Thursday, September 01, 2022

I'm a Camouflage Sewist

That's an intriguing title isn't it! Well what I mean is that when I learned to sew we "camouflaged" our "flaws" to give our garments a more perfect look. Now I know you're going what?  Aren't you out loud and proud about your body. The answer to that question is, "yes I am."

However, I also absolutely believe in a garment's silhouette.  Maybe it's my background in sewing or my college courses in design and silhouette. But to me silhouette is KING.  And a silhouette that covers a body part but enhances the garment is even KINGLIER to me.

I'm fat. I've gotten fatter due to health issues and the pandemic. I know I should do something about it but while I can still clothe myself and get amazing garments that are complimented in these streets, I'm gonna sew first!  

I have old lady fat arms and lately I've been sewing more sleeved rather than sleeveless garments. As an aside, I can also tell you that the Style Arc Nova will probably be worn with a short sleeve cropped sweater.

Anyways, I'm finding I like an interesting sleeve especially when it works with the dress design. It gives the garment a cleaner, more sophisticated look. 

Dress Length ~

My dresses are all maxi length these days to hide my swelling ankles. Some days they're fine and some days they look like extra tires around my ankles.  This swelling is due to the medication I'm on so they're here to stay and an inconvenience I can manage.  A maxi dress hides that and doesn't allow anyone to question why my circulation is doing weird things!

Waistline - what's that?  

Yeah mine has been gone for some time! So I sew garments that emphasize my bustline and make me feel fierce. I sew a lot of shirtdresses and the key to making them work for me is the "waistline" seam is raised on all of them. Even if I like a pattern and the waistline seam is lower, I shorten the bodice piece then add the amount back to the skirt.

Accessibility ~ 

Making pieces easy to get in and out of is very important to me. I've discussed this before because aging has made some things harder to do. So easily accessible clothing is necessary for my peace.

I've been sewing for 50+ years now. I've sewn through all the stages of my life.  Teenager, college student, young working woman, motherhood, wife, middle ages and now as I head into retirement. My body has changed with each stage of my life and I've adjusted my sewing to match it. This is why I think of myself as a Camouflage Sewist. I make my garments fit and enhance my body as I move through the stages of life.

So what about you?  Has your body changed during your sewing journey?  Have you changed techniques, pattern types, views, etc. to make clothing work for you now?

This is the Question of the Day.  So talk back to me! always more later!


  1. I can relate to this all the way through. Once upon a time, many, many moons ago I was a wee thin thing. Menopause, injuries, weight gain, scoliosis and aging all have nudged me towards "camouflage sewing" and sewing clothes that have easier accessibility. I'm considered obese for my height and weight and I've struggle with the weight loss and maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle. The fact that sitting at a sewing machine doesn't help is not lost on me, oh the irony! Sleeves are an important design feature that I look for and I find myself sewing with more knits lately. Fitted designs and clothing with zippers are features that I find myself moving away from more and more and anything pullover is a winning design in my eyes.

    1. Graca, sewing is exercise! It’s not running a marathon, true, but it has an important role to play in overall health, and there are ways you can integrate more movement into your sewing, such as having your ironing station in another room or floor of your living space, and timing your sewing (interrupting periods of sitting with other activities, for example, and actually using a timer), even updating your measurements. Sewing your own garments keeps you aware of your true size and shape, and it is a motivator. Try to intersperse knits with wovens, and combine knits with wovens in the same garment for an interesting challenge.

  2. I always love your posts but this one is extra special. Thank you.
    I didn’t have a sewing machine till I was in my 30s and taught myself from books and then patternreview (there weren’t the amazing resources there are now, but on the other hand there were more fabric stores). I’ve learnt to sew what I want to wear and that knits are great. I too have put on weight and am still figuring out what to wear at my current weight, but being short and pear shaped at least I can sew loose tops that fit over my hips without having a neckline down to my bra. You are a constant inspiration on many levels. Thank you.

  3. Carolyn, amen and amen. There is nothing wrong with any of our bodies. But customizing and sewing our own clothes helps make wearing them much more comfortable.
    Right now I practically live in "soft" pants and shorts. Painful healing pelvic fractures means no tight crotches. A knee brace means no tight pants legs, either. Can't buy this stuff in RTW, so yeah for sewing as self-care.
    Carolyn, thank you so all your blogs. You are very appreciated!

  4. Girl, I love you! You give me the confidence to keep on sewing for the body I have rather than the body I used to have! Thank you!💗

  5. quilter_beth@yahoo.comSeptember 02, 2022 4:49 PM

    When I found your blog I read every single post on it and found you as my inspiration. I am a plus size senior now and was taught as you were about line and dressing to enhance positives and conceal not so perfect parts. I wish more sewists still followed that tradition. It really hurts my heart to see plus size women look just awful when they try to copy styles and fabrics that only look good on tall, thin women. I hope you continue to use your voice and platform to talk about styling for us larger women. You are my inspiration and my hero.

  6. Once again, we can count on you to tell it like it is. I'm still figuring out what shape I am these days--so many changes I hardly recognize myself. Elle

  7. Dear Carolyn, I love this, I greatly admire your body confidence. You look amazing.

    I have daily battles with the way I perceive myself to look and I can learn a lot from you and the acceptance of the natural changes to our bodies


  8. definitely food for thought!
    thanks for writing with such openness!
    my answer will be ramblings as it comes to my mind: I sew for the body I have, which for me means accentuating my waist (I'm an hourglass) and taking attention from my postpartum belly (loose skin). I'm experimenting with my style to see what feels like *me*.

  9. So good! My body has changed more in the last four years than in the twenty before that, and I’m still figuring it out and figuring out how I want to dress it. This has taken away at least some of my sewing happiness—but I’m fighting to get it back. I still need clothes, and I’d still rather have them fit the way I like. As always, you’re an inspiration!

  10. Carolyn, I am so glad for seamstresses like you. You are honest and funny at the same time. When you posted that self drafted skirt outfit. you looked so nice. Your waist came out of hiding . keep up the Good Work you're doing! I look forward to your posts.

  11. Go! Thanks for this.

  12. Since I got ill at 25 my body has gone from slim to skinny to bloated and back again several times. Now I'm 62 and it seems my size is all over the place. Pleased that lately I felt well enough to start sewing again. A good fit on an old body is still better than a bad fit on a young one.

  13. I can relate , a lot of people tell me I'm not big but to me I am. I used to weigh 118 just ten years ago now I weigh 160 , so that's big for me. My feet also swell , my waist is round. I wish I had your sewing skills , I can sew some but don't have the confidence to try garments. I can hem a mean pair of jeans and they look professionally done. Keep doing what works for you and have a blessed week.

  14. Not anonymous here, just Robin. Such a dynamite post! I am reading often in the last decade or so about young women in volumes getting into sewing for themselves and also to see themselves though pregnancies, for their changed bodies afterwards and their children as they grow. Also grandmas making for their grands. Discussing the challenges and how-tos is a natural online topic and wonderful to see. Wish we could see more men picking up the thread and needle, and kudos to those bros who have assumed a place alongside their sister sewists.

    Thanks for your honesty about your particular journey. You and I are close in age and became young professionals when yes, the focus was entirely on minimizing flaws and projecting competency above all else in our professional lives. It’s been good to see the changes away from body shaming.

    Your post is so important - it really explains why I follow your blog. You really hit the nail on the head - we all have our own paths, and find commonality not in the shapes of our bodies but how we adapt to those changing shapes. It also accounts for why I don’t bother with most other social media. I am not looking for a reflection of myself, but the kind of discussion you generate with so many of your musings. Thanks for what you do, and keep posting!

  15. I sew from the "other end of the universe" - I am short, small, and made moreso by chronic illness and nasty meds. But at my age, what I do have has shifted, and I have "Grammy arms" as well as surgical scars that I choose not to flash around. As a lifelong sewist, I am also PICKY about fit - hence I still sew. I also find myself expanding my repetoire - dyeing natural fibers, embellishing, trying to copy RTW features but on a scale that flatters me.
    And accessibility...I am really liking easy fit, but also find zippers and snaps can be really handy.

  16. Oh, my, has my body changed! In my teens and for a long time later it was a Dolly Pardonesque hourglass. Nothing in a store fit me, nothing. I was forced to sew, making coats and everything else I could through those critical teens. As much as I wanted to be like the rest of the girls, the designs just didn't fit my bodacious booty and tiny waist. I can't remember when I wore my first pair of jeans. Thirties, maybe? They just didn't fit me. After childbirth I really didn't change much. I always carried and extra ten/fifteen but that was fine with me, still the hourglass. I worked out as time moved on and it just got harder, not smaller. Not much changed until post meno but not because of post meno. I started having unrelated to meno health issues. Who knows why? Doctors, medications, nothing really helped but eventually I met with a great neurologist and he explained I was misdiagnosed all those years and on the wrong meds. He fixed me up and changed my life. So much better as far as all that nasty pain. Drawback? Weight loss. I am still on the meds and can't go without them and don't really want to but I eat more than I want to deliberatley to keep my weight up and have to remind myself to do so. I still have a much thinner and less curvy body. It's much easier to fit but I am still very short, very narrow in the torso and wide boned in the hips so that has not changed. That is where I am now. I have to measure every pattern as my weight can fluctuate a bit but on a very short person that can make a big difference. I always think of my dear friend who is 5'11". If she gains or loses twenty pounds you can't even tell. If I gain or lose five pounds I have to adjust my patterns.So that is where I am with fit. I can find retail that fits better but I can' find retail that is in my size, very little being in 2s and 4s. That's OK. I love making what I need. Like you, I have learned to love the body I have and more than that, I love making clothing for it. I went to an event today and got more compliments on my top that I painted and made. This is why I sew. It is such a joy. Great post, Carolyn.

  17. I totally relate to your post! I am in the same stage of life and sewing journey. I totally understand about your ankles-- it's getting difficult to find shoes; I'm trying to decide if I want pants or maxi dresses! You know the new style is "Coastal Grandma" -- I really don't think the fashionistas want the real consequences behind the look.....

  18. Yes,yes, yes. I agree totally. It's only since COVID that I have truly stopped long enough to take in my size and body outline. It is good to know I am not alone. COVID made me retire (In my 70's and otherwise I probably would still be working, at a job I got for fun - in a fabric store) and slow down. I read your Blog and and inspired regularly by it. Now a days I am quilting, not sewing for myself , I have more than enough clothes to wear.

  19. I have been thinking about this topic since I read your blog. I haven't worn sleeveless tops since I was about 40. ( I'm 75 now). This is because we live in Colorado and are more prone to skin cancer because we get more radiation than at sea level, and my shoulders would frequently burn even though I tried to use sun screen. I do not like to feel sleeves hit my wrist when I flex it, so I make my long sleeve blouses shorter than is 'fashionable'. I also find it annoying when a short sleeve touches my lower arm when I flex it, so I also adjust them.
    Thanks to Mrs. Mole's recent fitting blog posts, I've realized that my right shoulder is more sloping than my left because of carrying shoulder bags all these years. It explains the perplexing problem I've had when sleeves just don't look and feel right. Carol in Boulder

  20. Amen. Amen. Amen . Sew for yourself and not the world

  21. I miss reading your blog posts. I am trying to start sewing again and you have really inspired me.

  22. I put weight on when I retired, I was leading the good life. I got to 70 and realised I was creeping up to 210lbs so I got a plan, I was too old for a proper diet. What I did cut out was the thing I had every day, scone filled with jam and cream and exchanged for a yoghurt, plus never ate after 6 in the evening It was slow, five years slow to 2021 when I was around 152lbs sorted by a couple of months of bad indigestion and not able to eat much. Taught me to chew food more, and now I'm 126lbs. I don't have to cover my hips any more but what I'd sewn didn't fit, so slowly I've altered as I've moved and had an excuse to buy more fabric. I have Lupus and asthma so not totally fit but the reduced weight must help and avoid other 'older person' ailments. I enjoy decorating and can still climb a ladder. It wasn't a quick diet but it made it more palatable when even a slight movement down put a smile on my face. I wouldn't say it's made me any different but I don't want to lose any more and become a bony old broad.


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