In the past year, there’s been lots of discussion about inclusivity in the sewing community. Opinions have been voiced about the lack of representation of people who are older, non-white, fatter, non-gender standard and disabled makers modelling the promotional material of sewing pattern designers – both by independents and by the larger established companies. People like you and I perhaps? And rightly so. It’s a canny approach not to disregard anyone and promote a product to appeal to everyone, that makes good business sense after all does it not?
If you don’t fit into any of the underrepresented groups as mentioned above then maybe you haven’t given it much thought because why would you have to? That is unless you become aware that lots of people in your sewing community across the world aren’t too happy about it.
So I’ve seen changes in promotional material, in more varied pattern release photographs with different types of models, and am happy to see that some pattern designers have even extended their size ranges to make them available to all. Unfortunately though, these companies are few and far between and a 22 is where many draw the line in the sand at for a size extension.
If you are a pattern designer you then have the experience to grade a pattern up am I right? I’ve read that some of you are struggling with that process and aren’t happy with your designs in larger drafts. I appreciate that fitting for a larger body is more difficult but that’s where we the maker take over and we do the fitting ourselves. That’s standard for everybody. A grade up to give us a number to start with should suffice, we’ll do the rest. Please don’t exclude us. You have no idea how that feels. Some companies, for example Style Arc have a plethora of sizes to choose from as a given, they’re not labelled as plus, or curvy. Simple no nonsense choices, and they’ve been doing this for ages. There are others but they particularly spring to mind because I use their patterns, they give me a number and I like them so they can have my money.
If I am older, I can still sew a pattern despite my age just as long as I can fit into the pattern lines. The same applies if I am any of the other descriptors that some of us fall within as mentioned before. However, if I am not given a number, a line to fit into from the start regardless of it having a picture of someone like me on the front or not, then I can’t. It’s as simple as that. I wonder if designers are overly worried about the fitting? Forget about it, a grade up is better than nothing and I would rather fit to it than have nothing to fit to. All bodies are different and as sewists that’s what’s expected of us the maker – to make it fit. Dated fashion ideals and stereotypes are old hat, it’s time to move forward. Just make all your patterns with loads of sizes, please. Smaller too, even better. It’s only a few extra lines. If we are short or if we are tall we get a lengthen/shorten line at least on a pattern so that we can work with it. But outside of the margins, we’ve got nothing. Please embrace the margins and use up the space.
However, despite the pledges of some to not exclude and big announcements of pipeline plans greeted by our rapturous applause, these changes just aren’t happening. I’ve personally contacted some pattern companies whose designs I’d love to make who have said they have no plans at all to extend the size range. Then some who do but maybe at some point in the future – talk about sitting on the fence. Sometimes, in certain circumstances one must call to action to help change things and the only way I can see this happening is that if those of you who fit into a line or a number stop promoting those companies that don’t. You could actually help. I’m not for a moment suggesting stopping making them but perhaps you could stop posting on social media such as Instagram and YouTube your limited size creations that many of us can’t make? To get a message across. I know you don’t realise it but you are condoning the lack of inclusion by your postings. Nothing can change if we leave it as it is. Only a small percentage of designers will go to the trouble and the rest of them will give it lip service and then let it slide because it doesn’t affect business so they don’t have to. Promotion of non-inclusion perpetuates lack of change. It’s actually rather insidious, whether you are aware of it or not. I was involved in a discussion about lack of options in the majority of sewing books yesterday with a fellow non-numbered maker and it struck me that plus size sewing is commonly considered niche. It was pointed out that extended sizes for bigger bodies is somewhat of an add-on and an after thought. Also that no-one’s cornered the plus-sized sewing book market yet. I personally don’t think there should be a segregationist approach to sizing but that’s just a personal preference as I think it’s a big ask for a single designer to cater for the widely differing tastes of any maker based on proportion. I’m thinking primarily here of Cashmerette. We are part of the whole market, not sitting out the dance on the sidelines in a huddle, you too could be us in the future. We aren’t considered and passivity over the issue just isn’t effective. The sooner we don’t see our external descriptors as differences, that we are all the same, it would solve a lot of problems. Not just in inclusivity in the sewing community but in general. One product with lots of options. Design is niche and perhaps should always be but sizing is compartmentalised and definitely shouldn’t be.
We are not a niche group, we are your everyday makers and there’s a shitload of us who don’t get to join in with certain sewing challenges for example. Those of you who vlog about new sewing pattern releases, you might as well be talking to the wall because we can’t make them and we’ve just wasted bandwidth on having it drummed into us yet again that we don’t fit. Let me tell you this, you don’t fit us! You aren’t catering for inclusivity but promoting marginalisation. We keep a lid on it mostly and keep quiet, occasionally one of us will have had enough and mention it and perhaps come across as angry about it. Well I suppose we are because if it wasn’t an issue then we wouldn’t have to keep trying to speak up and keep saying the same thing over and over. It does fall mostly on deaf ears though in a fast paced world where talk is cheap and words speak louder than actions.
It wouldn’t be morally right to say, you can’t come in here because you’re too big or small, to a party that you can’t participate in. I say too that’s it’s not cool for a bystander to facilitate it either. I ask you to understand that by inadvertent promotion of size restricted patterns and by not considering the wider picture it leaves a lot of us disenfranchised, demotivated and disconnected as a consequence and it’s everyone’s responsibility as a community to ensure that all fellow makers can join that party too.