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My to do lists are set and I’m working on inspiration boards on Pinterest for the expanding yarn line, but I wanted to discuss a sensitive subject: sizing.
I have not struggled with my weight nor do I bother to care much about how I look, I’m a jeans and T-shirt kind of gal. In fact, my mother had to beg and plead with me to wear clothes that were MORE revealing when I was younger (think oversized T-shirts, baggy pants, my favorite pair of Deion Sanders’ Nike Tennis Shoes and my typical outfit was complete…). Worrying about my weight was not something I did, in fact, I wished I weighed more back in the day.
In my adult life, I’ve been anywhere from a size 2 to 16 and usually fall somewhere in between. Prior to my sophomore year in college, I had no chest or hips to speak of, and usually was mistaken for a boy (again, because I never really dressed “girly”). So you can imagine my mother’s shock at my decision to become a designer.
Let’s face it, I prefer designing more things that I or my boys would wear. Functional, flattering, and something you’d want to wear for longer than a family portrait session or one special occasion. I could never pick out the right sweater pattern for myself. Usually, design companies would put their sample garments on someone who was just not quite my size or shape. Once I got the lady curves, I didn’t know how to dress them (and now as a breastfeeding mother, my bust line has crossed over into the realm of people have to look twice to see if my breasts are real or fake and I have to size up my shirts just to squeeze those puppies in there).
I cannot stand seeing sweaters and other garments on models that don’t truly show off the design at hand. No offense to anyone, but if you’re going to model a pattern that I’m going to spend weeks or months on, I’m gonna need to know PRECISELY how it’s going to fit by looking at pictures. I don’t have time to read measurements, ease, instructions, and all that nonsense when I’m shopping for yarn and a project, especially now that I have two boys who have limited patience for me to stop and feel all the pretty fibers at yarn shops other than my own.
So why dress someone with no bust in a garment that have darts to accentuate the bust? How is the layperson going to know that they’ve even accomplished the original idea of the pattern if you cannot tell where certain landmarks like said darts should fall?
Take this lovely number for example:
I made this dress to be a sample in the shop when we first opened. I also wanted to wear it for a cruise and knew it would take a while to finish. After all, the pattern calls for the gorgeous lace weight yarn, Findley Dappled, a variegated 50/50 merino/silk blend by Juniper Moon Farm. I liked the look of the pattern, in fact, I though the length and cut of the dress would be perfect, because it had darts, which in the model picture (not shown here), came up to high on the model’s waist. The skirt also went down to below her knees.
I spent an entire year knitting this dress. And we’re talking an entire year of sitting at the shop for 8 hour days knitting. Yes, I took breaks and also did smaller projects in between, but those usually only took a few days or up to a week away from this project. I took a creative license and decided that I’d shorten the skirt, since I meant for it to be worn on a cruise ship. I also took a chance that I would not gain or lose too much weight over that year, so I exercised regularly throughout that year so that I would not change size specifically for this outfit. And let me say, for the record, it changed my body image completely by focusing on this project this way…and I was only making a size Medium!
I marveled at how close I was to the end and when I bound off all 450 some odd stitches in Jenny’s Super Stretchy Bind Off, I jumped for joy and ran home to carefully block the dress. Once it had dried, I put it on and instantly felt my heart sank. I had not gained or lost any weight, but my bust darts were highlighting my nipples like they were some sort of circus attraction! I was HORRIFIED! So I pulled out the book to see if I had done something wrong.
There was the picture staring me in the face, bust darts ending at the model’s WAIST. I measured myself, I measured the dress, I checked my gauge, and my damn darts were still there pointing center-boob telling me there was just something not right and I had wasted $100 worth of yarn and A YEAR OF MY LIFE!
So, I texted my mother for a second opinion. I took pictures of myself in the dress and sent a picture of the model in the dress. My mother, a long time quilter and sewing extraordinaire, texted me back in less than 30 seconds, “Well, there’s the problem: your dress is just fine and you look gorgeous. Darts are supposed to be at the bust line. Remember the last dress you made on the sewing machine?” I thought back to my last sewing project which was several years back and remembered that I had come to her about the bust darts to make sure that they weren’t too pointy, accentuating the nipples as this dress was doing.
She reassured me that the dress that I had spent time on was correct, but was puzzled as to why the model was chosen in the first place. The model had no bust line so there were darts leading up to a point where breasts would have been (the dress would have also been much shorter had she had a bust line…so that meant where my dress fell with a shorter skirt was a little too short for my liking but within standards of human decency – meaning, I would have any Paris Hilton-esque lady bit exposure moments while on this cruise).
So, the moral of this story is: as a subset of the fashion industry in which we make our clothing stitch by stitch and spend painstaking amounts of time on a garment, why would we not as design manufacturers show off our product that would lead to a POSITIVE experience upon completion? After all is said and done, knitters and crocheters do it for the love of the craft. If you are modeling/showing off a design, use models that will ultimately demonstrate how your garment will fit on the average person.
Had I not known what darts were and what they are supposed to look like, I probably would have sunk into a depression about my weight and measurements, because ultimately I would have felt fat and humiliated for spending all that time dieting and exercising to stay that size only to find that magically I was not the same measurements that I had just taken moments before to ensure I was in fact, the right size for the finished garment. Imagine how the next person would have felt about it. That woman who doesn’t know how to sew or what darts are.
And keep it simple, don’t let people have to guess what you were going for with your design. Tell us:
- Is it supposed to have ease? How much ease? Is it supposed to be form fitting or oversized?
- Where are the design landmarks supposed to fall? (for example, let the average person know where their bust darts are supposed to fall, not everyone is a seamstress)
- Further, is the length of the garment supposed to land mid-thigh? At the waist? Sleeves at the elbow or wrist?
No, designers and pattern vendors, your job IS NOT to make people feel good about themselves, but your job IS to make people happy with your product and want to knit or crochet something of yours again and again.
Anyway, that’s at least my aim as a designer…