Browsing Tag


Fashion, sewing

“Just Make Your Own” – How Sewing Is Not A Panacea For RTW Fashion

3 September, 2016

When you are superfat your sewing pattern options are limited, just like in RTW clothing. It’s frustrating trying to find cute patterns but even more annoying when people tell me to just sew clothes myself because RTW clothes aren’t readily available in my size. Sewing people just tell me to “grade it up” if I ask about a pattern size being unavailable to me, but that takes ages and I get angry that I have to do it.

I made the Cashmerette Upton dress with some beautiful pink and purple floral fabric that has a chocolate background. I moved the gathers to the hip, and sewed in my own tag that says “Made By Natalie”.

Things I do when I sew my own clothes

  • More often than not I am grading up at least two sizes from the largest size (indie designer size 26 and big 4 size 32w). The pictured Upton dress has been graded up two sizes.
  • Forward and sloping shoulder alteration.
  • Full bust alteration.
  • Bust dart lowering.
  • Make the front hem longer to allow for my big belly.
  • Raise the waist line to allow for my high waist and belly comfort.
  • Large belly alteration.
  • Retrace the altered pattern for continued use.
  • A muslin always for each new pattern.
  • Enough ease to pull dresses over my head rather than use a zip I can’t reach.
  • Cotton lining to add comfort and fanciness.
  • For Nick I enlarge the collar, narrow the shoulders, shorten the sleeves and do a large belly alteration.
  • Add my own sewing label that makes me feel like I am wearing a beautiful garment I could have bought off the rack if such magical racks existed.

Sewing is a skill, fitting is a skill, pattern grading is a skill. I have taught myself these skills because I need to do it, but I also have the aptitude for sewing and the fairly dire need for clothing. Lots of superfat people do not have sewing skills or the time/ resources to acquire these skills. It’s unfair to tell them that their only option is sew their own clothes if RTW sizes are unavailable, and even if they do sew, the pattern sizing is similarly non-inclusive.

Here is Nick wearing a Simplicity 4975 shirt with short sleeves, made out of a gorgeous pink hibiscus on black background print. Miffy is an unwilling participant in this photo.

Here is Nick wearing a Simplicity 4975 shirt with short sleeves, made out of a gorgeous pink hibiscus on black background print. Miffy is an unwilling participant in this photo.

It’s not enough for me to just sew my own clothes. I need to do a number of pattern alterations to get a comfortable fit, because sewing my own clothes is not an alternative option if I’m just going to end up with too-small, ill-fitting clothes I can buy off the one or two racks available to me. The same fat-stigmatising nonsense goes on in sewing patterns that does in RTW fashion.


My birthday Jacaranda dress.

2 March, 2015
The Perkinses on christmas day 2014 with Miffy and our new adoptee Jess!

The Perkinses on christmas day 2014 with Miffy and our new adoptee Jess!

It’s taken me a long time to get photos of this dress! I sewed it up just in time to wear it on my birthday on the 20th of December and then I wore it again on Christmas Day. I’m sure I’ve worn it to other places as well, I’ve just been working and coping with a back injury and hypothyroidism for the last couple of months so all non-essential primping and posing had been shelved.

Last year I had radioactive iodine therapy for Graves disease and my thyroid levels have gone down as planned but I wasn’t prepared to feel so terrible. It’s been shocking, I can’t lie. Coupled with my back, I’ve been living in Struggle Town but thankfully I have Nick and a couple of adorable dogs to keep me going.

Jess the cavalier/ maltese cross wearing a tutu I made for her.

Jess the cavalier/ maltese cross wearing a tutu I made for her.

Yes, our dog population has doubled! We adopted an elderly dog called Jess from a lady who moved into a care home that didn’t allow dogs. We don’t really know how old she is but her previous owner estimated she was around 13 years old. Jess doesn’t know how to play which disappoints Miffy a little bit but she has been settling in bit by bit, and her favourite things are dinner time and sleeping under the kitchen table.

So, on to the business end of this post! I had been waiting for  Tenterhook Patterns to bring out the Jacaranda dress for ages, watching Amanda’s instagram and quietly pining away!

Whimsically modelling my Jacaranda dress, a sleeveless princess seamed bodice with a sweetheart neckline and a half circle knee length skirt.

Whimsically modelling my Jacaranda dress, a sleeveless princess seamed bodice with a sweetheart neckline and a half circle knee length skirt.

I made up size G and had to add a little width at the waist, as well as make my half circle skirt a little less… half circular due to the narrow width of the nice linen print I’ve had in my stash for about 8 years.

I lined it with some cotton voile because poly linings have zero business being in my life right now considering we’ve had one of the hottest summers ever in south-east Queensland. As much as I love how cool the linen and cotton combination is, ironing this dress is a beast. I thought I’d pressed it well before taking these photos but you can’t ignore those wrinkles up there.

The dress from behind features a zipper that isn't long enough because I never plan ahead.

The dress from behind; featuring a zipper that isn’t long enough because I never plan ahead.

Next time I make this I’m adding more width across the back and taking a wedge out of the neckline to narrow it down. I’m also going to try the pencil skirt variation, split it into panels and try to Frankenstein some sleeves. I have an idea to combine an amazing digital glitchy print double knit a lovely reader sent me with black scuba.

Looking a bit moony!

Looking a bit moony!

I’ve made a separates variation on this pattern that I’ll post tomorrow, and I’ve used the skirt pattern to make a 6 gore skirt. In the Jacaranda comfort meets whimsy at a perfect apex and I don’t hesitate to recommend this dress. I feel fabulous in it. Also it has pockets.


Tenterhook Patterns “Jacaranda dress” –  in a nutshell.



Changes made to pattern

  • Added width to waist.
  • Tapered half circle skirt from waist to hem to fit fabric width.


  • Plus size.
  • Based on a D cup.
  • Two skirt options.


  • I wish it had a sleeve variation.


Three tiaras

If you like my tiara you can get one like it on Fancy Lady Industries!


Fashion, sewing

Self-drafted spotty-dotty-stripy-pocket dress.

27 March, 2013

The rough sketch for the dress featuring wide gathered straps and wrap around pockets; and the front and back bodice as well as sleeve slopers on my patterned rug.

The rough sketch for the dress featuring wide gathered straps and wrap around pockets; and the front and back bodice as well as sleeve slopers on my patterned rug.

I’ve wanted to draft my own properly fitting sloper for a long time, and over the last five years I had a couple of good attempts but was always foiled by formulas that completely collapsed when you used larger measurements. Lots of people seem to use this bodice block method by gedwoods on BurdaStyle but I’ve tried it and a number of others like it and it always ended with a mighty weird looking block. My fat body seemed to explode every damn sloper method it came across.

Upon tracking down this front and back sloper method on I knew within ten minutes that I was on a winner! It took me a couple of hours to plot out all my measurements, then a further few days sewing up about five different muslins in order to tweak the fit (using Fit For Real People); but when I tried on that last muslin I broke out into fits of Elaine Benes-grade joyful dancing!

Inspired by this Modcloth dress, I came up with a design to suit me. The neckline and the wide straps could stay, but the gathered waist was banished in favour of an a-line skirt. I wanted to include pockets but felt like I could do better than simple patch pockets for this dress. One morning a copy of Metric Pattern Cutting for Women’s Wear mysteriously turned up at my place (thank YOU Poliana!) and after ecstatically thumbing the pages I came across some rad side pockets that wrapped around to the back skirt. Yep! Let’s do that!

Modelling my new handmade dress in navy polka dots with striped pocket lining at the hips.

Modelling my new handmade dress in navy polka dots with striped pocket lining at the hips.

The back of my polka dot dress.

The back of my polka dot dress.

For those who’ve experienced the joys and frustrations of the design process, we know that design outcomes very rarely turn out just exactly as they are conceived. It’s not actually a terrible thing, and often you can trip across beautiful solutions to the little problems that are posed across the process. It turned out that I didn’t have enough polka dot fabric to execute the pockets as planned, but I did find a navy striped material that would provide a smashing contrast at the hips.

I will be tweaking this pattern slightly – I will narrow the width of the neckline because the straps are set just a little too wide. I also need to remove a little fabric from the back bodice height because of my sway back. I could stand to bring in the waist a little but I’d rather be comfortable – this is a day dress just for wearing at home and doing little errands. It’s fully cotton and the bodice is lined (with the striped fabric!) so after a few washes I expect it to be soft and very easy to wear.

Hands on hips, looking very pleased with myself!

Hands on hips, looking very pleased with myself!

Pattern drafting is a skill I’ve long been mystified and entranced by. Taking the human body, a very complex set of bumps and curves, and mapping it in two dimensions is very cool to me. I love drawing, bringing lines and shapes together to make meaning, and pattern drafting is an extension of that. That I can take lines and shapes, transfer them to flat bits of fabric, then transform that flat fabric to garments that envelop my body and accompany me through periods of my life… it’s just a very profound thing to me.

And that’s the story of my spotty-dotty-stripy-pocket dress.
The End.

Body Image

An Unedited Rant About Looking Into Fatshion’s Navel.

11 November, 2012

Remember when I used to blog regularly? I had a lot to tell the world, a desire to be heard and seen. Writing to an audience was a novelty, a gentle fluffing of my ego after writing to no one in particular for most of my life. Hardly anyone was blogging in Australia, people wanted to talk to me, and I got opportunities to do exciting things even though I’m not the most fashionable or the most tactful or well spoken.

After being ignored by fashion all of my life, it felt empowering to be able to source and critique what little fashion was available to me. I spent what money I could on clothes and accessories, never wanting to fall behind other bloggers. As well as being fat, there were other things for me to deal with like mental illness and resultant joblessness. Maybe buying clothes wasn’t the best priority, but it made me feel good. I finally felt like I was part of a clique that lead, instead of followed (or got lost).

I never considered myself a 100% fatshion blogger, because I used too many words and got angry frequently, never fully being palatable enough for brands to consider sponsoring me. I was snubbed on many occasions, and this became more and more apparent as the number of Australian fatshion bloggers swelled. Newer, more congenial personalities were favoured, and I wasn’t surprised. I was categorised as too political, and fell back, feeling miffed but knowing that ultimately it was great that more fat people were speaking up.

Other things worked against me – ongoing mental health issues and hospitalisation kept me from blogging success. Blogging became about networking, personality and (frustratingly) looks. All the things I was terrible at. All the reasons why I felt so at home on the internet right from the beginning in the 90s. Due to my inability to form “relationships” with brands, I had to buy all the new clothes instead of being sent them. I couldn’t financially keep up with that, I didn’t make money out of my blog so it wasn’t worth that kind of investment. Even the advertising network I was part of stopped sending me opportunities and sponsorship offers, and the ones I did take up actually didn’t benefit me financially at all!

Clearly, many things about blogging were turning out to be much like the regular world I struggled to fit in with. Popular bloggers were white, less fat than me, certainly more conventionally attractive, and bought/ were gifted clothes frequently. Events in Australia for plus size fashion started occurring and were in “major” fashion hubs like Sydney or Melbourne, far away from Brisbane and the original Axis of Fat (a group of my friends and I based in Brisbane, among the first fat activist bloggers in Australia). Even when there were events closer to home, I could rarely bring myself to go due to now crippling social phobia.

The focus of fatshion blogs was fashion and consumption thereof, with rarely a critical lens applied. I began thinking more and more about capitalism and how it had tried to reject fat & fashionable people, but now shaped how people were seeing this emerging group of fatshion bloggers. The media requests that came into my email inbox were largely about fashion, and not about medical malpractice and neglect of fat people (which, I propose, is the actual killer in the so called “obesity epidemic”). The mainstream media had cottoned on to the fat activist movement in the blogosphere but only wanted to see us talk about fluffy topics, rather than bullying, harassment, abuse of human rights and denial of health care.

I don’t know why I seem to be talking in the past tense, because this is now. This is why I struggle to chit chat about whichever plus size brand is releasing poorly made, questionably fashionable, dubiously manufactured garments this season. I am angry at capitalist systems that not only abuse fat people for not looking good in clothes, or not providing fashionable clothes, but also make us feel some kind of imperative to spend above and beyond what we have to make up for our fat bodies. I’m angry that blogging is now just a new funnel for PR and marketing people, and most bloggers rarely get paid what mainstream media workers do for providing the same service. Being paid in clothing is NOT being paid in cash money.

I’m disillusioned with this whole fat blogging game. If I blog about clothes, readers will come. If I blog about politics, I am rarely engaged. Mostly, I struggle to put words together these days. I am on a lot of medication to function as neurotypically as possible (for me), and my ability to write and read has deteriorated. Remember when I was a blogger? Am I still a blogger if no one reads this stuff? If I don’t get free clothes? If I challenge dominant ideas? If I can’t afford to keep up? If I am sick, fat, and unattractive?


The eventual bull’s eye: Burda Style Dart Dress.

18 August, 2012

This has certainly turned into a sewing blog of late, and shall continue to be one for at least this post because I want to show you the fruits of my labour on the Burda Style Dart Dress. Firstly I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Kate for sharing this pattern with me, mwah mwah! Secondly, this is a pretty good pattern but I strongly advise sewing a muslin first because I had to grade the largest size up four sizes to EU 60 instead of my regular 56. I probably could have done with the 58 but more ease in garments is a bunch comfier!

Instagram collage of pattern pieces undergoing grading and the dart dress made in polka dot fabric.

Burda made this in a polka dot fabric which is so cute, but I couldn’t find anything besides rough-as digital print cotton at Lincraft (yeh I bought some what of it?) and I’d rather have something a bit nicer with more weight. The original pattern has 18 darts, so yes it is aptly named, but I eliminated the darts at the hem because on my muslins they restricted my ability to walk comfortably. That’s the beauty of a muslin too, you can edit the pattern to suit your body as well as the way you move.

I made two dresses from this pattern, the first was a wearable muslin made out of some brown gabardine I had metres and metres and metres of, and the second was made out of purple ponte. The ponte is super soft and easy to wear, probably not the best choice for the structure in the design but whatever!

Full length photo of me (fat, white, with short blonde hair) wearing a brown knee-length dress with a V neckline, cap sleeves and darts at the shoulder, neck and waist.

The back view of my brown dress, with darts on upper bodice and top of skirt meeting at the waist.

The purple dress, staring Miffy.

The back view of the purple dress. Miffy glares at the camera.

Miffy jumping up on my knees in a blur of cute.

I have a feeling this pattern will be used quite a bit because the darts can be sewn the other way around for a less ~darty~ dress, and the neckline darts can be taken out with a bit of nifty pattern altering. I’m very glad I ended up making three muslins (including the brown dress) in order to figure out the right size for me, because it’s a good basic pattern with scope for flexibility and adaptation.

Fashion, sewing

Another Fatina dress.

6 August, 2012

I’ve been sewing like a woman possessed by the ghost of a sewing machine lately! My Granma gave me her overlocker, machine and sewing cabinet along with a bunch of fabric so I haven’t really come up for air in the last fortnight. My initial priority was to sew EVERY stretch fabric into booty shorts and leggings but I’ve discovered how ridiculously expensive stretch fabric is so that project has been shelved.

The dress pattern pieces laid out, showing the side panels that are slashed diagonally at the waist.

Lincraft had a 50% off fabric sale so I scraped together some money to buy black ponte (and then went back to get some purple!) and made this dress based on the Burda Style Fatina plus pattern. I’d already cut a pair of leggings that were too small and got turned into short shorts, a second pair of leggings that were a little better (ugh I need to perfect the leggings pattern!) so there wasn’t much fabric left to work with. I decided to alter the pattern and converted the bust darts to princess seams, thus leaving me with three front panels that were much easier to accommodate on the fabric I had available. I also dropped the shoulder length for a little self-sleeve. Thanks to my home ec sewing classes and the internet for helping me out with the pattern adaptation skills!

The dress on a hanger turned inside out to show the seams overlocked in grey thread. The skirt is a lot less a-line shaped than this!

An outfit photo of me (fat and white with white hair) wearing a black sheath style dress with a sheer animal print button up blouse underneath, black tights, Docs and a human tooth necklace.

Some of the seams pucker a bit, I’m yet to figure out the best way to sew using an overlocker, but considering many off the rack clothes often have worse construction I’ll deal with it just fine. (I know people who are super picky about puckering seams but I’ve got more pressing things to worry about in my life, such as hastily sewing new clothes before my old ones fall apart.)

The back of my dress.

Ineffectually modeling my fake human teeth necklace. (Made out of paper clay and the dental records of my foes.)

The teeth necklace laid on a table. I’m thinking of selling these?

Another front view, with hands on hips.


One glittery foot on a rung, the other trailing.

15 March, 2012

Listen up! I am not going to feel bad about having a blog holiday, orright?! Sorry about the defensive opener, but yes, I have been away. No I haven’t been doing anything too exciting, in fact I’ve been focusing on looking after myself. Not in a frozen meal “looking after yourself” lifestyle brand way but in a meaningful, tender and reflective way. (Bossy Femme has an intro to self care if you want to chase some great links and subscribe to Iris’ fabbo new blog!)

Things have been rolling along, sometimes gently and other times with a few bumps, but generally we’re heading in a good direction here at Rancho Perko. I’m doing very well on my new medication, and not thinking/ worrying too much about the implications it has on a bipolar 2 diagnosis. My focus is getting my mentals functioning better. Some other things have popped up, like maybe being a Grown Up and taking a rung on the Property Ladder, but we’ll see how that plays out in the weeks to come. I’m being pretty cool and easy going about it but it’s actually bloody scary.

Photo of me from the waist up, smiling dorkishly, wearing an animal print shirt over a beige singlet.

Anyway, I have been wearing clothes all this time but haven’t really been motivated to document them. It’s hard when you don’t have new clothes/ energy/ inspiration and you see all the fatshion bloggers around you doing the whole outfit thing so much better. I prefer just to document and represent instead of compete, but I have been feeling like quitting the outfit photo deal all together. Instead of being all or nothing, I’m going to make peace with documenting and representing when I am moved to do it, without obligation.

Outfit photo of me, fat white and lilac haired, wearing an animal print shirt tied at my waist with a beige singlet underneath, and a black mesh skirt over a shorter black skirt. Also: GLITTER SHOES.

My feet modeling a pair of multicolour glittery oxfords with red laces.

These shoes basically told me to document them. They were lovingly made by a label called Golden Ponies, and if you’ve got large wide feet prepare to weep glittery tears of joy because you can be shod in these babies too! I requested their widest width (4 inches) and a UK 8, and my shoes fit perfectly. They’re comfortable and have a cute sole too (but of course I forgot to photograph them). DO be prepared to wait up to 2 months to get your shoes in the mail, because they are individually hand made to order and I think they’re absolutely worth it.

Shirt: ebay
Singlet: Kmart
Mesh skirt and short skirt: Made by me
Shoes: Golden Ponies


Just call me Casual Perkins.

27 November, 2011

I love seeing casual outfits on bloggers. I don’t mean “oh I just slipped on these really expensive wedges and woops everything coordinates perfectly and how convenient it is that I have a full face of make up and perfect hair” kind of outfits. That’s not casual for me. My brand of casual is an outfit you can roll around on the floor with your pet in, an outfit you put on to answer the door when the postie comes, or something you wear while washing the dishes.

A photo of Miffy and I standing on a groyne at the beach. I'm wearing a black singlet under a cream crochet top with denim shorts and I'm holding an orange bag.

Even as I write this, I’m thinking this outfit is a little TOO dressed up because I’m wearing that crochet top, shoes and a bra. It goes to show that even though I really really want to show realism, there are little extra lengths I will go to when going outside and/ or posting photos to this blog. Do I show you photos of me wearing a daggy dress with no bra? Nope! Why? I guess because, for me personally, I already feel disadvantaged by not being a conventionally attractive blogger type so what I post is really just the cream skimmed off the surface in my sartorial life. That might be true even for the conventionally attractive blogger types too!

One day, I promise to show you what I really wear on a day to day basis. A singlet and a skirt, bed hair, no bra and no make up. There’s this belief that fashion is aspirational, that is, that the types of people excluded from participating in fashion and being represented in magazines, on tv, through blogs, etc, aren’t the type of people most people want to look like. And the only thing that sells clothes is the idea that maybe, just maybe, we could look just like the type of person we aren’t. However, I know just through blogging that even us purportedly unaspirational fat people can get units shifted; that is, I know plus size bloggers are called upon by retailers more than ever to wear their clothes on their blogs so that readers will buy more clothes.

So what if I want to know where to buy casual clothes, nighties, undies and what not? And what if I want to see people like me who don’t have a load of money to spend on glamorous pseudo-casual clothes (and don’t get the “giftage” from retailers!) These are totally unfleshed out thoughts, but I’m sure somewhere in here is a middle finger aimed in the general direction of the fashion industry, popular blogging practices, the beauty ideal and capitalism. So just pretend I wrote something very smart and concise along those lines, and enjoy these photos of our day at the beach.

A photo of Miffy standing on a big rock with her tongue hanging out and licking her nose.

A photo of Nick holding Miffy as the wind sweeps her ears back.

A photo of me looking down, the crochet top I'm wearing is clearer in this photo than the first one and it has a big crochet flower on the front of it.

A photo of Miffy sniffing the ground with my legs walking behind her.

Singlet: Yours Clothing
Crochet top: Yours Clothing
Shorts: Best & Less
Shoes: Grasshoppers
Necklace: Made by me
Bag: Made by my neighbour


The Cambridge Dilemma.

8 November, 2011

I have been besotted with Cambridge Satchels for a long time and what’s funny is that I don’t know if it really has been a long time or if time just slows down when I’m drooling over them. Since their fluoro satchels have been spotted on trendy people they’ve become something of a desirable item and it really kills me that I don’t have one. Even if I could buy one (something I’m thinking about very solemnly for my birthday!) I have no idea what colour I’d pick out. It’s the kind of bag that I could only ever buy once, because even though it’s a reasonable price for a Super Fashunable Thing, it’s still a fairly expensive thing. I’ve never spent over $50 on a hand bag in my life!

A collage of lots of outfit photos of me with a green, red and pink Cambridge Satchel pasted over every outfit.

I’m so drawn to the colourful satchels and in the best possible universe scenario I’d buy a bright green one. I was thinking about this with such intensity that I decided to superimpose a little green bag over different outfit photos to see if it’d fit in to my style (this is where outfit photos are super handy!) I found that the green stuck out too much for my liking. Even though that’s what I really liked about it! Then I added a red satchel and found it fit better, but because I do tend to wear blocks of red I didn’t want to appear too matchy matchy. So I added the light pink satchel… and I think I like it best!

If you have never had the opportunity to gaze upon the perfection of a Cambridge Satchel, avail yourself right now of the website. And then tell me which colours you are obsessed with so we can all sit around weeping with desire together.

And if you don’t want to be tempted by beautiful bags, come read my interview with Lesley for


Dress me down for summer.

7 October, 2011

A digital illustration of me wearing a bikini surrounded by cut out dresses and shorts from Asos, Virtu and Sara.

I hate summer. I don’t understand why people rave about it because where I live at least, its an intolerable chunk of the year infused with sweat, chub rub, heat exhaustion and wearing far too many clothes. Since moving to the coast I’ve been a lot more casual in my dressing, so much so that I’ve felt a bit bashful about sharing my outfits here, but I’ve decided the embrace the dressing-down because there’s no point living near the beach if you can’t run around in shorts and a t-shirt.

Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find many shorts to my liking, and have only found a pair of cheap denim shorts at Best & Less, but what I’d really like are shorts of all different colours. I went on a browser window shopping spree for the first time in months to see if any of my regular haunts could supply me with my desires but was disappointed. I did find some cute dresses though!

In the end, I think I might actually buy some fabric and make a pattern from the denim shorts I have. I would like to sew some more dresses too, but can’t find any dress patterns I like!

The clothes I’ve got my eye on:
ASOS CURVE Printed Dress With Pussybow
ASOS CURVE Exclusive Floral Dress
ASOS CURVE Exclusive Chino Short
ASOS CURVE Exclusive Blue Bird Print Skirt
Virtu Hampton Dress
Sara Striped Dress
Virtu Urban Short