How Sewing Helped me Fall in Love with my Body, by Jess (@sowhatifisew)
Content Warning: Body Image
Everybody has days when we don’t like what we see in the mirror. It’s true. No one is immune and for me, although I’ve never suffered badly with insecurities over my image. Those thoughts always strike when I’m stood in a shop dressing room.
There’s something about the lights. They are too bright. The mirrors are too close and allow you to overanalyse every inch of your body. Combine that with the desire to look fantastic in everything you try on and the frustration that nothing looks quite like it does on the mannequin and you have a recipe for crippling self-doubt.
The trouble is when we look in the mirror and see clothes that don’t quite fit we begin to blame ourselves, but is it really our fault? No it’s not. I vividly remember the day when I was 19 and I read an article in Vogue about how ‘Boobs were out’ and I remember thinking, how? How can a body part go in and out of fashion?
The Fashion Industry sets trends and while they may seem innocuous and fun (although who on earth decided to bring back flares in 2021?!) trends actually dictate fashionable body types as well as fashionable clothes. In the 50s it was the hourglass, in the 60s it was all about ‘the Twig’, in the 90s it was waif-like heroin chic and models starving themselves, in the 2010s thanks to the Kardashians everything was about butts.
For years the fashion industry has been trying to make us grow or shrink ourselves to fit their image of what a women should like at any given moment.
Clothes sizing now seems arbitrary as sizes shift with the trends. The impact of this lack of standardisation is that you can find yourself trapsing around the shops wearing size 6 jeans in GAP and size 14 jeans in River Island, which is terrible for your body confidence.
So this blog is meant to be about sewing right? Lets talk about sewing.
The reason I learnt to sew when I was 17 was that I was fed up of not being able to buy clothes that fit my body shape. While sewing is still influenced by the fashion industry, and by trends, at the end of the day the sewist controls the garment. If you need extra bust room? Add it. You want a different skirt on the dress? You can hack it.
You know your measurements and make clothes that fit you and only you. I have to say that since starting to sew my own garments, my body confidence has increased. There is a certain freedom in adding bust room to a style of dress I’ve never been able to own or chopping 4 inches off the bottom of every dress to accommodate my height.
Sewing has not only allowed me to make clothes that suit me but it’s also given me a greater awareness of my body. I know my measurements, I know the dress length I need, I know what style of tops I like. I know what I like and I’m not bound by what’s in fashion. I have discovered that I truly don’t care about trends! All the matters to me is that I am happy in my clothes.
Furthermore while dress sizes may fluctuate on the high street, I know that my measurements are actually consistent. Regardless of what Topshop or New Look say this month, I know that my body is still the same beautiful size it always was.
Maybe I’ve gained an inch here or lost an inch there but frankly that’s none of the fashion industry’s business. I will not allow my insecurities to be exploited and to made to feel ‘less than’ just because I don’t conform to this decade’s ideal body type. Another decade and I’m sure my figure will be back on trend.
Sewing has made me fall in love with my body, not some image of a body that the fashion industry thinks I should have. Of course I still have a little confidence wobble now and then, normally when I’m in the grips of PMS, but it doesn’t get to me as much anymore. Sure my lungs are a bit dodgy, my eyesight is terrible and I have genetically wobbly thighs but my body is mine. I love it and sewing has made me appreciate it to the full.
Image 1: Samuels, J (2011) Mamie van Duren. Flicker. 11th August.
Image 2: Senatore, C. (2017) Kate Moss in black and white photoshoot. ‘Heroin Chic; The Dark Side Of Fashion’. The Fashion Atlas. 12th October.
Image 3: Siegler, M. (2019) Kim Kardashian at the Met Gala. ‘Plastic Surgeon Reveals How to Get a Body Like Kim Kardashian’. Page Six. 9th May.