I'm a sewer. I'm not one of those impressive Haute Couture sewers that create full Victorian regalia for ren-faires, but I regularly make my own Halloween costumes, skirts, tops and simple dresses when I can't find anything I really like. The problem is that commercial sewing patterns aren't really designed to fit fat people well, so I have to take a pattern, make it out of cheap material, check it for fit, pin it, cut it, put it back together, mark the changes and darts, then take it completely apart and use it as a pattern for the real piece of clothing. Usually, it's not worth the effort. I've looked at dress dummies, but the "plus size" dummies generally only go to a size 18 (which is about a real-world 10/12), and instead of actually being reflective of the plus size body they tend to just be the size 8 dress dummy with an extra panel to make a larger waist. The "breasts" are about a B cup at most. how the hell is anyone supposed to use one of these things to sew something for a real person!?
Oh, that's right. I forgot. Anyone over a size 12 should be wearing mu-mus to hide the dreaded fat. Since we're not allowed to wear fitted things, it doesn't matter how accurate the mannequin is. Heck, we could use a box. Or a roll of carpet. Same difference, right?
It seems ironic to me that fat people are so neglected in this area since so many of us DO make our own things, for want of anything good on the store racks. The big three pattern companies (McCall's, Buttericks, Simplicity) do carry plus size patterns, some even go to a size 32 (dress size about a 26) but many seem to be just blown-up versions of smaller patterns without the extra darting and shape required to really fit. There are a few independent sewers who sell their patterns online, but it's a chore to find the ones that aren't basic and shapeless (or horribly expensive). So generally a lot of patterns for fat people just end up looking pretty home-made. It's an education, really, since it makes me learn through trial-and-error about how to shape the fabric. The problem is that while thin people learn this, they have a dress dummy to practice on. I have to stand in front of a mirror and try not to stab myself with pins.
I've given up on a plus-size dress dummy that actually LOOKS like a real fat person (you know, like with actual breasts and hips?) and am playing around with ideas for making my own. My first thought was to get/make a sort of bodysuit that fit me snugly and stuff it, but the logistics are pretty crazy. I also thought of paper mache' or plaster, but as we all know, fat moves. My shape lying down waiting for the plaster to dry is NOT my shape standing up. Half of me migrates.
Damn you, gravity! I should have voted for velcro.
What didn't occur to me, until I thought to consult the great oracle of Google, was the magical and all-fixing powers of duct tape.
Then I found this site: Clone Yourself a Fitting Assistant
It has instructions on creating two different versions of a dress dummy out of duct tape that would serve as basically an exact replica of your body. Instead of shelling out $100 for a badly made barrel-like dress dummy, you can make a $20 one. If your weight fluctuates quite a bit, you can make several to represent each stage of your normal weight cycle. I have a friend I sew for regularly, and I can't WAIT to have a taping party with her so I can finally make stuff that fits her well.
One addition to the instructions on the website I'm going to try is that instead of stuffing the dummy with actual stuffing, I'll buy maybe three cans of Great Stuff expanding insulation foam from the hardware store. It's fairly cheap, expands to conform to the space, and dries pretty rigid. The instructions for the duct tape dummy state that it doesn't last forever with just stuffing. Since the bustline or breast outline is more horizontal, it doesn't stand up well to the pressure and starts to collapse. By filling it with rigid foam, I'm theorizing that it will stand up much longer. Not to mention reinforcing the somewhat horizontal areas of the Buddha belly.
I'm excited to try this, and will probably get together with friends after the holidays to work on it. Three girls, a pitcher of margaritas, and twelve rolls of duct tape. The guys will be so jealous :-)
According to the instructions you can use a heavy duty cardboard tube and set it in a christmas tree stand to make the mannequin upright. I think instead I'll get one of the big bamboo poles from Hobby Lobby and cut it down. It'll be more sturdy than cardboard. That way I can even make the dummy the right height as well as circumference. Holy crap on a cracker, I'll actually be able to make floor length skirts with even hems, so I can stop buying the dowdy ones in stores that hit me mid-calf!
It is a little frustrating getting geeked on a new project when I have no time to work on it. I have to make two kimono and a quilted wall hanging before Sunday. I have to sacrifice every other project. Including my dishes and laundry. Boy won't that be fun to come home to!