Some very wonderful sewers, Robin and Shams, have articulated something I have had in my mind for a while now.
A while ever since my intelligent and highly capable sister-in-law, who does meticulous needlework so should be able to sew, told me she can't get sewing patterns to fit and, as a result, has more or less given up.
We spent a nice half day working on some basic alterations and I think got things figured out for her. I would like to share this experience with the powers that be at Vogue and company, so here is the letter from me.
I have been working with a family member to help her sew a basic skirt and shell that fit her. This was an emotional rescue operation.
My sister-in-law's issues were sooo simple. Larger bust and narrow hips, small boned with a slight upper bust and a waist that was a few inches smaller than her hips.
Like so many women, so many, she has been following the directions on the pattern envelope and buying by her full bust (and swimming in totally disastrous necklines and shoulders) for tops and buying by her larger lower body measurement, her waist, and suffering baggy skirts.
All I told her where the basics:
1. It is always easier to add than subtract.
2. Therefore select your pattern by the smallest of your measurements and add where required. Except for a FBA this is actually pretty easy for a simple garment, and when motivated anyone can do a FBA.
I think we got her situation figured out and this very smart woman is now good to go.
The thing is, through our whole session she kept saying to me "WHY DON'T THE PATTERN COMPANIES TELL YOU THIS? "
This is just lousy business.
Imagine a car dealer who sold cars but sent everyone home with the wrong key and left the customers to break the windows on their new cars to get in, or sign up for two year machinist courses so they could make their own keys.
After a while don't you think people would start taking public transport (RTW) or move over to the European models (indie patterns) where the key was handed over on a ring when you parted with cash. I mean wouldn't the extra for the import be worth it?
And wouldn't you think someone in Detroit or NYC or wherever the head office is would say "hey folks you are killing business here, give the folks their keys or we are not going to ever see them again."
"And BTW photographing our models on window sills or beside a bicycle aren't going to make up for the fact no one can actually get in and drive."
You would think this would be happening if the business was one of those that actually wanted to make money and survive.
But apparently this is not the case.
Personally I feel the issue might be even more structural.
Like the fact that the patterns are drafted for measurements not seen on this planet.
Fixing that would be a good place to start.
I have taught or participated in sewing classes for about 30 years and I have never, not once, actually met a size 10 with a 25 inch waist.
People are built, and certainly the ones that sew are, with middles large enough to contain stuff like vital organs and lunch.
If there are 25 inch people out there, and not on IV nutrition somewhere, they are most definitely the minority, right up there with people who have one blue and one brown eye and also are double-jointed and have perfect natural pitch and can see the puck out of the corner their multi-coloured eyes like Wayne Gretsky.
My point is these measurements are not a representation of a reasonable or even unreasonable cross-section of the population.
These measurements certainly have no business being printed on pattern envelopes in metal cabinets in fabric stores in cities and towns all over the world, where they are waiting for some optimistic 14 year old to chose her very first pattern which ends up being such a dog's breakfast (actually Rascal's breakfasts are home made and lovely so you need to know this is just an expression) that she spends the next eight decades chiming in that she "can't sew, nothing ever turns out, I am not just creative."
What I thing to do to nice people, Vogue and company.
Just because you have made a mistake with these stupid measurements and don't have the grace to warn people like my sister-in-law ahead of time that there are compensations to be made (since you won't change she has to) so she doesn't waste her good time and good money.
Money which she earns in an office where they do top secret work for the government - tell me how a woman can figure that stuff out at work but can't get the right skirt size?
I mean is that nice Vogue?
Is that any way to treat a customer? Or even just a decent human being.
The real fact as I see it is you all got in a rut working off the wrong dimensions to build your patterns but are in so deep that it is too much trouble to back out again and start from scratch in a new place, like say, reality.
This reminds me of the time my mother made what they call Matrimonial Squares in the prairies (but the rest of the world calls date squares) using salt instead of sugar, because they were both in jars and looked sort of the same.
You got to have the right stuff. If you don't things just won't get any better the more you mix it up. And until you do things are not going to be looking up in your corner of the sewing industry and there isn't a focus group or new lighting or material give aways to turn it around until you do.
- I am a mother, a new grandmother, and a teacher. But whatever happens in my life, I keep sewing. I have worked as a political communicator and now as a teacher in my formal life. I have also written extensively on sewing. I have been a frequent contributor and contributing editor of Threads magazine and the Australian magazine Dressmaking with Stitches. My first book Sew.. the garment-making book of knowledge will be published in May 2018 and is available for pre-order from Amazon