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How to Love Your Body While You Sew: 5 Tips for Body Positive Dressmaking

by Bonnie
love your body sign with tape measure around on a pink background

[Gentle trigger warning. This blog explores clothing sizing and the negative feelings that can be associated. If this doesn’t feel good for you now, why not save this blog for future reading]

Sewists of all abilities can be hit with difficult feelings towards their bodies. While the body positivity movement is going strong, and huge steps have been taken across society to embrace bodies of all shapes, sizes, skin tones, and abilities, it’s not always easy to feel good in your body.

There are lots of reasons someone may feel a little negative about themselves as they create a garment. As we cut out a pattern, our bodies have been reduced to numbers and lines. Feelings that those lines and numbers aren’t “good” or aren’t “right” can creep in. We tend to know our bodies well, so we notice change. Even if that change is temporary, natural, or small, we can assign negative thoughts to it. Not to mention, we’re often sewing while regularly measuring ourselves, looking frequently in a mirror, in our underwear, in bright, unforgiving light… None of this is a recipe for looking or feeling your best. What’s important to remember is: your body is amazing, and beautiful. Regardless of the numbers, or the lines, or the lighting.

In this guide we’ll explore all the ways you can embrace body positive dressmaking. It’s not uncommon to feel some negativity towards your appearance, and you’re certainly not alone.

At the end of this blog you’ll find some organisations to speak to if you’d like some extra help with feeling good in your skin.

Body positive dressmaking: UK standard clothes sizes vs UK pattern sizes

two women standing next to each in skin tight clothing, resting heads on each other

Sizing- especially for women’s clothes- is a huge problem.

While it seems there is standard sizing in the UK, (2- 36 etc) the reality is, each of these sizes are different depending on the shop you go to. A size 14 jeans from Zara will fit completely differently to a pair from Next, or Boden, or Levi.

Even if you think you know your size, every shopping trip means changing rooms and guesswork. In the worst-case scenario, a trip back another day to get a refund. If you’re plus-sized there are few brands which have all their garments in the whole range of sizes, so you have even fewer options.

The bad news, as you probably know, it that sewing patterns and sizing are also minefields. Even though standard sizing in the UK is far from actually standard, patterns sizes do not correlate anyway. So, if you’re a comfortable 10-12 on the high street, and you find a great dress pattern in a 10-12, it is very unlikely to fit.

In fact, as explained by Tea and a Sewing Machine, there is a huge 7cms difference between a “standard” UK size 16, and a pattern size 16.

Ready to wear clothes:

The measurements for a size 16 are:

·       Bust 41 inches / 104 cm

·       Waist 33 inches / 85 cm

·       Hips 43 inches / 108 cm

Self-made clothes:

A size 16 on the back of a pattern is:

 ·       Bust 38 inches / 97 cm

·       Waist 30 inches / 76 cm

·       Hips 40 inches / 101 cm

“As you can see, the measurements on the pattern are at least 7 cm smaller. This is easily going to be the difference between something fitting well and not being able to do it up.”

This problem is made worse when working with vintage patterns. Depending on the era, clothes were designed to be made with a corset or a girdle under them, and our bodies are simply different now.

How to feel body positive when making your own clothes

If you see a size number and immediately feel negative, you might want to sit with that feeling and think about why this number holds negativity. With diet culture, unattainable beauty standards, photoshopped images, and a whole host of other reasons, we can associate having a larger body as a problem. In reality, all bodies are beautiful and worth love, regardless of size.

It’s tricky to unlearn a negative association. Reminding yourself gently that your body is fabulous and deserves gorgeous clothes is a good start. This might be a case of practicing and practising until it’s normal for you.

As you learn more about the inconsistencies of sizing across ready to wear and hand made clothes it becomes clearer and clearer: the system is the problem, not your body.

Plus-sized and size inclusive sewing patterns

Feeling great about your body as you sew can start with the pattern designers you buy from. Supporting pattern brands who are aware of the sizing problem and are doing their best to change it means sewing becomes more and more size inclusive.

One of Good Fabric’s pattern stockists ‘Sewing Patterns by Masin’ has a wonderful way of explaining sizes. She’s assigned letters to each size, rather than sticking to the language of the standard sizes – 12, 14, 16, 18, etc. This means sewists come to the pattern and the project with no preconceived ideas of what size they are, what size they “should be”. It’s simply a letter. There are sizes from A-J, meaning there is likely to be a pattern that’s perfect for your body.

Another of our excellent stockists is The Modern Sewing Co. They have released some of their designs in a range of sizes, such as this Celia dress, with more planned.

celia dress sewing pattern by the modern sewing co

Similarly, Tilly and the Buttons uses a numbered system for the sizing of their patterns but it’s simply 1-10. Their informative site does explain how this loosely correlates to the standard sizing system and includes measurements. You can see whether you’re a size 1, or a size 5, or a size 10, but the number really has no meaning.

How to use sewing to celebrate your body

When we sew for ourselves, we’re constantly measuring, tweaking, and looking in a mirror… all while not wearing much. Our skin, our shape, our curves- with nowhere to hide. Which, in many ways, is a wonderful celebration of your skill and your beauty… BUT, if you’re someone who struggles to love their body, this process can be uncomfortable.

Here are some things to try next time you sew:

be kind affirmation written on a notepad


Spend some time finding body positive phrases which you connect with. Something like:
• “I am enough”
• “I am more than my appearance”
• “I am beautiful as I am”
• “Happiness has no size”
• “I am grateful for my body”

As you sew, say these to yourself in your mind, or out loud. The more you say them the more you believe them.

Print or embroider your own labels

Make a batch of your own clothes labels and sew them into each garment you make.
• “Made with love”
• “Size: beautiful”
• “I love me”
• “I deserve beauty”

Imagine you were making the garment for your best friend, sister, or child

If you were making a garment for a loved-one, regardless of their size or shape, you would never be critical of their body. You would treat them with kindness. You’d enjoy making something just for them, and they’d be delighted with what you’d made with love.

Treat what you make for yourself the same way.

Keep your space joyful

Wherever you sew, make it a space you love to be in. Have images of you looking and feeling great on the wall. Hang up your best pieces of clothing somewhere you can see them easily. Use lots of lamps for great lighting. Wear a silky robe each time you sew so you feel a little luxurious. Anything which makes the sewing experience joyful will help you feel positive about your body too.

“Go with the feeling”- check in with how you feel as you plan, prep, and sew

seamstress measuring waist on the model

If you find yourself browsing Instagram and feeling inspired by other creators’ beautiful makes, you’re not alone. But, before you jump straight to “buy pattern”, pause for a second. Even when a garment is beautiful, and beautifully made, it might not be right your body.

It’s not about certain bodies only being able to wear certain “types” of clothes. You can wear whatever you want! It’s about what makes you feel good. Ask yourself: which clothes feel good on my body? What feels like “me”?

Seeing a gorgeous gathered dress might inspire you to reach for the poplin, but if you spend your time in dungaree dresses, ask yourself if the gathered dress is right for you.

If you’re normally happiest in an A-line skirt, think about why you’re making, say, a jumpsuit. You might have a nagging “this isn’t right” feeling every time you check the fit of the jumpsuit on your body. These feelings can tip over into “my body is the problem” rather the reality – the garment isn’t your style, it’s not what you’re comfortable it, and your body is perfect as it is.

If you’ve started making a garment and something about it isn’t feeling good, don’t push on. Listen to your instincts and try to repurpose the make into something you will love, or perhaps make the garment for a friend instead.

Quick tip: check who you’re following on social media. If you find yourself unfavourably comparing yourself to other makers and feeling negatively about your body, it might be time to unfollow.

Find the fabric which makes you feel good

Just like finding the perfect pattern for you, your fabric choice is key. Think about what feels good on your body and against your skin.

If you feel good in lightweight, flowy fabrics opt for Ecovero, viscose, and Tencel, or satin, poplin, and lawn. These are great for summer of course, but you can wear your favourite floaty dresses in the autumn and winter with extra layers.

Fabrics such as Tencel modal, cotton jersey, and French terry are soft and sustainable, while also giving some stretch to your makes. If you prefer your clothes to allow you to move easily, this is a great fabric choice for you.

You’ve got so many options from corduroy, to denim, to gabardine and making something in a fabric you love is a sure fire way to have a super positive sewing experience. Whatever you make and wear should feel good, as well as look good. You deserve it!

Next steps

For more advice on body positivity and acceptance explore the Be Real website, the Mental Health Foundation’s Body Image pages, and Psychology Today’s guidance.



Good Fabric specialise in sustainable fabrics, inclusive patterns, and environmentally friendly haberdashery. We are an independent, female- owned, UK business. Get 10% off your first order and free delivery over £60.

This SEO- friendly blog was written by Bonnie Harrington, a Bristol – based copywriter and content writer for creative, sustainable, and independent small businesses. If you’d like a blog just like this for your business, get in touch here.

by Bonnie

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