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Feb 19, 2013

Fit Issues and Self-Esteem



Friends, I'm not sure if I ever said this explicitly, but one of the reasons I was excited about being able to sew my own clothes was that I no longer had to deal with ready-to-wear clothing that almost never fit right.

I'm 5'7" -- not exactly the Mayor of Munchkinland (and the same height as Gene Kelly...and Grace Kelly, actually) -- and normally proportioned.  But from the time I started wearing adult sizes, it was always hard for me to find clothes that fit properly (and no man wants to shop in the Boy's Department).  This is largely an American issue, because when I lived in Italy and Spain in the early Eighties, finding clothes that fit was much easier.  In fact, I wasn't even the smallest size.

I'm not THAT short!

Things got worse, especially in the shirt department, when sizing started to be limited to Small, Medium, and Large, as it often is today.  Even when I found shirts based on neck size and sleeve length (like dress shirts), the cut was usually too boxy for me and the length too long. 



I remember, somewhere back in the Eighties, returning home from a shopping trip to, I don't know, Bloomingdales or somewhere, and realizing that none of the shirts I had bought fit so everything would have to be returned, and feeling so exasperated I started to cry.  I'm sensitive.



Pants have always been easier for me, particularly jeans since my usual size (30" x 30") was always relatively easy to find.  But still, even when the inseam and waist fit, the rise was often too high, so the pants sat inches above my bellybutton.  Think Mom jeans.

Thank heaven for H&M.  Whatever environmental havoc they're wreaking with their disposable clothing, at least they carry plenty of smaller men's sizes (hey, it's a trade-off).  I could finally find slim-fit shirts that didn't come down below my derriere, and pants that came up no higher than the top of my hip bones.  It made me feel very happy.  And normal.

I know a lot you, female, male and other, have fit issues of your own and you sew to have clothing that fits.  Not being able to buy clothing in stores takes its toll on one's sense of normalcy (as if I didn't already have enough challenges in that department).

Anyway, what brings all this up is that I'm about to muslin my jacket project, Simplicity 7358, a vintage Eighties outerwear pattern I found on Etsy.   I'm very excited about it!



This morning I tried on all the waist-length jackets I own and they all have fit problems.

I bought the windbreaker below in the mid-Eighties and if it looks practically new it's because I've hardly ever worn it.  It's a very unflattering shade of tan for one thing, and it's also too long.  It may not look too long to you, but I'm very sensitive about where a waist-length jacket hits my waist and (in this case) hips.  A jacket that hangs down too far only makes a short man look shorter.

It's also too blousy.  House also too messy.





Then there's this black leather biker jacket I bought on a vacation to Provincetown three years ago.  Friends, don't ever buy clothes on vacation.  There's something about being away from home that makes you want to shop, and you'll inevitably purchase things that you wouldn't have if you weren't traveling.  This jacket may look OK to you, but it's both too long and, when zipped, too tight in the waist.  It does, however, fit comfortably in the shoulders and doesn't ride up when I raise my arms to steer my motorcyle (that's a joke).  I also stopped wearing black clothes when Michael told me I was a summer.











The vintage Seventies gray leather jacket below is the one I wear most.  I bought it at the flea market for $40; it was made in Korea.  I liked the color and most of all, the length.  Unfortunately, one of the side zippers is permanently (trust me) caught in the lining and it's a little shabby looking.  It's also a bit stiff in that way cheap leather jackets often are.  And tight in the shoulders.





Now you may be asking yourself, If he doesn't like long, blousy jackets, why has he chosen a pattern from the Eighties, the decade that practically defined oversized clothing?  The answer is that it's the best I could find and I'm going to muslin it first and change what needs to be changed.  It has a lot of details I like and can't easily find in a contemporary jacket pattern, not that there are many out there.

I want my jacket to look like this, just with a head on top.



In closing, readers, have fit issues ever damaged your self-esteem or challenged your sense of being normal (if you ever had that sense to begin with)?

Assuming you sew, does wearing the clothes you've made help you feel better about your body and the way you look in general?

Short but enquiring minds want to know!

68 comments:

  1. I started sewing partly because we didn't have any money, and partly because nothing fit. It was waaay back when there was a difference between what children/tweens/teens and adults wore. My shoulders were too wide, arms and legs too long, chest too flat, waist too small, and I'm an Autumn. I was 12 and sort of fit a ladies size, but all the clothes were much too sophisticated for me (and what was acceptable back then.) Then there's the problem of finding the right colours in a world geared to summer/winter people. I still stockpile fabric during years when my colours are in fashion as otherwise I'm left buying beige and black - and wearing my colour scarves.

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  2. Oh, Peter I want to hug you. Yes, off the rock clothing is my nightmare. I'm busty, broad shouldered, have almost no waist, disproportionately small hips compared to my bust, huge thighs from cycling, no butt from cycling, even broader back from swimming. My friend once asked while taking my measurements if my woodworker mother built me out of 2x4s because I was so square.

    I too have left stores in tears or near tears. Shopping stresses me out! I don't enjoy it and it brutalizes my self esteem. In order to get a top to fit my bust I look like I'm rocking maternity wear everywhere else.

    I also discovered that not wanting your clothes to touch you is actually a common thing for ADD kids, guess I never grew out of it. So, I hate clothes that fit snugly or touch parts of me I dislike and the list goes on. Mostly, I live in graphic tees that are snug in the bust and fall close to, but don't hug, the rest of my body. Fashionable it is not, but at least I don't spend the WHOLE DAY thinking about my clothes.

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  3. Yup it certain does because it literally tells me I'm too fat to fit in. I remember crying in Banana Republic when I found out they were only stocking size 16s online. Ever since then I've hardly shopped since what is there to buy which meant I gained more weight without the fitting room reality check

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  4. I'm about your height, Peter, but as I frequently note, something of a stout party. Fit, therefore, is a constant issue, for example with trousers, as I need a very low-number inseam and a rather larger waist (it's almost impossible to buy 29-inseams in the U.S.; easier in the UK).

    I'm also, it seems, awkwardly shaped, as I have short legs and a long body, which means that regular suits have wholly unsuitable pants, but short suits at times can look like I'm buying in the boy's department (the jackets often ride high and I sometimes even need to have the sleeves lengthened). I've liked living overseas, as it's usually possible to find a reasonable-to-cheap tailor who can run up adequate suits and alter clothes that I buy online...

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  5. I would normally buy and fit into a large, but why is it that in all cases the sleeves are always too short. I do not have longer than normal arms for my body type but yet these sleeves whether on a shirt or jacket, are always too short! One would figure that when the garment gets larger the sleeves would too. That seams(haha) to not be the case. I have spent my entire life either looking nervous by constantly pulling down on my sleeves or looking as if I am ready for a fight by rolling them up.

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  6. Peter you and I are the same height! I have vivid memories of shopping in the boy's dept. for size twenty pants because it was rare that I would run across anything for a 28" waist in the men's dept.

    I'm so glad your finally going to start your jacket! I have lots of moleskin that I'm dying to make a spring/fall jacket from! I have a vintage Burda pattern, but I'm not exactly sure if the seam allowances are included since this is my first time using one.

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    1. Here (in France) Burda is the most common brand of pattern and they never include seam allowances, NEVER !
      I doubt they change their patterns prints for the US.

      PS:Neither Peter nor you would qualify as "short" here .

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    2. If you buy Burda patterns in Europe, they don't have seam allowances, but they are easy to add. Just rubberband two pencils together and trace around the pattern. That will give you a use able seam allowance, just remember what it is and put a piece of masking tape on your sewing machine to mark it. That being said, the Burda style magazines sold in the US do have seam allowances 5/8" included. Burda patterns are the best fitting I've used and I've been sewing for 55 years due to no money, too many kids (4) :-) and not finding the fit or style I like in stores.

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  7. In a way, I think that women have it easier with your particular fit issue; no one looks twice if your jacket is too long. Oversized is a style for women, rather than a mistake.

    But obviously there are tons of other fit issues. Like why aren't pants measured in inches like for men? I'd love to see 3 measurements for women, in fact: waist, hip/butt, inseam.

    I started sewing in large part because I got so fed up with wearing clothing that fit my rear and bust and were like tents everywhere else. Hooray for home sewing!

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  8. I'm five foot two with a 44 inch bust. I also have broad shoulders and a wide ribcage, so very top heavy. In other words, I officially slot into the 'petite' ranges due to my height but am not petite in build. I'm half Welsh and half Irish and definitely get the breadth of shoulder from the Welsh side. My two daughters, each standing at five eight complain that they got their 'man shoulders' from me.

    So in other words, NOTHING ready to wear fits me properly on top. Even looking back on photos from the Eighties, I always wore very baggy t-shirts to accommodate my upper half and always had to rip shoulder pads out of everything to avoid the 'no-neck' look. I'd always hankered after the tailored look which inspired me start sewing but I haven't had much success (as yet) fitting myself......others tend to benefit from my skills instead.

    But how I used to envy the women who had narrow frames and delicate shoulders; actual petites as opposed to just short like me. But still, broad shoulders are handy for carrying things so it could be worse.

    My goal this year is to get a sewing buddy to help me fit my own muslin and work from there.

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    1. I have the exact opposite problem. Good luck with finding a fitting buddy. Wish I could find one.

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  9. Yep. Yep. Yep.

    I'm short. I'm busty. My arms & legs are short. I have a tummy, but not much in the hip department.

    Do you know what shopping RTW is like for me? UGH. Even with sewing... frankly most of my learning curve has been in regards to fitting. (If I do a FBA, I then have to reduce for the above-the-bust... I could bore you for ages). At this point, I find it easier to draft my own basic slopers and steal sleeves and details from patterns.

    Not that drafting slopers is easy. And *what* is it about wearing ease and a full bust? A straight increase across the board looks terrible. TERRIBLE.

    It's all a pain in the tail, but I do love learning. :) And sewing is a very, very good thing.

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  10. First question: Yes! And I imagine almost every woman (and a lot of men) would say the same.

    Second question: Yes in theory, but I still haven't cracked the fit adjustment code.

    One thing I've been wondering lately is whether because RTW fit is so bad in general if it's somehow expected that clothes should fit that way, and if something fits well it acually has less cachet. Like, your figure has to be so good that you look good even in ill-fitting cheap schmattas; if your clothes fit too well, it looks like you're trying too hard.

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  11. Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! This us exactly why I sew. It's really hard for me to find things that fit properly/that I like/that don't cost an arm and a leg. I'll admit to having cried over pants shopping in the past (until I realized that skirts are just better.)

    Though I will say it's a bit of a blow to the ego to go from a size 6 in RTW bottoms to cutting a size 16 (!) in skirts I make.

    But once you get past that, it's much nicer to wear such flattering handmade garments.

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    1. What helped me get past the sizing on patterns was reading an article that said the sizes were orinally numbered to co-relate to the estimated size of a wearer's age...hence a 16 for a teen. By that logic, you are way younger than your chronological age!

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    2. this. is. awesome. I feel better now.

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  12. I, too, began sewing because nothing fit. I was/am longer everywhere than what's considered normal - torso, arms, legs. Skirts were easy to begin making for myself (at age 10), but pants were a challenge because no one helped me understand anything about how to lengthen the torso! Mother was short, and only knew about that shorten/lengthen line on the pattern! Still searching for that perfect fit!

    And, yes, my self-esteem was hurt. The mid-60's were not a time when schools enforced no-bullying policies. Name calling and being picked on was SOP at school. I toughened up and found other ways to get back at the bullies....:-)

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  13. Emphatically yes and yes!

    I started sewing (at age 30) because the choices for petites were ridiculous! In the mid-80s, why was it assumed that if you were small you wanted to look like a child?

    And no doubt about it, sewing has contributed greatly to feeling good about myself.

    By the way, my 6'3" tall skinny husband has fitting issues, too--sweaters and shirts with sleeves that are long enough are too big around, for example. I started making shirts for him so he could experience the same satisfaction I feel from wearing custom-made clothes that fit.

    Really looking forward to your jacket project.

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  14. I used to wear Abercrombie & Fitch in college. I have a fairly small frame and remember buying underlayers (T-shirts) in S, middle layers (shirts, sweaters) in M, and outerwear (jackets, coats) in L, so all the other layers would fit underneath (I was living in Provo, Utah...layering was not a choice, it was a necessity).

    10 years later (and a proud New Yorker). I recently went into an A&F store with a visiting European friend. Though I wanted to slit my wrists and my ears were bleading from the music, I figured I'd check the sales' rack: the only things that fit me were XLs! And yes, I've bulked up a little since, and maybe gained a half-pound or 3, but trying all a S T-shirt was like squeezing myself into a 6-month onesie from Babies-R-Us! And oddly enough, all the remnants of my college clothes, (my S tees of 10 years ago) still fit me perfectly.

    I guess living in the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood of NYC is enough to make you feel sh*tty about your body, whether your shmattes are RTW or homesewn.

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  15. The jacket looks nice. One thought, based on my recent sleeve studies, is that you might like the straight sleeve better than the raglan for a closer fit if that option is available in the pattern. I couldn't tell looking at the illustration.

    RTW fit issues are the reason my closet and bureau are nearly empty. I'm hoping to sew stuff to put in my closet :). And yes, fit issues have damaged my self esteem. I've cried too.

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    1. It's actually a faux raglan (just an applied yoke) so I'm in luck! I thought the same thing though.

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  16. I have a far more pressing question for you, WTF do you keep all these clothes?? A Jacket from the 1980s you never wear? For teh love of Mike, and space, get ye down to the thrift store with a bag of old tat!

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  17. Oh the tears that I have shed in many store, and walked out frustrated, hating my body! It wasn't until recently, that I'm over it! My daughter studied fashion design and told me to not feel bad about things not fitting since, every store basically has different fit models and that is why things are so ill fitting. Especially women's clothing. I hate dresses with a passion, because as much as the media and and fashion magazines say they love hourglass shapes, they really don't make clothing to fit it! The top is always HUGE, because they assume that if you are hourglass you have a huge bust line to match. If I look in a mirror, my shoulders are in proportion to my hips, and I have a real small waistline, even for the extra pounds that I carry. Yet I don't have the huge boobs to fit the top in dresses, that match the hip!!! I recently sucked it up and bought a bigger size at J. Crew and then had the darn dress tailored on top to fit. I know, I sew, but I loath tailoring other peoples work. The lady I took it to, did a fantastic job,and now I have a little black dress that fits perfect! All those other shopping trips really made me feel very low though, so I know how you feel.
    I really hate sewing for myself still, because of all the fit issues, and stick to my cute 22 year old daughter and my children's clothing, because they don't have many fit issues.

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  18. Great post! I had a "nothing fits" RTW experience as a young adult that was rather like yours; it was awful. Since I began sewing I've undergone a big shift in my thinking. I'm not judgmental about my measurements the way I once may have been about my RTW size. Additionally, knowing more about my figure has made me a better shopper - I know what styles will fit me off the rack and what won't and I shop and sew accordingly.

    Some time ago I was thinking about why some women like shoe shopping but not clothing shopping. I think it's because if the shoe doesn't fit or is uncomfy, it's the shoe's fault - most people don't blame their feet for being too big, small, narrow, wide, etc, etc. But with clothing, there's this temptation to blame one's body or perceived flaws.

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  19. I've never purchased RTW pants, skirt or dress that doesn't need to be shortened. Also, pants always have a rise that makes my crotch look that of an old man on skid row. Yes, going shopping in the stores makes me feel awful about my shape and shortness. I've found a few sources for clothes and stick to them religiously (Brooks Brothers for ladies pants and blouses, Austin Reed for jackets, etc.), but sewing is still the best!!

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  20. Oh, the 'nothing fits me' dilemma- I know it well. I didn't have this problem when I was younger, with the exception of the fact that my waist size has always been smaller than my hip size, so pants have almost always been an issue. What can I say? I've got the typical hourglass figure. I've only had 2 pairs of jeans that actually fit me well in my entire life. And I'm short, so pants are always too long. Men are lucky because they can shop by waist and by inseam. Women's clothing either has all pant inseams permanently at 32" or the inseam length goes up as the size gets larger. I'm 5'3" on a good day, with short legs. But on average I wear a size 16 pant, and sometimes that means there's a good 4" or more that need cutting off in length. Occasionally I can find jeans that are labeled 'short' which end up being a good length. And that size 16 pant has a waist that's easily going to be a couple of inches too big, especially if I'm trying on something that's supposed to be "plus-sized". You know, the sizes that come with the W after them, as in 16W. Like curvy women don't have small waists. Since I'm just short, petite clothing isn't an option. As I type this, I'm wearing one of my best-fitting pairs of jeans (Old Navy) and, even though I'm 12 weeks pregnant and have a tiny bit of a bump (hey, at baby #4 it pops out a bit sooner) I still have to wear them with a belt. Don't get me started on fitting issues dealing with breast size!

    I've been in that horrible place where I hated my body (especially all its "flaws") and spent time sobbing in the dressing room because everything fit wrong. When I was pregnant with my first child, back in 2000, there wasn't much in the way of maternity clothing that fit me. My hips spread to 54" and nothing was made in stretchy fabric, so I ended up having to buy clothing in a women's size 20/22. It was devastating but it was the only way I could find any clothing at all that fit. I ended up making a few things but didn't have time to make much. Needless to say, I was miserable.

    Good fit is so important to the way we feel in our clothes. It's definitely one of the reasons that I continue to sew, both for me and for my kids.

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  21. I turned to sewing to alter RTW clothes b/c as a short, busty, small waisted, hippy, big calved and arms lady (my forearm flexors are apparently way big, I can't fit RTW knit long sleeves)...yeah legs and shoulder to bust are too long, sleeves are too short, tents galore, etc etc etc. (and I got it easier than my short 5'1" father who has hips(and from whom I get mine...)-he goes to the tailor not only for suits but for jeans and thermals)

    but what has struck me is the huge amount of difference b/t countries. I tend to go on a little bit of shopping spree whenever I'm in Spain b/c they know how to fit short busty, hippy figures-I get to be an S/M most of the time. Greece, on the other hand, I ended up with an XXL shirt by virtue of bust and...neck measurement (tent in every other way, of course). and pants in the UK or Ireland? baggy in the crotch or impossibly tight on the rear. I often don't even understand what kind of stereotypes are being borne out in manufacturer choices.

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  22. Great post again Peter! Frustration with the lack of ready-to-wear clothing that fit is exactly why I started sewing again - and it was only afterwards that I realised the effect those shopping experiences had had on my self esteem. I too have cried in shops - and right in the middle of them, not just in the changing room. And I hardly even look that different from what's supposed to be a "standard" shape.

    Oddly enough I was thinking just yesterday about this - how since making my own clothes I've come to take for granted the fact of actually choosing what I want to wear, rather than just picking from what's on offer, and then actually having it fit properly. I've been struggling this week to get something as basic as a t-shirt to fit nicely (a knits beginner...) and almost cried at my fourth failed muslin. And then I remembered that tears-in-the-fitting-room feeling - and this is still so much better. At least when I'm sewing I enjoy the whole process - if I had invested that much time and effort in shops only to fail to find what I was looking for - well, I probably would have had a nervous breakdown. As it is I went to bed grumpy and woke up knowing what to try next. It's the hobby that just keeps on giving!

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  23. I'm one of those people who started learning to sew in early childhood, so it's something I've always done. However, I didn't start to do it seriously until I was diagnosed and started treatment for lymphedema. Pants had always been an issue--plus size and six foot don't mix well in RTW. But with the leg swelling and then the three inches of compression on my legs, suddenly RTW went from hard to impossible. Then my sister and sister-in-law both got pregnant and I started sewing for the kids, too. Which led to where I am now... almost always with a project in progress!

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  24. I'm short and remember buying tops in the girls department quite cheerfully. (Women like to brag about these things). That was some time ago. *sigh*
    I find sewing help you make friends with your true proportions because you have to view them realistically then when you make something that really fits it makes you feel better no matter what your shape.

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  25. As a teen in the 70's, ill-fitting clothes happened to be one of the only constants in my life. I had the opposite problem of being way too tall. Talls were only a man's thing and to top it off, my body shape was and is to be described as rectangular at best. Try living through the era of "ditto jeans" when you're a size 16 from the hips down and the inseam was two inches too short. That, and a pair of Famalaries in a women's 10, made me feel like a monster. My only reprieve was when over-sized men's wear was in fashion for women. Then I was actually able to wear over-sized men's wear and no body questioned me. Egad, the horrors of those memories.....

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  26. I don't have a "standard" sized body and I'm short too (way shorter than you), but even though I sew, I still manage to sew with material that is the wrong color for me or to choose a pattern that I like but is of a style that doesn't really suit me. And I end up not feeling good in my home-sewn clothes either.
    It might be more a case of getting to know what suits or doesn't suit you wether it's RTW or home sewn, in my case at least.

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  27. It seems so much more culturally acceptable for women to have body/fit issues related to ready-to-wear clothing, that I think we conveniently forget that men can have similar problems. My husband, in fits of clothes-shopping frustration, has this idea for a menswear store geared to shorter men with athletic or stocky builds. His original business plan included naming his store "Teapot--for the short and stout." Maybe not the most business-savvy of names, but planning out that fictitious store adds some humor to temper the frustration of whatever RTW fit problems had brought up the subject in the first place. Be glad for that 30" trouser inseam...a lot of stores/brands don't offer anything less.

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    1. Teapot -- I like that! Once upon a time there was a store in NYC that specialized in clothes for short guys called The Cadet Shop. Long gone, alas.

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    2. My brother has the opposite problem: He's 6'3" and long-legged. A lot of stores don't carry 36-inch inseams, either! He also has massive thighs (genetics; we both should have trained for the Tour de France) and ample backside that would make finding pants difficult for any man, even if he weren't tall. He's like a human Clydesdale.

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  28. It's a bit of a double edged sword really. On the one hand I am short (5ft) and depressingly, since we moved to Australia, there is very little that fits me (we don't even have H&M, how sad is that), even in the petite ranges (seriously, which country considers a 30in inseam petite). On the other hand with the Big4 pattern sizing, taking your measurements and finding out your behind is a 14 is quite depressing too. I am getting better and considering that things have to be fitted individually, that size is slowly becoming just a number, but it takes time.

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  29. I hate that jeans in my size, 46x32, are usually too short in the rise. I'm 6'4" but I think I have shorter legs than I should have. So yes, I too have RTW fit issues.

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  30. Yes, that's why I started sewing. Or more accurately, starting sewing caused me to care how my clothes fit and then I became totally unable to buy clothes as opposed to just almost unable to, as I was before. (Translate: shop for hours then buy something cheap on the basis that it is better than nudity. And trust me, it is).
    In the UK I could buy Petite clothing and it was a revelation not to have sleeves over my hands. The NZ market is pretty small. I have no idea what short men do here. I guess they take everything up, in or get it made.

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  31. I wasn't paying attention to the messy room, until you mentioned it. Don't you know that's a sign of a highly creative mind?

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  32. Actually, I do know what short men do here. They wear Stubbies: http://theinspirationroom.com/daily/2008/lp-stubbies-world-famous-in-new-zealand/
    Unless they are coach drivers, in which case they wear walk shorts: http://www.flickr.com/photos/49780005@N08/8027918900/

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  33. Great topic, Peter. Fit is a real issue, and does effect self-esteem. I am curvy, and 5 ft. 6 1/2 inches. Bust is 46 inches, an expanded hourglass. RTW is abysmal, and the W clothes very boxy. The best is sewing. I have more to learn, but even attempts I criticize are ahead of RTW. Rememberig your post yesterday, we just keep on learning, and if too critical, we will not work well, or may discourage ourselves. As for ladies clothes, try Barbara Deckert's Plus Sewing book. How to get a good fit with any pattern, for those size 12 to 14 and up. I made 2 dresses from her instructions, using a 12/14/16 McCall's. Almost fine. Adding underarm gussets at present, which is looking good. Tweaking away.... Cathie, in Quebec.

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  34. I am a walking fit issue. A tall plus sized woman. There were no tall plus sizes in the 60's and were confined to Lane Bryant in the 70's, but it was not very youth oriented. The mid 80's started to open up choices and I was freed from the sewing prison. When you must sew every thing you wear, it gets old. Now, if I want to make something, I will because I like sewing. Completely different set of pressures. Now that I am getting old, and shrinking down to 5'10" I am able to fit into ready to wear. Such a relief.

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  35. Oh I could go on and ON about my lifelong struggles with RTW fit, but people usually don't have much sympathy for a person who is taller than average so I won't bore you with it. All I can say is that sewing has made everything much easier.
    I'm going to email you a couple pics of jacket patterns that are similar both to your favorite and the aspirational jacket, just in case the 80s version does not fit the bill.

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  36. Um, yes. My sob story? My backside is a perfect size 16 and my front is a 14. Upstairs I'm a full busted 12 with generous arms. e'hem Finding a tailored dress that fits? hahahahaha Pants? Wanna guess?

    I've been sewing forever and pulled out my hair trying to make pattern alterations. No matter what I tried, I couldn't get a decent fit until I learned pattern drafting. I think it helped when I laid my perfectly fitted sloper on top of a commercial pattern. It all made sense after that...

    On the flip side to your troubles, my sons are tall and slender. One of them has a beehind like his mama. Finding 29" x 36" pants, and ones with ample seat room... hahaha I told them to suffer until they stopped growing. I drafted a pattern from scratch for #1 using a favorite vintage pair as inspiration. He loves them. Number 2 is finally done growing and going to get a couple pairs for his birthday. :)

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  37. Ah fit issues... I describe my body shape as a "dramatic hourglass". I'm long and slender all over with a tiny little waist measurement and a (comparatively) massive bust and hip measurement. As a teenager I had a poor idea on fit, so I wore size 14 shirts to try to fit over my bust, leaving a paunchy pool of fabric around my waist. Somehow I managed to mostly avoid the "hiding teen pregnancy" look (thankfully). Lucky for me, I love the 50's look and the 50's love hourglasses, so even with annoying fitting kinks I find while sewing I still feel more confident than I ever did in RTW.

    Funnily enough I recently purchased a mens shirt pattern for Boyfriend. I figured fitting shouldn't be too hard since less curves = less fitting headaches, right? How naive I was.

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  38. I have always been small and as a child, wanted more than anything to be grown up. By age nine I was regularly declaring, during painful shopping trips, that I would NOT!, NOT!! (slam fist on whatever was handy) wear a baby dress (Peter Pan collar, puffy sleeves, short skirt) if I had to stay in the house for the rest of my life! We turned to separates, since my Mum had a nice Kenmore and could manage a skirt. Although she did beautiful hand needlework of all sorts, she was so intimidated by her poor innocent machine that her sewing sessions usually began and ended with forgetting to pull the two threads under and out behind the presser foot. If I was not there to untangle the result, the project waited until my return. At age twelve, I started teaching myself to sew and the rest, as they say, is history.

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  39. I'm an autumn and love autumn colors and I got sick and tired of clothes that would fit me were all black and navy blue and fire engine red. Ugh!! Also as a caregiver 24/7, not only do I never get to shop but I hate to shop. So I use what I was taught way back when, and I sew. At least I like the colors.

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  40. I could buy a comfortable wearable wardrobe in shops if I were willing to spend my life only in stuff that looks slouchy and oversized and is too big at the shoulders. I can cope with slouchy, but unintentional dropped shoulders on shirts drives me mad. I suspect that learning to sew is turning me into a fitting fanatic and I don't care, Now that I can usually look in the mirror and see shoulders that I like, the rest of me looks happier too!

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  41. So much about fit in this issue sounds like my litany of rtw complaints. I have to alter rtw a lot to get something to wear. I understand about making the jacket. I have been searching for a 3/4 length jacket to replace one I wear a lot and know I will have to sew it if I get another I like. It is such a pain to always have to sew everything or alter rtw which is my fate. I have jackets hanging with tags that the lined sleeves need to be redone and shortened. Of course the reward of being able to sew is having something to wear that I actually like and don't look stupid wearing out in public. People that lack fit problems are sooooo lucky.

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  42. you're basically the same measurements as my husband, who i just started sewing shirts for. the lack of well-fitting clothes didn't seem to bother him a ton, but after wearing his custom shirts made by me he was surprised and made the comment "i just feel more confident." not something he was expecting, really he just wanted to save a few bucks!

    for myself, i'm 5'8" with long legs, but a petite upper. try finding a petite tall in rtw! pants were always too short, sleeves too short, dresses that fit my hips were swimming on my upper half. since sewing and being able to fit my body, i really do feel less abnormal. also reading about other peoples fitting issues really opened my eyes to seeing that everyone has their own set of fitting challenges.

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  43. Fitting issues - yes, a laundry list of them and they tend to change from year to year. I've been making my own clothes over 30 years, I'm not old just been sewing a long time :). My husband is tall and muscular and I've been making his dress shirts for over 15 years. Now that he's getting older he is having all kinds of fitting problems. So as soon as I saw that picture of the jacket on your blog in December I started collecting everything I need to make that jacket. I made the muslin or should I say I butchered the largest pattern I could find and got the fit the way he likes it. I'm waiting on a couple of supply items and should start construction next week. Can't wait to see him in that jacket. I can't wait to see you in your jacket!

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  44. I think EVERYONE has fit issues with RTW. Even if you find a brand and size that fits you well, every other brand/size doesn't. And then your favorite brand/size will either go out of business or change their sizing formula. RTW has broken my heart too many times that I mostly don't buy it any more. I often buy thrift store clothes (most older clothes are better made) that are too large and alter them to fit. This is usually much cheaper than making them from scratch.

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  45. Yup. Big giant boobs wreak havoc on my self-esteem. But over the past few years I got better at camouflaging and these days, I think most people don't notice. I'm not nearly so self-conscious now that I have a better idea of what I should and shouldn't wear for my body type. It's definitely a process.

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  46. Does *anyone* fit in RTW? I tend to think no, but not everyone's aware of it.

    I was aware of my fit issues by the time I was 7--the year my mom stopped buying one-piece swimsuits for me because my torso was too long and the rest of me too skinny to a rtw size.

    I still have the same problem, but now with long arms, broad, square shoulders, a flat chest, and a very long rise.

    Add on top of that the fact that I just...loathe....looking feminine despite being an XX person, and, well, recipe for fashion disaster. Kind of ironic that I have to take up a "feminine" pastime like sewing because I'm too masculine, huh? :)

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    1. Life plays little jokes on us like that! ;)

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  47. I usually don't even make it to the fitting room before giving up and walking back to the car to cry. I'm 5'10 and the only tall clothing stocked is *maybe* a few dress pants and a couple pair of jeans. And even then not in all sizes. I don't even think about looking for long sleeve tops or jackets. Catalogs aren't much better - I can't say how many will have pants in tall, but not the matching jacket. WTF?!?!?

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  48. No, I usually don't have fitting problems with RTW. They made changes in the past years in France in the sizing of the clothes and now I can find sweater that go all the way of my long arms, and shirts have more place for the boobs !

    BUT, tend to prefer the clothes I make because I make my own patterns. It took me quite some time to have the perfect block pattern. But now that it's done, I usually go into very expensive shops, take a picture or draw a little sketch and back home I make a "sur mesure" copy or inspired clothe ! And as making a dress takes much time than buying one, I limit (a bit:-)) my spending !
    cheers

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  49. I don't even want to admit how much of my life I've spent crying over pants. I'm 5'7" (mid-range height) and a mid-range size, but I have a long torso and very, very, large thighs. As in, each thigh is only a few inches smaller in diameter than my waist. I also have broad hips and a Kardashian backside.

    Pants don't fit.

    If I hold them up to see that the waist should fit, I can only pull them up to my knees. If I can pull them up all the way, the waist is far too large to be wearable even with the mother of all belts. And since everything now is cut closely over the thighs and is low-rise . . . forget it. I haven't really loved jeans since 1990's wide-legs.

    I've been wearing the same Lee Riders for ten years because they no longer make that cut and I can't get any more. The only new jeans that even sort-of fit are the old-school Wranglers made for women who ride horses, because they have straight legs, are not slim-cut, and have high waists.

    So, basically, I wear skirts and dresses. I've changed the oil in my car while wearing a skirt.

    I have fitting issues with shirts, too, but they're less severe and more easily avoided since knit shirts are more acceptable than living in sweatpants.

    Honestly, learning to alter patterns and sew for myself was one of the best things I ever did for my body image and self-esteem. I've basically stopped fighting with my clothes.

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    1. I should add: I'm actually OK with the idea that RTW sizing is basically an average. They can't miraculously fit everyone, and what would fit me would definitely not fit most of my friends. I'm just glad that now I can do something about it.

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  50. Self-esteem problems? Don't get me started. On the rare occasions when I'm wearing something that fits, is comfortable, is appropriate, expresses my personality I get angry. I look GOOD. I feel confident. Yeah, I should have moved beyond this decades ago, but guess what, it matters.

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  51. I started sewing primarily because I couldn't find items that matched the style clothes I wanted to wear. At this point I guess I was an 'average' sized person and didn't have too many fit issues with RTW with the exception of my larger shoulders and arms (I was a rower...), so didn't own a jacket or button-down shirts for several years. However, over time my figure has gotten a lot curvier and I can't seem to fit anything off the rack now so I'm grateful to be able to make my own clothes.

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  52. Ugh, my husband is 5'7" and shopping is a nightmare. We just got an H&M here, so maybe he can poke around there to see if he turns up anything good.

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  53. Wow. I thought from your photos that you were at least 6'. You give off "tall" vibes : ).

    As for fit issues and self-esteem, join the club. I think it's a problem for nearly everyone. Thing is, most people don't realize that their clothes don't fit, or they don't care. Just look around (or rather, leave NYC and look around).

    Those of us who realize we look awful in nearly all affordable off-the-rack either learn to sew or find a good seamstress.

    Fact is, unless you happen to match the manufacturer's fit model's measurements exactly (and what are the odds of that?), the chance of anything store-bought ever fitting perfectly is almost nil. That's true whether you're tall, short, slim, fat, or anything in between.

    I have to alter (or rather, "have altered") nearly everything, and there is nothing particularly bizarre about me, beyond my long torso. At 5'5-1/2", measuring 35, 26, 35, you'd think I'd have no problem at all, right? Wrong.

    Nothing fits. Absolutely nothing. If something does fit, it's nearly miraculous. I can spend hours trying on clothes, and unless they're made of stretch material, nothing truly fits. It's an enormous time and energy sink, and yes, emotionally trying.

    Tailored jackets that fit in the bust are huge in the rest of the torso. Petites are just short, not truly petite (and with my torso, jackets barely clear my ribs).

    Pants, skirts, and dresses are too big in the waist, and often in the hips. If the waist fits, they usually too tight through the bottom and thighs (no, I'm really not skinny, and I'm muscular).

    As for crying, I hear you. We have all done it, if we are aware enough to realize that nothing is working, and care enough to get frustrated. Just try being a woman (of any shape and size) shopping for jeans, a swimsuit, or gads, a bra.

    Or try being a ballet student who needs a size XL leotard to prevent it from creeping up her butt because her "girth" is literally off the chart -- several inches more than someone who outweighs her by 50 pounds!? Talk about depressing. A ballerina with a Gumby torso, which makes her otherwise normal-length legs look like spare parts form a dachshund. Not good.

    Rather than crumple in a miserable heap, I try (and it does take effort) to remind myself that it is the manufacturer's "fault," not mine. There's nothing "wrong" with me. I'm just an individual, same as everyone else. I buy what I can find that "almost" fits and take it to a seamstress for alterations to fit my unique shape.

    Count yourself fortunate that you even realize what does and doesn't fit and flatter*, and are willing to seek it out. Beyond that, kudos for taking matters into your own hands and learning to sew. I envy your skill.

    *yeah, I wrote a post about THAT topic, too. It's here (delete as you see fit, I don't want to overstep):
    http://www.betterdressesvintage.com/blogs/from-my-closet/7107440-skirting-the-issue

    p.s. I have several extra small-framed middle-aged friends who shop at "GAP Kids" and similar, because the styles are the same, but the sizes are smaller. No shame in that.

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  54. Leather jacket bought on vacation? You had not seen You've Got Mail before you bought it, had you? :D

    Being able to make/alter my own patterns and make my own clothes and clothes for my sister (some) sure helps my self esteem (and hers) a lot. Because they fit. A) I can look good the way I am (the obvious answer to your question), B) it sure helps to boost my self esteem knowing that I made that wonderful piece of clothing! :D

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  55. I've always been exceptionally tall, even as a child. When my growth spurt hit at age 10/11 (5th grade) I went from 5'2" to 5'10" in less than the school year. I was thin to begin with and didn't gain any weight. Of course back then (when patterns came in single sizes and printing on them was a new concept), nothing fit me except my mother's shoes and men's Levis (and we weren't allowed to wear pants to school).

    So, YES! - having learned to sew at an early age was extremely helpful and I would have taken an even bigger hit to my self esteem than I would have without the ability to wear clothes that fit. Even today (with my much more padded body) I always feel much more confident when wearing clothes that I made or was able to purchase in a tall store (sniff - they're all closed!) and then altered slightly to fit. I actually feel depressed and more introverted than usual when I'm in 'regular' clothes that are too short, too tight in the shoulders (did I mention I was also a swimmer?) or seat, or too baggy around the body when I find them to fit in the shoulders or seat.

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  56. My dear Peter. Yes. Yes. Yes! I have fit issues! I am according to every woman;s sizing chart a perfect size 10, *ok the chart was made in 1940* in Pattern envelope sizing I am an size 12? since I have 36 inch hips and apparently I should have 33.5 inch hips to match my waist measurement..... really? Who has 34 inch hips? Does anyone have this tiny of a hip/butt measurement?? And, of course, I have small boobs. Yes, I know there are many woman who say: try having big boobs, but I don't care. I can not find a bra that really fits. Besides that I am athletically built, with wide shoulders, a trim waist and strong thighs. Finding a collared shirt here in Europe is impossible! I have literally ripped ouot the shoulder seams of three shirts. If I go up a size to a 36 to accomodate my shoulders I am swimming in the shirt it is so big. I suppose if I have shoulders I should also have big boobs too according to standard European sizing.

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  57. dude just make your own patterns. it's NOT that hard. I was a new sewer last year, didn't know anything and managed to make my own patterns. All you need to do is observe.

    Measure your well-fitting clothes. You know what I use to make a jacket? A coat? A shirt?

    I use a T-shirt pattern. Except, of course, I have to change the pattern. For shirts, I need to divide the back for the yoke, I need to create a collar and a stand and I need to create a hem that makes a shirt the way it looks.

    For jackets and coats, I enlarge the pattern, I enlarge the armhole and I design it the way I want to.

    YOU DO NOT NEED ANY OTHER PATTERN EXCEPT YOUR T-SHIRT PATTERN. Trust me.

    All you need is imagination and a little patience.

    You don't need to keep buying patterns all the time. You can learn to make your own.

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  58. I think the black leather jacket looks fine. I had to laugh when you mentioned that you were told that you were a winter. I took a color class at the Academy of Art SF and it was a very interesting class and I did agree with the teacher on most things but I think black looks great on just about anyone. For me sleeve length is a huge problem. I tend to be one of those that needs a tall size and it's just not possible a lot of the time to find a shirt that has the right length in a sleeve. I also enjoy my shirts and coats with a bit of room to them. Tight clothes tend to make me feel like I can't breath.

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