***Trigger Warning. This post is RAW, really RAW and very real. There are so many stories and feelings surrounding how we feel about our bodies. Everyone’s journey is personal, and valid. We here at House of Curves welcome your stories. We HEAR YOU, We SEE You. We STAND with YOU.***
As you read this post and think about body positivity, remember…
That is such a strange combination of words. And yet, those two words bring up so many emotions. Emotions many of us try our very hardest to hide, because they hurt.
My personal struggle with body positivity started when I was a kid. When I was in late elementary school, I remember having to go to a “fat camp” that our local doctor’s office put on. During the weekly meetings, that meant getting weighed; whenever I lost weight or “reported” that I followed the diet and exercise routine that had been prescribed I was rewarded with non-food items. My doctor failed to take into account when he prescribed “fat camp” that I was operating on about 40% of my lung capacity. I was later diagnosed with severe asthma, however the doctor just thought I was “fat” and “lazy”. In reality, I couldn’t breathe which meant I couldn’t move. It may be shocking to the general public to find out that if you can’t move, you can’t exercise or maintain the typical body weight a child usually has.
Without a doubt, this situation effectively put me squarely on the path to self-loathing and a couple other darker issues. I hated my body. Wherever I was, I compared my body to everyone else’s at an age I really shouldn’t have even been aware of anyone else’s, more or less my own. Compounding my body issues was the fact that I was taller than every single one of my friends and classmates. By the time I was 12 I was as tall or taller than my parents who were 5’8” in their prime. Before I hit the age of 14, I was 5’11”.
I couldn’t find clothes that fit right and because I have anywhere between a 34” – 36” inseam depending on how long I want my pants, I was never able to shop in the women’s section. And, let’s face it, I have always enjoyed looking girly and yet men’s clothing just doesn’t have that girly appeal to them. Most men are probably grateful their clothes aren’t girly. I however, REALLY wanted some cute plaid skirts that covered more than my underwear.
So, I wore baggy dark colored t-shirts and pants that never had a rise that came up high enough, and they were made for a man so they didn’t even come close to fitting my very curvy body. On top of ill fitting clothes, I then had to go bra shopping. In addition to already being ashamed of my body, and wanting to hide in a deep dark cave never to be heard from again, bra shopping pushed me right over the edge.
Shopping at Victoria Secrets was out of the question, my breasts weren’t about to fit into those small, cute little cups. I really hoped and dreamed though, because what I was left with was really ugly, Madonna, bullet looking bras. I honestly don’t think they ever fit right, no one had ever told me how they were supposed to fit, I just assumed. They just didn’t make me feel confident, pretty nor did they look terribly good in my baggy t-shirts. Really though, could anything make a baggy t-shirt look good? I felt frumpy, and ugly. My outside matched exactly what I felt like the world wanted it to look like and what I felt like I deserved. I match what the kids at school thought I should look like. “Freakishly tall”, not “thin”, and “fat”.
Looking back with my “big girl panties on” and years of experience under my belt, I know now that those kids in middle school were playing on my insecurities because of their own. Did it damage me? Absolutely. I stopped eating in 8th grade and lost 60 pounds in less than 3 months. What that got me was a much thinner body. I looked okay, but I couldn’t maintain it.
I have learned from that experience that even if the BMI chart says what I should weigh, my body just can’t. Logically I’ve known that for a long time. It’s taken me even longer to come to terms with that. I can’t be that “skinny” girl I was in 8th grade, I just can’t, even if my drivers license has that weight listed. (In my defense, they asked for a weight; they didn’t say it had to be a current weight. Ha! If you work for the DMV, feel free to ignore what you just read.) And, I need to be okay with my body’s limitations.
I have been “thin” okay, let’s be honest here. Thin by my body’s standards, not the world’s standards. I have felt good in what I wear and in my body. I wore cute clothes that actually fit. I’ve known what it feels like to feel good in my clothes. As a result of several surgeries, I gained a lot of weight which caused an increase in clothing sizes. I quickly realized there had to be something better than frumpy, ugly feeling clothes for plus sized figures. I really just wanted to feel cute and pretty regardless of what the scale said. And that’s when I decided I needed to start sewing for myself and not just for my kids.
Sewing for my actual measurements rocked my world. It was an eye-opening experience, I didn’t believe my measurements actually put me in the size I was sewing. So, I sized up. BIG mistake. It was MASSIVE on me. I started again. I studied and studied and studied some more on how to grade patterns for my height and then for my hourglass figure.
There wasn’t a lot of information online when I first started sewing about how to grade patterns. I found a little bit of information, but it was a lot of trial and error. Then I went for it, and it turned out. I felt AMAZING, and because the outfit fit me perfectly…like it was made for me, oh wait…it was! I got complements from almost everyone I met. To say I was SHOCKED would be an understatement! I think I floated home that day. It was so strange to me that wearing something that actually fit me correctly could warrant so many complements and make me feel so different. I started to see what it could feel like to be on board with body positivity!
I kept sewing and started to apply to test patterns, and to study how to take pictures of models and how to model clothes. My goal is to look confident in pictures whether or not I actually feel that way. And, I also watched other plus size seamsters on Facebook and Instagram and became aware that I wasn’t the only plus sized person sewing. I am literally not the only one who wants to feel good in my clothes, in my body, in my skin.
My mind was BLOWN. In all honesty, I thought I was alone in this struggle or should I say battle. I believed I walked the path of hating myself or loathing my body alone. It was liberating to know that I wasn’t alone, and that I could find a way to coexist with my body and perhaps find joy in my body and clothing. I also came to realize that as a sewing community, body positivity is something that is extremely important.
Sewing has allowed me to learn who I am. Wearing ready to wear clothing I never, and I do mean never strayed from black or dark blue clothing. The fashion rules for fat people dictate that dark colors are slimming; if they could make me slimmer, who was I to argue with them? Slowly I found within myself the love of color. There is no doubt that I am drawn to colorful fabric, and I want to wearing colorful fabric! Until I realized this about myself, however, I could never begin to dream of sewing myself something colorful to wear.
I’ve also learned through testing a lot of different types of patterns for myself that I like form fitting clothes. I have a pretty distinct hourglass shape, and I have learned how to accentuate those curves according to where the patterns hit my waist and hips. I feel the most confident in dresses and tops that hit closer to an empire waist and cascade down from there. Similarly, I really like a higher rise pant that sits above my waist. All of these make me happy and confident.
I don’t hate myself anymore. Do I love every part of my body? Contrary to what my pictures on social media may suggest; I don’t love every part of my body, but it’s all part of who I am.
Sewing clothing hasn’t just gained me a closet full of clothes, and although that’s a rainbow of perks for the former owner of a black hole of a closet; I have also gained two jobs that are directly related to the fact that I sew.
What does all of this have to do with Body Positivity? Everything. Sewing has allowed me to learn to be positive about my body. It has given me an entire community of seamsters where I have seen others struggle with feeling positive about their bodies and bucking societal norms regarding what plus sized individuals should wear. What should we wear? Whatever the heck makes you feel good about yourself! Does black make you feel good? Wear it! Rainbow? Wear it! Glitter? Wear it! Or, don’t. Becoming comfortable and body positive is a process, but is well worth the effort.
You can feel positive about your body. Society does not get to dictate who we are or how we should feel about ourselves. Sewing our own clothes allows all of us the opportunity to make clothes that fit our body, so we can feel comfortable in everything we do!