The Antipodean Artisan's Story

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

My relationship with my body

Today I don’t want to show you any dresses I’ve been making, I wanted to talk about  body issues. 

For anyone who knows and loves me it’s no secret that I have huge issues about my  body, and I know I’m not alone.  In fact there’s not much I like about the look of myself at all.  I could give you an never ending list of things I hate, and things I would change. 

I’m sure it has to do with standing in a leotard in front of a full size mirror (a wall of mirrors to be exact) for over 20 years.  In fact I think this is a huge reason for my body non-love.  Light pink tights and tight leotards don’t go with jumping up and down and full length mirrors for the most beautiful of us.  

At my smallest I was a 6-8 with the only curves on my body being my hip bones  and my collar bones poking everywhere for all the world to admire.  At my smallest I was far from healthy and ate about one meal a day if that, but received many compliments about my body.  I remember dancing in a show when I was at my thinnest (49kg/7st 10 lb/108 lb – BMI 16.6) and wearing next to nothing and getting showered with verbal bouquets about my body.  Even thought I knew I was too thin, and verging on a full blown eating disorder, I couldn’t help but agree.  I loved my thin body.  I loved that anything looked good on my body and I loved loved loved my hip bones.  It was the only time in my life that I didn’t have a pot belly.

 Me at my almost thinnest                            Me at my absolute largest

Now I have never been what is considered ‘big’ or ‘heavy’ or even ‘fat’, and before my recent stint with Bali Belly I was the biggest I’ve ever been at around 67kgs (10 st 7lb / 147.7 lb) with a BMI of 22.6 (healthy weight range).  I’m currently a size 12, and occasional 10 or 14, depending on the shop.  Most of my clothes are a 12 and have been for about 10 years now.  I am 172cm (5ft 6.5inches) tall and about 60 kg depending on the day (my average weight for many years now).  My current BMI is 20.3 and well in the healthy weight range. 

My current measurements are:
High Bust: 35 inches / 89 cm
Bust: 37.5 inches / 95.5 cm
Waist:32 inches / 81 cm
Hips: 39 inches / 99 cm
Bum: 40.5 inches / 103 cm

So I’m generally pretty average.  Especially for a 38 year old. 

On a pattern sleeve, my measurements tell me I’m a size 16 Bust and Hipx and 18 Waist!  Yes folks!  Can you imagine the fabric left over for the scraps pile? 

I tend to make 14 and adjust down – I’m just willing myself to start making muslins and this is a good way of avoiding them.  I am an impatient stitcher after all. 

When I think about me in the perfect 50s dress, I am also thinking about the constraining undergarments that will give me the look I desire.  I am the owner of a pair of spanx, and both love and hate them. On one hand I love the way they make me feel (firm) and look (thinner), and on the other, they aren’t the most comfortable, and why should I alter the way I look?  I also have a few corsets and covet a made to measure Antoinette corset from What Kate Did   I should be happy with my silhouette.  I don’t have any overhanging fat, and although my pot belly isn’t as ‘cute’ as it was in my youth, it still isn’t huge, and even if I was a little bigger, that should still be acceptable too right? 

I spent some time working in a ‘skin heath’ clinic where we offered laser to get rid of scars, wrinkles, and sun damage, peels to make skin look younger and botox to rid a face of it’s lines and crevices.  We also offered other things, but this was out primary target clientele.  I enjoyed free treatments of all of the above, and again loved my face without it’s wrinkles and freckles.  I spent many an hour analysing my wrinkles and lines and found myself thinking "she'd look better with a little laser, filler and a touch of botox" whilst waiting for mine to return. After a while I started hating the job as I felt I was just perpetuating womens’ hatred of themselves, and enforcing the unrealistic image of what women should look like, and I eventually left. 

So what does all this mean and how does it relate to this blog?  Well at 38 I’m still trying to love my body as it is, (and I haven't had any children yet).  Enjoying the vintage look,  has helped my in my journey as it is kind to those of us with a bust and curves, especially the 50s styles.  Beginning to sew my own clothes after a long time has helped too.  It brings you closer to your body and makes you acutely aware of your size and shape. Not buying fashion magazines also helps, although as someone who has always loved fashion and more so fashion photography, I still buy some on occasion, but they never fail to make me feel ugly and fat.  As a photographer who used to shoot models and fashion (in my student days) I am acutely aware of how drastically the industry manipulates an image to make it commercial, but it still doesn’t stop me (and many more I’m sure) from desiring the same look. 

 So I’d like to thank my machine 'Bert' for bringing me closer to loving my body as it is even though i still have so very far to go, and the fashions of times past to making it easier to do so.

How about you?  Do you have issues with your body?  Do you have issues with clothing sizes?  Are your measurements the same size at the ones on the pattern sleeve you end up making?  How have you overcome your negative body issues? 


  1. The first skirt I made came as a bit of a problem to me because I was ingrained into the standard uk sizes...I am learning to love my body for what it is though...18 is not a bad thing, love the bits of you that rock, use clothing to improve is your style that counts not your lb per sq inch...

    5ft 6, 36/30/48 my backside is the size of norfolk but I have the personality to cope !

  2. Your blog is beautiful!
    My first skirt i made me doesn't fit me anymore. Didn't fit for to long after i made it. But i think thats because i shrunk it not that i put on weight.
    But I'm sorry to say I'm one of those annoying young people that who after 9 years, is only one size bigger then I was in year 12. I have a few items of clothing that no longer fit and like most girls still have them in my closest just in case i might fit in to them again one day.
    If i looked like my sister when I'm 38 i will be unbelievably happy. I don't have the body issues most have. I love my body. I love that its not perfect. And I'm looking forward to getting older and going up a dress size or two.

  3. I'd admire how candid you've been. I think since I've started making my own clothes I've been more accepting of my body. I'm overweight but I'm pretty happy with how I look at the moment. I used to be thin and sometimes I find myself thinking it would be better if I was that thin, but like you I was on the verge of an eating disorder.

    I'm a lot happier now than I've ever been. I still have really down days, I nearly cried when I realised I'd messed up on a top and it was far too tight at the bottom and I was falling out of the side. But then I look at all the things I've made that have been successful and I know I'll make it right in the end.

    I try not to look at the prescribed sizes and just the measurements. I'm not sticking a size tag in my me made clothes so nobody knows what size it is and that's fine by me!

    Hope you feel a bit happier soon. How about coming to London on the Sew Weekly meet up on 14th May? Should be a giggle!