If there’s one thing sewing is widely acknowledged as being good for, it would have to be making you realistic – and appreciative – about your body. Once you get a few garments done and start to learn some fitting and adjustments, it seems that suddenly everybody is able to acknowledge their short torso, full/small bust or rounded shoulders – whatever it may be that makes them a unique body. And you learn that what is, is, more or less.
I’ve spent much of the past 18 months cranky at my body for not doing what I wanted it to do. Being cranky at your flesh for what ultimately turns out to be a (fixable) medical issue really is a waste of energy and emotions. But try telling that to the irrational brain that’s used to being in charge of things. Now this body is finally doing what I want, yet that hard won knowledge about it might as well be thrown out the window. The outside flesh is even more alien to me right now than the little guy growing inside.
For a few years now I’ve walked around with the knowledge of my bust/waist/hip measurements in my brain. Maybe it changes by a centimetre or two with a kilo here or there, but generally I can look at a pattern and have a pretty good idea what size I’ll need. I’ve been the same RTW dress size for years (you know, as much as brand variance allows, but I know the size needed from the shops I love). Now? Not so much.
This has all come to a head because the annual ball is looming. I wanted to avoid the stress of last year so figured I’d buy a gown. Something stretchy or empire line, because I honestly have no idea what shape I’ll be on the night. Online searches appear to reveal that pregnant women either a) aren’t supposed to go to black tie events or b) can’t wear sequins, lace or anything gorgeously spangly. Bah to that! I joke to everyone that I’ll make Kim Kardashian’s sofa cover. I’m still not convinced I want to sew anything. For months I’ve been too busy napping to sew; the only things that have emerged from my sewing room are an oversize Finalyson for me, a baby quilt for my brother, half a Kielo dress and a tantrum at my continuously unthreading overlocker.
So I head to the shops for a last ditch try for something RTW that has space for a bump, looks elegant and doesn’t cost a fortune. Halfway through the expedition I remember I basically haven’t been clothes shopping since starting to change shape. I had an early burst of enthusiasm when my tummy looked like it only contained a large dinner and bought some delightfully stretchy Metalicus dresses, but that’s it. Remember how I said I’ve been the same RTW size for years? Yeah, the fourth gown in a row in “my” size where the zipper wouldn’t get within cooee of doing up and I agreed that wasn’t the case any more. Turns out just because I’ve been squeezing into my same old bras and clothes doesn’t mean I’m the same size or shape.
That experience combined with contemplating stash patterns to sew a gown made it really finally hit me: I don’t know my measurements any more. I don’t know my body any more. I don’t know what adjustments need to be made. That stomach I’ve been admiring in the mirror each morning, willing to poke out more? It means real change. People say your ever-changing body while you’re incubating a new human is a way to prepare yourself for the loss of control babies bring to life. That doesn’t mean it’s easy to accept. It’s tough. But I suspect the first step is to drag out the measuring tape and reset the numbers in my head – this week and next week and the week after…
PS – I sewed this dress after writing the bulk of this post. It’s view D of Simplicity 2580 in a polyester stretch crepe from Spotlight and I’m happy enough with it that I’ll make the full-length version for the ball. The construction was super easy, with the front bodice self-lining to make the cowl work nicely and as a bonus encases all the bodice seams. Bit the bullet, took those measurements and wound up sewing a size larger than “normal” (Simplicity’s size 20 here). I added clear elastic to the shoulders and waist seam, and hand stitched the neckline, sleeve facings and hem. I’m generally happy with the fit, although it’s a bit baggy in the back which I’m hoping adding a couple of darts to the next version will fix.