Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) and Pattern Fitting

Sewing for and working with ladies trying to get patterns and clothes to fit their body has reminded me of my own insecurities that were present in my early years.  My studies have taught me that pattern companies and clothing manufactures must use standard measures based on norms they have found helpful as a basis for sizing sewing patterns and ready-to-wear clothing.  
BDD, pattern fitting, body dysmorphic disorder
These sizing standards of measurements, I think, however, can form insecurities in us that may contribute to our obsessions regarding our body and cause use to feel "we" are abnormal.  While, in actuality, the sewing patterns in this case just don't "fit" us.  

When I was younger, I thought that as long as I was fitting into the size 10 pattern as it was drafted with no knowledge of FBA's, Sway back, prominent buttock adjustments and the like, then I was "normal" and of good weight and build, and therefore, acceptable.  I fitted into the "CHART" used by the pattern company.  This was my guideline to know whether I was healthy, or so I thought. 

However, as "normal" life changes occurred, so too changes in my body occurred.  Unfortunately, my young mind of twenty-something, did not register or conceptualize, that "those" standards were not absolutes, and thus, were not a goal for me to maintain.  Nor did those "CHARTS" change to recognize a females body changes.  So I was basically trying to fit into a pattern which only took into account the norms of someone half  my age.
Body Dysmorphic Disorder: Signs and symptoms of body dysmorphic disorder include: 
  • Preoccupation with your physical appearance with extreme self-consciousness 
  • Frequent examination of yourself in the mirror, or the opposite, avoidance of mirrors altogether 
  • Strong belief that you have an abnormality or defect in your appearance that makes you ugly 
  • Belief that others take special notice of your appearance in a negative way 
  • Avoidance of social situations 
  • The need to seek reassurance about your appearance from others 
  • Excessive exercise in an unsuccessful effort to improve the flaw 
  • The need to grow wear excessive makeup or clothing to camouflage perceived flaws 
  • Comparison of your appearance with that of others 
  • Reluctance to appear in pictures 
I don't think I suffered from BDD, but it was unfortunate for me, that I was a small 135 pound muscular woman with young kids, yet still a Weight Watchers Poster Child, who thought I was overweight, and needed to loose some pounds to "FIT" into my patterns.  Yes, even back then, I did not often purchase ready-to-wear clothes.  OOOH!!! so wrong and naive was I. 
That me on the right at 26.
Unfortunately, I am finding that this feeling and belief is still a problem for many women no matter the age.  Fitting "into" sewing patterns still creates a culture of sewist who think something is wrong with them.  This in no way assumes these ladies have low self-esteem, however, it is apparent we still have some level of insecurities, and just can't pinpoint the actual cause, except the issue of pattern sizing.  Neither does this take into account that pattern companies have made it part of their mission to make some adjustments in the size groupings now available for the different life stages of their market.

Thus, I now have made a conscious effort to avoid my old way of thinking by increasing my knowledge and understanding of fit, and also to no longer obsess over every little wrinkle and fold in my handmade clothing.  To accept my body as it is, and make things "FIT" me, not me fit them.

So, as corny as it seems, my business name, or my web name was changed many, many years ago to "SEW-TO-FIT." and that's what I try to do now, sew-to-fit for me.

I hope this information will help anyone, who can relate at some level and help a young person with their own body image.  


  1. Thank you for sharing this valuable information. Awesome post.

  2. Andrea, I'm glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for reading.

  3. I enjoyed your post so much. I grew up in a 'well to do' Southern family that had the female's figure in its value system. aarrgghh. Throughout my teens I struggled to fit into a RTW size 14 or 16, and suffered horribly because I felt fat. And it was reinforced by my family! I sewed my own clothes and my mom bought the same sizes - which didn't fit of course. More anguish. I look at pictures of me from those years and realize I was so healthy. You're right. The blessing of sewing one's own wardrobe is sewing to fit. Wonderful concept. Thank you!

    1. Coco, this is such a common problem in any demographic area of the country. I have sewn for ladies whom I could not tell them the pattern size I was using because of the stigmatism associated.

  4. Great post. I identified with all that you said

    1. Thanks Anne, I hope to encourage anyone to help young ladies avoid problems with anorexic and BDD tendencies.

  5. Great conversation. Can't wait to read more responses.

    1. Thanks Tasha, so glad this is a topic of interest for so many.

  6. I have sewn for people who don't want to be measured. I can pretty much guess their size, then make a muslin and we go from there. Women go through so much with their size, body shape, weight and physical appearance. We all think we're abnormal because we don't fit RTW standards. I used to hate shopping. When I gave up buying RTW, and decided to make my clothes, it was such a relief from the pressure of trying to make my body fit someone else's standards.

    1. I understand it is importance to keep the measurements and sizes to yourself when sewing for others. I think the difference in RTW sizing and patterns only makes the problem worse.

  7. Thanks for this posting!
    At her university, my sister found a sticker on a bathroom mirror: "WARNING: This reflection is shown distorted because of socially constructed conceptions of beauty!" (difficult to translate, but I guess you get the idea)
    Great idea! This warning should be on every mirror :)

    And I recently found a photo of me at the age of 18. Back then, I weighed 30 pounds less, but felt much fatter than today. I am very short and my body is rather curvy even when I was very slim, thus I just don't look like a model - but of course, I don't have to!
    At that age, 18, I started sewing and I slowly learned exactly what you said: It's not that my body is wrong because it's not made for those clothes and patterns, it's the patterns and clothes that have to be alterated to fit to my body!
    I'm 30 now and still struggle sometimes with accepting my body, but I'm on a good way :)

    (I'm German and not used to write in English, so I hope you can understand what I want to say :D)

    1. Hello Stefanie, I did understand all you said. It is awesome you have been able to start making these observations early on in life. It will make a difference in your happiness. Just recognizing the problem helps to break the cycle.

  8. This is a great post. I love it!


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