Friday, July 16, 2010

Body Image

Now that I’ve been hanging out with my buddy Debbie Double for awhile and getting to know her (and my) shape better, I’ve figured out a lot about where I’ve gone wrong in the past in trying to make clothes fit. It explains why I have trouble buying off the rack too. I have:

  • forward shoulders
  • sloped shoulders
  • slightly forward neck
  • C-cup (or maybe even a D?) bust
  • short arms
  • full abdomen
  • wide hips
  • sway back
  • low seat
  • short legs

Sounds pretty bad, huh? Of course much of this has happened to me slowly over the years. I’m pushing 60 after all! Unfortunately pattern companies can’t take into consideration all the various shapes that people come in so they draft patterns to fit the “average” body, whatever that might be. Almost everyone has some deviation from that “average” body. Even if we aren’t making our own clothes, it’s helpful to know our shape and what looks good on us. Be honest with yourself. Lumps and bumps are normal, especially as we age, and it doesn’t mean that you’re any less beautiful!

Unfortunately fashion magazines, TV and the movies aren’t helping anyone’s self-esteem by emphasising overly thin and muscular figures. Think of it as just the current fashion and fashions change constantly. If you go back to Marilyn Monroe, everyone’s ideal of sexy womanhood, she was downright fluffy compared to today’s popular shape! Don’t compare, just celebrate what you’ve got.

OK, so back to the fitting books.

I’ve found the best one finally! “Fit for Real People” by Pati Palmer & Marta Alto is definitely opening my eyes and my brain. Sandra Betzina’s “Fast Fit”, Nancy Zeiman’s “Fitting Finesse” and the long-titled “How to Use Adapt, and Design Sewing Patterns” by Lee Hollahan are good as far as they go, but IMHO they don’t go nearly far enough. I want details. I want why. Pati & Marta get full marks for clear illustration and explanation. Even repetition. You can tell they have taught many different women (because really they are discussing only female “people”) how to make commercial patterns fit their body, not some mythical standard. They understand what changes the years make to the female form and how to accommodate those changes. After reading this book I really feel like I finally have a complete set of tools to make clothes that fit me.

So what’s wrong with the other books, really? The one I’ve had longest (about 15 years!) is Nancy’s “Fitting Finesse” (published 1995). What I don’t like is her pivot and slide method and her more modern book “Pattern Fitting With Confidence” (2008) uses the same technique. It makes my brain hurt for some reason. I’d much rather tuck and fold, slash and spread, or even redraw the darn thing entirely. It’s just the way my brain works, not a diss. Otherwise, the book just doesn’t give me enough of the kind of detailed information I want. I’m greedy like that.

Lee Hollahan’s Book With The Very Long Title (published 2010) tries to fit too much in too small of a space. (Hmmm…maybe the title was a clue?) She combines basic fitting with pattern drafting, both of which are complex subjects and ultimately could fill their own book, sort of like the 500+ pages in Connie Crawford’s pattern drafting book. I found it very interesting at first but ultimately unsatisfying on both counts. Not enough detail for me. The photographs are very clear though. I like that part a lot.

Sandra’s “Fast Fit” (first published 2001, my softcover 2003)is all about the individual fitting problems and how to fix them which is great. Except that her illustrations of actually what to do are kind of vague and hard to see. The bodies are large cartoonish sketches and the patterns are tiny photographs. I would really prefer it be the other way around! She follows the wrinkles to decide what needs to be done and has her adjustments in two formats: “fast fit” (or the quick and dirty) and step-by-step. Sandra also recommends you make muslins or, as she terms them, “pre-tests”. She includes a lot more information than the first two books but it still seems somewhat unsatisfying to me. Is there any point in mentioning specific pattern numbers without either showing what it looks like (photo of the pattern envelope perhaps) or realising that it likely might be OOP by now? Sandra has great style herself however!

Of course you get a slightly different perspective from each of these books. The Palmer/Pletsch one (originally published 1998, second edition 2005, mine the updated 2007) uses tissue-fitting and doesn’t require a muslin pre-test. Though the nervous might not want to use the really expensive fabrics until they’re sure of the techniques. Like Sandra, Pati & Marta use the wrinkles to tell what needs to be done to make things fit. I’m certainly going to use their technique of reinforcing the neckline and armhole of closefitting patterns with tape. I’ve already experienced rips! I also like the way they pin pattern tissues down before taping thus maintaining perfect flatness. See? I’ve learned a bunch already. Three scissors up!

So why haven’t I done anything useful yet? Seems like I’ve been stalling for weeks, doesn’t it? To tell the truth, I’ve been feeling somewhat under the weather, blue in spirits and lately a couple of days with a tummy upset. My appointment with Dr Serious Dermatologist on Wednesday got me all stressed out. Now my psoriasis rates as serious, instead of mild. Lovely. I have to stop one of the ointments, use more of another, still with the black tar, plus take some nasty side-effect-laden pills. Pills, I might add, that cost over $100 for a month’s supply that Isn’t Covered At All by T-Man’s extended medical for some reason unexplainable by my pharmacist. Sheesh. They had better do something useful, that’s all I’ve got to say. Especially if I’m going to start losing what’s left of my hair and not be able to drink T-Man’s yummy wine now and for 2 months after I’m done with them. Maybe I’ll lose some weight? Be positive, damselfly.

I also have an appointment in August with the skin care centre to begin light therapy. Finally. (Apparently I lucked into an early date. Someone must have cancelled and left me a spot or it would have been November.) Maybe it will work better than the sun exposure I’ve been trying to get regularly. At least we’ve been having some nice sunshine recently.

Anyway, I need to print out this quote on a small card so I can hand it to well-meaning friends, relatives and acquaintances – all of whom know something that I should try:

“Allergies, infections, dietary deficiencies or excesses, or nervous tension do not cause psoriasis.” 

And on the other side it should say:

“Psoriasis is a chronic, non-contagious, lifelong immunologic skin disease. What works for one person with psoriasis might not work for another. There is no permanent cure.”

Since this body is totally not the image I want to see, I will envision it clear and normal - not all blotched, cracked and peeling. Be positive, damselfly. I guess that means my actual shape is not a problem?


Anonymous said...

On most of the sewing sites that I visit, alteration of patterns is the main concern. I am getting better at fitting my shape but man, you have to be in the mood to make alterations to the pattern before you even begin. I do make muslins of dresses to help point me in the right direction.
Louise Hay, is all about affirmations, for healing. So it is all about my skin is a wonderful organ, healthy, beautiful, it protects me etc and repeat all day long. There have been times that I have gone with this approach and at least I was in a better frame of mind.

Louisa said...

Thanks for the good thoughts, Rosemary! I've never heard of Louise Hay before. Mostly I stay away from the self-help-guru types. It seems like they just say what we all know to be true anyway. The hard part is convincing ourselves!