For those of us who are curvy, plus-size or busty, dressing dapper can be a challenge. Buying ready-to-wear from the ‘menswear’ section often leads to gaping, straining buttons, or overwhelming shoulders and sleeves, while the construction of some ‘womenswear’ doesn’t work well with traditionally dapper accessories like neckties. I started sewing a few years back with more traditionally feminine items like skirts and dresses, but before long I realized that my sewing machine could help me realize the dapper wardrobe I’d been dreaming of, replete with bold prints and delightful textures, which would fit me better than what I could find in stores. Sewing can be intimidating at first glance, but with some patience and practice it’s not hard to bring some dapper finesse to your wardrobe.
For Beginners: A Snazzy Pocket Square
Never held a needle in your life? That’s cool; we all start somewhere! Why don’t you jazz up your existing wardrobe with some pocket squares or bandanas? Pick out some lightweight cotton in a kickass print, cut into a square (approximately 10-11″ on each side for a pocket square or 21-22″ for a bandana), fold each edge over about a quarter of an inch and press in place with your iron, then fold one more time and press again, so that the cut edges are hidden. Sew all the way around and enjoy your new flair!
For Budding Garment-Makers: A Versatile Vest
Got a machine and know the basics of how it works? You’re ready to start making garments. No, really. Vests are the best for beginner dapper sewists: many versions have relatively simple seam lines, and they give you a fantastic opportunity to play with different fabrics, prints, and textures. Go ahead and pick up that beautiful wool, that over-the-top brocade or that crisp summer seersucker! Pair with an unexpected color on the back for impact from all angles. Try New Look 6914 (sizes 4-16) or Bootstrap Fashion’s Button Down Vest (pattern generated to your measurements).
For The Somewhat-Experienced Sewist: A Swell Sweatshirt
More interested in a casual dapper look? Raglan sweaters and sweatshirts are having a serious moment in indie pattern companies, and they’re a great introduction to sewing knits (stretchy fabrics like sweatshirt fleece, jersey or stretch wool). Use a pair of bold solids for a color-blocked look or pick out a modern geometric print or a novelty animal print. Pick up the Seamwork Paxson (sizes S-2XL, unisex), Grainline Linden (sizes 0-18), Blueprints Geodesic (chest sizes 30-50″) or Green Style Creations Centerfield (sizes XXS-3XL).
For The Pros: A Tailored Button-Down
Once you’ve got a good handle on how to use your machine and follow a pattern, it’s time to level up to the holy grail of curvy dapper sewing: the button-front shirt. Though they’re intimidating at first glance, creating a well-fitting collared shirt in your perfect fabric is absolutely possible with a little bit of patience. For a more fitted, sharp option, try Cashmerette’s Harrison shirt (sizes 12-28, cup sizes C-H) or Sewaholic’s Granville (sizes 0-20). For your perfect flannel, try Simplicity 2189 (sizes 10-28), Simplicity 1538 (sizes 6-22) or the Grainline Archer (sizes 0-18).
Creating your own wardrobe can be fun, rewarding and gender affirming. As a fat woman, I also consider sewing to be a way of caring for my body, helping me to both know and appreciate its particularities and to present myself to the world in a way that helps me feel powerful, confident, and sharp. As with everything in life, I encourage you to approach sewing with curiosity, patience and some self-forgiveness for your own mistakes.