This week the wonderful Jenny (@johassler) posted on her Instagram about her concerns with the popular Patreon by Gertie, the Charm Scouts styled scheme of vintage-inspired patterns – namely the lack of diversity in their sizing. Jenny is an inspiration to me in my sewing, in respecting my body the way it is now and in dressing exactly however the eff I want to without fear of judgement. Our measurements are very similar and she always looks so funky and self-assured. I’m fangirling!
So, moving to the actual point, hearing her talk about this problem made me really think about where I stand and encouraged me to dig deeper into my own patronage of this company. It’s a whole can of worms and I’ll admit, I got into quite a shame spiral over the affair even though I knew what the bottom line was.
I too was in this Patreon. You’ve seen me blog before about Gertie’s patterns as I’ve made several of them in the last couple of years. I adore the retro glamour and the practical wearability of what she makes, and they’re often in styles I aspire to have in my own wardrobe. I also don’t fit into her books and am the biggest size in her Charm Patterns line/Patreon specials. Technically, in truth, I don’t actually fit the waist and hips, but using the finished garment measurements I can often make it work because they’re only just too small for me.
The discussions on this topic have made me reflect on the fact that I shouldn’t have to “make it work.” I don’t think I ever really thought about it before, though. I got caught up in the excitement of being invited into the cool kid’s club that I forgot to look around me at the price of admission and who else wasn’t invited. In their social media groups the people always look so glamorous and I wanted to be part of that, even if I only nearly fit through the doorway and am only wanted at the party if I look a certain way.
I didn’t know about the history of promising size expansion that doesn’t ultimately seem to materialise. The latest pattern released by Charm is newly expanded to the lofty heights of a size 22, which still has a waist of 44″ and is therefore not exactly very large in the scheme of things. I almost feel guilty that I didn’t look at it properly? I don’t know. This is all a bit complicated in the feelings department. I know I’ve got nothing to be ashamed about, and the mark of learning is to change your behaviour in the light of new information. Once I’d reflected on this conversation, I too have pulled my Patreon subscription.
I heard the phrase ‘visual diet’ recently (on the Chachi Chats podcast, wedding episode!) and it really struck home. I’ve worked hard to curate my Instagram to only show me pattern companies that make size ranges I can wear, and sewists of similar builds to me so I don’t see the latest hit trendy pattern and get disappointed it goes to a size 16 or something. I now think I need to go a little further and ensure I’m making positive choices to seek the representation for bodies bigger than mine too, not being grateful for the scraps left by thin people pretending they want me around.
I wish the world was different. I wish it was easy to find the patterns I want (cute, retro, cup sizes, versatile!) with Actually Decent plus-size inclusion. And I wish that when designers are challenged on their size range they don’t double down on gaslighting their audience. I acknowledge that drafting for bigger sizes when your existing block is small is a lot of additional work, and I don’t expect everyone to be interested in doing that (despite the clear money to be made in serving an underrepresented community!) – but I do expect them to be gracious about it, and honest, and just simply say it’s not for them.
(And if you have top quality recommendations for plus-size retro patterns, please let me know!)