Clothes Modding for the Frustrated Fatshionista
I’ve been seeing a few posts on Facebook lately about clothing options, and the lack thereof, for fat people, especially for those of us who are DEATHFATZ. Now I’m not talking fat women who can wear a size 24/26/28, I’m talking about those of us who wear sizes above 28.
I wear anywhere from a size 26 to a size 32 in women’s pants, depending on how they’re made, the fabric from which they’re made, and who made them. As for tops/tees/blouses, I have sizes ranging from a 4X to a 6X, also depending on who made them, the style, the fabric, and whether they button or are pullover types. I don’t wear dresses at all anymore, but the last time I bought a dress, it was long enough in front, but not near long enough in the back (does that mean I have more ass than belly?). And any dress I tried on that had a waist was totally out of the question — waists on dresses hit me right under my bustline. Princess dresses, where the “waist” is supposed to hit right under the bustline, usually hit me right in the middle of my rack of doom (probably because I have a rack of doom and they aren’t made for women with a large bustline).
Then we get into the realm of underwear, a topic which enrages me every time I think about it. Mainly because as soon as I find panties that I like, that fit, and are sorta/kinda/maybe sexy, whoever made them decides that they aren’t going to make them anymore. That means I have to start searching again for something that fits, looks good, and isn’t going to cost me an arm and a leg.
The same thing goes for bras — I had one style of bra I really liked, and I had ten of them: two in a leopard print, two beige, three black, and three white. Granted, they weren’t all that sexy, but they fit, they supported my rack of doom, they didn’t make me look like I had the infamous “uniboob,” and they were sorta/kinda/maybe affordable. Then the company that made them discontinued them. They make two styles that they say are “similar,” but believe me, they aren’t, not by a long shot. I ordered one of each of them in three different sizes, trying to find one that fit like my original, well-loved bra. Nope, not even close.
I’m wearing those old bras until they fall apart (and some of them are damned close to that). However, I found a solution to my bra problem. I ordered another style of bra in the band size I need (cup size doesn’t matter, I’m not going to be wearing the bra), cut the wings off the new bra, cut the wings off the old bra (the cups and straps don’t wear out nearly as fast as the wings), and sew the wings from the new bra to the cups/straps from the old bra. Voilà — almost-new bra.
I haven’t figured out yet if I can make a panty pattern from a pair of my old panties. Finding the right fabric and elastic is going to be the problem with that. I’ve looked online and finding stretch satin that comes in a variety of colors and prints hasn’t been easy. If I can ever find the fabric I want, in the colors/prints I want, I’ll be making my own panties and to hell with companies who think it’s okay to change styles/fabrics/colors every couple of years.
I’m hoping that Woman Within and Roaman’s don’t do away with my favorite slacks, otherwise I’ll have to take a pair of them apart for a pattern and start making my own again. I love their Ponte knit bootcut slacks; the only drawback to them is that they no longer make them with pockets. I hate the fact that I have to put pockets on slacks I paid $40 for, but I refuse to wear pants without pockets.
Tops are another problem. I find ones I like in a style/fabric/color I like, and then they disappear. Again, I’m falling back on my sewing skills. I take my old, worn-out, stained tops apart and use them as patterns to make new tops. That way, if I need to make any alterations, I can use a Sharpie marker to write on the blouse piece itself what alterations I need to make, and where they need to be made. Using the blouse itself as the pattern works better than trying to draw it out on paper, since a fabric pattern is much sturdier than a paper one, and lasts years longer. I also like being able to change details like necklines, sleeves, adding/removing pockets, changing hem length, etc.
I had given up on being able to sew anymore since all of my sewing equipment was on the second floor, but a wonderful friend helped me move my sewing table, sewing machines, thread, notions, tools, etc. down to the first floor (yes, I have two sewing machines, one is a regular sewing machine and the other is a serger, which is wonderful for working with stretchy fabrics). It’s all set up right behind my computer desk, so all I have to do is turn around in my computer chair, move a couple of feet to the side, and I’m ready to sew. My sewing table is also long enough that I can lay out fabric, pin patterns to it, cut it out, and I’m ready to sew.
I don’t know if the ability to sew is an innate ability, a talent, or something that anyone can do. I first learned to sew when I was 10 years old; a babysitter taught me to sew squares of fabric together on her treadle sewing machine. I had seen my mother sewing (she made most of my school clothes), and both of my grandmothers sewed (my dad’s mother worked in a garment factory). So maybe this is an ability I inherited, I don’t know.
I know I took sewing in high school (Home Ec) and didn’t do very well — would have helped if I had known that patterns had instructions and you really need to follow them (lol). Where I really learned the most about sewing, though, was when I worked part-time in an upholstery shop after school, and then worked in three different garment factories after I graduated from high school. I learned to sew the pieces of a garment together without using pins. I learned to sew without needing instructions on how the garment went together. Of course, it helped that I wasn’t making the whole garment, but just doing one step in its construction. I did learn to do all the various steps, either by doing them myself as part of my job, or watching what the others around me were doing and how they did it.
One of the major lessons I learned when making clothing for myself was to cultivate patience — that taking my time and making sure everything was right before I started putting a garment together would mean less ripping out and resewing (but I still did a lot of ripping out and redoing the work I had already done, and either done wrong or done not well enough to suit my perfectionism). I now have 50 years’ worth of sewing experience, and I so wish I could pass that experience and knowledge on to other women (and men) so that they don’t have to be confined to the narrow options that the garment industry has decided is all that fat people deserve.