Saturday, July 07, 2007

The Mo’Nique School of Thinking…

Marji left this comment this morning:

I agree totally about the CC line being dowdy. I've met Connie when she's come to St Louis to have her teaching seminars and she *can* be an overwhelming presence, but she's passionate about what she does.It seems to me that the CC line, along with a lot of the indie's (which is why I really don't like most of the Indies) that design for plus size think that large squares of fabric put together like Omar would constitutes Stylish fashions for the plus segment of the population. It's a design aesthetic that needs to change. I think the root of the problem lies in the concept of what Plus Size sewists Want in fashion. Meanwhile, I'll add that when one company produces the same product under different brands, they aren't trying for your $ under each brand, they're trying to capture your market segment in one of the brands, while maybe offering just a smidge in the crossover brands. At issue here is that you (and a host of other sewists) have the design aesthetic of One Brand while they're offering your particular product under another. I'd write again.In fact, I'll write too. Can you email me the contact information that you received in your letter back? Thanks

I was going to write a response in the "Comments Section" but decided that everyone doesn't read comments so here goes:

I will fully admit that I am a fashionista in a plus size body. I will also admit that I am willing to try different things because I am not ashamed of my body - ain't on a diet, ain't trying to lose weight through exercise, etc. I like who I am and how I look...I definitely subscribe to the Mo'Nique school of thinking. That said it does make my attitude a little different from most plus size women and even though I am not trying to emphasize the "slight" rolls of fat that have accumulated over the years, I am not ashamed of them either!

So I want to dress my body in the latest styles and not muu-muu tents! Everyone can't be a size 2. God, wouldn't the world be boring if we all were! And also everyone doesn't think fashion is important. Some people do actually clothe themselves so that they don't frighten the world when they appear outside or they don't want to break the law! But I like fashion! I like nice accessories. I spend a considerable amount of time making these outfits, looking for nice fabrics and patterns ~ I enjoy this! So then why am I being ignored by the home sewing industry? Why am I told to go and attempt to get a designer gear outfit from this:

When I was looking at and the Parisian fashion shows last night, saw that on every runway! NOT! And you can't tell me that the CAD designing programs that they use to grade patterns can't be set up to grade past a size 18 or 20!!!! The home sewing industry is telling me that I don't count to them! At least that's my take on it. I may be a FAT girl but I am one wonderously made, fabulous and beautiful one.

Why can't I make a slim jumper from a great piece of faux leather, leather or suede for fall? Why can't I make a strapless jumper to wear over a great white shirt? Hey, I already own the white shirt! But most importantly, why can't the home sewing industry realize that to attract younger sewers they need to also concentrate on the heavy set young women who will try to emulate their skinny sisters and believe they can do so through making it at home? Well McCall's just ain't helping them out!

Yeah, I am full out ranting this morning because I just don't get it! Women were made to have curves and breasts and hips - not to look like boards! Those poor women in the fashion shows look like they need to come to my house and have several good home cooked meals! Why do we stand for this?! Why do we allow ourselves to be tricked into thinking that if we don't look a certain way we aren't good enough!? My response ~ if God wanted me to look that way he wouldn't made me this way! And he wouldn't made such great food or Spanx or the ability to grade a pattern up past a size 18!!!!!

Maybe the answer is to continue to use my TNT patterns and redesign them to make what I want! And send my precious sewing dollars to the fabric stores and online fabric shops...'cause I don't see EOS or Fabric Mart or FashionFabricsClub or Nancy's Notions telling me they don't want my money!

Rant over ~ I am off to sew...using one of those TNT patterns to get me some designer gear!
Edited to add:
McCall's Pattern/Sewing Technical Questions
or call (800) 782-0323
Monday through Friday8:45 AM to 4:45 PM Eastern Time


  1. OMGawd, Carolyn, I am so with you in this rant. And it's not just the home sewing industry, but some of the stores for plus sizes that drive me nuts. They so don't get it. Some styles that come in a size 2 just do NOT look good in a 22, but that does not mean that every size 22 needs to just have yards and yards of cloth draped unshapingly across them like a circus tent.

    And thank you for expressing your appreciation and acceptance of your body with its curves and shape. I'm starting to accept mine too - that men DO want curves on a woman. Just like God made us. Why have we allowed society to convince us that our curves are bad? We must change this flawed perception. Two hundred years ago we would have been the hottest thing on the market!

    I'm right in line behind you to help change this perception. Tell me what I can do!

    You go, girl! Keep ranting. Someone WILL listen.

  2. Reply to the reply,
    I tend to write comments, even when they get long, in shorthand. I hope you and all your readers understand that when I wrote:
    I think the root of the problem lies in the concept of what Plus Size sewists Want in fashion. I DID NOT mean that what you as a Plus size sewist wants is a problem, I MEANT that the pattern companies concept of 'what plus size sewist wants' is the problem. They obviously are operating under the assumption that the design aesthetic of the plus size sewist is closer to the design aesthetic of Omar the Tent Maker than the NY, Paris and Milan runways.
    I agree with Karla that a full-out campaign needs to be waged with the pattern companies getting them to understand that they would expand their market segment greatly if they would just grade up more of the fashionable, body conscious, and yes, trendy designs.
    Erica put up on her blog early last Spring a collection by an Italian house that consisted of incredible plus size body conscious clothing - unfortunately it was RTW, but the pattern companies need to really 'get it' that this stuff would SELL in the sewing world if they would produce it.
    Even if you were trying to lose weight, you don't need to clothe yourself in ponchos and muumuus. Everyone, absolutely everyone, looks better in clothing that fits well, is body conscious without being body revealing and trampy.

    My take on the Brands of the McCalls pattern co: Vogue is for the more mature, very fashion conscious sewist and dressmaker. Also included in their segment are those whose skill set is more advanced. Therefore they produce the designer wear, and the lines like Betzina and Schaeffer geared towards those who will work more to get a pattern to fit well. And their instructions are usually more abbreviated. They typically don't expect the Vogue customer to be rank beginners.
    McCalls has become their more youthful line, definitely carrying the trendier looks, and in a lot of ways, the less complex but sophisticated designs.
    And I think they've let Butterick go towards an appeal to the much more conservative in dress, and that is where they're also putting their plus size offerings.
    Doesn't say much about what they think of their plus size market.
    But I do think a well aimed campaign to get them to grade up some of the McCalls and Vogue designs may reap some benefits in coming collections. It's worth a try. The designs are there, and obviously not everyone who sews plus size wants to hide under yards of unstructured fabric.

  3. Have you read Wendy Mullen's (Built by Wendy) book Sew U? It's a great inspiration book on taking TNTs or basic patterns and altering them enough to make them look completely different. Even if you don't use the patterns she provides, I think it really motivates you to think 'outside the box' when you're looking at a pattern and look for it's potential to be something else. Of course, I need to remember this more often and stop buying so many patterns myself.

  4. Marji, I understood your commments. They do need to pay attention to what plus size women are actually wearing. I've noticed lately that most of the McCall Co. patterns for all 3 divisions only come to size 20 or less. Well I'm still outside of the pattern range. I love fashion and want to look stylish when I am dressed, not like I am a hundred years old. This company doesn't realize how much money they are losing. It is Simplicity's gain since almost all of my recent pattern purchases come from them. Burda is also one of my favorites. I did buy two of the CC skirt patterns and my plan is to use them with contrasting fabrics. The pattern that you posted is butt ugly. I saw a top made from that pattern and it was not flattering to the wearer.

    Some good may have come out of it for me personally since I have been forced to learn my pattern software program. Still it is very frustrating not to be able to just buy a pattern that comes close to my size. The other good thing is that I'm learning to think outside of the box when planning a new garment.


  5. Wow! You are definitely an inspiration. Let me explain. You love your body, you have confidence and take pride in the way you look regardless of your size. So many skinny girls don't have that!

    Do you buy the Burda Plus mags when they come out? I know Burda can be a pain to use, as you have to trace, etc. Even the regular BWOF publishes fashionable patterns every month in plus size.

  6. Great rant! I love fashion too, and I say "the hell with those pattern companies"! If I see something I like, I will MAKE it fit me! Get Sewing for Plus Sizes: Creating Clothes that Fit and Flatter by Barbara Deckert. She takes the same attitude--if it doesn't come in our size, we can make it fit us anyway!

    What gets me is I would like to make a strapless sundress, but I'm 48, my D boobs are can I wear one of these dresses? I looked for the bra cups that you can sew inside, but they only go up to a B or C cup. Does that mean we CAN'T wear strapless anything?

  7. You have a right to rant. Everyone does not desire to be a "rail"... I would look absolutely sickly at 5'9" and a size 2 or 4 with bird legs and a no butt. My husband loves my RTW size 12 curves! I love the fact that you are confident and your clothes look great on you. I resent the fact that if you are over a size 8, you're told that you need to "cover that up" or "de-emphasize"! *eyeroll* These pattern companies need to learn that some of us home sewers actually CARE how we look and are more than just a bunch of "Croc-wearers" trying to be "comfortable".

  8. Carolyn: You should write to an executive (aka, a decision maker); when you email consumer service you are not emailing a decision maker. You should try again; you can make an impact.

  9. Carolyn, You said it sister! I am deep down at my core a fashion girl, I was raised by a fashion girl and all my girls around me are fashion girls whether they admit it or not. I am too big for a size 18 or 20 pattern but that doesn't mean that I'm ready to jettison my personal style in favor of big tunics and floor length skirts. I want to wear what any other girl wants to wear and I want to look good in it. I am sick of having to grade everything up myself. I'm not a slow sewist it's just who has all those extra days for doing what the pattern companies could do with the flick of a switch. I belive that the squeaky wheel gets the grease so I'll be contacting Mccalls as well.

    Preach on Girl!

  10. You GO Girl! I'm not dead yet and I don't want to dress like my grandmother. Even when I *am* a grandmother, that doesn't mean I'm going to start wearing mu-mus and housecoats, or CC patterns. ;-)

  11. Say it PROUD... I'm a sewist and LOUD.. yes.. Carolyn, you're hammering that nail hard. Since resuming sewing I'm truly loving it and my sisters/mother.. are asking for garments... but the pattern (styles & sizes)are not geared for them... I would just like to pick up a nice pattern and not go through a process of super modification.

  12. Go on and rant!!! I agree. I am a size 16 or 18 depending on the pattern. And I am not an old lady and also would love to find trendy patterns to make myself clothing. But I find clothing in my size has no shape, looks like something an old woman would wear.

    I have to say I have been reading your blog for a month now and I am so inspired by you. And by the way you are a hottie. So keep up the dress makeing. Cant wait to see what you finish this week.

  13. This comment has been removed by the author.

  14. Carolyn - This is for Julie who posted above - she doesn't have a profile, so I don't have a way to contact her - maybe she'll see this. Anyway, big girls *can* wear strapless! There are cups available for large cups sizes - I've seen them in Jo-Ann's, and if you can buy them there, I know you can buy them mail order. If that fails, cut up a bra that fits and put that in your strapless dress. That'll put the vavoom in it!

    I've messed up your name twice this week. I really do apologize. I think you're going to be cmarie12 from now on for me, so I don't mess it up again.

  15. I so agree with what you are saying. I used to sew all my clothes, but in the last 10 years I have grown larger and have lost interest in sewing - Until I read this I didn't know why and now I do, I'm bored with the patterns that are available for my size!!!! And most of the readymade clothing in my size is also boring!!!!! I went to "Torrid" today because my daughter who works at "Hot Topic" gets a discount there. I was surprized to find some cute clothes, not everything, but diffenently not your run of the mill things either. It has inspired me to sew again, that clothes can look good on my size 22 body!!!!! Thanks so much for sharing your insight.

  16. Long time lurker, first time comment LOL Just want to join my voice with the others in emphathy & support. I'm a curvy fat chick (waist and hips are two difference sizes LOL) and even with commercial patterns it can be frustrating. Adding to my frustration by forcing me to grade up patterns that aren't large enough is ridiculous! I may work in a business casual environment but I still want to look good. If they want my money they need to pony-up the goods LOL

  17. Carolyn, I'm going to restate here a bit of what I wrote before. I still think that you should use that passion and energy to start your own line of fabulous plus sized patterns. Marji stated the same thing I've been thinking abt the 'CC' patterns and never said aloud. They're dowdy. And boring. And just plain ugly. And...well,you understand. Hey, I'm not saying that you should quit your day job. In fact, what I mean to suggest is that you not even start the business, just put down on paper what you'd like to see in the pattern catalogues. Check out Kathleen Fanasella's website for her info on finding a patternmaker. Girl, you work in the fashion capitol of America! They're crawling allover! Anyway, I'm sure if you checked with Kathleen, she'd be able to give you a heads up on fees they charge. Then, at least you'd have an idea of what it would take to start the business. Hey, maybe when you retire... or starting a small line of core pieces that you would like to be able to purchase, OR maybe having the line sold through McCalls, kinda like Sandra Betzina does with Vogue. Anyway, I think you're the woman for the job.

  18. AMEN SISTER! I'm not a plus size, but I am so with you on the fact that my soul sisters who are can't find decent patterns. I didn't check it out when I was in NYC last week, but I saw that Around The World had the latest issue of Patrones Grande - maybe they have some stylin' clothes?

    And I do have to add my $.02 that you are one stylin' woman, no matter what your size! (This is fact folks - I've gone shopping with her)

  19. Another Amen! from me. What kind of bubble are the pattern designers and decision makers living in? Even the skinny girls often have a pair of store bought C cups-the B cup norm needs a rethink. They need to get out more.

    Love your clothes sense and sewing skill, and the blog is great, too! Ha

  20. Another idea....maybe it's time that the major pattern companies expanded their size range by offering downloadable patterns in sizes they don't offer in tissue paper form. In addition to Plus size fashions, they could add patterns in very small sizes. I've graded patterns up and I've graded them down; up is easier, so I feel sympathy for women who need sizes I haven't worn since the 5th grade. (Now THAT wasn't politically correct, was it? ;-) ) Our small-framed, slender sisters need clothes, too. Big 4 - why not enter the new millennium and put those designs out as downloads?

  21. Oh - and I second Ann's suggestion about Patrones Tallas Grandes. The interesting designs and details in those magazines are definitely not frumpy. Three sizes are included in each issue, and the largest (size 56) is designed for a woman approximately 5'6", with measurements of about 50-44-51; isn't that about a size 28W pattern? If they can offer these great designs in larger sizes, why can't the Big 4?

  22. Carolyn, I love your confidence, self esteem, sense of style and your enthusiasm. It was delcious to be with you last week. I was searching for lace knitting needles today and looked up Addi Turbos. To my surprise, they have a new line of lace knitting needles and Skacel's site said they produced those needles because 1000 people wrote to them and they responded! So I think you are on the right track in writing to McCall's. Have you been working on Summer Outfit #1 this weekend? A gentle reminder to get going!

  23. Great post and one well directed rant. I am a size 16 in patterns and at a reasonable 140 pounds it seems riddiculous to me that a 20 is all they regularly go up to, as in all reality it is not big!

    And I love the point made earlier that with sizes getting bigger and younger women not served by clothing stores they now can't make their own clothes either.

    All these plus sized fashions seem aimed (to me) at someone aged 50 plus and no eye for style - why would anyone want to foster that?!

  24. I'll second someone elses comment:

    This could be a bsiness opportunity knocking at your door. ;-)

  25. Hannah has it right. A size 14 is the median size right now, and that means there are as many above size 14 as below. The peripheral sizes are being ignored! Any why should we on the inner edges, whether plus or petite, be expected to learn to grade patterns, accept styles that are nothing short of demeaning, and settle for less than we want?
    We want shape and style and color in our clothing.

    It's the same way with shoes; anyone with a foot over size 8 is expected to have no sense of style. Grr. Preach on, style sisters:)

  26. Wow, Carolyn, you have pushed lots of buttons here! I notice the same thing happening in patterns as in television: the mass market companies are losing their business to the specialty providers because they will not, absolutely will not, pay attention to what customers want. They aren't even thinking about WHY people sew: maybe because we don't find RTW that fits or looks good (again, too much mass marketing in the RTW business and not enough attention to multiple niche markets), maybe because we want X style in Y size (which means more sizes should be provided!). With McCalls/Vogue/Butterick missing the market (and Simplicity going belly up?), the European and specialty patterns made by others who sew are what we need to turn to. These are more expensive but thoughtfully designed and often contain elaborate instructions, not because they imagine that beginners are tackling these patterns, but becasue the instructions provide advice on couture details that McCalls and the like would not bother with. Anybody out there ever attend a Louise Cutting seminar? She did designs for the major pattern companies once, but they wouldn't even pay attention to regularizing their sizes. So you can buy a pattern that will have 4 inches of ease around the hips, or twenty inches of ease around the hips and they don't care about misleading buyers with their size designations! Nor would they put in good instructions -- they told her they were in the paper business, not really the design or sewing business! They were trying to make people buy patterns, but they didn't expect the patterns to be used! So Louise does her own patterns now, with fantastic instructions for Armani touches, removing bulk from corners, getting sharp points on collars, etc. See Anyway -- the problem is that the mass marketing companies want us to be mass customers, and we're not. They will lose from ignoring us. Go to it Carolyn!!!
    Meg in NC

  27. Carolyn,
    I have been a lurker on your site for a few months and have decided to comment. I'm with you the whole way. I used to be a "skinny" girl; but over the last five years my figure has changed - a lot. I tried to fight it, but I just really don't care. Now I am cutting a size 18 pattern and quite frankly I like the way I look. I can't figure out why McCalls would want us all to wear muumuu's and housedresses. While the concept of the Connie Crawford patterns is great - ready-to-wear sizing - her designs are just lacking in style. I'm a big girl, not a frump. So take that McCalls!

  28. By the way, I am not anonymous. I am Kim K. in Western Pennsylvania.

  29. Heh. It's sort of funny that I'm reading this now, considering I'm having the same problems with patterns, just on the opposite end of the scale. :) The lowest bust size in the CC line is 34-35"! Considering that many of the big pattern companies have HUGE amounts of ease (2" on a *fitted* waistband, anyone?), this is really annoying. Especially sewing for others who are smaller than the "minimum" sizes. Also annoying is that patterns advertise as working for both petites and misses', but the only "petites" adjustment is in length. No shoulder width adjustment, etc. So your smaller sisters have similar issues!

    I think some of the CC patterns are OK - there's a skirt and jacket with interesting piecing. But yes - quite a bit of it (it's a small line), especially that jacket you posted, look pretty drab. BTW...for reference, it's my understanding that it's often difficult to grade to large sizes from a single base pattern. However, this could be remedied by making a plus size line with, as we want, fashionable patterns!! :)


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