Seeds of a Wardrobe: Tape Measure Tales

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If you’ve been reading this blog for a bit, then you won’t be surprised that my first action in building a wardrobe was taking measurements!

When it finally hit me that I was pregnant, I began to wonder how my body would change through pregnancy and afterward. I was at my absolute fattest and heaviest pre-pregnancy, to the point that my waist was turning into a bulge not unlike a doughnut and my belly already looked pregnant (with an adipose baby). But for the first time ever, I was happy I was fat. I didn’t want anyone to know about the pregnancy and figured my existing expansiveness would hide my growing belly. However, there turned out to be a twist – horrible morning sickness. I lost 30+ pounds over the course of my pregnancy. The whole situation triggered fear and anxiety non-stop for months. I feared that I’d lose too much weight and my belly would show and I’d get fired from both my jobs and end up homeless and pregnant. I worried that people would write me off as yet another fat, poor, uneducated single, black mother. I worried that too much weight loss would threaten my baby’s well-being. But by the surprise end of my pregnancy, my bump showed, I made it almost to the last day at all my jobs, the medical professionals I encountered didn’t treat me poorly for being a statistical cliche, I gave birth to a very loved little girl, and I was at my lowest weight in eight or nine years.

Then I moved into a sedentary lifestyle with tons of food and the adipose baby and doughnut waist returned, and my clothes no longer fit.

I think the universal reaction to clothes not fitting is fear, thanks to the societal belief that fat equals ugly/stupid/worthless/unlovable. So even I, despite my body positivity, was afraid to take my measurements. I wrestled with valuing the ridiculous society-based view of my body, trying to subdue it with unrelenting body positivity, but it was hard in the context of post-partum healing and adjustment. Finally, one day, I gritted my teeth, grabbed a tape measure, and marched into the bathroom. I refused to let fat or numbers or anything else cow me anymore.

But it was like fumbling in the dark – I couldn’t place the tape accurately anywhere. I used to be able to whip out a tape measure and hit all my points, perfectly parallel to the floor, in an instant. Had pregnancy changed my body so much??? I was humbled and shocked, and decided to take a step back and just look at myself.

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When was the last time you checked yourself out in the mirror? How did you feel about that? Looking in the mirror that day, all my messy feelings about my body rose to the surface and faced me. I looked at my rolls and flab and was amazed at how big they were. I knew I was fat, but hadn’t had a full length mirror in over two years. I turned this way and that. I was really, really big. I could see why people wrote me off as just another fat woman, and not someone stylish or capable or (a little bit?) funny. Fat is so in your face that it is distracting. But why did my bulk made me less or more valuable? It was just flesh. It didn’t do anything. And my skin looked nice – near flawless, actually. Why feel bad? It was what it was. I was fat. And I needed clothes. And those clothes wouldn’t fit if I didn’t measure myself.

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Given all my rolls and bulges, I measured both my underbust and the fattest part of my belly roll in addition to taking the standard waist measurement, so I’d have a better sense of the fullness of my torso. I noticed that my ankles were still swollen even though LJ had come into the world six months prior, and considered the possibility that I might permanently have cankles. The rest of me followed the same overall shape I’ve had for many years and many pounds – huge hips and butt, massive thighs, tallish, long extremities. I used to be a classic pear shape, but I honestly don’t know what I’d call myself now. From my underbust to my hips I seem to have become apple-y, but from my hips to my feet, I’m definitely a pear. Is applear a thing?

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If current me could go back to past me and tell her how to kick off creating a new wardrobe, she’d say, ‘Measure yourself accurately, taking extra measurements in areas that have changed a lot since you last checked in with the tape. And face down your body image demons! Whether you look in the mirror until you make peace with your reflection, write a journal about them, talk to a friend with big ears and a small mouth, or something else. Otherwise, you’ll bring that energy into every new garment you plan, make, or buy, and there is no clothing size big enough to accommodate baggage of that magnitude.’

After my measurements were on the books and I’d purged my negative body thoughts, I felt energized. I was clearer on the inside, and recording my changed numbers hadn’t actually been that bad or that difficult. The only thing missing was a visual aid to turn patterns into design plans for my wardrobe. So I asked my dear friend Najah of Wanna Be Sewing Something, who created the Real Body Croquis, to make a set for my new body. Ever since she made the first RBC in 2017, I’ve been obsessed. A set of croquis that reflects my actual body, with multiple views and a pose???? Yes, please! I use my RBC to test out design and fabric ideas and will be using it heavily this time around, since I have less time to waste on wadders and closet orphans. Given that drawing is not my long suit, it was difficult for me to adapt generic croquis, even plus size ones, or croquis that were based only on my measurements and didn’t reflect my actual silhouette (including and especially my height). The RBC is my real body turned into a croquis, so I can just transfer design lines and color it in and I’m done. It has been one of the game-changing elements of my custom sewing adventure, right up there with my beloved and treasured dress form, Porky. I look forward to sharing sketches of garment ideas on my RBC here and on Instagram!

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If you made it this far, woohoo! How about take it one step further and take your own measurements? Make sure to put the date with them, so you’ll know how fresh they are when you look back on them to make a future garment. :) And if you’re inclined, comment below on how you handle body image bad thoughts, especially when you’re at a transition point in your life or your wardrobe. The next post in the Seeds of a Wardrobe series will introduce patterns, and how to use them to figure out your style instead of the other way around. Trust me, it’s easier! See you then.

 

Seeds of a Wardrobe is a six post series covering my journey from needing a wardrobe to having a plan for making a wardrobe. It’s a thought and question based method of wardrobe building, with the goal of helping create a truly personal wardrobe that meets real needs, and provides an alternative to methods that dictate what you should wear based on an impersonal, general framework. The first post is here – Seeds of a Wardrobe (post) – and you can see all the posts in the series here – Seeds of a Wardrobe (category) – in reverse chronological order.

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4 Comments

  1. Such a good idea to have a croquis to plan your outfits. I am loving this series. You really make me think about myself and how I perceive my body. I used to think I was quite body positive but that is only fully clothed and not looking in the mirror. I think it is time to face my demons and you have helped me realise that! Thankyou from the bottom of my heart,

    1. Awwwww, your comment makes me so happy! Body positivity is a journey – a good one, I think – and the fact that you feel positive about your body while clothed says you’re on your way :) because many people don’t feel good about their bodies in any state.

  2. I had some body image issues through my teens into my early twenties but opposite of what most seem to experience. I was so gangly. Just straight up and down, nary a curve anywhere. I hated it. I was a black girl and black girls were “thick” and had booties and I had nada. I didn’t even *need* a bra until high school.

    Now, even though I sew(!), I have this little odd reverse thing happening (a different reversal!). I am enamored with my naked body :-p And then I get dressed at times and feel lumpy and weirdly segmented.

    All this time I’ve been sewing, all of the clothing I’ve created, and I feel like I just recently had an A-Ha! moment. I’m working on a pair of pants currently and I’ve totally made pants that fit but this time, something triggered and I’m more ready to explore. I do believe I’ve had this thought before, in the beginning, but then the thrill of the new garment was too much to ignore and I’d sew, sew, sew some more.

    My takeway is, the pattern will become whatever the pattern needs to become.

    WOW that’s a weird back pant pattern piece…but it works. And, so what if I have to go up a size and add a little more to the waist? I don’t like wearing things at my natural waist which happens to be 33″…and the place where I WANT to wear my pants/skirts is 36″… It’s better than the bisection of my body being somewhere I don’t want it to be when I get dressed. Right?!

    So I’m ready to tackle sewing in a different way in the upcoming year. I still have work to do though on figuring out what the heck I want my wardrobe to look like. It’s always something! :)

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post, as always!

    1. It’s so funny (not haha, but interesting) how so many black women were very thin as young women, and got flack for that. One of the things I love doing is looking at body diversity when I’m about and about and in reality, black women come in all shapes and sizes – always have and always will. But I feel you on clothes making you feel a little odd! As much as I love my me-made clothing, my favorite thing to wear is a sarong I got on vacation. :p It’s so freeing! I am loving your pattern discoveries!!!! Let the pattern be what it will be – whatever it takes for the garment to feel bomb.com is whatever the pattern should be. Sometimes my patterns look like they’ve been attacked by Freddy Kruger, there’s so much slicing (and tape) involved. :) So excited that you’re on a new leg of your sewing journey in 2020!

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