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Designing with Fat People in Mind

Whitney Anderson

This blog has been sitting in my drafts since I started a personal knit project (Jessie Martinson’s Framework Bralette) in April. It is now September and no I’m still not finished, but that’s not why we’re here.

Me, pictured in a crop top I designed in celebration of Juneteenth in 2018.

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I want to talk about being a designer, that is plus-sized or fat (whichever term you prefer, I bounce around between the two all the time). I believe by now we have all seen some portion of the size inclusive conversation in the fiber art world. I’ve even blogged about it before. If you haven’t seen it yet, here we are!

There is a murky area of knitwear designing where sample knits beg to be made in small sizes, but that just doesn’t sit right with me. Yes, smaller items take up less time and take up less yarn. I do understand that. However, in fast fashion, fat people are often an afterthought, or not even considered at all. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen someone ask a company about bigger sizes in the comments of a post and the most common responses are “We’re working on extending our sizes” or “I will send over your request to our team.” Which usually amounts to nothing.

For slow fashion, the replies are often the same, which is what sparked the huge call for size inclusive patterns. I’m sure this applies to sewing patterns as well, but I will focus on knit and crochet here.

Now this is just my opinion, but as a fat person who believes that bigger sizes should be available for knit and crochet patterns, I feel it is my duty and my honor to not only include bigger sizes when I design, but also showcase my knits on my body and other fat bodies. I only have released one wearable pattern for adults, but I have notebooks full of pattern drafts that will eventually make it publication. I believe we need more representation of fat bodies wearing handmade items.

What message are we sending when we tell a community that they are included, but that inclusion is not visible in pattern pictures or in the designer’s social media feed? How will they know what the design looks like on a fat body? They will just have to make it to find out, I guess.

What can we do to invoke change?

Here are 3 ways that designers can step up on the representation of fat bodies.

  1. Include fat bodies in the design process (sketches, croquis, etc)
  2. Work up plus sized samples (added bonus, plus sized designers can model their own knits!)
  3. Highlight plus sized tester photos in pattern pictures and/or social media feeds

That’s it! Three really simple things that can make a major difference. There may be more ways, but these things stand out as very impactful.

Have something to add to this conversation? Reply below, I would love to hear your input!

 

 

 


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