Hello and welcome to Week 3 of #MMMay16 at Making the Flame! This year, I pledged to share my thoughts about making clothes, instead of sharing selfies of my outfits. My thoughts this week focus on my favorite topic — body image. Specifically, how body image comes out of RTW clothing options, and how sewing can change body image.
Mass produced clothing is a fairly new phenomenon. Before, clothing was made individually either at home or by a tailor/seamstress. Fabric was often expensive or time consuming to create, styles were restricted by cultural norms, and wardrobes were very small. We’ve all had parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents tell us about owning three dresses — two for day-to-day that they washed every day, and one for church and fancy occasions.
Nowadays, shopping is a form of recreation and we might pack three dresses just for a weekend getaway! We have clothes in abundance for every possible situation: dresses for outdoor day weddings, pencil skirts for interviews in corporate settings, and t-shirts for doing household chores. But what we get from the store doesn’t always fit, does it?
The downside of mass produced clothing, is that the clothing is mass produced. Haha! I know, I know. But think about it: even we who make our own clothes one at a time, frame our bodies in terms of a pattern’s shape. How many of us have said we have a tiny waist, or broad shoulders, or a large bust without realizing we’re comparing ourselves to proportions that don’t even necessarily belong to anyone in specific? It’s challenging to break free of understanding our bodies in terms of these standards of mass production and mathematically derived measurements.
I believe we’d be a lot happier and more peaceful with our bodies if we looked at mass produced RTW and sewing pattern sizing as starting points instead of norms we should resemble. There will be those who can wear RTW and it fits like a glove, and ditto for having a body for which you can sew a pattern straight out of the envelope. But for most of us, some adjustment is needed for a truly perfect fit of our unique bodies. Many of us got into sewing to achieve that perfect fit, to free ourselves from the dictates of RTW — perhaps as we take this creative journey, we can begin to see our bodies as perfect and patterns as things to be altered to suit us.