This might be controversial but what the h*ll, my blog, my opinion. I've never seen a plus size woman win this contest anywhere. I don't know what's up with that, but I'm of the firm belief that I can't win this contest due to my size...so I'm making a wardrobe FOR me!Given my interest in the intersection of body image and sewing, I was pleasantly surprised by this brutal honesty . . . and I was dying to hear more of Carolyn's thoughts on the issue. Luckily for us, she agreed to answer a few questions! Her responses were so thoughtful and impassioned that I decided to post them word for word here.
A big thank you to Carolyn for agreeing to answer these questions and for doing so with such grace and honesty. And now, readers, I would love to get your thoughts on the subject. Have you experienced similar problems while trying to sew plus size? Do you agree that the online sewing world can be unfriendly to heavier women? Please share!GERTIE: Do you think that plus size women are less likely to win any sewing contest (like those on Pattern Review) or do you think this is specific to SWAP?CAROLYN: My answer is yes to any sewing contest...and that even applies to women who are not plus size but a little heavier than the norm. I seriously don't get our nation's fixation with being thin. I have no problems with people who are heavier and healthy but why does every skinny woman now quote obesity statistics like that is the one and only reason why people should lose weight? Why don't people own up the fact that there are fat prejudices and it shames heavier women into hiding, wishing they were different, and into the endless diet cycles that so often messes up their health more than remaining heavy would. Women who are trying so hard to be something that they are not or were not meant to be.G: Do you think plus-size women are wary of putting their work out there for fear of judgment? Also, do you think the online sewing world is unfriendly to plus-size women?
C: Yes most definitely! For example Gaby Sidibe was recently featured in Bazaar magazine. She is confident in who she is but she is obviously plus size. I had to stop reading the comments in the online article because they were so offensive regarding her weight. So if most of the patterns reviewed on PR and blogs are predominantly featured on thin women, wouldn't you feel a little self-conscious about reviewing your garments? My garments are like children to me...special creations that I want people to ooohhh and aaahhh over, not nitpick and criticize AND especially not if your only criticism is about how fat I am!Then there is that whole issue about plus size women being fashionable. How many times has a pattern been drafted only up to a size 18 (McCalls) when it is a style that clearly can be drafted for larger sizes? How often do you look at patterns either online or in the books at the store and the plus size patterns are just huge rectangles with a lot of gathering and a drapey neck? How often have you pulled out a pattern where the pattern company has enlarged the shoulders along with the bust and waistline - like plus size women are just huge, fat rectangles? What about this process makes you feel stylish and beautiful!?How many times have I taken a style and used my TNT (note: "tried 'n' true") pattern to make my own version of it because the style or a pattern for it is not available in plus size patterns? We are definitely an underserved market and if you don't have the ability to restyle or even the fashion sense to see a plus size garment in a skinnier size, the plus size woman is on the bad end of the stick!How many articles are there for plus size women that give fashion advice? How many sewing magazines address the fitting and sewing issues that many plus size women have? How many articles on taking measurements include the fact that if you are plus size that you should take your measurements sitting down because fat spreads? Where is this information given to enable a plus size woman to make a successful garment? When is this addressed? Even some of the books and patterns that are made for plus size women don't address these issues...I know...I own the books and the patterns!I understand that we are a "niche" market in a bad economic climate. But the last I checked, we still have to dress everyday like everyone else on the planet...it's the law! And there are instances of companies realizing this fact and do a really good business selling patterns to this market - Simplicity's Khaliah Ali line was awesome and really reached an underserved market. Kathleen Cheetham's Petite Plus line and book are other examples of wonderful garments that can be made stylish for the plus size woman. I'm not that sold on the Butterick version of Connie Crawford's patterns...I think they are just getting to the meat of the styles that Connie was selling on her website...but it is good to see patterns available for women up to a size 6x.But again where is the information that helps a plus size woman sew a wonderful garment? Articles about fabric choices? How to line a garment that won't chafe your thighs? How to pick a pattern fabric where the pattern isn't too large, small, etc on a plus size woman? I've learned a lot of this by experience...and some things even I still struggle with!But then again, I like me! My big breasts, bodacious biceps, big booty and thick thighs. I don't believe that I am any less for being built this way...actually on a good day I believe I'm a lot better looking than some of those skinny chicks who look like they are dying for a good cheeseburger anyway! *LOL* But my confidence is not typical for the plus size woman because there are just too many damn Jenny Craig ads on TV telling you that if you buy these overpriced, unappealing meals you too can drop 50 lbs and look like Valerie Bertellini. Okay, if that's the truth, how come Kristy Alley is fat again? I have a life to lead, not a life spent dieting...now this is not to knock the women who have successfully lost weight and kept it off. If it's worked for you...power to the people, right on! This is to encourage the ones where it hasn't...maybe you are supposed to be, where you are supposed to be!G: So maybe plus size women less likely to enter sewing competitions to begin with?C: Most definitely! The environment is not conducive to putting yourself out there! Even I don't believe that I can win a sewing contest and I think I can sew a little bit! *LOL* I'm not a separate but equal kinda girl...I think we should all be integrated and learn to celebrate our differences and see how all of it adds up to make us a better whole...but that's not reality of the situation.So those are a few of my thoughts. I'm sure that many of them are unpopular or are a little off the beaten path but it is what it is.
Update: Carolyn e-mailed me this morning to make a little amendment. It turns out that a plus-size woman, the beautiful Rachelle of Smoking Needles, has indeed won a mini-wardrobe contest on Pattern Review. Go Rachelle! Great news, but I think all the points here still apply. But good to have this info!