The mystical lower workings of my overlocker.

For interest’s sake I want to list the costs of making some of my clothes. So take for example my recent black dress.

Fatina Plus pattern – USD$4
2m ponti (50% sale) – AUD$13

Cool so that’s easily quantifiable and given a $ value. A $17 dress! Bargain! But there’s also the matter of time and access to resources.

Resources:

  • Internet
  • Printer
  • Tracing paper
  • Sticky tape
  • Sewing machine
  • Sewing skills
  • Energy
  • Ability
  • Suitable fabric
  • Sundry sewing supplies

Time:

  • Print pattern and sticky tape it together – 30 minutes
  • Trace pattern and make sizing adjustments – 30 minutes
  • Dart to princess seam conversion, cap sleeves, side panel slash – 30 minutes
  • Cut pattern, pin to fabric, mark seam allowances, cut fabric – 30-60 minutes
  • Construction – 1-2 hours
  • Pressing – 30 minutes
  • Fitting – 30 minutes
  • Adjustments – 30 minutes
  • Battling with glitchy machine – 1 hr
  • Hems and finishing – 30-60 minutes
  • Final pressing – 30 minutes

I’m a pretty competent sewer and cut corners here and there, i.e.: I rarely baste things except when inserting a zip or gathering/ easing fabric. I have no idea how to assign a dollar value to my time but that dress took around 6 hours to make. Maybe more. I can’t remember.

A less experienced sewer might spend double the time working on this dress, even more if they follow the often confusing instructions that come with patterns (and they all love telling you to baste ridiculous shit like darts.) Someone with restricted time and ability could be working on this dress for longer than a week. I didn’t make a mock up of this dress (a muslin) but I have with more complex patterns. That’s extra time and material!

It really chafes my bits when people are smart arses and suggest “oh sew your own clothes” to criticisms fat people have about the clothing they’ve got access to. It’s not a skill everyone has, it’s not an activity everyone has the time to do or the physical or mental ability to carry out without barriers.

Sketches of clothes I want to sew for myself including a button down skater skirt, a slip dress and tapered pants.


I am very privileged to have an interest in sewing that has been developed by attending a high school that taught me how to do it, and to have a family that has nurtured my sewing. My mother bought me my sewing machine, my Nana gave me her sewing cabinet, and recently my Granma gave me her sewing machine, overlocker, lots of fabric and another sewing cabinet! I am truly fortunate.

For many people though, they don’t have access to the skills and resources I have access to. When it comes to clothing for fat people, it’s slim pickings and many affordable clothes are produced overseas, sometimes in factories that have poor working conditions. Domestically produced garments, especially in Australia, are way too cost prohibitive for me. It’s a situation fraught with the tension of guilt vs class with the added bonus of being too fat to get an actual choice.

Sewing is political. It’s something I enjoy, and a skill I use to make the things I don’t get an opportunity to purchase in stores. It’s not especially cheap, especially when it comes down to time, but it can save cash money. I would never sew as a job because the honest truth is that most people can not or will not pay the true cost of a hand made garment, but then again… we’ve all got to wear clothes as per our unspoken agreement with society, so what are we to wear if we can’t pay domestic designers and machinists? Criticising and shaming poor fat people for wearing cheap clothing produced in questionable (and often outright awful) working conditions is futile because there are few other options, and telling poor fat people the last resort is to sew their own clothes is flat out bullshit.

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  • http://tutusandtinyhats.wordpress.com/ Laura


    Criticising and shaming poor fat people for wearing cheap clothing produced in questionable (and often outright awful) working conditions is futile because there are few other options, and telling poor fat people the last resort is to sew their own clothes is flat out bullshit.

    Yes! This is so true. Sometimes I wish I knew how to sew, because I have so many ideas for recycling old clothing that doesn’t fit into new garments, or making skirts out of cool fabric like Rainbow Brite and My Little Pony sheets. But then I think about the work and time involved, and my general lack of interest in sewing–I admire people who do it, but it just doesn’t appeal to me. It’s definitely not a replacement for having a reasonable selection of clothing available in stores!

  • Beth Vechey

    My mother could sew like nobodies business. I, however sadly, did not learn how to sew from her before she passed away. On top of missing her, I still occasionally kick myself that I didn’t bother to try and learn to sew. Partly in my defense, I was only a kid but if I had learned then, I would be able to make my clothes instead of trying to figure out what orifice I was going to try and pull non existent funds from to buy clothes when I really needed them. 

  • http://www.high-socks.blogspot.com/ kristin

    yes yes yes! i was cheering on every paragraph here in my head.  Sewing is a skill that takes a lot of time and effort to learn, at least to do well.
    I took sewing in high school and for a few years in 4-H and I’m still pretty clueless about most aspects of it. 

    It always gets on my nerves when I put a call out for an item of clothing on the internets and someone says “oh you could probably make that it looks really easy” O REALLY? with the sewing machine I don’t own and the sewing skills I don’t have? I just want a damn black circle skirt for fall and I want to buy it with money.

    (the best time someone told me “you could just make that” was with this lover dress.  http://www.polyvore.com/cgi/img-thing?.out=jpg&size=l&tid=43108566 WHAT THE FUCK. you make it for me instead, how about)

  • http://www.definatalie.com definatalie

     OH that dress, yes it’s lovely but what makes it is the lace! You’d be hard pressed to find it in an average craft/fabric store and it’d likely be too expensive. And there’s so much of it!!!!

  • Rosebud0849

    I have been reading and loving your blog and your wonderful outfits. I battled for a while getting clothes to fit and then i found Lutterloh patterns, I was wondering if you have tried them.  I made some pants and they were a perfect fit without any problems, that is a first for me. You do have to draft the pattern, it is an easy way to do it. This is one of their sites.  Great for mixing the bits of one pattern with another, they all fit.  

  • Rosebud0849

    Oh forgot to give you the site for Lutterloh 
    http://www.lutterloh-system.com/new/curves/index2.html

  • http://www.facebook.com/jenniferwozniak01 Jennifer Wozniak

    I admire your ability to sew. I wish I could, but alas, I do not possess the knowledge and it takes time to acquire. 

  • @gussie_westward

    Just found your blog. Love it! Dam right sewing is political! I make clothes for me & my partner – we’re both plus size women, very different sizes & body shapes. 

  • http://twitter.com/wastedfashion Chloe Masada

    I think I might’ve said this before but you’re so clever!! I wish I could sew now. Lack of space (for a sewing machine) and lack of talent, for now. I’m inspired! I’ve got so much cute fabric stashed away I can’t wait to get my own place and get a machine to start sewing! Thanks for sharing!!! I look forward to these posts!

  • JJ

    Love this post!! I agree with everything you said.
    I have always wanted to be able to sew. My mother died before she could teach me, and now four years later I am feeling ready to learn on my own. I am really looking forward to gaining the skills to be able to make my own clothes (even if I just learn how to make an A-line or circle skirt, my wardrobe stuggles would seriously lessen), but it’s not without cost: sewing lesson are NOT CHEAP, I’ll have to buy a sewing machine and everything that goes along with that, and living in a cramped sharehouse means finding space to actually sew will be tricky!!

  • Przemo92

    Hi Natalie. I love you. I love your openess, honesty, being yourself. I found your blog thanks to some polish website (yes, i’m from poland- VERY untolerant country) in which i read about you. I’m fat (omg, i hate this word. ) too, and im so jealous, that you can be so strong. Soryy for my english :D i wish i were as openess as you, but in my country is very, very, hard. People like me are usually ridiculed, dont taken seriously. It’s so cruel. I hope that will be change. I hope.

  • http://twitter.com/puffette Jade

    Space is also a big issue! If you have a tiny living space, especially if you live with others, you might not have room for spreading out fabric etc.

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  • Auntie-Aku

    This is a great piece of writing! I, for myself, am not big in size, but my bodyshape is the type that can’t find clothes in store anyway (small waist and wiiiiide hips, so no dresses or trousers for me), and I often end up sewing my own clothes, even though fitting the patterns on my curved back can be a pain. Lucky for me, I have BA in fashion design.

    When it comes down to the cost — well, at school we were told a fashion designer should count their hourly pay to be approx. 40 euros (that’s around 50 US dollars) if we wish to make living. So, if it takes you 6 hrs to sew that dress, the price should be around 300 US$. Of course once the patterns are usable and things start to go smoothly (if one makes several similar pieces) the time is cut down — but the dress would still be worth way over 100 US$.

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