In January 2019, an important topic became a talking point in the sewing community on Instagram. Two, in fact. First, there was a discussion about attitudes to race and the experiences of people of colour. Then, as part of the ongoing thread about inclusivity in the sewing world, a discussion began, about the sizing of sewing patterns. In both cases, the initial ‘spark’ that lit the fire was in the form of a blog post. I won’t cite the blog posts or the popular responses here. There has been an overwhelming “call to arms” for pattern designers to become more size inclusive, and rightly so.
I wanted to take a moment to set out my thoughts and plans in relation to the sizing of my patterns at Pearson and Pope.
Firstly, I would like to sincerely apologise to anyone who has come across my patterns, been interested in making them, and then been disappointed by the current size chart. Frustration and upset are not emotions that I want to be associated with my patterns.
As a black woman I am well versed in being made to feel “other”. Sometimes through the unintentional attitudes or behaviours of absolutely lovely people around me, who would be horrified to know how they have unthinkingly affected me. Sometimes simply by being surrounded by people and yet not seeing anyone who looks remotely like me. I therefore hate to think that my choices may have contributed to making people feel excluded.
I struggle to think of myself as an independent pattern designer (or a designer at all)! I am just someone who loves sewing, and drafting, and has a head full of garments I’d love to make for my idea of the perfect working wardrobe. I was encouraged by the kindness of strangers and sewing friends on Instagram who kept asking about my self drafted pencil skirt, to actually put my patterns out there. I wanted to do so in a way which was manageable for me in terms of the time and financial input required to get to launch day. With that in mind, there were valid economical reasons to start with fewer sizes, and, in particular, to make my “base size” the size that I did. I won’t go into those reasons here, because at this point I don’t really think they are helpful to the debate. But, for the avoidance of doubt, they definitely didn’t include anything along the lines of “it’s just too hard to draft for people outside this size range”.
The debate and discussion amongst my fellow sewers has been illuminating, at times hard-hitting, and always thought-provoking.
For Pearson and Pope, I hope to normalise my size range in the course of 2019, to reflect the actual distribution of body sizes of real women - and the fact the average size is weirdly treated more like an outlier in both the ready to wear and the sewing pattern markets.
I would like to thank the amazing women behind the Helen’s Closet and Cashmerette pattern lines, who have undertaken very useful and detailed surveys and been so willing to share the results (here and here), including with other designers. I hope this will help all independent sewing pattern designers to make informed decisions about their size ranges and how to normalise them so as to be more size inclusive. It would certainly help me. I would also like to thank all those people who so graciously sent me encouraging, lovely messages when I launched my patterns, even though the current size range excludes their sizes.
Please bear with me. I have a real desire to offer more sizes and a more normalised range of them. But behind the name, there is only me, and sewing/drafting is still a hobby which sits behind the realities of being a working mum with young children and a demanding but enjoyable corporate day job. It will take me some time, but I am determined to get there.