On Being Curvy

There have been a lot of discussions over the last few days in the curvy sewing community about plus size inclusivity by indie pattern designers. I have quietly sat on the sidelines listening and taking it all in. Then I read Carolyn’s blog post and had to take action. It was a reawakening. She straight just named names and called them out! She gave her rules of thumb in regards to this. I applaud her for that and what’s more is she is absolutely right! For far too long we have still been supporting, both on social media and financially,  pattern designers who don’t support us. If you are new to the conversation check out the SBCC post that sparked it all. Then read Andi’s post and Shannon’s post. After reading some of the comments on SBCC’s IG post from some of the indie designers I am done with them. I have supported them with my money and praise for far too long now. It’s a shame too because they do make good patterns with great instructions, but they do not serve me and my niche.

I can tell you that their excuses for not making plus size are a bunch of bullshit. From my personal experience in the garment industry as a pattern maker and grader for a garment manufacturer, we went from a size 2-32 and did custom made to measure for those who were bigger or smaller than that size range. Granted, I worked in a very specific performance costume niche, so it wasn’t really mass produced RTW, but the point stands that if a small family run company can do it so can the larger ones. There was a need and the company I worked for filled it.  There were dress forms from size 2 all the way up.  When my co-technical designer and I reworked and updated the fit and sizing of the patterns, we made samples in every size and fit them on real-life women of every size in the size range who regularly wore our costumes to make sure they worked. Yes, it takes more money and time up front, but the payoff is there in the end. The previous sizing model was 30 years old and we updated and expanded it to fit the modern body measurements of our customers. It can and should be done for the pattern industry as well. It isn’t that hard.

It all comes down to priorities. While the indie designers may repeatedly say over and over “if we could, we would” when asked about expanding sizes, what they are really saying is that doing so is not a priority to them. Look past the excuses they give for not offering extended ranges to see the truth for what it is. That we and in turn, our money is not important to them. You wouldn’t put up with friends or significant others who do not view you as a priority, so why should you support companies that don’t? If the plus size market were a priority, those designers would make it happen. Look at Helen’s Closet, for example. She launched in 2015 and currently has 6 patterns in her shop. She is now expanding her range this year, less than 4 years after launching.  She heard the community and truly listened. She made it a priority to serve us as well.  Now look at Closest Case, Heather Lou launched in 2013 with one PDF swimsuit. She now offers 11 print patterns, 18 PDF patterns, and a whole host of supply kits but only expanded her range from 0-18 to 0-20. I cannot believe it is all about money and time and not finding the right testers/fit models. The contrast between these two businesses tells me I am not important enough for Closet Case to care about me as a maker, so I will stop spending my money there.

I am adopting some of Carolyn’s policies by unfollowing and no longer purchasing those designers who do not go up to my size range and beyond. This includes Grainline and Closet Case. It is disappointing because I would love to support a local Chicago indie designer like Jen from Grainline. She did say she would be expanding their range, but there was no mention of how much further it would go and I cannot even find that statement anymore.** If and when she does, I will support them again. I have also spent hundreds of dollars on Closet Case patterns that I have yet to make because of the grading work I will have to do on my end. But it is no longer worth it for me. I can tell you, the number of accounts I follow in Instagram and on Bloglovin’ just got a lot lighter. Hopefully, my inbox will get a bit less crowded too with all the newsletter unsubscribing.

So let’s talk about the indies who do have a larger range that I enjoy and follow. Maybe there is one or two you don’t follow or haven’t tried yet.

  1. Cashmerette – I think Jenny is arguably one of the biggest names in the plus size community.  She has been honest about her plus-size struggles from the start.
  2. Bella Sunshine Designs – Melissa has a great line of PDF patterns that go up to a size 30 and already include the dreaded FBA. In full disclosure, the link is my affiliate link and I do regularly pattern test for her. It is because I truly believe in her pattern line for plus size sewists. I have seen how important getting the fit right for all sizes is to her.
  3. Laela Jeyne –  I must admit that I have not tried Marisa’s patterns yet, but I am going to use them for this years Breaking Ground blog tour in March. Her style aesthetic really meshes with mine and I am pretty excited to try the Dani joggers!
  4. Colette/Seamwork – Sarai did expand the size range to include plus sizes which is awesome. I have some issues with her pattern drafting as a drafter/grader myself, but her stuff is still wearable and she has taken the steps to represent more inclusivity with not just sizing but race and age.

There are a lot more indie designers that you can find on the Curvy Sewing Collective list. I recommend checking them out and trying out their patterns.

**Update: Grainline did post on their IG in response to the buzz that they are releasing extended sizes later this year.

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4 Responses to On Being Curvy

  1. Pati Palmer says:

    I enjoyed reading about your background and the business you worked for and what you did above and beyond for your customers. Commendable!

  2. Pingback: Sunday Lately: Sharing, Thinking, Redoing | Musings of a Seamstress

  3. Caroline1 says:

    What are the issues you have with collette/ seamwork? I ask because I am training to draft and love their pattern and some specifics would be useful to me. Thanks

    • smclevenger says:

      Sure, so the Colette Aster blouse, in particular, has two grading issues that drove me crazy. First, the sleeve cap has a tiny bump in it. It doesn’t affect fit being so small but it was instantly noticeable to me. Then the version with the pleats has the neckline graded at different drastic angles for each size and the shoulder seam is not graded consistently. This creates different finished angles for each size so that it ends up with a wider neck opening on the smaller sizes than the larger sizes.

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