Thursday, November 26, 2009

plus size vintage and the daily wardrobe peek

There's an interesting discussion over on Gertie's blog about what is plus size anyway. You might want to check out her blog if you like vintage stuff, she's working her way through Vogue's guide to better sewing from 1952 and has done a few posts about fit and adjustment and sewing from vintage patterns. She's doing really well at including the plus size angle in an area notoriously small sized! (Thanks to Kate for putting me onto her!)

And while we are on sites I am currently loving, I am addicted to frocks & frou frou. Lilli posts great clear pictures of her fabulous and extensive wardrobe, plus info about where she buys and some shopping experiences. Already through her site I've finally found some really good reasonably priced leggings (sadly they are currently out of stock of larger sizes but I am sure they'll be fixing that soon). Lilli is not as big as me but I just love how she dresses and her extensive shopping knowledge. I'm hoping she'll head over here and do a few posts on Large for us. (Thanks to Kim for discovering this site for me!)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

dress forms

You may recall the fiasco that was my attempt to make a duct tape dress form. Needless to say it hasn't been used and I have no desire to reproduce the experience or making it, even with the superior gummed tape. But my desire for a dress form just grows. In recent months I have been doing a lot of refashioning and making garments without patterns and this involves a lot of taking half finished and pinned pieces on and off and attempts to fit things in a mirror. Hardly ideal!

Previous attempts to locate a dress form in my size has proved pretty fruitless. All the ones I found online were overseas and offered by companies that don't ship internationally. I did find one, but the customer reviews about the quality of the mechanisms for adjusting it were so scathing I was convinced it wasn't a good idea.

I did find an aussie ebay seller who imports dress forms and sells them at a reasonable price, but their larger size was just a fraction too small for me. Despite supposedly fitting up to size 20, the measurements are smaller than mine and I wear a size 18. Yet another dead end!

And then it occurred to me to ask my local fabric retailer if she could order in dress forms in larger sizes. While she didn't have the size known as fuller figure, the manufacturer of the style she had on her books did make it so she said she'd find out for me. In the same instant it dawned on me that getting it back to Melbourne would be a bit of a pain so I rang a couple of places in Melbourne to make the same inquiry. Experience so far tells me that there is a lot of price variation (I have been quoted between $195 and $395 for the exact same thing!) so I decided to do my research on this one. Clegs came back to me fastest and they could get me a fuller figure, though at $395 I was looking at a fair bit more than I thought I would have to pay.

I also realised that while all the forms I have looked at are made by the same manufacturer, Clegs only carry the supafit model, while my local store and my favourite store, Tessutis only stocks the Diana model. In searching for reviews it seems the Diana is a sturdier and easier to adjust model with a better stand, and it was the short comings on the supafit that I had read about with the very first place I looked to buy.

But a side benefit of trying to find reviews and comparisons of the different models (through this fantastic sewing forum discussion site) I found a long thread about padding out dress forms. Not only does it seem possible, but most of the experienced hands recommend padding as a way of achieving a shape closer to your body. You see adjustability to the right measurements is one thing, but mimicking the distribution of those measurements on your body is a whole other thing. Those who hadn't padded their forms repeatedly posted that their dress forms never got used while those who had made their forms look more like themselves found them really useful. And of course if you are going to pad it out, you want the actual form to be smaller than yourself.

So now I am contemplating buying one in the easier to get smaller size and doing the work to make it look as much like me as I can! I'd love to hear from anyone about their experiences padding models out, reviews of different models or recommendations of places to buy.

Edited to add -

I just read through another tutorial on fitting a form to your shape (thanks for the link Nichola!) and found a couple of interesting things. The first is, the author recommends distributing your padding more evenly than you are in reality and claims this will make your garments look better. I'd like to know how, so I'm posting a comment and will let you know!

The second thing I found was that reading through the comments section there are recommendations for two form types I hadn't come across. Unlike the standard dial adjustable types I've looked at, the Fabulous Fit has a solid base with a padding fit system and removable cover. This means it is adjustable by size and shape and saves you the trouble of making your own padding and cover to fit. I gather this is the kind of form used by professionals and I can see why. Sadly, it stops at an American size 16, but the Uniquely You, which has many similarities goes up to a 50" hip with adjustments via the covering. And this company ships to Australia! Of course, while the form is only $139, the shipping here is $254.38!!

But aside from the issue of cost, another comment got me thinking about another problem. I hate how if ever I buy commercial patterns I measure myself accurately and find that the pattern size chart says I'm a size 26 or so. I know I may choose a size 18 or 20 in commercially made clothes, but the pattern says that for my measurements I need a size 26. If I make the garment in the size 26 (don't laugh - I've done this!) it is of course miles too big. I don't know why this is, but I basically don't use commercial patterns so I avid dealing with it. But it occurs to me - what if the dress form is the same? What if I buy one and find it is way too big? One commenter on the above post had exactly this experience and I can't imagine what I'd do if I paid $250 shipping only to have to return it!

Anyone else been down this road and know what I'm talking about?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

test knitting

Just a super quick post here to let you know that the lovely and talented Kate is looking for a test knitter or two in the 42-50inch bust range for a really lovely cardigan she has designed.

I have to say as a long time knitter who grew up knitting men's garments and mostly disasterous home designed knits because commercial patterns stopped at a size 14 I am thrilled to bits with how many pattern designers now take their sizing up to the loftier heights. And critical to this is good test knitting and feedback to designers.

So I hope someone here will take her up on the offer and get a great cardi and ensure the rest of us continue to have access to well designed and fitting patterns!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

shopping by body type

So a friend of mine who is in search of a dress for a special occassion has been spending quite a bit of time looking for ideas on line.

Now I don't wear dresses much (recent sewing notwithstanding) since I spend most of my time running around after children, doing domestic chores and generally being a graceless slob, but I so think a good frock can look stunning. I also think a badly chosen frock can make you look really awful.

Anyway, she found that the large US retailer Nordstrom has a really excellent feature for their online dress shop - that capacity to search by body type (see the drop down menu on the right hand side half way down the screen). You can also search by plus size or garment type.

I don't have plans to buy anything from Nordstrom any time soon, but I think this is a fantastic way to think about garments and feel a little more confident that the dress you like might suit you. I haven't explored the site in detail but my guess is we'll be seeing more and more of this kind of thing, assisted shopping. Anyone else know of other retailers or sites that offer similar features?