As seamstresses, we have to be brutally honest about our bodies. Vanity sizing may be alive and well, but there's no such thing as "vanity measurements." We ladies who like to sew know our exact waist and hip measurements at any given moment. We talk more frankly about our body "flaws" than other women. (How else would we give tips on pattern alterations?)
On one hand, this is a great thing. We can make clothes that fit our bodies perfectly. We can sew up dresses that are one size on top, and another on the bottom - rather than trying to squeeze into a ready-to-wear size. Also, with a realistic awareness of our bodies, hopefully acceptance will follow.
On the other hand, sewing talk often turns into complaining about our figures, as so many conversations between women do. On any sewing message board, you can read a woman's demeaning remarks about her body, even as she is giving out priceless sewing advice. I suppose this kind of talk builds a sort of false sense of intimacy between women, but ultimately I think it just makes us loathe ourselves.
Even Vogue's New Book for Better Sewing includes this kind of supposedly harmless "girl talk" in the instructions on the slim skirt: "If you're practically hipless (lucky you!), you'll have to carry your hip darts down further." Really, VoNBBS? We should aspire to being "hipless"? Having hips is not a handicap. In fact, I'm not quite sure how I would walk without mine.
Vintage patterns, while being a great source of beauty and inspiration, also serve to remind us how far we might be from the 1952 ideal. Acutally, women of 1952 were probably just as far from the 1952 ideal. Who can live up to those wasp-waisted illustrations? Or even these VoNBBS models?
Another thing to consider on this topic: as women who sew and blog about it (or post pictures of ourselves wearing our creations on Pattern Review or Burdastyle), we are putting images of our bodies out there in a way that can feel very vulnerable. I suppose that's why we use some of this negative self-talk: to try to lessen this anxiety and as a preemptive defense against people who might judge us.
As much as I try not to, I get consumed by this anxiety at times. We're all our own worst critics, right? While looking over the many pictures my husband had taken of me in my new red sheath dress, I could really only find a couple in which I thought I looked acceptably slender. So of course those were the two I published! Even with all the glowing and thoughtful and lovely compliments you gave me, I still found myself thinking, what if I had posted one of the "fat" pictures? Would people have responded as positively to the dress?
Obviously, it's not easy to stop a lifetime of this ingrained behavior. But I think that it's especially important in our little online sewing community that we foster an environment of body acceptance, rather than body apologies.
Carolyn of Diary of a Sewing Fanatic perhaps said it best in this post about choosing a pattern size: "When taking [your] measurements, be truthful. Don't fudge the numbers, don't get upset about the numbers and don't be scared of the numbers. Because everyday your body wakes you up and gets you through a day...treasure it. It's yours and it's precious."