I love the unique creativity of sewing; from pattern design, fabric selection, preparation, construction and fine-tuning of all these things. Being a petite person, I also appreciate the ability to create clothing that will fit me well instead of altering a purchased piece that was made to the specifications of a designer’s fit model. For example, a fitted, ready-to-wear sheath dress; even if I’m lucky enough to find it in a petite size, the dress never fits me unless it is shaped like a caftan.
I am a “pear-shaped” woman, smaller on top and larger on the lower half of my torso. It looks like I’m not the only one! Check out: http://www.thepetitepearproject.com
I remember an interesting experience in a dress shop in Paris. I saw a cute jacket I liked and tried it on. No surprise when the contoured waist on the jacket hit my hipline. I tried to explain to the woman in the shop helping me (in my somewhat humble and elementary French), that I was short-waisted and needed a petite size. I think the woman in the shop thought I meant I wanted a smaller size and told me that the jacket fit me just fine in the shoulders. More back and forth debate about the fit of the jacket ensued and I politely thanked the woman in the shop and left without buying the jacket. Something was apparently lost in the translation there. To this day I ask myself, why did I feel bad that day? It was as if it was my fault that my proportions were not the same as the jacket.
For much of my life, I was convinced that because something didn’t fit, it was my defect, not the clothing manufacturer’s. Sewing my own clothes affords me a satisfying element of customization that is not only flattering but also empowering in how I present myself to the world.
Then there is the issue of buying pants that fit, especially jeans. There are times when I try on jeans that are four inches wider in the waist than I am. If I find a petite-sized pair of jeans with a well-fitting rise, the inseam is consistently about an inch too short. The apparent assumption among clothing manufacturers and pattern companies seems to be that petite-sized women have really short legs and very slim hips. Through lots of trial and error, I have learned how to do a tapered waist type of alteration, but the “high-water” length standard in most petite sizing continues to prove an ongoing fit problem to this day. I end up needing to buy a “regular” size pair of jeans, cut off the excess length, re-taper the location of the knees then extensively alter the waist.
Fortunately, with wonderful online classes like “Jean-ius” taught by Kenneth D. King on www.craftsy.com I can knock off my favorite-fitting, custom altered jeans (by moi) and once my initial muslin is created, I am now able to sew a new pair that will fit the first time without spending beaucoup bucks and hours of alteration in the process. This said, finding decent quality denim by the yard has proven challenging in the past. With, more and more fabric sources becoming available on the internet and larger fabric stores having online shops via their websites, it’s not only possible to purchase a large variety of fabrics (including stretch blends) suitable for making jeans as well as all the hardware like rivets, custom length zippers, and buttons. When people find out I make my own jeans, they are often dumbfounded. But the most marvelous things are borne out of necessity. If you haven’t experimented with making your own jeans, try it! www.craftsy.com has more than one jeans class as does www.Silhouettepatterns.com .