Genetically, I was unlikely to ever be the willowy type. I'm 5ft3", decidedly pear-shaped and I've had an on-off relationship with a bit of extra plumpness most of my life. Last ten or so years, it's been more of an 'on' relationship. I'm mostly good with it.
During my twenties I maintained a size 8-10 figure with quite some effort. If I knew I was going out for dinner, I'd often starve myself the whole day beforehand. Eat literally nothing. Maybe a few cups of tea. I lived alone for some time and maintained a fridge and pantry that contained pretty much two minute noodles, cheese and beer. Sometimes I'd have half a packet of noodles for lunch and the other half for tea. And I was riding my bike to and from work or walking or doing yoga. So yeah, I looked in good shape. But looking in good shape was a priority for me then and I'd hardly say I had a healthy relationship with food, looking back.
Twenty years on and there are bound to be some changes, yeah? So much of it for the better. I'm not going to waste time wishing my body was different. Besides, my husband is a sensational cook. And I love to bake for our hungry boys. And we love to share a drink or two (or three).
Sewing most of my clothes has been a double-edged sword for body-positivity. On the one hand, I can create clothes that fit me well, regardless of my size and shape. On the other hand, this requires constant measuring, adjusting and technical scrutiny of oneself in the mirror and photographs. And then there's putting up photos online, and comparing oneself to other sewists who might make the same garment. It's not necessarily negative, it just involves a lot of thinking about one's own dimensions.
It's not all about the numbers, either. Sewing has taught me so much more about the differences in individual bodies. Short-waisted, long-waisted, broad or narrow shoulders, full or small bust... and on. Statistically there is an 'average' figure but pretty much no-one fits it!
Which is a bit of a long-winded way of saying that I'm so glad that there are different pattern companies that design for different body shapes. (This is becoming like one of those food blogger posts where you have to scroll past reams of childhood reminiscences all the while thinking "just give me the recipe already!" Where's the flippin' Spring Top??)
Cashmerette Patterns by US-based Jenny Rushmore are specifically designed for curvy women. All the common adjustments that Jenny herself used to have to make to other patterns, like full bust and sway back, are already built in, people! They range from US size 12 - 28 and have separate pattern pieces for cup sizes C-D, E-F and G-H. Halleluja! Being a sewing enthusiast and blogger, rather than professionally trained pattern designer, Jenny has the Cashmerette patterns professionally drafted. Smart move. I've only heard good things about the patterns so far and my experience backs this up.
I tried the Springfield Top, a simple sleeveless summer basic but with shape!
Cashmerette patterns are drafted for a height of 5ft 6", and I'm 3" shorter. I made a muslin and found the bust darts were sitting about 1" too low on me. When I pinned up the shoulders, they sat well and I found the back also fitted better.
To adjust the pattern, I removed an inch from the front below the shoulder seam, and an inch from the middle of the back yoke, and then lowered the bottom of the arm holes an inch to add that space back in there. I also took out an inch at the waist 'lengthen/shorten' line which fixed that fabric pooling you see at centre back. In total a 2" length adjustment, nothing more. See those grey grid lines on the pattern peices? Not only did they make it much easier to stick the printed pdf together accurately, they also made for easy and accurate pattern adjustments!
|Front bodice with shortened shoulder strap and re-drawn armhole line|
|Back yoke, shortened horizontally by 1" and side back panel with re-drawn armhole line|
I can imagine making up a few of these in different fabrics. I'd be particularly keen to make it in something a bit drapier next time; a linen or possibly a rayon.
I have a question for the collective sewing mind out there though. I love the way the back of the Springfield looks on me, but for my personal style, I think the front is kind of plain. The bias bound neck and armholes, the plain round neckline. What do you think I could do to 'dress it up' a bit next time? A stitched down neck facing? A small Peter Pan collar? Squaring off the neckline? I'm also thinking this would be great extended into a shift dress, but probably with the same wish for 'dressing up' the front. I'd love any suggestions!
available only as pdf, here
FABRIC: Cotton + Steel gold fish print on 100% cotton
SIZE: 12 C/D
ALTERATIONS: took out 2" in length as detailed above
COMMENTS: I'm really impressed with how much thoughtful shaping is put into an essentially simple garment. Very nicely drafted, great instructions. I think I'll be reaching for this a lot!
PS we currently have printed copies of the Cashmerette Appleton Dress in store/online. Her other patterns are on our (long) wish list.
- Jane & Fiona xx