For ages, I stopped making clothes for myself. When you invest a heap of time and money into making your own clothes , and they look crappy or don’t fit, why would you? It’s not like you can just try something on – to do that requires making a muslin, which is just extra effort!
Now that I’ve embarked on this whole new clothing adventure though, I really do have to figure out how to make clothing that looks good, and fits. My starting point for making some style decisions was my wardrobe. I spent ten minutes pulling out everything that I felt comfortable in, and therefore looked best in. It was pretty eye opening, because it clearly showed that about 80% of the clothes I have need to find new homes. The other 20% was very informative, and definitely gives me a clear direction to move.
One of my favourites is a black shirtdress I’ve had for years. It has a V neck, which is flattering for my shape, and the fabric has enough rigidity not to cling. I went hunting for a similar pattern, and came home with Burda 6760.
Now, I’ve had issues with the sizing of Burda patterns in the past, so I spent some quality time with the size chart, and boy, it was a revelation! Now bear with me as I get all Mr Miyagi on you and slowly share my learnings…
1. The number of your size is arbitrary. Seriously, do not invest any emotion into the number on the label, because it is just made up and has no real meaning. Heard of Vanity Sizing? When I was in Paris, I really liked a pair of jeans, but they didn’t come in my size. It turned out there were three different versions of my size! For real!
So leaving aside what size I’d be in Australian ready to wear (RTW), I got out the tape measure and did my bust, waist and hip measurements, and marked them on the chart.
Size 18. To prove my point about size being arbitrary, here’s me wearing a RTW size 18 shirtdress. See? Arbitrary.
2. You have a shape, not a size. Ladies, you are much more interesting than just your bust, waist and hip measurements. And I’m pretty sure there’s nothing average about any of you!
Consider your other measurements, because they give a much more complete picture of your real shape and proportions. On the size chart I also plotted my Back length (base of back of the neck to waist, in blue), Front Waist length (top of shoulder to waist, over nipple, in yellow), and bust point (top of shoulder to nipple, in green). Very different result.
So what does that mean? Basically I have the torso height of a size 10. If I make a straight size 18, I can expect the bust and waist darts and the natural waist line to sit in the wrong spots. If I make my own clothes I can adjust for that, but in RTW, I just have to hope that the cut of the item can fit my proportions.
3. Sometimes measurements don’t matter. Now here’s where the size chart just gets ridiculous. Here’s what happens when I add my height and side leg length onto the chart:
If I even attempted to make a pair of pants designed using this size chart, I’m destined to fail. That’s why it’s so important to understand the many, many ways bodies are shaped differently.
Looking at measurements only can also be misleading – you need to look at the overall picture. I’ve done some dodgy photo editing to give a better idea of my proportions (although it is really simplified!).
By having a short waist and long legs, there are styles that suit me better than others, and I’m slowly figuring that out.
– Long legs can be used to draw attention from other areas
– Height means I’m not easily ‘swamped’ by maxi dresses or skirts
– Even though I’m tall, because of my short torso I can still wear clothing from the ‘petite’ section (except pants, unless I’m looking for capris!)
– Clothes that have high necklines can make me look really square, unless they’re balanced by being really wide
– Creating shape on my torso is challenging
– Because my waist is high, finding skirts or pants that fit below my waist but aren’t too big around the thighs can be difficult to find.
– Because I have a high natural waist, the distance between my crotch and my waist (basically my stomach) is really quite big, especially when compared to my chest. See how the yellow shape in the picture above is larger, and the pink smaller? Add a post-baby belly, and you have a really tricky spot to dress. You will never, ever see me in anything high waisted, because that’s the spot that style highlights (unless it’s covered, and holding in my tummy!). Pants that fit my hips and thighs will often give me a wedgie, trying to sit close to my natural waist, and if I pull them down, I get a big ol’ muffin top.
You can see that if my sense of self worth was based on the number attached to my clothing, I’d be a basket case.
What do your measurements tell you about your body shape? Any surprises for you?