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.
When I was a new sewist, I didn’t think about that. I’d make my rtw size praying it would fit. I didn’t know to think about measurements. Lord knows how many failed projects I had before I realized. I also know the disappointed sigh. This blog is me too.
I starting sewing a year ago. Outside of the obligatory training tote … I moved to making Dress No 1 from 100 Acts of Sewing. It was great fitting and i proceeded to make like five more and I wear them with calf length leggings. I love them. Once I got a few of those down in a month I moved to Cashmerette and made a half dozen Springfield tops. I did always look at other other patterns and I loved the designed but yea the sizes usually stopped at 18 and even the big 3 doesn’t have bust sizes any larger than 48. It was disappointing, but to have 100 Acts and Cashmerette at the time I started sewing made it seem not so futile. Once I really started to cruise around different sewist blogs I found a lot of inspiration with fatbobbingirl, sewprettyinpink and Kristinesews, Fairchild etc… thank you to these women who make me feel like I can do it and wear it with confidence
Yes! You’ve described my feeling exactly from when I started a year and half ago. I too wanted to get started as a solution to our fashion choices, only to be disappointed in pattern companies.
If you like the craft of sewing, I would advice you to hang in there though. Cuz there are wonderful options out there to make yourself some amazing stuff!! Yes they might be limited in comparison to what non fat sewist can sew. But having a funky colored dress, that actually takes your waist into account, or pants that account for your hip to waist ratio, is an amazing feeling!
I’ve been sewing 5 years. When I started looking to sew clothes rather than bags at the beginning of 2016 I was a ‘lucky’ small plus. Meaning I had no measure above 50″ (B44″ W39″ H50″) and therefore the typical ‘extended range’ of that time did fit me… Not that it meant everybody offered that range. But it was around.
My measurements are up about 4″ all over in the past 4 years. And I’ve slipped out of range of most companies. I have found it very demotivating to be reminded that I’m ‘not sized appropriately’ to access patterns. Even as more companies include my size the argument rages that size inclusivity is just about lazy people. I see comments about how size inclusivity is just about fat people being upset. As though not including a small enough size in 20% of patterns is as offensive as not including big enough sizing in 80%.
Thank God for the always growing plus-size community. We are fat, we know we are fat, but we also know we are people who deserve to be treated as such. I hope you continue to find patterns that fit well and challenge you to learn new sewing skills.
Kat I remember you replying to my post on that pattern company that shan’t be named that went from “extended” sizes of 22 down to 18 – backwards – and you said you were finding so few pattern designers out there who wanted to help you make clothes by having that fitted you. I’m glad you’ve found some to start with! Your tops are beautiful.
I think you speak for all fat sewists that have had the same frustrations when starting out. When I started sewing again 20 years ago some of the big 4 pattern companies still went to a size 32. Not so much now. So glad we have some indies like Muna and Broad, Cashmerette and Helens Closet!
Yes, this!! I relate so much to your post and to the comments. When I started sewing I was at the top of a lot of pattern size ranges, but even still, there were many more pattern ranges that didn’t cover me at all. Recently, I’ve size up into full plus sizes. It’s crazy the different that 10 or 12″ makes in how easy it is to find RTW or patterns that fit. I realized that a lot of pattern companies extending their range are adding like, maybe another 10″ to the size chart. That is not objectively very much! But for all the melodrama about how difficult it is and the backlash to fat sewists. UGH! And so many companies are grading up now – which is good – but have the most vague timelines about what patterns and when. I have patterns I bought when I was in the size range that I won’t use until they’re graded up, but there is so little accountability or transparency about WHEN it will happen. I am so angry on behalf of myself and other people with larger bodies that have been excluded. It is hurtful to be left out and damaging to get blamed for being left out (ie “just lose weight so you fit”). I am also tired of not seeing patterns on fat bodies. I can’t tell you how many times I research a pattern and there are NO fat makers on the hashtags or product page. I can’t tell you how much time and energy I’ve spent trying to alter patterns to fit me with terrible results. It is SO frustrating. Seeing the solidarity and advocacy of fat sewists recently has ignited my anger and frustration. I’ve shifted from oh, I guess I’m on my own with the problem and I just ought to do my best to make this fit, to full on rage. I’m sick of this! I deal with sizeism everyday in my normal life, I don’t need it in my hobby which is supposed to be relaxing! I am also inspired by the recent wave of fat / plus sewists and companies who are making clothes / patterns that I like and relate to. @fat.bobbin.girl and @munaandbroad and @leila_sews immediately come to mind. I LOVE minimalist cool styles and that niche was completely unserved for fat bodies. Thanks to all of you other rad people who are posting your makes and demanding inclusion.
I’m so glad to find real women, expanding their talents and helping all of us feel more comfortable in our skin and clothes. Keep it up Girlz😊
Really loved your article and you are right on. If it weren’t for instagram, I would, most likely, still be completely miserable and not like my body. Finding out about body positivity has completely changed my life for the better. And beautiful fat sewists are heroines and heros. I still struggle with finding patterns large enough for me even with “extended sizing” haha, and with convincing myself to be body positive when I have virtually no one in my life who is fat like me. When the subject comes up about me being fat, which I am, people who love me insist I’m not fat, and others get strangely silent, or tell me about their one “horrible” experience of a size 10 not being large enough, or get red in the face. I would absolutely love to have a sewing friend my size. We will not give up!
hi — Just wanted to write and encourage you! I have been sewing since I was so small i had to put the pedal on a stool to reach it. 🙂 I was intimidated by grading for a long time, but finally starting grading average sized patterns up. My only regret is that i didn’t venture into it sooner — it’s much easier than it seams. I ***HIGHLY*** recommend a book called Sewing for Plus Sizes by Barbara Deckert. It teaches you how to grade patterns, how to make common fitting adjustments — it is my plus-size sewing bible.