March 19, 2015

Those hips!

I decided to squeeze in one more dress before I start with real spring sewing. 

This dress. 
Don't you think it's just my kind of dress? Regular readers of this blog will know that I'm a devoted fan of stick out pockets. And of hip-enhancing design features in general. I've made regular pockets with flaps on the hip, several kinds of stick-out pockets, in skirts, a coat and dresses and even the occasional design with crazy wide draped shapes in that area...
I love wearing all those things I don't think it would be a bit much to add one more. After all, this one will be entirely different again.

And that made me think... 
As a teenager, when I was starting to get interested in fashion, I quickly learned that the family pear shape (yes, it's a family thing. I have a sister, a mother, two aunts and the pictures of my grandmother in her younger years to prove it) was a bit of an obstacle. No dress ever fitted properly and I was lucky that the rise on trousers and skirts was getting lower just then.
When I started sewing for myself on a regular basis, that helped. But still, fit was an important reason to sign up for pattern making lessons. Pattern making combined with an increasing interest in vintage fashion settled it: I love my hips.

Over the past few years, I had the opportunity to find out how a random selection of other women in this country feel about this subject.
A twenty-year-old who was doing work experience with designer-friend M while I was helping to get the collection finished that she preferred "a bit of a belly" over "a fat ass"... I did point out that, if nothing else, there are medical reasons to disagree with that.
She was hardly alone with that opinion though. When working in bridal stores, I often had to change the way I held a dress around a shopping bride-to-be. I would usually make a point of drawing in the dresses at the waist, to get as ideal a shape as possible from them. At least, I would until the customer started complaining the dress made her hips look fat. 
It was hard to believe for me, but many a modern woman prefers her torso to look like an as-thin-as-possible rectangle...

It kind of makes sense to blame fashion. After all, ever since the mid-1990's the ideal body has been "thin". Every once in a while, fashion glossies will mention that "curves are back" but usually that just means some designers have used corset-like details and a model with a B cup has been spotted on the runways. 
You don't have to be a fashion history geek to know that fashionable "ideal" silhouettes changed a lot more over the decades before that. 
Clothing technology, global manufacturing, branding and the way we shop has changed enormously over that time but the ideal body shape... Not so much.
And what's more: Bodies have changed. It's tempting to think that individual body shape is a given but that's only partly true. What you wear can influence your shape too. Especially if you wear it while growing up. How many women under 30 do you know who don't have a 'hip dent' at the point where the waistband of low-rise jeans hits? And how many over 35 who do? 

Whether it's for fashion, out of convenience or simply because there doesn't seem to be another option many of us are messing up our hips. 
It's not as bad as squeezing in your ribcage which was also fashionable for a long time but still... 
I guess what I'm curious about is this: It's that obvious someone like me, a seamstress who loves 1950's looks would be willing to embrace a body shape that isn't in tune with 'normal' fashion but how about you? 


  1. Interesting observations. My problem is not being curvy at all. I am not super thin, but normally slim I guess. I wish I had hips, or a proper "derriere". I am nearly 40 now, and starting to come to terms with my body and accept it as is. But it is hard even when making ones own clothing, that you get constantly disappointed when you just can't get "the look". I find it hard to balance top and bottom, as I feel my torso is to broad while my hips are narrow and thighs and legs very slim. A pencil skirt fitted to my body is basically a straight tube shape. It is all about creating illusions I guess. So A-line skirts over pencil ones, and absolutely NO batwings! It really is a learning curve, and it is even more satisfactory when you are able to construct something that really suits your body type!

  2. I too remember feeling very self-conscious about my bottom half when I was young, which way more "out there" than my friends with lots of curves, but that is now a good thing apparently, so hurray. I would say curves are much more acceptable today than in 90s. Then nothing was more fashionable than wearing a vest and combats, not good for curves. This week I have made my first pair of vintage pattern trousers, which have some beautiful curved hip pockets. They are so lovely I have gone through the pain of making 4 muslins to get them to fit me! No pain, no gain as they say.

  3. I have long preferred a more hourglass silhouette; emphasizing a small waist, even if that requires design tricks like "bucket" shaped pockets or padding, or a stiffened peplum, and have always thought that pear-shaped figures were more attractive that the super thin rectangular shape that the majority of the fashion industry/society promotes. Like you, I tend to gravitate towards more traditionally feminine, 1950s sorts of shapes and styles, and I think a lot of that has to do with having grown up watching old films. The actresses that I admired as a young girl were women like Sophia Loren, Bette Davis, and Grace Kelly, and not the more athletically built modern actresses.

  4. I have never understood the resentment some people feel for their hips! I remember looking at very pear shaped women when I was around ten years old and thinking about how beautiful they were. I personally like it when people don't disguise or even flaunt their figure "flaws". And I do love the pockets on that dress, it's such a sophisticated pattern!


  5. good post, as a classic pear, i am afraid i never appreciated my 22-24 inch waist as a teenager and i remember trying a 50s dress on in a vintage store and some customers admiring that i could carry it off (of course all i could do was moan back that jeans were impossible to buy). my waist has slowly creeped up and i now 'get' what i had. i am always surprised by the lack of diversity (well not really its probably economics) in cut of clothes. the best of luck with your dress, i look forward to seeing it,

  6. Back in the '80s I was able to buy skirts and trousers to fit the 14 inch difference between my waist and my hips, but you are right, since the '90s, I've been out of luck. I've been sewing since I was nine and I am thrilled I can sew clothes to enhance my pear-esque shape. Others can wear the low-waisted trousers if they like but it's been decades since I've wanted to look like everyone else anyway?
    I've been admiring all your clothes and pocket options and I am looking forward to seeing your finished dress.

  7. I would love your hips, too! ;) I'm a very straight up-and-down shape, so I feel like I've spent most of my life wishing for more curves (as for pants fit, we're much the same age and I loved the lower rises for the opposite reason from you---higher-rise pants that fit at the waist always had gigantic loose flaps over my hips. :)

    I think sewing has helped a lot, both in understanding why certain shapes were always problems for me, and in learning how to alter a given fashion to suit me---nothing makes me feel dumpier than a dress with a skirt gathered right at the waist, for example, but drop the waist seam an inch or two and that gathered bulk goes right on my hips, where I love it. :)

    And I think this TOTALLY looks like a you dress, and I can't wait to see it. :D

  8. I have a natural pear shape too; and have long come to accept that some styles of clothes that I would LOVE to wear sadly look not so good at all on me. However I still attempt to wear such styles sometimes! with sad results.
    I love the 40s styles that you wear with such elegance and I'm looking forward to seeing your version of this new design to :)