Friday, 13 June 2014

A dress, body image woe, and the problem of what to make next

1. I made another Lady Skater dress. I really love my black/white/red floral explosions version and wore it more than I expected this winter. (I have never historically worn a lot of dresses and as a result I always feel weirdly exposed when I do wear them, hence my surprise at how often I wore this one.) I made this new one because I wanted something really comfortable and easy to wear. This dress pattern is basically pyjamas in dress form, so it was the first thing I thought of when I decided I wanted a knit dress. Unfortunately, it didn't turn out too well.
Turquoise Lady Skater Dress as modelled by Flossie and a close-up of the fabric (the actual dress colour is closer to the whole dress photo)
I made no changes to the pattern at all, except I used a cap sleeve rather than an elbow length and did a nice little cuff on the end of it with a spare strip of fabric left over from binding the neckline. The fabric is a pretty nice turquoise colour viscose blend that I bought from Croft Mill a couple of years ago. It's not really got the recovery I prefer overall, but was nice enough to handle (which is just as well, because I've got 1.5m left). I love the colour, but I am not sure that the print -- which was sold to me as cogwheels, but I think is more stylized flowers -- really does me any favours. Tiny ditsy prints are not something I ordinarily wear either. The sewing turned out better, if anything, on this version. I'm on this kick where I am being extra careful with how I sew everything. With knits that's meant trying to get all my seams pressed exactly in the right direction and match up perfectly, etc etc. I mean, not to say there aren't little flaws in the dress, because there are, but there are definitely fewer compared to things I was making even 6 months ago.

The fit, however, eh. Not great. This is the problem with knits though, even if you get a pattern right with one fabric, even a small difference in stretch means that the fit goes haywire. The weird thing on this is that I changed NOTHING about the position of the waist seam, and yet somehow it's way more ugly and awkward where it hits me. I think it's because there's less length-wise stretch (i.e. hardly any, compared to the black dress) and so it's just differently positioned. At the moment I probably wouldn't wear this dress, if I'm honest, because the fit is so unflattering. It's a tiny bit better with a belt but I have stomach pain from my medication and don't want to wear belts at the moment.

2. Despite my cast iron resolution to be better about posting photos of myself, I am really unhappy about my body at the moment and it's a real struggle to do so. This is not said to elicit sympathy or compliments from commenters, even though I think our knee jerk reaction when female friends tell us that they feel bad about their bodies for whatever reason is to tell them they look beautiful. This may be true, and believe me I am a whole-hearted proponent of the argument that not only is beauty not restricted to the increasingly narrow commercial representations of it but that beauty isn't, shouldn't ever be the measure of our worth as women or human beings.  However, it is much easier to SAY it, and even to apply it to the women who surround me, than to apply it to my own life.

The dress as modelled by yours truly
As a result, I look at this photo, and even while I'm trying to be critical of the dress, I find myself being critical of the body inside it. For example, I really don't like the cap sleeve length on me AT ALL, and I really don't like the waist (which I tried to fix by putting a belt on to help pull the dress waist seam up a bit, but I am not sure this helped). Unfortunately, I run out of criticisms of the dress at that point and my analysis devolves into lengthy wailing of why does my bust have to be so huge and prominent, and why are my arms so fat, and why is my stomach so protruding, and so on and so on. It is hard to believe, when I am caught up in this kind of thinking, that it is a good idea to post photos online, but sometimes, like today, I'll make myself do it anyway.

3. I am slowly working my way through minor pattern alterations on the Carme blouse before I cut into fabric. I am making my first version out of black cotton lawn. However, as the turquoise dress is at least temporarily consigned to the Wardrobe of Woe, along with the unfortunate green linen not-a-skirt, where perhaps the passage of time will make me like them more, and I still want a jersey dress. I don't want another turquoise one, because that seems like overkill, and I am actually a bit short on suitable jersey fabrics (which is to say, I have 27.5m of jersey in stash, give or take, but a lot of it is either too heavy, too light or too high in polyester content for summer).

That leaves me with one viable choice: a cotton t-shirt jersey in a gorgeous shade of red that I bought, coincidentally, at the same times as the turquoise one I used above. I have 3m, so there's no real limit on patterns from that perspective, but I am really concerned about the recovery of the fabric. The last time I used a cotton jersey it all went horribly wrong, so I want a pattern that involves minimal fabric handling and that will not look too terrible when in bags out over the course of the day. That suggests a looser fit to me. Also, because I'm in so much stomach pain from my meds, I don't want anything really that binds at the waist like a wrap dress or a dress with a waistband , so I was kind of thinking empire line or high waisted, possibly. (And also, I don't like Colette, so not Moneta). Any pattern suggestions? Alternatively, I suppose I could go for empire waisted, loosely cut woven dress, in which case I have more fabric choices.


  1. I am *highly* looking forward to seeing how that Carme blouse comes out, that looks like something I'd be very interested in.

    Re: the turquoise Lady Skater dress, I think you're right, that small pattern turquoise fabric does you no favors-- the explosions one draws the eye around a lot more. The turquoise color overall suits you very well, however. I also think the cap sleeves are an odd proportion right next to your bust; you might be better served by a longer sleeve, even if not the full half sleeves of the explosions version. The last bit that stood out to me with that dress was something you already touched on as well, the more drapey fabric means the skirt doesn't lie as well around your hips. I hate sewing jersey in general, which is sad because I love wearing jersey dresses. /o\

    1. I am quite hopeful about the Carme blouse. The basic pattern is close enough to the Ottobre woven tee I made a couple of times this week that I don't foresee any major fit challenges. I am probably most concerned about getting the precision right on the pintucks and managing to sew the collar and buttonholes, etc, which I've not done a lot of so far. However, I really want more nice woven tops, so I have to give it a try!

      On the one hand, sewing jersey can be really rewarding. I wear my home-made t-shirts constantly and love them to pieces, especially the Ottobre pattern I made over and over last summer. On the other hand, I'd say at least half the jersey patterns I've tried have been an abject failure. I wish it weren't so hit and miss!

  2. I know what you're saying about the "nooooo you look beautiful" comments in response to "eh, I'm not happy with how I'm looking here." I find it's supportive but perhaps also a little dismissive. so, I won't go there!

    I will say that I think that turquoise colour is incredibly flattering, and I disagree with Pineapple child on this point - I like how the skirt is falling. Is there any way to salvage a skirt out of the dress? Lop it off at the waist seam and add a thin or thick waistband?

    Imho the bodice might be more flattering with a deeper neckline - either a deeper scoop or a deeper V. I agree with you and Pineapple Child on the cap sleeves; they seem to draw attention to the bust, and I think a longer (3/4?) sleeve might be more flattering. But, I think the neckline might be the lynchpin.

    I made the Moneta against my better judgment (I was sucked in by the folded over neckline) and I'm similarly not happy with how my body looks in it. On me, the gathered skirt = hello, hips! I feel it makes me look like I've given up on the, ahem, finer things in life.

    Because I lined it in bamboo, it makes for an incredibly comfortable housedress to throw on in the morning when I'm right out of bed. Maybe it'll be a bed dress this winter!

    In short, I don't like the dress all that much, but am glad to have made it since it taught me how to line a knit bodice. Lemons to lemonade, right?

    p.s. thanks for the bloglovin' follow :)

    1. Oh, interesting thoughts! It hadn't occurred to me to play with the neckline, although I'm definitely considering taking off the cap sleeves and putting elbow length on. However, I can also see potential in taking off the whole skirt and adding some kind of waistband. I actually don't think the waist and hip fit is quite as bad as pineapplechild, it's just in the wrong place on a dress. With a skirt I could fix the height issue at least and it would be very easy and comfortable to wear.

      I definitely think the gathered skirt on the Moneta is a tricky call. I've seen about as many people unimpressed with how it looks on them as I have people who think it's really flattering. I think for me the problem would be that I would only want to have a very thin fabric for the gathered skirt and it would definitely have to hit me at EXACTLY the right place at the midriff or there'd just be oceans of fabric right where I carry extra weight, which is a combination most devoutly to be avoided for me. I like your idea of a bed dress though!

      (And I have followed your blog for ages, it's just that my normal RSS reader is routinely not working at the moment (feedly, it's under DDoS attack) so I have been flailing about trying to find an alternative. I've also had a mini-surge of new bloglovin' followers who I assume are refugees from the same technology failure. I'm just horrible at remembering to comment, which is why people don't know I read their blogs.)

    2. I think it would be a great bed dress on nights when I'm alone :)

      My main issue with it is that I made it with a serger, and it's awkward to attach the pockets at 3/8" (since you attach those before putting the dress together. The instructions don't talk about doing this on a serger. Maybe it's in the book that I have no interest in buying? Anyway, the pockets at the hip stick out in a way that is noticeable to me, and make the whole thing extra hippy. ugh. I've considered lopping them off; I'm not an "ooh pockets" girl. But they're useful for holding my keys when I go down to get the mail!

      I'm not super happy with bloglovin', partly because of the cheesy name, but mainly because its app *and* website are total data hogs.

    3. That is the problem with pockets I find. My personal pet peeve is trousers with completely horizontal pocket openings. Inevitably I end up looking like my hips have ears. So attractive! And yet, trousers without pockets are just as bad and I spend all day fruitlessly swiping at my hips trying to put my hands somewhere.

      I have reverted to a desktop news reader like it's 1999 (I'm using Vienna on OSX, if you care). I actually like feedly most of the time but it has two major flaws: it messes with the position of images within the text, which is super annoying when you read a lot of sewing blogs that are image heavy; and it is S L O W even when it isn't being DDoS'ed. I dislike Bloglovin' because it's cheesy, slow and also, I find the thing where you have to click through to each blog annoying. So basically, I fervently dislike Google for end-of-life-ing Reader, because it did exactly what I wanted in exactly the way I wanted, and now I can't have it any more. >:(

  3. I like the color and the print of the turquoise dress. I do think that the cap sleeves are a bit awkward--they appear to have wings. How would you feel about lopping them off and going sleeveless? (I get that look with cap sleeves sometimes, and other times I don't. I suspect it has something to do with the sleeve draft, but I don't know enough about what's going on to troubleshoot it.)

    I think that the weight of the skirt is pulling down the waist placement to make it appear that you have less waist definition than you do. I think that a fairly easy fix for this would be to rip out the waist seam (or cut the seam, if you serged it), and then lop off a couple of centimeters from the bottom of the bodice and re-attach the skirt. I find fit-and-flare dresses to be much more flattering on me when the flare from the skirt starts a little higher (natural waist vs. belly button height.)

    1. I suspect maybe the flying wings thing is a shoulder cap height issue. The Lady Skater dress has a SUPER shallow cap. On the elbow length sleeve, it's not as obvious, but on the cap sleeve I don't think there's enough height in the cap to go over my (large, and alas not because I am a body builder) upper bicep. It's unfortunate either way! I could also add longer short sleeves -- I have the fabric.

      I agree that some kind of surgery is definitely required on the waist. I might try raising it tomorrow while I still have a suitable thread colour in my overlocker. At this point, the dress is basically unwearable, so anything that makes it usable is a win as far as I am concerned.

  4. Yes, I'm with Michelle on this ... Chop at the waist, lose an inch or two on the bodice length and then reattach, you'll probably be a lot happier with the flow of the dress then. I always add extra width to my lady skater skirt panels so they balance my upper body better when they're on. Hope the sewing surgery goes well, it's always so disappointing to spend time making something that you're not entirely happy with.

    1. Thanks, I will definitely take your advice. Now I just have to steal myself to get out my unpicker. Lover my overlocker for construction, don't love it when I have to take anything apart... :(

  5. Your body is right ... check out this (which actually comes from a knitting site that I'm not affiliated with but has taught me more about choosing styles and proportions that flatter me). Both links have pictures that will be instantly obvious.

    I can see the v neck sweater example easy even for me. I struggle with finding the right proportions of lengths especially when it comes to skirts. I'm trying to find out what mine are and then I guess I'll laminate them to my right arm or something LOL.

    1. Thank you, those are great links. I'm still trying to work out the whole proportions thing too, as well as trying to just figure out what is even remotely flattering to wear. Sometimes I wonder what I was doing in the like, three decades that my much better-put-together friends were figuring this stuff out.