When I very first learned to sew, I was in my early twenties and jumped in with both feet. My mom has always sewn, and both of my grandmothers as well (though they have both done mostly craft sewing for quite a while), and my great-grandmothers, various aunts, you get the idea; I felt like it was in my blood and it shouldn’t be that hard. I asked for a sewing machine for my 21st birthday (Who does that?!) and I bought a couple of easy skirt patterns, along with some pretty cotton fabrics of the quilting variety because I could make whatever I wanted, so why not some overly loud and colorful print that I loved? I went home and cut out my size and sewed it up and pulled it on and it didn’t come past my knees, even though it had an elastic waist.
The first hard lesson I learned was that one cannot cut out a pattern based on her clothing size as purchased in the mall and mainstream clothing stores. Oh no, my dear, the sizing on the back of an envelope goes off the measurements, like, of your body and stuff. So I borrowed Mom’s tape measure and had her help me measure myself in the correct places, and it put me into a size 12 bottom and a 14 or even 16 top. Folks, this is when I was a babe of 21 a scant size 7/8 in the juniors department, ain’t no way I was going to lay it down with a size 12 anything. Who would ever make herself clothes that say they are a BIGGER SIZE than she actually is? I moved on to bag and pillow making and then sort of abandoned my machine to the back of a closet for a few years.
Well, some years (and pounds, haaaaha) later, I’ve come to grips with the fact that my size is literally just an arbitrary number that was assigned to a certain set of measurements that some guy put together. Now when I make a pattern, I look at the back of the envelope or PDF file, find the ones that correspond to my person, double check them against the finished garment measurement, and go from there – doesn’t matter if their version of my size is considered a 1 or an F or a 44. I’ve learned that I am top-heavy to say the least and that ‘my size’ spans several of their sizes on most occasions. I’ve also learned that my measurements and another person’s might be identical, but that our bodies are built incredibly differently. The dress size I choose will almost always require me to make the front of the bodice bigger, and someone else with my same measurements might have wider shoulders or a broader back than I do but a smaller bust, and will have to make a whole different set of adjustments to get the same pattern to fit her particular body. Very few patterns just come right off the machine and are perfect from the start, for anyone. Knowing that everyone has to make adjustments was empowering – no one is a perfect size anything, and we are all so different, and all of that is OK!
Is it a huge pain to have to make a muslin/test version of the garment and then find it doesn’t fit, then make adjustments to the pattern before making up the real version? Sure, sometimes. But on the other hand, you almost always end up with something that fits you perfectly when you take those steps. That old saying that ‘it fits like it was made for me’ is amazing when it’s a real life statement. I’ve never gone through this process and not been more and more pleased with the outcomes of my hard work. Plus, it’s fun!
This little pattern, the Hayden Crop Top from Seamwork Magazine, is one of the few woven fabric patterns I have that didn’t require any adjustments. Because the top isn’t fitted I made up the size that fit my full bust and it came out just how I wanted it. And yes, girl, a crop top. I’ve found that anyone can wear one, you just have to find the one that you’re most comfortable in. I do have a couple that are fitted that I wear with high-waist full skirts; the Hayden type looks great with high-waist fitted jeans, pedal pushers and shortie shorts in the summertime. I’m outrageously short-waisted so I end up with very little skin showing between the top of my pants and the bottom of my shirt, with just a peek every now and again.
It’s alluring and dare I say a bit sexy. I’m hard pressed to wear a longer boxy top a lot of the time, because with my big rack it just makes me look shapeless unless I wear a form-fitting bottom and sometimes I just don’t want to. A boxy crop top with a skinny bottom shows off my shape a bit better. Shoot, I even wear this one to work with some slim cut black ponte pants and get a million compliments (I just don’t raise my hand in any meetings, lest I flash the crowd, yikes). The fabric is from a thrift store in town, which I affectionately call the Old Lady Fabric Store as it’s run by the amazing ladies at our local senior center. The shop inventory is all donations and it has some serious gems come through there! I grabbed this piece of woven cotton and another in a dusky-peachy-pink with similar striping in various shades of brown – which I’m going to use to make another one of these tops. I think I’ll have enough left over of both fabrics to draft myself a cute a-line skirt with some patch pockets, and will mix and match the fabrics from both so I will have coordinates. Because I do love wardrobe extenders!