Sewing and Body Image

It’s that time of year. You know what I’m talking about: all the billboards and advertisements screaming, “Lose that holiday weight!”, “Get bikini body ready!”, “Your best you is waiting!” And yet as another New Year comes and goes, I find myself asking if it’s really worth it to get on the bandwagon again.


In 2014, I was in a really good mental place. I stopped paying attention to the scale and focused more on how my body felt. Taking a ready-to-wear (RTW) clothing fast and creating clothes that actually fit me well really helped me appreciate my figure. And to be honest, I’ve felt really awesome overall in recent years. That mental state hit a roadblock with a visit to the doctor in early 2015, when I learned that I gained 40 pounds rapidly, putting me at the heaviest weight of my life.

In hindsight, I suppose it shouldn’t have been a surprise. I knew that my jeans felt a little snug, and I expected 10 pounds or so, especially with travel (thanks for the buffets, Vegas), changing birth control medications (according to my doctor, I’m sensitive to changes in appetite, but the medication itself isn’t responsible for my weight gain. Suuuuurreeeee….), moving, and generally letting my fitness and health take a backseat. Still, dealing with this news was rough. Much of my life has been a battle of reconciling my frame with what’s ideal or even considered “healthy” by that oh-so-annoying and outdated BMI measurement. With my height and frame, I’ve teetered in the overweight to obese category pretty much since I hit puberty.

The funny thing is that even at my lightest weight, I really hated my body. I fell into a dangerous cycle of binge eating and then working out for hours afterwards, sometimes upwards of 3-4 hours a day. In hindsight, it’s clear that I was struggling with depression and self-medicating through excessive exercise.

See: me in grad school.

I focused so much energy on keeping the scale down that I forgot how to enjoy things, including working out. I seem to be in the minority on this, but I actually love working out! Especially weight lifting. I’ve always been strong, and spending some time pumping iron totally makes me feel like a badass.

My mantra when it comes to workouts these days.

This year, I’m going to get back to that healthy mental place again, but this time I want to do it with a healthy body as well. I’m going on this weight loss journey from a place of self-love rather than loathing. There’s no deadline like my past attempts at weight loss. No magical number in mind. Just getting the point where I feel healthy and energetic again. I think that bringing garments back into my sewing rotation will help. My emphasis for the moment is on knit garments and patterns with clean lines for easy alterations should garments need tailoring.

So friends, I want to ask you: how do you handle weight loss and body positivity? Sewers: how do you deal with weight fluctuation and garment making?

17 thoughts on “Sewing and Body Image

  1. I have dealt with my body image from a young age. Growing up with two older sisters who were size 0 to my size 4-6 at my anorexic weight in high school, it was hard to understand why I was bigger and taller than them. I will be 40 this year, and I am over weight, no doubt about that…. But I have been working on what ails me over the last year and a half. I still have my insecurities, but I am a work in process. I did not have a resolution for the new year, I just want to be healthy and happy!! Good luck to you on your journey Geeky Seamstress!!

  2. I got into garment sewing through costuming for plays, so my “background” is not in making clothes with pretty insides, but highly alterable insides. In some ways its nice, in that if I wobble up or down, its just an easy change, but it does sometimes leave me wishing for the clean look of RTW. But I also make the garments initially for whatever my measurements are that week, so I’ve got a built in range of garments in slightly varying sizes. If something is too small, I’ll try it again the next week. If its too big, I can take in the sides with a large stitch, so its easier to take out again later!

  3. I want to get healthy this year too, not just weight but with cutting out stuff I know I shouldn’t be eating or drinking (at least in my current amounts). It’s hard though but I know we can both do it!

  4. What a wonderful post. I struggle with my own body positivity and weight so I don’t have much advice, but I’m excited so read about your journey with this 🙂

  5. All the very best with the new year’s changes Mindy. I’d agree that loose numbers and time frames is the way to go. I for the last 4 or 5 months of 2015 I changed my eating and exercise habits, which resulted in a 6 or 7 kg loss (not sure what this converts to in pounds, 13 maybe???) AND a much happier dog, who has the lucky recipient of additional walks. I do sew my own clothes, and knits were great during the fluctuation. Other garments which can forgive more roominess, like shirts were also great. I find clearing out stuff cathartic, so with some weight loss I also got rid of some of my wardrobe, perfect opportunity.

  6. I’m finding that using my FitBit (and it’s app) as well as the Nike Running app are helping me. I’m a bit competitive, and while I don’t care about being first place, I DON’T want to be in last place with all my friends on said apps.

    I find myself pushing my walks/runs a few extra steps, yards, or even MILES just to get ahead. IDK but that’s oddly been helping me. Maybe I’ll push myself to go to first place one day? But it’s also nice cause you can encourage people on those apps, and that’s even more motivating, like on Nike, people can “cheer” you on through Facebook!

  7. My biggest struggle with body positivity is the frustrating way in which efforts to embrace seemingly self-affirming statements or attitudes often end up in opposition to, or at the expense of, others. I’ve been in creative forums where well-meaning members will make cringe-inducing statements along the lines of “Real women have curves” or “You don’t need to exercise more–you’re already skinnier than the rest of us.” I understand that they’re trying to encourage women to feel good about the bodies they have, but I hate when building one group up comes from breaking another down. It can be hard to find a support group that doesn’t veer off the path of unconditional love into just another comparison game.

    When you’re unhappy with your body, it’s easy to imagine those who are shorter/taller than you, or who have a smaller/larger bust than you, or who are curvier/straighter than you, must have it so much easier buying or making clothes. But even “straight-sized” individuals have their challenges: square shoulders, long arms, sway backs, full calves. We all struggle to figure out what alterations to make, and how to make them. We all have days (weeks, months) when we struggle to be active enough, or to love ourselves enough. I think the best thing we can do is also the hardest thing to do, to say, “You’re beautiful, and I love you no matter what you look like.”

    TL; DR: Body positivity is hard. Be kind to yourself, and be kind to others.

  8. That last quote block you posted: THAT is how I deal with exercise, because I actually don’t enjoy it that much. It’s the reason that when I run, I go in the morning. My brain is still so tired I get it out of the way, and then feel refreshed and healthy to start my day. I think the only exercise I currently do in the day and take my time to enjoy is yoga, which I’m really learning to love.

    I think pretty much everyone can relate to not being entirely happy with their body, no matter the size. I’ve learned to not worry about the number and do exactly what your goal is: focus on how I feel and what I can do vs. size and numbers. Wishing you all the best with it, and finding a good balance!

  9. Body image has been an issue with me since I was about 10. I was one of those Toddlers in Tiaras before it was main stream on tv. The huge downside to living that life (and trust me I could write a book on downsides) was that my entire family was obsessed with my weight. It is something I have struggled some 33 years later.
    Right now I’m trying to rewire my brain. The scale isn’t my friend. I don’t understand how I gain and loose weight, but I know when my body feels good and when it wants to exercise. I’m in the same boat as you on exercising. I love it especially running, which makes 15 year old me cringe. There is something about pushing my body to the limit that makes me feel amazing regardless what that trader of a scale says.
    My goal this year is be healthy and learn to accept myself.
    As for sewing I wear a lot of loose fitting things. Japanese sewing books and tunics are my saving grace because they allow my body change shape. However I’ve recently gotten into cosplay and my goodness I’ going to have to come to terms with my body quickly.

  10. I started this year by purging my closet of a bunch of clothes that don’t fit me anymore due to recent weight gain. It was tough. I’m the heaviest I’ve ever been, which isn’t really saying much as I’m still within what’s considered a “normal” weight, but it’s meant that I needed to learn how to dress myself again. I’m trying this year to focus on exercise and nutrition as “self-care” and not some sort of obligation to get to a certain size. We’ll see how it goes.

  11. Dear Geekyseamstress!
    Thank you so much for the posts on working with spandex. I am new to sewing and working on my first spandex project. I must say you look better than the characters you are representing and I think you are really cool.
    As you probably figured out yourself, weight loss does not happen, if you think about your diet or work out. You need to change the way you think about yourself. Weight loss comes with it. It does! But changing your thoughts is much harder than working out. I find swimming the best way to actually do both! I joined a group where I learned how to swim (properly, all 4 strokes) and when I started enjoying crawl, I started swimming longer and found myself in some sort of meditation. I felt better and looked better … and was able to eat three (healthy) breakfasts a day (keep in mind I swam about 2000 meters in the same day) :))).
    Maybe give swimming a chance?

  12. i want to get healthy as well. the best i ever felt despite the weight was when that picture i use was taken in hawaii. that entire vacation i FELT sexy. i think i was so excited that body image no longer mattered….. and then i started getting into cosplay again.. and thats when the issues started for me. people trashed us bigger girls, “you’re not a size 2 how can you wear that black widow” i just turned around and said “honey, i’ve got freaking muscle, i CAN pull off the moves she does. easily i might add, i dont need to look like a twig to do it.” but once i got home….. i noticed how awful i looked. it hugged the wrong places. my face was a bit to fat, my back rolls were visible. nothing made me feel better. i was down to a 12 then stress kicked in again with my job and my patient passing and i jumped back up again. i know that right now i’m over 200 and i hate it. but i cant find the willpower to NOT eat sweets. it’s my comfort food. and if my trainer tells me no coffee or soda, i’ll hit him the balls with the weights again,….. i’m dangerous without my caffeine. i dont smoke or drink or do drugs, my drug is my caffeine and i’m adhd as well, and like MSOT adhd people caffeine actually REGULATES me. if i dont have it, i start bouncing off the walls crazy and cant sleep…. my trainer actually went to starbucks and shove a white chocolate mocha in my hand once when he noticed i wasn’t going fast to spite him. i literally couldn’t keep my body from speed lifting…. i’m hoping this year that i can lose the weight i want to lose. i want at least 50 lbs. not to “number” it but because i know if i can lose it. then i can lose more. and i can get better.

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