Fox Makes

Disappointing Bodysuit: Update and Bigger Thoughts

Firstly, I looked like a babe in my DIY outfit so the day was redeemed.

I have also heard back now from the company who made the one which didn’t fit. They have offered to alter it for a small fee and I’ve decided not to bother. The sewist (who has always been very kind on emails) explains that her tailoring partner uses mannequins:

all the patterns are designed and sketched by my tailor parter who makes the sets/bodysuit for different sizes and tries them on a mannequin of that size but I understand sometimes it doesn’t exactly work that way when it comes to fitting; it can be different from mannequin to human shapes especially with different body shapes

from the emails

And that’s fine, but there aren’t many plus size mannequins in this country and certainly not ones for my size. That’s something I’ve seen another pole brand talking about on their own instagram, the lack of mannequin options for promoting their work. It’s something I’ve definitely come across in my own sewing journey so I’m not completely naive here. This is a personal opinion but I don’t think it’s possible the set they made me could have been tried on a mannequin “of that size” and if it was, I’d love to know where they got it.

(I’ve declined having the suit updated. I don’t want to go through this again and feel the upset if it still doesn’t work, nor do I want to invest more money into it.)

Drafting clothing is a skill. Drafting plus size clothing is a different skill. The work of Leila Kelleher (pattern designer of Muna and Broad, Parsons faculty) is here in the front of my mind. In a post on her personal website, she says “Clothes hang differently on my body than thin bodies – it’s an opportunity for expression, for new shapes, and artistic freedom. It’s not a problem to be solved or diminished.” (link) I want fat people like myself to be able to dress the way they want to, whether that’s for going to the shops or for a full theatrical photoshoot moment.

I don’t expect everyone to be able to do that. I don’t expect people who live in size 6 bodies to have ever considered that the vertical line from their sternum to their crotch is a very different length and shape to the same journey on my body. I don’t expect that at all – unless you’re in the business of making custom clothing, and claim to be doing that for “all sizes and shapes” (direct quote from the brand website). If you’re claiming that’s your ethos then yes, that’s my expectation. If you’re making clothes for people like me, I expect you to do it properly.

Fat people’s bodies aren’t some wild mystery. We have always existed. Centuries of shaming and dismissal mean that mainstream fashion hasn’t caught up with the notion of proper plus size fit, but independent makers have. Independent craftspeople and small brands are doing great work in making gorgeous things. Indie pattern brands too are addressing the different needs of different bodies and there are now whole companies specialising in patterns that already have the curves and lengths built in.

I wasn’t in the largest available size at this company’s chart. I have also over the years and through my own sewing practice developed a substantial emotional resilience to this issue because it happens time and time again. I just fear for the next person larger than me who sees an opportunity to feel fantastic and then is bitterly disappointed, because it does hurt. Clothing and clothes shopping is a long line of hurts which we learn to mitigate and when hopes are raised by someone saying ‘I’ve got you, I’m inclusive’ and then not being that, it’s actually worse. Having given my feedback to the brand, I hope they change their draft but I’m not sure that’s likely.

I don’t want to remove options from anyone’s table but I did hear myself say to my husband that if they’re going to make fat sizes like this then I wish they weren’t doing it at all. It’s okay to say it’s not your speciality. It’s okay to say, above a size X things get wildly curvy and bellies hang and that’s not my area of excellence but here are some other indie brands who will hook you up perfectly. Do I wish all things came in all sizes? Sure, but they don’t, and in forcing them to be so it sometimes makes them worse. You cannot take a size 10 pattern and enlarge by 200% to get a 20.

It’s just a different skillset.