The below post was written in December last year, but I didn’t get around to posting it. As it turns out, I’m really happy with the dress I made, so there is a silver lining at the end of this!*
When I started writing about sewing, I talked about the hope that sewing might improve my body image. Others had stated how sewing clothes that fit them well and complimented their shape made them feel more confident in their body and comfortable with thieir shape.
I was recently reminded of this by two things. The first was coming across a sewing blog that I hadn’t seen before where the author also discussed sewing and body image in a positive light and the second was my own experience of the exact opposite.
Most of the time I am able to ignore my scoliosis. From the front I think I look ok. I tend to look like I’m leaning on one leg in a slightly sassy, hippy pose, when I’m actually standing still and upright but I’m ok with that. It’s just part of my look. There is a misalignment of my ribcage that would probably be more prominent if I had smaller breasts. I am not excessively endowed in this department but I have enough to be able to select clothes to skim over the lump created by my ribcage on my left hand side. From the side I also look ok, I think. If you took a picture of each side and compared them you would notice they are different, almost like two different people with different back shapes and posture, but each side on its own doesn’t look especially unusual.
There are very few situations in which I see my back. If I picture it in my mind, I tend to picture a normal, aligned back. In fact, in my mind it’s a beautiful back; the sort that ought to be shown off in sexy backless dresses. I don’t ever see it, so why not imagine it is lovely? I know, of course, that it isn’t. When trying on wedding dresses at a Bridal shop my Mother would tell me that this or that dress really highlighted my scoliosis. It sounds cruel but it was useful to know. There are going to be a lot of pictures of me from every angle on my wedding day and I don’t want to find out after the fact that some of those angles looked awful. My mother told me it didn’t look good and I believed her and discarded those dresses, but even so, I still don’t actually picture my back as in any way unusual looking.
And then I made my first toile or muslin and had my other half take pictures from all angles so I could assess the fit.
My illusions about how my back looks were shattered. I was confronted by the reality, by how obvious the misalignment of my spine really was, and I think I was much happier when I didn’t know!
The worst part is that not only did it make me feel incredibly self-conscious about the way that I look but that it felt like it had been something of a waste of time. Now I had the information (saw the drag lines and pulls and areas of bagginess and all the fitting issues) but I had no idea what to do with that information. I had read that you shouldn’t over fit and that it is best to keep symmetry in the pattern – overfitting each side of your body separately could actually highlight that lack of symmetry in your body and you want to create balance. So what do I do? One side has drag lines where it stretches over my shoulder blade but the other side has bagginess because there is a dip on that side. One side of the bodice is too long and the excess fabric pools above my hips but the other side is the correct length because that hip is lower.
Ultimately, I decided to do nothing and made no changes to the back. If I maintained symmetry in the pattern then fixing a problem on one side would create a problem on the other and I was afraid that creating two separate back pieces might just emphasise all these differences and shapes and might make fitting the zip a further challenge.
* Actually, I ultimately took a chunk out of the top of the shoulder seams on the raglan sleeves and this improved the hang and fit of the whole dress. I made it up in a Black Watch tartan style cotton and I think the dark fabric also hides a lot. I wore on both Christmas day and New Years Eve and it is probably one of my most worn projects so far: