Sewing for a Changing Body: Aging

Today’s Sewing for a Changing Body post is a generous and beautifully written contribution from Louisa, aka Damselfly. I haven’t changed a single word she wrote! She really covered it all. If you like this post, please check out her blog at Damselfly’s Delights, and on Instagram at @damselfly.ca. Thanks, Louisa :)

makingtheflame-body-positive-sewing-style-dividerMy husband’s late aunt once told me that little old ladies usually come in two types: “fluffy” or “bony”. Turns out I’m kind of an exception to this in that I am a combination of fluffy in the middle with thin arms and legs. My small frame started developing more upholstery when I had my two children in my early twenties but really plumped up in the midsection from about fifty onward. Thank you, menopause. Not. I don’t really see my body type (which I lovingly refer to as a lumpy potato with stick arms and legs) mirrored in the media, not even in the more inclusive maker community. Bony types…of course, thin svelte models are everywhere. Fluffy types…curvy plus-size models are making some headway. Older models…perhaps some grey hair and a few wrinkles are starting to be considered. But a little old lady with narrow rounded sloping shoulders, droopy breasts and butt, and fat belly…not so much.

Don’t get me wrong. Apart from a few minor issues this body is doing very well for being nearly 70! What is difficult is finding clothing that actually fits. Nothing in ready-to-wear works for me. And I mean absolutely nothing. If it fits my shoulders it won’t go over my middle. If it skims over my middle the armholes are practically down to my waist. Sleeves and legs are too long but waists don’t come up high enough. And I’m pretty certain that I’m not the only woman with these issues. What the heck do people do who can’t sew? I can totally see how frustration can make you think that it’s your body at fault and not the clothes. My soothing mantra is “I am not the target market.”

Luckily, I’m not running around naked because I can sew my own wardrobe. I made my first dress for myself at age 13 and have been sewing fairly steadily ever since. I now make pretty much everything myself including bras and underwear. I spin and knit and weave too. However, I really didn’t learn to fit myself well until maybe 10 years ago when I made a paper tape dress-form. Her name is Debbie Double and for the first time I can see my shape as it really is, move around it, pin and drape over it. With Debbie’s help I also made several well-fitting blocks (basic patterns) that I can use to trace around and either develop my own variations or to make sure that commercial patterns will fit in the important areas. I usually end up grading between two or even three sizes, sometimes across the line between regular and plus-sizes. Again, I’m neither one nor the other. A Betweenie. These blocks save me from having to do too many pattern adjustments and I mostly don’t need to bother with toiles/muslins.

I’ve found that the most important areas to fit are the shoulders, armholes and sleeve cap/bicep area. If your clothing fits reasonably closely there, the rest of the garment can be looser and more body-skimming where it needs to be and still not look out of proportion. Until I learned that lesson I always felt like I was wearing my big sister’s clothes! My personal style is a little bit funky, a little bit edgy and a lot comfortable. I tend toward natural fibres and earthy colours, layering pieces, A-lines, asymmetrical hems and interesting collars plus lots of pockets. Sewing less synthetics, dyeing my own fabrics, sewing from the stash and trying to use up scraps challenge my creative skills and help the environment. Having seen trends come and go and come again frees me from needing to follow that market-driven cycle. A great perk of growing older is just to please yourself and not care what anyone else thinks!

makingtheflame-body-positive-sewing-style-dividerLouisa is pictured above with her trusty dressform, Debbie Double. Talented in many crafts, her big loom in the background. She’s wearing a handknit sweater and scarf, both dyed in rhubarb root, and a Marcy Tilton skirt. She blogs at Damselfly’s Delights, and hangs out on Instagram as @damselfly.ca.

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