A Wonk, A Curve, A Crook Or A Twist?

Fitting CollageWhat makes a body normal, anyway? I’ve been thinking about this quite a lot as I assess my own changes over the years. Did I always have wonky shoulders? When did I acquire that deep groove in the shoulder that’s spent a lifetime lugging heavy tote bags around? At which point exactly did I stop caring about a post-op scar that I once thought had ruined my life? And on which holiday did I finally bid farewell to the bikini? I can’t recall.

Sewing doesn’t supply neat answers to unanswerable questions, but it does supply solutions. Wonky shoulders? Tweak your seam line. Narrow upper chest? Pin out a dart. Too tall for the high street? Sew your own. Too small for the high street? Sew your own. Too startlingly original for the high street? You get the idea.

Sewing teaches us that there is no normal. Sewing spits in the eye of normal. Can you remember the first time you stepped out of your home in a dress you’d made and didn’t feel self-conscious? That’s when you said goodbye to normal and allowed your body to just be.

I shan’t go so far as to say I love my wonky shoulders, but at least now I understand them. (Poor, misunderstood wonky shoulders! Can you forgive me all the years when I failed to understand why one bra strap kept slipping off?)

Do you have a wonk, a curve, a crook or a twist? What is your body quirk? And has sewing helped you love it?

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49 Responses to A Wonk, A Curve, A Crook Or A Twist?

  1. Aahhhh, I can’t wait to get to the sewing prowess that will allow me to fit like that. Yayy for the sewing community that is helping this 46 year old beginner become a dressmaker! And thank you so much for the inspiration.

  2. barbarags says:

    Even if you do not have a body quirk, and I have plenty!, sewing means you can have what you want. Have the style you want with the features you want and use the time you used to spend trawling around shops,trying on clothes that were too short, didn’t have sleeves[ there is a age when these become pretty essential), were not the right colour for you and so on, in gaining greater skill at your sewing machine. In just a few years the sewing community has grown enormously. And there is so much help out there in terms of lessons, in person and on line, and encouraging fellow sewers. Conquer your crook and produce something unique at the same time.

  3. Mags says:

    I have a high waist and couldn’t understand why trousers never fit. I just made jeans which fit For the first time (as my pledge!), still struggling a bit with fitting trousers though. Still haven’t learnt to love my tummy though!

  4. Thea says:

    I have disproportionately broad shoulders. Wearing blouses drives me up the wall in minutes because they never fit if they have sleeves, and I can’t move. Jumpers – can be ok, but depends. But I can now sew my own tops that fit. It’s such a relief to be able to move. And at some point, I will tackle blouses and see if I like wearing them when they fit well 🙂 Now I can fit them into clothes, I like my shoulders a lot more – they’re great shoulders, they’re pretty strong from sports, but if they’re the reason nothing fits properly, you get a bit frustrated with them. Hoorah for sewing and broad shoulder adjustments!

  5. Emily Kate says:

    I discovered in an ultimate trousers class a couple of weeks ago, that my left leg is fatter than my right. By quite a bit too, seam allowance is about 1cm different. I never noticed before, but now I understand why my jeans always develop holes on the left side first! And now I have a perfect fitting pair of trousers.

  6. I think sewing teaches you that nothing fits anyone out of the packet. When I go through my list of fitting changes (2″ extra length in bodice and skirt, 1″fba, square shoulders, more room at waist, don’t get me started on trousers!) It makes me feel like my body is weird. But then you realise everyone else does the same sort of changes to get a good fit. So either no one is weird or we all are. Which makes it totally normal!

  7. Alex says:

    I have a disproportionately small waist and small back combined with hefty thighs and arms (I sound like a monster!)
    I’m hoping I will learn to accomodate these and end up with one hell of a 60’s time capsule wardrobe.

  8. Hila says:

    Sewing has liberated me from the notion that my bum is too small, shoulders too broad, neck too short, tummy not abs-y, legs not long enough etc. All the things I foolishly swallowed from commercials and ads. My sense of inadequacy diminished as my self esteem grew and continues to to grow. Love my body as is now. Only took over 30 years!

  9. Ingrid says:

    Lovely post. I am definitely too tall for the high street.. Also I love the idea behind making custom made clothes, as it means that you don’t have to think ‘no jeans fit me properly therefore there must be something wrong with my body’. The focus becomes on making clothes that fit perfect. And through that process you realise that it’s the high street that’s wrong 🙂

  10. Colleen says:

    It was only thorough making my own clothes I discovered that my back is narrower than average, even though I had always thought that I had broad shoulders. could that be from all of those years of my mum telling me not slouch?

  11. I have a long way to go on the fitting front. I have noticed that bloggers will often mention a hollow chest or some other quirk and I’ve no idea if these things apply to me. However, I do now know that one leg is shorter than the other, thanks to a recent chiropractor visit!

  12. What a lovely, life affirming post and comments! I learned to sew when my entire body was a problem called “teenager who only fitted nana clothes.” Now when I could buy clothes as the upper size limits on RTW have increased in both senses, they are nevertheless cut mostly for women with racks and not much butt, so things hang on me like sacks. That’s ok – I can make a garment faster than I can shop for one anyway 🙂

    • PS love the title, two songs came into my head – from Cabaret the line, A mark, a yen a buck or a crown” (from Money) and, “A pot, a pan, a broom a hat” from Anatevka, Fiddler on the Roof. Very lyrical!

  13. racurac2 says:

    This is me: short torso, big boobs, wonky shoulders (I discovered this like 20 years ago, since then I only use backpacks). My daughter has scoliosis so I have to adjust her back. But I love sewing for us, is the only way to have a nice coat!

  14. lisa g says:

    Oh yes, many quirks here too! I’m 5’8″, but have to make petite adjustments for my upper body, and lengthen everything from the waist down, and for my long arms. Before sewing I didn’t have a single long sleeve shirt or coat/jacket that actually had long enough sleeves. Thank goodness I can make it all myself now!

  15. sew2pro says:

    I have a pouch in my left saddlebag, a vestige of having been a large teenager.

    But I refuse to feel anything but satisfied with my everything now and am determined to wear a two-piece to the beach till my 70s, as my grandmother did.

    • Sheree says:

      Absolutely agree with not being pressurised into feeling you can’t wear a bikini after a certain age. I have just got back from Portugal, a place I go to a lot. Every single woman on the beach, regardless of size and age, wears a bikini. Nobody cares, they are all just enjoying the sun on their bodies.

  16. Hear hear to all of that! I am the ‘too tall’. From the age of 11, back in the 1960s, my sleeves were always too short and my jeans annoyingly half mast. So at just scraping the six foot mark I started to make my own clothes – lots of hippy cheesecloth at the time, which was quite forgiving to the amateurish sewer. I made loads of mistakes, learnt a lot on a machine that only did straight stitch and fell in love with sewing. Your post has inspired me – now perhaps I should deal with the dropped shoulder (also mild scoliosis) which I’ve always ignored!

  17. Ha, a great post! I have only started to feel confident in my body since sewing my own garments. I always have to adjust the fit across my back shoulders (apparently I stand too straight!) and often need a sway back adjustment too. I also have to adjust the fit around my hips as I am a typical pear and have a small waist. Hooray for different body shapes, life would be dull if we were all the same and where is the challenge in that?! 😉

  18. Jen (NY) says:

    Me: FBA + short-waisted. Learning to make these adjustments was a revelation. I knew this already, but what it means is that my body defines the clothes, not that my body is defined by clothes.

    One pet peeve about patterns though–so many people (me included) need to do a so-called sway back adjustment, I think that it should be incorporated into the “standard” form.

  19. LinB says:

    Long torso, deep rise, short legs — and now that I have joined the ranks of Women of a Certain Age, my slowly compressing spine means a very round stomach and belly. Thin thighs (how did THAT happen?) and a relatively large waist (thanks, round stomach and belly) mean that RTW trousers fit really oddly, right off the rack. Alterations are to be expected, people, not avoided.

    These are body oddities, not flaws. They are deviations from an imaginary imaginary imaginary standard. The puzzle of fitting to the oddities so that I look “normal” in public is part of the fun of sewing my own clothes. A deep knowledge of how to fit from scratch means that altering RTW is do-able, and that I can tell right away if making alterations will be worth the trouble or not.

    • mrsmole says:

      I’m with you, Lin…all these things can and do happen with the aging process and knowing how to sew and alter is the key although once you know what great fit is…you can never be satisfied with RTW again without some tweaking! Shoulder pads and a great minimizer bra and tight underpants make a world of difference under my clothes!

      • LinB says:

        I’d save all the shoulder pads I cut out to accommodate my square shoulders, and post them to you at the end of the year, except I have finally trained myself to let them go to Shoulder Pad Heaven! (When was I ever going to re-use 52 pairs of shoulder pads? They were too oddly shaped to use as pillow filler, and the cat won’t wear the hat I made him out of one really fancy pad.)

  20. Lots of body love going on in the Suga Puddin’ sphere. We’re just trying to figure out how to adjust our home sewns, so they fit well. Interestingly, even when we have less than perfect fit, we still feel more pride and confidence when wearing something we’ve made ourselves. The perspective shift from seeing deficient body areas (e.g., thighs too big, causing fabric to pull, or hips uneven causing hem to skew) to seeing fabric in need of manipulation… That has been like a beautiful dawn.

    • Katrin says:

      I am with you here. When I started sewing 18 months ago, I just wanted to learn to shorten my trousers. Now I love choosing patterns and fabrics and creating something. And once I am wearing it, I walk so much straighter.

  21. norma says:

    I have one leg much shorter than the other – can’t tell once the trousers are hemmed to suit me.

  22. Pingback: sewing, sorting, & baking | Curls n Skirls

  23. Since I started sewing clothes to fit me. My body image has improved drastically. I used to get fed up and a tad depressed when I couldn’t find clothes to fit. Now I just make them, of adjust second hand ones. I have my own sense of style and my clothes are better made than most what’s on the high street anyway.

  24. Jess C says:

    Hehe. This made me smile. I sew because of my lovely quirks. I have long legs, long arms, a very short body and a high waist, plus disproportionately broad shoulders. This makes off-the-peg clothes fit very badly even in a long length. But I do love to sew. Even when I have to add 7″ to a sleeve to make it fit!

    • Tanit-Isis says:

      Oh, this is me! Well, my shoulders are probably average, but the rest! I still remember the sheer feeling of relaxation when I made my first successful pair of jeans—all of a sudden, I no longer had to dread that next perilous trek in search of a pair that would fit (while still being long enough), nor the hefty price tag that always went along with it.

  25. Sewing sizes are so different to RTW sizes, that it really makes me reconsider the ‘meaning’ of any size as normal. I love the fact that sewing forces you to concentrate on fitting your own shape, not some imaginary ‘ideal’ one 🙂

  26. That is why I make my own clothes. I am short in the waist so shop bought clothes have the narrowest waist part on my widest hip part. I always use lengthen and shorten here on the body sections. Who wants to be normal anyway??? Jo x

  27. Ava says:

    Hi, I’m just learning to sew my own clothes and reading all these comments gives me hope that with a bit of practice and some determination I will achieve my goal of sewing my own wardrobe. I have a large bust, sway back, short waist and long body rise with short legs. I can never seem to get it right. Thanks everyone for the inspiration. Ava xx

  28. ellegeemakes says:

    I have a short waist that’s hardly a waist at all, a flat chest and narrow shoulders and, unlike RTW, sewing makes those things no big deal! Great post…So nice to be reminded we all have unique shapes.

  29. Maggie says:

    I am over 6 ft tall and plus sized, but since my mom made all my clothes when I was a kid, I did not realize what an issue it would be to try to buy clothes. I recently got back to sewing for myself, after many years of trying to buy, and it is nice to have perfect fit through the shoulders and not always have to tug at a too short top.

  30. Stina P says:

    So true! When fitting something I make, it’s just “take in here, take out there, raise there” while trying on RTW I start wondering why my body just can’t fit. It’s easier to fit the clothes than the body… 🙂

  31. I have the same shoulder asymmetry – my right sits a centimetre lower than my left thanks to carrying a heavy shoulder bag all through high school. Took me ages to figure out why my top patterns had an odd flap of extra fabric on one side and not the other!

    It has been a series of progressive revelations learning how to fit my personal body and in the process re-learning what good fit *is*. The first pair of trousers I made that actually fit me properly at all points (small waist, big hips, sway back, short legs) were an absolute revelation.

  32. I think making your own clothes really helps you to learn about your own body and then treat it to something made especially for it! It’s such a lovely feeling when you make something and it sits in all the right places – a near impossible experience when buying ready-to-wear.

  33. I am really short, clothes always swamped me so I bought children’s clothes. Then I had three children and developed a large tummy bigger than it should be now nothing RTW fits unless I buy seperates. That’s why I sew.

  34. symondezyn says:

    Only ONE wonk? well I would consider myself pretty lucky if that were the case! LOL – I have MANY wonks ^__^
    I never thought it would be possible, but I’m closing in on a month away from my wedding, and even though I could stand to lose 5 or 10 lbs, I decided to give myself a break. No one needs me angsty and starving in addition to the stress of preparing for a wedding. Sewing my own dress means I don’t have to contort myself into a too-short, pre-made dress created for someone with totally different proportions, and it means I can feel beautiful walking to meet my husband to be, in a dress I designed exactly how I wanted it, just exactly as I am ^_^

  35. So many fitting things still need to be figured out but, the FBA has been awesome and have come to realize that my arms are long. This post helped me realize that I too have a dropped shoulder or something similar. It’s the one I can’t carry a bag or purse on. My hips are probably uneven too as I can only carry a laundry basket on one, the other lets it slide off. Thanks for the inspiration and the realizations. I’ll have too look at those as I learn more fitting techniques.

  36. and your body changes! my breasts are not as perky as they used to be [thank you children!] my backwaist has gotten even shorter, i have more HERE and less THERE … even my neck has changed. i accept it.
    and then there is sewing for my aforementioned kids: as they have gone from infancy to toddler to youth to young lady/young man and now young adult, i am struck by the changes i see in my slopers that i never see with my eyes.

  37. I have sewn for models and beauty queens as well as for me and I can say hand-on-heart that everyone has hang-ups about their bodies, even (or maybe that should be especially) those who would be deemed “perfect” in the press. My body has changed so much but sewing has really made me accept it. After all, there is no denying what the tape measure says. Xx

  38. iknead2knit says:

    My shoulders are really, really narrow, so usually if something fits up top, there’s no way it’s going to fit down below. I’m very proud of myself today, I started sewing a few months ago and today I finished my first dress that actually fit! I altered the pattern to make it a size 6 at the top and a size 12 below! Never, ever thought I’d be able to do anything like that…

  39. With a full bust, short waist, long legs and 10/11″ difference between waist and hip shopping has often been a trial, especially for workwear. Being able to sew doesn’t make me any more forgiving of the half stone I could stand to lose, but I feel much more confident wearing something that doesn’t emphasise it, even if my fitting skills are still somewhat lacking.

  40. Oh, your post and these comments are so good. I’ve had a miserable relationship with my body all my life (even the body I’d LOVE to have again which I so disliked earlier on). New to sewing, and just learning to craft garments that will flatter my short legs and thick waist. I know it’s possible, and what a confidence booster it must be. I see women with my shape who look spectacular in clothes I’d not even imagined wearing. Not to mention the fact that your clothes are yours alone, no one walking toward you in the same outfit! Thank you for this!

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