Saturday, September 27, 2014

Can We Talk...About Fit?

Often a comment is left on one of my blog posts about the fit of a dress or how I fit myself. I have to admit that fitting has been a journey.  A journey that I've been on for the last 20-25 years. So my fit has evolved over time and nothing about it has been quick...it's been a true process...and I wouldn't even say that I've arrived...since I'm always trying to do better.

So let's talk about this fit journey.  When I first started sewing, I was a young woman with a firm body and very few fitting issues outside of a booty.  My measurements fit well within the parameters of the pattern companies range even my height did not give me issues.  For many years I blissfully sewed straight out of the pattern envelope.


Then I had children and my body started to change which of course meant pattern alterations.  Although honestly, those first alterations were easy to accomplish because I was still a size 10/12 in RTW sizes.  It was only after my third child was born, that I started to gain weight.  I worked a full time job, had three kids, with after school activities, a husband, a household to run and church activities.  A full load with very little time for myself...so the weight gradually crept on.

The one good thing is that I sewed through all of this...for myself, for my kids and even for my ex-husband. I also used the same pattern over and over because funds were tight and I needed to get as much mileage from a pattern as I could. So my fit and TNT pattern journeys were intertwined.

I've lived through several different fashion cycles which of course means different types of fit in women's garments. Of all the cycles, the present day cycle of very close fitting garments is the one that's most challenging for me.  I'm extremely uncomfortable in a very close fitting garment, so I avoid them like the plague.

I understand that a close or very closely fitted garment is the norm now...but it's not what I personally want to wear.  So I struggle with this issue every time I make a garment. I hate calling attention to my backside. Where other sewists make a sway back adjustment, I don't. However, that pooling fabric at your back waist is considered "a bad fit".  


Honestly, I don't mind it but to compensate, I've started using a 4 seam back because I also hate back darts. This gives my garment the illusion of a closer fit without the skin tight look I abhor. Yeah, I know I sound like a crotchy old woman!


I just think fit is subjective and I've addressed this before here. I also don't believe that you need to remove every last wrinkle from a garment. Especially because so many times the sewist removes so much ease from the garment, that it only looks good standing still. 


Sometimes I will take a picture of a garment that feels good when I sit in it...that moves with me and I know will work in my active work day. Then I post a picture here and someone will say something about my fit both positive and constructive...often in the same post.  

Normally I don't respond to these posts...cause fit is subjective and everyone is entitled to their opinions...especially because I know what works for me. Other sewists make closer fitting garments and even though I'd never make a garment that fit that way, I respect their right to sew and wear what makes them happy.

However, I do have a list of things that I consider ill-fitting and try not to include in my garments ~
  • dart points that end higher than my bust points
  • shoulder seams that hang off my shoulder blades
  • too tight sleeves at the biceps
  • too long sleeves
  • garments that cup my abdomen
  • hemlines that are wanky
  • necklines that don't lay flat or gape
Am I successful in each and every garment I make ~ ending up with a well-fitted garment? The honest answer ~ no.  But then I don't profess to be an advanced, perfect sewist...just a very enthusiastic one.

Finally, this post isn't written to bash anyone, to accuse anyone, or to stop anyone from writing their opinion here. It's my reflections on why I fit the way I do and how fitting is a continual journey.  One that I will be on until the last day I'm able to sew.

...as always more later!




54 comments:

  1. What a great post. I.think that fit is such a personal thing. We all have our own body issues, the bits we want to show off and the bits we need to skim over. Whatever is comfy for you should be what is best for your own sewing. I think your garments fit really well, especially the 4-piece back. I would like to add in pooled fabric to your list as a lot of makes I see in the blogosphere could do with a little bit of a tweak in the lengths here and there. I think it is near nigh impossible to fit yourself correctly though without help pinning things. Moving to adjust things just distorts the way things lie. I can never get a perfect fit on me. xx

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  2. YES, fitting is a never ending story and it is ENTIRELY subjective. When I have the slightest inkling of the standard adjustments I need(want) to perform I find my body shifts and another fit issue I want to address rears its head...the continual journey, but part of the process that keeps me engaged.

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  3. Everything you make looks good on you!!! I do not feel comfortable when my clothes are tight either. I'm thankful we live in a time when we can wear what we want, especially when it come to the length of our skirts or dresses. I love maxi skirts and I'm making several right now. I think I'm the only "senior" wearing maxi skirts in our small town except for the Amish who come to the clinic. It's ok!!!

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  4. Love it! Fit is completely personal, and of course you are 100% entitled to feel GREAT in your clothes - whatever that means to you. Enjoy the sewing/fitting journey!

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  5. Agreed, fit is a journey that changes direction many times. I am not a personal fan of the body con style that's in, to me straining wrinkles look worse than having a little wiggle room. I don't want my clothes to be painted on or hanging off me, I want room to move around( I always think if there was a random ninja fight could I take off my shoes a kick some ass, if I can't then it's too tight, I know I'm weird). My personal biggest fit pet peeve is when the arm scythe is to high and your get an armpit that looks like another piece of lady related anatomy entirely. But on that note, if your fit makes you happy then who the heck are people to judge, my mum would say if it feels good do it.

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  6. Love this post. A wise sewing teacher once told me that "Fit is a feeling, not a fact." And although this is true, there are some things, like the too high dart points, that just don't seem subjective. I love the way your dresses fit and I really agree with what you said about some very fitted clothing only looking good when you stand still. A little ease please!

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  7. Another excellent post. Your's is the blog I hope to see pop up in my blog reader every day because you give such useful details about your design process and you make real clothes. I can see how they work for you in your daily life and that is, after all, what we need clothes for. I love to see how people make 'special' clothes too but it's the things you can put on every day - commute/drive, run up stairs, sit at a desk, attend a meeting, look after your family, clear up after the dog etc that really earn a place and give the biggest return on the time you took to make them. I don't like clothes too tight, I'm not comfy and it's not appropriate for my work environment. I think you look fabulous and very individual. x

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  8. "I also don't believe that you need to remove every last wrinkle from a garment." Amen!

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  9. I gotta know: how is that green/grey/blue plaid holding up (the one in the last photo)? I bought some from Vogue Fabrics at Sew Expo and still haven't figured how to to use it to best advantage. I think mine has pilled in washing ; say it ain't so!

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    Replies
    1. I washed and dried my piece and have worn the dress twice with no signs of piling.

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    2. Excellent! I know what I am doing this week now! Most thanks for the info! and the inspiration!

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  10. True, fit is something that is subjective. The wearer has to feel comfortable. I like things close fitting as anything larger seems to overwhelm my smaller frame. But far too often you see people (especially young ones) with far too tight clothing. It really doesn't need to be that tight!

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  11. Love the post. You have an amazing sense of style and look fabulous in all your work - at least all you share with us.

    What I want to know is this: What's a four-seam back? I can't really tell from the photos - which show a lovely fit, btw.

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    Replies
    1. Princess seam back from the shoulder or armhole wifth a center back zipper has 4 back pieces.

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    2. I use a shoulder seam version of this concept.

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  12. A great post, Carolyn. I agree with all you say, and most of it could apply to me too, from the young tiny me who only needed the smallest adjustment to a pattern, through to the plus-size older woman who hates tight fit and has to make multiple adjustments to every part of the pattern. Since having a mastectomy a couple of years back, the fit issues have increased - it is a continuing challenge, but like you I love to sew and just keep on keeping on :)

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  13. Great post. Congratulations on your well fitting garments. Your hard work shows in your garments. Love to read your blog.

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  14. I fully agree. Today's fashions have almost zero wearing ease, and, as you said, tend to look best when standing still.

    I want to be able to move in my clothes and be comfortable in them, not feel constricted or constrained.

    I see to please myself and fit to please myself. No one else gets a say in it.

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  15. Such an interesting post, Carolyn! I think about this a lot myself. I see people wearing garments that are very fitted and I think they look nice, but I know I could never be comfortable wearing them myself - I need to be able to move, and too much constriction around my midsection actually gives me terrible stomach aches! So I try to make a compromise. And my philosophy is similar to yours: I figure a couple drag lines aren't always so bad, because in real life I'm always moving, not standing still - so who's going to notice them?!

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  16. I love that you have defined exactly what you consider to be fitting issues and dealt with those...and then have the wisdom to not worry about any minor points after that. RTW would NEVER fit nearly so nicely!

    But, having said all that...that four piece back is genius. ;-)

    Love that there's more later... :-)

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  17. This post is fantastic C! Fitting, as I always say, is an activity that's totally distinct from sewing. It's a worthy undertaking IMO - but it's many years in the making. And I'm many fewer years in than you! I've had to decide what fitting issues are non-negotiable to fix, and which ones make a garment look good when I'm standing still (but don't move well). I do try to learn from my RTW garments that I have loved and that serve me well. But sometimes I am SO tired of fitting. Like, right now, actually. Don't tell anyone, but for the first time in years, I just cut out a pattern, unaltered, from the envelope and I'm giving it a go.

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  18. PS: This is why I totally love working with knit fabric.

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  19. Your fabric, your pattern, your time - who cares what anyone else things. As long as you are happy and comfortable with your garments, you have the only opinion that counts. Enjoy the journey.

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  20. As always you are a breath of fresh air! Thanks for this post, you hit the nail on the head.

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  21. Too-fitted clothing is not flattering on my body and is uncomfortable. What I have to work on though is remembering that too big clothing is also not flattering and is also uncomfortable. I will say that in my slow journey of sewing clothes for myself I am surprised at how well most of those clothes fit (compared to RTW). They are not perfect and I have a long way to go, but still an improvement. I am wondering if the fit pendulum is beginning to swing the other way. I've seen a lot of boxy tops and looser silhouettes on the runway photos.

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  22. Awesome post. I am still learning fit and agree that some wrinkles are necessary for wearing ease. I take that into consideration when sewing a garment. My fitting techniques are not always ethical, but they work. My garments endure a 12 hour wear, from a 1-1/2 commute to & from, to bending, reaching, pulling etc. so good fit & comfort ease is mandatory. That's why I enjoy tnt garments, the fit gets better which each rendition. You have taught me so much... keep doing what you do.

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  23. Very little on my body is "straight out of the pattern envelope" - not when I was thin, and really, really *not now*. So I've had to learn to fit as I've learned to sew.

    I'm still learning - bigtime.

    Because my own proportions are topheavy (and I am short) I do wear a more fitted silhouette, at least from the waist up. It's very vintage, but that's okay - my measurements are kinda vintage anyhow.

    FWIW - I like your leather waisted skirt's fit better, but it's you who's wearing it! :D

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  24. i love how you know exactly the way you want your clothes to fit, and you should be proud of it! i see things as fitting poorly when the ease is not deliberate. I'm so glad you have found the 4 piece back that works for you, the polka-dot back is so nice!

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  25. Oh I remember the days I used to be able to just sew right out of the pattern envelope! Since then, I have had a child and aged and my body has changed quite a lot. Fitting can be a challenge but when I finally get a well fitted garment done, I am HAPPY!

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  26. Excellent post, Carolyn. I agree with you: I am "allergic" to close-fitting garments. It's much classier to dress as you do -- knowing your body and what feels good and looks great on you. And you always look great.

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  27. Good post, Carolyn! I don't like close-fitting styles - except for my under-things, which I don't show. I do like comfort and some illusion.

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  28. As a fellow plus-size sewist I totally agree with everything you've said in your post. My figure differs from yours since I'm very busty, no hips and a straight torso but I have figured out over the years what looks best on my figure. I too have a set of TNT patterns that give me a nice, modest (not tight) fit. I'm so glad that I sew so I can make what I want in the style and fabric I love. Sure wish we could meet some day. I love your blog!

    Karen

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  29. I completely agree with your post. A few years ago, I made a 'perfect' fitting princess seamed blouse. But, I almost never wore it because I had to unbutton the bottom button when sitting because of my 'spread'. Unless you're simply sewing for a photo shoot, clothes need to be wearable.

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  30. Hey there Ms. Carolyn, love this post! Thank you for sharing such a beautiful photo of your past! (You're still beautiful how ever many years later!) I would not touch any of those dresses you just showed above with any type of alteration...they're perfect! I am like you as well when it comes to fit, it's in the individuals personal taste and comfort level! I enjoy and am inspired by your sewing and the reason why I read your blog. Keep doing YOU, that's why we subcribe to you!

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  31. So true! If I do a sway back adjustment, I'm not comfortable sitting down. Since I either sit or I stand and face people at work, I don't worry too much about that sway back. I feel like I *should* care more, but why bother? It doesn't bug me!
    Now, gaping necklines, both back and front? Those drive me Nuts...

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  32. i absolutely agree! i try to identify my personal fit needs, but i certainly won't get hung up on every last wrinkle.

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  33. A great post! I'm afraid I'm a few years behind you on the journey. I'm recognising that what's out there is not actually what I want to sew. I like semi fitted. As I'm tall and pear shaped I do have fitting issues. I would add to your list waists not in the right place (whatever 'right' is to an individual) and sleeves that are too short/too tight. I think shorter sleeves that are designed to be shorter sleeves are fine but sleeves meant to be full length that are just too short are not. Another issue in RTW is that the darts point too high (a combination of extra length in my torso and age related droop) - this has stopped me buying RTW, although I didn't pledge to do so. I usually have to add length between neck and bust which drops bust point and waistline.

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  34. You've posted about something I've been considering ever since I discovered the online sewing world. I have my own ideas of what 'fits' well. And they're not always in line with what is generally considered to be 'perfect' fit. Some things, like making sure there's enough ease across my bicep, is helpful and I do it all the time (And sway-back adjustments are great for me!). Other things like trousers without wrinkles anywhere just turn into a compromise between comfort and the way they look. I need to find the point I myself am satisfied with and go with that, even if it isn't as perfect-fitting as some other bloggers are.

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  35. You're my sewing hero. I get so much inspiration from your blog

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  36. In the past (not that I have been sewing that long), I have definitely spent time over-fitting and trying to get rid of every wrinkle. And then you can't do anything buy stand up straight in your garment! I have been moving towards blouse-ier things lately, so fitting hasn't been much of an issue. But I have found that my shape has really changed since having a baby! So who knows what adjustments i'd have to make if I did make a closer fitting item. I like you list of things you look out for. I agree on all points.

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  37. Fit is personal indeed. I agree 100% with your points. When I look at what is on trend in RTW the clothing is not tightly fitted. Looser, draper fits tend to be trending to my eye. So , I sort of see a big disconnect in some parts of the sewing community when I see overly fitted garments.

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  38. Amen my Righteous Sister!

    You've addressed a topic here which has really been bothering me the last while in the sewing internet community; in a much classier way than i could have, too :)

    The entire reason most of us sew our own clothing is so that we can get clothes that work how WE like them to. Do we always succeed? No. Are we always learning? Yep. Do we see things we'd like to change even in some of our 'best' results? Probably.

    But do our garments fit us so much better than what we could buy in RTW Oh Yeah Baby!!!

    I think i would be very wary of leaning to sew and posting about it online if i were a beginner nowadays...along with all the fantastic help and inspiration (i'm looking at you Ms. C!) we have self-appointed long-time-seamster "experts" calling out 'mistakes' online - even being so unkind as to use some of the seven forbidden words to refer to what other people have made and had 'the sheer impudence' to post online. I can't imagine a better way to discourage anyone interested in taking up our amazing craft.

    Kudos to you Carolyn for addressing this issue in a kind, classy and productive way. You provide a worthwhile example for us all to follow, not only in your gorgeous sewing, but in the way you conduct yourself as a human being. Happy Sunday!!!! steph

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  39. Didn't see a like button, but here: like! Seriously though, fitting the self it difficult, but from a technical point of view and that "is this right for me" point of view.

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  40. There comes a point in our fitting journey when we have to choose between perfect and practical. You've chosen what works for you and that's what counts. There is a big disconnect between what is doable and wearable for most women and that absolutely wrinkle free fit we see in the magazines. That's just not real world doable.

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  41. Great post! I am returning to garment sewing after about 20 years, with a very different body and in a time where close fitting is the norm. I have flung more things into the corner than I can count. I think I will stop looking at the blogs of 20-and 30-something sewers and sew to fit my post-menopausal body without worry. Now, why couldn't I figure that out on my own? Lol! Have a lovely Sunday today :)

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  42. Fantastic post! I definitely think fit is very subjective and very much to do with how we see our own bodies and how we like to dress our bodies which are totally unique to anyone else's. I think this is why fit is such a complicated part of sewing as there's no one set of rules to follow as to how something 'should' look. Your post actually made me feel much better about the problems of fitting! Thanks!

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  43. I feel the same as you as I also prefer a looser fit. I like my bodice tailored - especially in the front - but I like to have more room and not feel constricted.

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  44. Sewers have so many options that non-sewers don't have! I've never seen any of your me-made outfits that looked poor fitting! Even the ones you were not pleased with in the final reveal... don't count as "poor fit"!
    To a non-sewer "it fits" has a complete different meaning. And even that can be mind boggling to see! A plus sized young woman proudly wearing RTW that is obviously 3 or more sizes too small for her, has no notion of what "fit" really IS! I observe this again and again in retail stores. Not even at cheap RTW either...Macy's, Nordstrom's... refusal to shop in the correct size section because of number denial and peer pressure! Soap box moment...sorry. I have niece who cries on my shoulder often, but won;t follow advice from anyone over 18 yo.

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  45. Great post, Carolyn! Like you, I don't do bodycon but I never have as a young woman, even. It is just not my style, too many years in convents! Your garments fit awesomely and should be a beacon for all trying to achieve a great fit as they show a wonderful standard.
    Unlike you, I have always been a difficult fit, even in my very young years. An exaggerated hourglass figure meant nothing fit me retail so I started to sew at a young age to get things that looked better. I was fitting blind but pinches and tucks gave me a better looking garment that what was in the stores. I didn't "study" and consider fit seriously till about twenty years ago when I suddenly found what I was making was just not making me happy. Enter Nancy Zieman and pivot and slide! Resources like PR have helped even more. But like you said, it's a journey, one that never ends and needs to be recognized as such. Our bodies are constantly changing and we sewists need the skills and a developed "eye" to keep our garments and selves looking good.
    That exaggerated hourglass? Pretty much gone and a lot easier to fit as time has moved my contents around!
    I don't think people know what good fit is. Go into any crowd of people and you surely can tell. I think bodycon clothing is just awful and unflattering except on the most lithe and youthful. Great post.

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  46. What each person counts as "comfortable" and a "good fit" is often predicated upon the styles that he/she wore as a child. To me, low-rise pants will never be comfortable, and the fit I achieve with them will never be a good fit. I grew up when trousers and skirts were fit at one's natural waist, and when waistbands were included on nearly every such garment. So, in those past decades that dictated garments that don't fit my personal parameters of comfort and fit, I continued to sew and wear garments that worked for me. Nothing, nothing, nothing was available on rtw racks, so I was forced to sew my own stuff. I still add waistbands to most of my pants and skirts. I like them. I feel undressed without them. They help to keep my garments from falling off of me when I walk (which is a boon both to me and to those who'd have to look at me flouncing about in my nether garments).

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  47. Love this post! I have fibromyalgia and cannot stand to wear tight fitting clothes. If clothes aren't "just right" in their fit, I am extremely uncomfortable and fidgety. This is problematic if I try to follow the trends in fashion fit. No, not problematic.... impossible! Lol. So, I don't worry about it. I sew to be comfortable and in the process hope I look presentable. But comfort is at the top of the list.

    Someone above mentioned "spread." This is a great point. When I sit down, I spread all around my abdomen. Especially in my stomach. If I make pants too tight it will actually cause me pain so I must take that into account when sewing depending on how much stretch the fabric has. Where the waistband his is important too. If it isn't high enough in the back, when I sit down it will hit a certain area on my back and cause pain.

    Y e ah, I'm a real mess. Lol.

    I was very happy to read your post because comfort is not only practical for many (most?) of us but for someone like me it's a real necessity. I don't feel so alone, knowing someone else is out their that doesn't worry about following the crowd at the expense of comfort.

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  48. I would just like to point out I believe nowadays there are many possible ways to understand fitting. I don't think it is all really fitted to the body, I have seen many patterns and RTW with drop waist, or larger, far-of-the-body designs. Which make me happy, I don't really like clothes too close, too fitted, too tight.
    This was interesting to read, it made me think. This you said about having already seen many cycles of fashion... it is crazy how it really changes.
    Good discussion!

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