Kris is a beginning seamstress who would like to try her hand at vintage patterns, but has one nagging concern: her body type, which she describes as size 12-14 hourglass, or "aging Marilyn Monroe with a tummy bulge."
Here's what Kris had to say, in her own words:
Can those of us without supermodel flat stomachs wear a wiggle dress without the aid of our grandmother's girdle?As you can imagine, I have a lot of thoughts about all this. But let's start with the first part of the question: foundation garments. I feel like my thoughts on this subject vary from other ladies who like to wear vintage styles. Namely: I do not like girdles, and I do not feel I need to wear a girdle to make a vintage style look "right." I have one 50's style girdle made by Rago, and it does absolutely nothing for my figure. It actually makes me lumpier, with all the boning and hooks and such. I do make use of Spanx for smoothing purposes under fitted pencil skirts and sheath dresses. (Tip: I highly recommend Spanx control-top tights - perfect for winter!)
And ya know, in writing this email a new train of thought has steamed into the station. Why should I care if I have a few bulges? Rather than stressing out and trying to make myself fit the clothes, why shouldn't I just make the clothes fit me? . . . So, what say you? Should I face "reality" and continue with the jeans and t-shirts or forge ahead with the pencil skirt (and stiletto pumps) of my dreams? Can a regular, non-waspy woman make these vintage styles work without a winch and pulley system? Any suggestions on good styles for a beginner to start with?
Now, to the question of facing reality. "Reality" can bite me. "Reality" tells me that I can't have a dress that fits me in both my waist and hips, that I have to choose one or the other. To this I say HA! Every dress and skirt I make needs extra room added to the hips. I could take this as a sign of defeat, but instead I like to think that conventional sizes simply aren't bodacious enough to contain me. Yeah, it takes a certain attitude. And, obviously, I am a big believer in making clothes fit ME, not making myself fit clothes.
My overall thought is this: In essence, you should definitely wear what YOU want and what you're comfortable in, and hopefully those two things overlap in some way. And honestly, Kris, it sounds like you have the perfect figure to pull this stuff off! Imagine that you're Joan Holloway from Mad Men. When I worry that I'm not skinny enough, I don't have the confidence to pull off pencil skirts and sheath dresses. But when I tell myself that I'm a smokin' hot curvy lady like Joan, it does wonders for my confidence. I guess it really is all in the attitude, huh? So here's your new mantra: What would Joan do?
As for style recommendations for curvier and plus size ladies: You might want to start with retro-style contemporary patterns rather than jumping into vintage patterns, with all their quirks and fitting issues. I think a simple high-waisted pencil skirt (try McCall's 5590 or Burda 8155) and a secretary blouse (maybe McCall's 5884 or Simplicity 2501) are very flattering on larger sizes and will help you get your sewing skills sharpened before moving on to bigger challenges.
There! I've done written an advice column! (Don't worry, I won't quit my day job.) Readers, do you have anything to add?
P.S. If you have a question you would like answered in "Dear Gertie," kindly e-mail me at gertie [at] blogforbettersewing [dot] com.