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Bustiness and Body Image, by Lindsie (@sewbusty)

Trigger warning : discussion of body image and mental health.

“Your boobs are so big, you get your bras from Omar the Tentmaker!” a close male relative would tell me when I was growing up. “His other job is making circus tents!”

I started “sprouting,” as my mother called it, when I was about eight years old. I don’t remember my first bra shopping experience, but I imagine it was probably at K-Mart or Shopko – grabbing a little bag of Hanes training bras that hung next to the packaged panties. I do, however, distinctly remember sharing with my second-grade BFF that I WAS WEARING A BRA. And I also distinctly remember that it was white, made of t-shirt material, and basically just a cropped cami.

But the cropped camis didn’t last long. By the sixth grade, I was something like a 30E. Other girls at school would accuse me of trying to show off my boobs when I would arch back to stretch my shoulders; little did they know that I was trying to stretch away the pain that comes with having breasts incongruous with the size of your frame.

My boobs only grew, and grew, and grew until my mid-twenties. I topped off at a 30K, then lost a bit of weight and dropped to a 30J, and that’s where I stay today.

Growing up boobalicious

Boobs were always something to hide, to be ashamed of. I wasn’t allowed to wear bikinis, and I had to cover my cleavage – a difficult task when you’re trying to shop in the junior’s department at the local Macy’s. I got used to wearing camisoles under literally everything.

The one time I wore a shirt with a mild amount of cleavage to school, my teacher dropped by my desk to tell me that the principal, Mrs. Garbe wanted to see me in the hall. I had no idea what Mrs. Garbe might want from me, and figured it would probably be something good. I was, after all, an honor roll student and often did volunteer projects in the school administrative office. Mrs. Garbe probably had dropped by to tell me I was student of the month, or that she had a new volunteer job for me.

That wasn’t it.

“Do you know why I’m here?” Mrs. Garbe asked as I stepped into the hall. Her voice was distinctly stern. I knew at that moment I wasn’t winning an award.

“No. What’s wrong?” I asked. She led me down the hall toward her office while we spoke.

“You can’t think of any school policies you’ve broken today?”

“No. I don’t know what you’re talking about.” I said, feeling bewildered and confused. I was always one of those kids who hated to be in trouble (and rarely was in trouble).

“What about your shirt? Can you think of anything wrong with your shirt?”

“Is it not long enough? I did the arm raise test this morning, but maybe it’s a tad on the short side?” I asked, referencing the school’s policy that shirts must not bear one’s midriff when one’s arms are raised.

Long story short, Mrs. Garbe (and I’m sure, by extension, my teacher) were upset about the maybe ½” of cleavage that was showing. Because it didn’t matter that I was an honor roll student, that I volunteered for the school administrative office, that I was only wearing a shirt that any of my classmates could have worn without evoking any raised eyebrows. What mattered was my tits.

I hated my boobs. They got in the way. They made shopping impossible. They made people think I was a slut. They got me in trouble at school. They drew unwanted attention. While I was in law school, I came quite close to getting a breast reduction. All I wanted was to be, I dunno, a D cup.

I am Omar the Tentmaker.

A lot of people find that sewing is the key to accepting their bodies. They start making clothing to fit their bodies instead of trying to fit their bodies to the available clothing, and it helps them to accept their bodies as they are.

But sewing wasn’t the perfect key to body acceptance for me.

Sewing allowed me to have well-fitting frocks for all my childhood and teen rites of passage; my mom and I made my 8th grade graduation dress, my sweet 16 dress, my homecoming dress, my prom dress. But I had the same problem with patterns that I had with ready-to-wear clothing: They were drafted for a small bust. Even making my clothes meant either accepting a dismal fit or spending hours making adjustments. Wouldn’t it be easier if my body just fit the clothes?

If I’m being honest, I didn’t really start trying to make clothing to fit my body instead of hoping to fit my body to clothing until I started making bras – until I became Omar the Tentmaker.

With bras, there’s really no way around figuring out fit. I mean, you can make an ill-fitting bra, but – unlike with clothing – ill fitting bras result in pain and major discomfort. So I spent a lot of time figuring out the best fit for my boobs. I think it took something like 25 hours and $75 in materials for practice runs before I made a well-fitting bra.

In the bra making community, I suddenly found a lot of other people like me – big boobs, small middle. It also helps that now, instead of spending $100+ on a bra from the shop, I can make a bra for about $25 (and enjoy the process!). As my boobs became less isolating and encumbering, I started to actually like my tits.

This inspired me to return to garment sewing with a new eye. This time, I decided to focus on making patterns that are already designed for my body – those that are drafted for a larger bust. I developed the Busty Pattern Database to aid in this endeavor. And, let me tell you, making patterns that are designed for my body type makes sewing a much more pleasurable experience.

And then I started Sew Busty, so I get to help celebrate busty bodies every day, which has further helped me to reclaim my tits.

They’re voluptuous. They’re fabulous. And they’re mine.

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