inspired to start sewing by some extremely talented friends who make their own clothes. Although I may never have as much skill or talent as they do, after a long time contemplating the whole thing, and aided by the gift of a second hand sewing machine I started sewing. Well first I spent months researching patterns, following sewists on Instagram like @fat.bobbin.girl and fabric companies. What became incredibly clear to me really early on was that most companies didn’t offer my size or that their patterns would be right on the cusp of fitting my body. I also noticed that these brands social media pages distinctly didn’t feature fat bodies. Page after page featured slim women.
A disappointing pattern started to emerge when I was researching where to start. After scrolling through Instagram I would find a wonderfully talented sewist, I would admire their beautiful clothes, I would search the tags and find the pattern she’d made. A quick Google would bring me to the company and I would go straight for their size chart and BAM!. Disappointment. They would only go to a size “L” or a size 12 or a size 14 or size 16 or size 18. Bitterly disappointed I would sigh and have to move on. Sometimes though, frustrated, I would message the company (kindly) and ask if they were planning on expanding their sizes. Some companies said that they planning to were but gave no timeframes, others weren’t, others held surveys to try and figure out if their customers wanted plus sized patterns. The problem I found with the surveys is that these companies are asking their existing customers if they want the sizes expanded is that if the customer already buys from them they are most likely going to fit their patterns and not necessarily care enough to do a survey about expanding into plus size patterns. Meaning that their results are not actually going to be representative of the wishes of fat sewists.
Like the rest of the fashion industry it became clear that most pattern companies provide patterns for smaller bodies. And as someone coming to sewing to get away from the feeling of “not fitting” and being excluded it felt really sad. I was disappointed and wondered if it was actual worth my while and whether I belonged.
Whenever fat people raise the issue of wanting inclusively sized clothing we get told that we are too demanding, that we can’t expect businesses to provide things just for us. We get abused. We get get told to lose weight. We get told that we’re unhealthy and we’re going to die. All for asking for brands to make things in our size? The thing is, is that I want to buy things from these busineses and I’d bet that there are plenty of other fat women around the world who would to. I’m not asking them to do anything radical, I’m asking for them to grade patterns for plus sizes. I’m asking for them to start showing images of fat women wearing their patterns or using their fabrics. I’m sick of seeing the same garments and fabrics on the same thin bodies. I want to see what clothes look like on fat bodies.
I have luckily found in my research some amazing fat sewists and pattern companies that do offer patterns in my size. They do exist. They are out there. And they offer some amazing patterns and advice. But compared to the number and diversity of patterns offered in “normal” sizes it’s still pretty limited. And I recognise that even in plus size patterns that my measurements mean that I’m often at the top of a size chart and I know that there are women out there with bigger measurements that mine and that these women will be disappointed that they are sized out of even plus sized patterns.
I’m at the very beginning of “making my own clothes”. I’ve made two shirts and am wearing them both. I’m not sure what’s next for me. But I do know that I really hope that more companies embrace fat sewists, address their fat-phobia and start making for fat bodies. I also know that every time I find a pattern I want to buy but it doesn’t come in my size I’m going to reach out to brand and let them know. So that hopefully one day they reply to me and tell me that they are in the process of expanding their size range.