Monday, February 11, 2008

Fashion and Plus-size Clothing Rant

I've never been one to be into fashion and what's hot this season, what colors are "in", what styles are the latest, etc. My biggest problem with clothing was either finding something I liked that fit, or finding a pattern I liked in a size that fit. I don't care if you label it plus-sized or Omar-the-Tentmaker sized or Jane's-Tent-and-Awning sized or Fat Fatty McFatFat, as long as it fits me and I like it. It's one of the reasons I hate shopping for clothes. I can find plenty of tops that I like the design, or I like the fabric, or I like the color/print of the fabric. I can even find tops that fit now (and for someone with 60" of boobage, that's amazing). But trying to find a top with all of the above in one item, not so easy.
Then trying to figure out what size I am in each designer label, forget it. I don't have that much time. The size I wear in Liz & Me is not the same size I wear in Just My Size is not the same size I wear in Bobbie Brooks is not the same size I wear in Northcrest or any other label. That's just for tops. Dresses are totally out of the question. If it has a waist, I can't wear it, period (waists on dresses hit me 3 inches above my natural waistline, 2 inches below my boobs). If it's an empire waist, I can't wear it because those aren't designed for my particular sized rack of doom (not to mention trying to find a bra that fits that will go with the deep vee necks they seem to think we all want). Sorry, I don't want the rack of doom falling out of the top of my dress, thank you very much, and I don't want to show a lot of cleavage either. Slacks are a whole 'nother story. I have to buy talls because I have a 32" inseam (yeah, I'm average height, but have long legs). I haven't figured out if I have more ass than belly or if my waist in front is just lower than designers think it should be. Pants that fit my waist and hips and have legs long enough also have a waistband that hits me right under my bra band in front (they're fine in back). Even LB's Right Fit jeans have a waistband in front that's about an inch too high, so it rolls over when I wear them. When I used to make all my own slacks, I cut the waist lower in front and moved pockets down, lengthened the legs, and left a large hem in them, just in case the length shrank in washing and drying.
Those are just some of the reasons I resorted to making most of my clothes for years. I just happen to be lucky to have inherited a talent for sewing from my mother and two grandmothers. I also was lucky (if you can call it that) to have worked in a garment factory when I was younger and picked up a lot of shortcuts so it doesn't take me a long time to make tops and slacks. But again, finding patterns that fit without making major alterations is an impossibility. I can find patterns I like, but none of them come anywhere near close to hitting my measurements (that's why I have a box full of patterns that I can't/won't use, because adding anywhere from 2 to 4 inches to the bust/waist/hip without altering the shoulders/neckline is more work than I want to do). I've resorted to taking tops I've bought that I really like the design (but didn't care for the fabric/print/color so much) and once they're worn out, I take them apart, make any minor alterations (like narrowing the shoulders, why do designers think that if you have serious boobage you also have the shoulders of a linebacker to go with them?), and use them for patterns to make more tops. I can then go out looking for fabric and get the type/color/print I want and have a top I'll wear, look good in, and feel fabulous in (I also get a lot of compliments on what I make).
The outfit I made for my son's wedding is a case in point about purchased patterns. The envelope said it was a size 30/32. Now, when I buy a top, it's usually that size, but guess what? The pattern runs smaller than ready-made. I cut out the pattern, compared the pieces to a top I'd taken apart for a pattern, and the purchased pattern was 4" smaller. Now I paid $15 for a pattern I couldn't use (alterations were not an option, no way to do them without changing the way it was supposed to look). And I really, really liked the design. I ended up using that top I had taken apart and adding the slanted hem to it and going with the neckline on it instead of the neckline on the purchased pattern. I did use the sleeves from the purchased pattern, they were a short flutter sleeve and I wanted that, not a fitted short sleeve.
When I wore it to my son's wedding, everyone wanted to know where I got such a cute outfit. When I told them I made it, they were like "no way, it's just so cute, where did you get the pattern?" When I told them I copied, sorta, one I had bought, that didn't fit, they were saying "you have mad skillz when it comes to sewing then." Maybe I do, but it isn't because it's something I really love to do, it's because if I want something I like, that fits, and is in the colors/fabric/print I want, I have to be able to create it myself because there just isn't a lot out there for a woman my size.
I quit doing a lot of sewing when I worked, I just didn't have the time or the energy for it. Now that I don't have to work anymore (thank you, DH), I have the time for sewing, but I haven't managed to wear out any of my really cute tops yet so I can make patterns out of them. I've done some looking at fabric here in the last few months, and the price is killing me (can you tell I'm cheap?). Geez Louize, I can remember when I paid $1 a yard for t-shirt knits and single-knit blouse weight fabrics. And the color/print selections were just fabulous, I could usually always find something I liked that I could afford. Now, I'm lucky if I can find it on sale for less than $10 a yard, and the color/print selection isn't the greatest. Are they trying to keep us from making our own clothes? Do they want to make sure we have to buy ready-made? Is that why I can't find patterns in my size? I know I represent a very small percentage of fat women (my size is probably 1 or 2% of all fat women), but that doesn't mean I want to sit home naked or wrapped in a sheet all day long (or wearing those gawd-awful muu-muus or caftans).
I think I'm going to go back to making most of my clothes again, and buying clearance at LB and Catherine's if and when they have something I like. It seems like that's the only way I'm going to have the clothes I like, that fit, and are comfortable. I really feel for women who don't have the time, patience, or talent for clothes-making.


  1. Every day as an average sized person:

    -I can be sure that people aren't embarrassed to be seen with me because of the size of my body.
    -If I pick up a magazine or watch TV, I will see bodies that look like mine that aren't being lampooned, desexualized, or used to signify laziness, ignorance, or lack of self-control.
    -When I talk about the size of my body I can be certain that few other people will hope they are never the same size.
    -I do not have to be afraid that when I talk to my friends or family they will mention the size of my body in a critical manner, or suggest unsolicited diet products and exercise programs.
    -I will not be accused of being emotionally troubled or in psychological denial because of the size of my body.
    -I can go home from meetings, classes, and conversations and not feel excluded, fearful, attacked, isolated, outnumbered, unheard, held at a distance, stereotyped, or feared because of the size of my body.
    -I never have to speak for size acceptance as a movement. My thoughts about my body can be my own with no need for political alliance relative to size.
    -I can be sure that when I go to a class, or movie, or restaurant that I will find a place to sit in which I am relatively comfortable.
    -I don't have to worry that if I am talking about feeling of sexual attraction people are repelled or disgusted by the size of my body. People can imagine me in sexual circumstances.
    -People won't ask me why I don't change the size of my body.
    -My masculinity or femininity will not be challenged because of the size of my body.
    -I can be sure that if I need medical or legal help my size will not work against me.
    -I am not identified by the size of my body.
    -I can walk in public with my significant other and not have people double take or stare.
    -I can go for months without thinking about or being spoken to about the size of my body.
    -I am not grouped because of the size of my body.
    -I will never have to sit quietly and listen while other people talk about the ways in which they avoid being my size.
    -I don't have to worry that won't be hired for a job that I can do because of the size of my body.

  2. All of those are reasons I blog about fat acceptance and the problems I face as a fat woman. All of those things that you don't have to worry about as an average-sized person, I want for all fat people to not have to worry about them as well. I want all people to be seen as worthy of respect and civility simply because they are people. No one's worth should be based on the size of their ass (or the lack of size, for that matter).

  3. Since when is 5'8 average height?
    And aren't tall inseams usually around '34?
    I'm slightly confused.

  4. Great post. I'm so with you. The times I've made something for myself (mostly costumes) it's always been nice to be able to tweak things for a precise fit. Too much time for me to spend on the full wardrobe, though.

    I'm lucky at the moment with the "trends"; the empire waists and deeper-cut necklines mostly work for me (I have a medium-sized rack of doom - and shoulders like a linebacker). My challenge is finding pants that will contain my 60" of trunk-junk-age. Gah!

    And it's funny, because I need the 32" inseam as well (I'm 5'9"); I used to have to track down tall pants (or wear a lot of skirts!), but lately it seems like the averages were *at least* 32" and maybe longer. Apparently 5'9" is just *barely* average in most plus-size manufacturers' eyes?

  5. Generally, and this depends a lot on designer/manufacturer, petites are 4' 11" to 5' 3", average is 5' 3 1/2" to 5' 8", and tall is 5' 9" to 6'. Some say the upper limit on average is 5' 7 1/2", and the lower limit for tall is 5' 8". I'm 5' 7 3/4", so I round up to 5' 8". I don't consider myself all that tall, I went to school with quite a few girls who were taller than I was back then (I was 5' 9" in high school, age has made me shorter). Inseam lengths for petite, average, and tall also vary by designer/manufacturer (LB's Right Fit average are just the right length for me, their talls are about 6 inches too long, their average leggings in regular sizes are too short by about 3" {29"}, their talls are too long by 2" {34"}, go figure). There is no such thing as universal sizing across all designers/brands (I think they do this so you have to go into the store to try things on and have more chance of making an impulse buy in addition to what you really went in there for).

  6. I have been trying for years to improve my sewing with the object being to make my own clothes. I am only 5'6 but I have at 34" inseam. I am freakishly short waisted, and I have long arms. In order to get coats, shirts and sweatshirt hoodies that fit, I have to buy mens 2x, and then they hang like giant bags on me, but the arms are long enough. Black maternity yoga pants have been a real treat for me, and I need to learn how to make them before the trend dies out. I now have a serger so it should be possible.
    I'd like to be able to go to a store, pick out an outfit and have it tailored to fit me. I think pret-a-porter has played into demeaning the normal variety of shapes of people, and the clothes you find at most stores are just vehicles for shame.

  7. pooklaroux - I know what you mean about sleeves being long enough. I don't usually have trouble with tops, my problem comes with coats. My current coat is a 6X, which has sleeves long enough, but I can overlap the front by about 6", I tried on a 4X and a 5X and neither had sleeves long enough, so I had to get the one that was way too big. I don't really like long sleeves on tops, I end up pushing them up to my elbows or cutting them off to short sleeves and hemming the edges. Even the sweaters I have, when I decide to wear one (not often, I get too warm in them), I push the sleeves up to my elbows and the cuffs end up all stretched out of shape.

  8. Oh, please do come to visit us at the "Manolo for the Big Girl" blog, where we LOVE helping our Big Sisters figure out where to shop! It is all "Fashion, Lifestyle, and Humor for the Big Girl."

  9. Francesca - I've visited your site, and you have some awesome things. Unfortunately, most of them are out of my price range. I don't know the average age of your readers, but I think I'm a bit above them (I'm far from being a girl

  10. Don't all patterns run smaller than off-the-rack stuff, 'cause they're still based on old sizing? I took a sewing class a little while ago (and dropped out), and found that I'm a 20 or possibly a 22, when I'm a 16/18 in stores.

    Setting that aside... Glorious rant. On the dresses thing (and shirts as well), I have one pievce of advice: camis can be a lifesaver. I have a zillion cheap camis in different colors, which allow me to wear all sorts of tops and dresses that don't fit the Rack of Doom... And better still, they allow me to get the size that fits my shoulders properly (if it's a stretchy fabric, anyway), since it doesn't matter how much cleavage (and bra) would be exposed without the cami.

    Avenue has some in 30/32 on sale for $12.99 (which is not as cheap as they should be, but not bad), and Junonia has some more expensive ones, but they'll probably last forever. Seriously, camis have opened up a whole new world of off-the-rack shirts and dresses to me. (I now own several wrap dresses, for instance, 'cause the shape is really flattering on me -- but I only have one I can wear without a cami.)

  11. Kate - Thanks, I had never really considered camis as an option for under those low-cut tops/dresses. Layering in winter isn't too bad, as long as we keep the house cooler than most guests like it (DH is a walking furnace most of the time, so our temp is usually around 65 F). I'll have to check them out and see if I can find some that are really light-weight for spring and summer layering. That might give me more options for tops (I'm not really into dresses anyway, never been the girly girl type, that's why I made the pant set for my son's

  12. I unfortunately did not inherit my mom's sewing talent...or I would be sewing or fixing everything lately.

    I don't like empire waists, either - I'm tall, long-waisted, with smallish boobs. Empire waists make me look pregnant, mostly. (Note - I have problems with the wrap-front tops, too, because they droop over my inadequate rack.) I'm usually good with the LB average length pants. Avenue, not so much. Their averages are mostly too short and the talls are way long.

    And I have shoulders like a linebacker, so my problem tends to be that shit is too tight across the shoulder/upper arm and ginormous in the boobs. This is why I don't own many blazers....they NEVER fit right. And sleeves are never long enough.


    I really should make another stab at sewing...

    Thanks for the rant, Vesta, and for letting us rant in your comments too. :)

  13. goingloopy - feel free to rant away. Clothes are one of the ways we express ourselves to the world, and not having lots of good choices sucks big time. I know my fit problems are different than other women's fit problems, but we all have fit problems in at least one area, sometimes more. Ranting about it may not make it better, but it makes me feel better for a while........

  14. I have exactly the opposite problem of you when it comes to pant length. I have very short legs (28" inseam) and a long torso, and I have a high waist. So regular pants are of course way too long, but petites usually hit me lower than I like. I either buy pants that have the short inseam but not the petite rise, or just buy regular pants and hem them (which is of couse the advantage shorter than average women have over taller than average women... although I do hate hemming). I'm surprised you have to buy talls to fit your 32" inseam though. I thought 32" was the standard length for regular pants. I know with my 28" inseam, I usually find that petites or shorts are still too long unless I'm wearing heels, and regular pants I need to hem even with heels.

    I also have your narrow shoulder + rack of doom problem. It was a problem even when I was thin (I've been blessed/cursed with an abundance of breast tissue), but moreso now that I wear plus sizes... it seems like all plus size clothes are built for very tall, broad women. I second Kate's recommendations for camis though. (I went the opposite way of Kate and invested in a couple expensive ones in neutral colours... they're lace and double as lingerie!)

    My biggest fitting challenge though is that I don't have particularly wide hips, but I do have a very large, prominent ass. So a pair of pants will fit in the hips, fit in the waist, fit in the thighs, but pull really, really tight across the ass... like to the point where you can see the individual cheeks. So I'll try a size up and they will be loose in the waist, too big in the hips, big in the thighs... and still pull tighter across the ass then I'd like to see for work. Which also gives me those lines/wrinkles at the crotch... argh.

    I want to start sewing my own clothes, but I'm worried about having the same problem as you with patterns. And I don't think I'm talented enough to alter them to fit properly.

  15. Becky - One of the things that I found works really well for making alterations is to go to the thrift store (any one close will work) and buy old sheets (I've picked them up for 50 cents each quite often). I then use those for practicing alterations to patterns (that's how I found out that if I have to add more than 2 inches to a pattern, it's more trouble than it's worth). You can sew the pieces cut from the old sheet together with a really long stitch on the sewing machine, try it on, see if the alterations you made work, if they don't, pin or mark where you need to add/subtract, take it apart and alter again. Lather, rinse, repeat as often as necessary (and as time allows) until you get the fit you want. Then, you can use those altered sheet pieces for your pattern when making the actual garment, since it will last a hell of a lot longer than a tissue pattern and has all of your alterations made to it (if you have to add more inches than you thought, you can cut and add as needed). This does take some practice, but it's worth it to get something you really like that fits the way you want it to.

  16. Oooh, that's great advice, thanks!!

  17. I wish I didn't find sewing so darn tedious. I learned how as a teenager and for a while, made pretty much everything I wore. I was a bit smaller then and still fit into most of the commercial patterns easily. Also, my upper arms must have been smaller. These days, I have horrible fitting problems with upper arms, and since you can't really enlarge an upper arm without messing about with the armscye (or at least I've never figured it out), I have the worst luck with fitted sleeves.

    For the curious, this is something I made relatively recently.

    But honestly, when all is said and done, I'd rather spend the time knitting.

  18. rose - is it the part of your arm between shoulder and elbow? Mine is large there, and what I've done for short sleeves is split them up the center from the bottom edge and spread the pattern just enough to make them that little bit bigger (it doesn't mess with the armhole fit of the sleeve cap much, if any). For long sleeves, I've done the same, and then tapered the seam from elbow to wrist to get the fit I want (although I don't do long sleeves much anymore).

  19. I can't wear anything made in the past 2 years because of those damn wrap fronts and empire waists. Every single one of those shirts ends up with that waist in the middle of my bustline, and wrap fronts are just "wardrobe malfunctions" in the making. I don't know why, why, why clothing manufacturers think that one style works for every woman, but IT DOESN'T.

    I can fit into regular rise tall pants, and I have enough skirts to last for a decade, but I'm shuffling the same half-dozen knit tops around and hoping no one at work notices. Screw fashion, I'd be excited if I could just get clothes.

  20. Ms. Heathen - When I was working, I did the same thing. Shuffled the same 5 or 6 tops with different slacks all the time so it wouldn't look like I was wearing the same thing all the time. Gets old after a while, that's for sure.

  21. Great post. I'm fairly new to the FA movement and I truly can relate to this issue. There are some very good designers that cater to us women of size. But finding stores that carry them is like searching for the holy grail. Let me preface my next comment by saying that I love, love, love Shapely Prose. But I find it a bit disingenuous (sp?) that Kate's posting about clothing prices when she sells t-shirts on her site for over 20 dollars (at least the t-shirts in my size) I mean it's just a t-shirt, right? Love the rest of the site though. Peace.

  22. Anjelica - Welcome to FA :)
    I know $20 for a t-shirt may seem steep, but the prices aren't set by Kate or SP, they're set by Cafe Press and what SP has added in for their profit isn't much (Kate posted about this), so I think it's pretty reasonable, compared to, say, BigDogs (they sell women's tees with sayings on them too). Add in the consideration that you're getting an FA tee that you won't find anywhere else, I think it's a very good price (hell, I just got 2 tees from Lane Bryant, on sale, for $16 each, and that's plain, no FA statement on them).

  23. its so nice 2 see a website for plus size women and the womens clothes are beutiful

    My Plus Size Swimwear

  24. crystal - yeah, they are cute, but those swimsuits don't do much good for those of us who have larger than D cup boobs (I think the largest cup I've seen in a swimsuit is DD, still no good for the H cup rack-o-doom). I'll be making my own swimsuit this year.

  25. I have just gotten to the point where I am going to have to teach myself some sewing skillz in order to be able to get tops in designs that I actually want to wear. Why is it that stores seem to think all fat women want to wear floral pattern shirts?

    You're right, fabric prices are insane.

  26. I can attest to the fact that sewing patterns, when they are available in plus sizes, run much smaller than off the rack clothing. It's really annoying to make alterations to the patterns, but at least this way I can have the clothes that I want.

  27. I am opening an affordable Woman’s Plus Size Clothing and Lingerie store
    I would like to find out more about the products in Plus Sizes XL to 6X or higher? The plus size clothing in my city only goes as high as 6X for some items but not all and the bras are not wide enough in the band with...
    and nothing sexy for the evenings... ;)
    I know this might sound strange but can take full measurements so I can know what sizes I should order... especially the for the bras and panties pants and sexy night wear ;)
    I really need to know sizes its very important... Because I want us ladies to have the perfect fit for once in our cloths and feel good about how we look too... please this would really help me I will keep an i eye on this page for the few days Just so you know I am serious about my store he is my info I know right now... I am 260LBs I kinda fit in 3X-4X jeans 46 - 48 I have a very hard time finding cloths that fit so I really want to do this right... I need actual measurements how body so I get cloths custom made... And if you have any suggestions on what you would like to see in styles and colors that would really help me out too...

    Thank you so very much for reading my post I look forward to reading yours too ASAP need sizes my BBW's

  28. Anita - Sorry I haven't gotten back to you sooner. I had to go out of town on Friday and just got home today.
    Sizing is difficult, since even 2 women who are the same height and weight will wear different sizes. I'm 5' 7" (I've shrunk again) and 376 lbs - I wear a 26/28/30 in pants, depending on who made them, panties I wear a size 13 in the Just My Size high cut stretch satin (the only ones I like), bras I wear a 52H (if I can find one in that size that has support). As far as tops go, I can't wear any blouses that are made out of woven fabric and are button-front, the arms are always too tight and the shoulders are too wide, the armholes are weird too. So I usually buy stretchy cotton or polyester knit tops, with scoop necks, v-necks, sweetheart necklines, or round necks and short sleeves (I don't care much for 3/4 sleeves, and long sleeves get in my way). I like my tops longer, so on me, that's a back length of about 32", then they hit at mid-hip.
    As for colors - that's also very individual and personal. I happen to like jewel tones - turquoise, purple, burgundy, forest green, and then black, charcoal grey, olive green, teal, royal blue, all the shades of denim blue. I like small floral prints, geometric prints, abstract prints, paisley prints in all of the colors mentioned.


Comment moderation is enabled. If you're a troll and trying to slander someone or just being generally an asshat, your comment probably won't see the light of day. If you want to have a reasonable, civil discussion, welcome, and feel free to comment.
To the troll at IP: ,, your comments will not be published, nor will they be read. They will be automatically deleted. Get a life, sad sack.