Saturday, August 06, 2016

Time Capsule: A Pressing Aid Reveals the Past

I remember making this pressing aid in 4-H, when I was 16. I used a couple of magazines, rolled tightly and secured with masking tape, and then covered the roll with a piece of heavy woolen fabric, several layers of cotton flannel, and a removable muslin cover. 

I've used this sleeve roll since 1969, about 47 years. It was in need of a new cover, and I do own other contraptions for pressing sleeves and other tight areas. I'd always fantasied about opening up and reading the magazines inside, so I did!

The end of the roll was already coming loose and the flannel was shredding.

The treasures revealed.

The layers of coverings.

                                                                    The masking tape.

I found two magazines inside: the Ladies Home Journal that I remembered putting in there, from November 1969, and a Saturday Evening Post from 1963. As I leafed through these magazines, I was struck by how little things had changed: we still buy many of the products advertised, like frozen fish sticks and Rice-A-Roni. However, much has changed in how we regard women, for which I am very grateful. I was also struck by the proportion of editorial (the articles and photos) as compared to advertisements. Nowadays, we get less to read and look at from magazines, and far more ads.

 The back page of most women's magazines advertised Breck shampoo, with a pastel  "Breck Girl"

Babies were big:

Cars were snazzy; televisions came in a fancy wooden cabinet; appliances were major purchases and were sold by a man in a suit:

Ironing, toddlers, and daytime television took up women's time. Whether or not a daughter could grow up to work as a "lady engineer" was controversial.

 Sweat came from "feelings," not exercise, and one could "reduce" by being lazy:

Women either spent lots of time at the beauty parlor under a hair dryer in rollers, or they slept overnight in rollers. Hot rollers were new, and you didn't have to sleep in them:

I am currently pressing my time capsule contents under a stack of heavy art books to help remove the curliness so I can continue to enjoy them in the months to come.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Pick Your Plus Size Pattern - by Barbara Deckert Designs

Friday, March 29, 2013

"The Swinger"

Half Circle Swing Jacket

New .pdf Pattern

By Barbara Deckert Designs

For Knit Fabrics

One Size Fits 1X-6X: Bust 47-67 – Hips 55-75 Inches

Swinger Front on 1X Dress Form

Swinger Back on 1X Dress Form

Swinger Side

Swinger Front on 6X Dress

Swinger Back on 6X Dress Form

Every woman needs a jacket to complete her look, and this one fits all the bills.  Make it up in knit velvet or a sweater knits for cold weather wear or try it in stretch lace or cotton jersey for warm weather.

There are only TWO PATTERN PIECES: the front/back and the sleeve. There are only TWO sets of SEAMS TO SEW: the shoulder seams and armscyes. Finish the edges, and you're done. 

The sweeping, swingy lower edge of the jacket forms a perfect half circle, which drapes gracefully around the figure and swings as you walk.

Complete materials list and construction instructions are included for several exciting design variations to finish the opening edges and hems: finish with a simple serger rolled hem, a conventional topstitched hem, add a facing to the opening edges, add a contrast bias band (as shown in the pictures) with decorative hand stitched accents, or add your choice of trim to the hem and opening edges.

This pattern really does fit all plus sizes: note that the sample photos are shown on both a 1X and a 6X dress form! 

This design has it all: easy fit, super fast construction, creative opportunities, and lots of swingy, flattering, vertical lines!

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Barbara Deckert Designs: New Pattern Available on Craftsy!

"The Goddess of Glam" 

Full Slip or Cami

Plus SIze 1X - 6X Sewing Pattern with Cup Sizes C-D-E-F-G

This pdf sewing pattern features individual cup pattern pieces for bra cup sizes C,D,E, F, and G, each multi-sized 1X - 6X.  Elastic back for comfort and easy fit.

Make it as a slip to wear under clothing to increase opacity and to encourage your clothes to skim your figure rather than clinging to body rolls. OR make it to wear as a glam nightie or even as a dress or top if you dare!

Shown here made in silk charmeuse with lace trim. May also be made in lightweight wovens such as silk crepe-de-chine, China silk, handkerchief linen, cotton batiste or lawn, or synthetic equivalents. May also be made from lightweight knits such as nylon tricot, nylon or poly jersey, or spandex and nylon or poly blends such as swimwear fabrics or milliskin. Complete instructions are included with the pattern.

Samples are for sale in my Etsy shop at:

"The Hippy Slippy"

Two Half Slips

Plus Size Sewing Pattern for Sizes 1X - 6X

This new .pdf pattern includes two views. There's a just above the knee length slip with a back walking slit, and a longer, fuller, slip that ends just about upper mid calf. Both slips can be trimmed in lace or hemmed for a more tailored look. Shown here in silk charmeuse and China Silk. Complete written instructions are included. How about a real luxury: natural fiber fabrics against your skin and a secret hidden pleasure just for you?

Find the samples on my Etsy store at:

Friday, February 22, 2013


Barbara Deckert Designs

Two new patterns for plus size sewers: 

"The Gargoyle"


"The Gargoyle" is a long leg, long waisted, plus size panty girdle pattern for plus sizes 1X - 5X, hip measurements 55 - 75 inches.

"The Hunky Punky"


"The Hunky Punky" is a plus size panty girdle pattern for plus sizes 1X - 5X, hips 55 - 75 inches.

Both of these girdles are easy and fast to make with basic sewing skills and supplies. 

Plus size women should wear a girdle every day, just as they wear a bra. Girdles smooth the figure, compress soft tissues, eliminate jiggle, and make clothing look and fit better.

Ready-to-wear girdles are very expensive in the major name brands that are decently made and fabricated, or they are very poorly made our of cheap fabrics in the no-name versions. There is no other girdle pattern in print for any size, much less plus and super sizes.

Make you own girdles with beginning sewing skills in about a half an hour!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Plus Size Pattern Fitting & Design

I’m teaching an exciting new interactive video class called Plus Size Pattern Fitting and Design.

This class teaches sewers how to: 

  • Adjust patterns to fit their unique plus size dimensions, cup size, and figure variations.
  • Make patterns fit even if they are beyond the size range for a pattern.
  • Design for their plus size bodies.
The best part of this class is that I will be available to answer students’ questions as they take the class. Students can chat among themselves, too, about anything sewing related. They can upload pictures to share with me and other students of works in progress and finished sewing projects. The class never ends, and students can watch it as many times as they want, whenever and wherever they want.

Sewing is Social Activism!

In my humble opinion, sewing for yourself, if you’re large and in charge, is an act of social activism, and here’s why:

Fat-O-Phobia in Our Culture:

Let’s talk a minute about what I call “fat-o-phobia.” We live in a culture where hatred and fear of fat people is one of the last socially acceptable forms of bigotry.

Women of all sizes seem to hate their bodies, no matter how thin they are. We’re obsessed with dieting and exercising to be thin. Every day, on TV programs and commercials, in print media such as fashion magazines, newspapers, advertisements, and on Internet sites, we are bombarded by thousands of images a day of freakishly thin women, and this makes us think that extreme thinness is ideal and even normal.

The B Doll and G-Willi

We all grew up with these fashion dolls. They used to be a bit bustier than this one, and I noticed that the new ones have plastic panties! If the B doll were a real person, she would be: 

  • 6 feet tall. 
  • weigh 110 pounds
  • Have a BMI of 16.24 (which would qualify her as anorexic).
  • Measurements 39-18-33
  • A standardized pattern size 0 - 2 in the waist, a size 8 in the hips, and probably an F cup in the bust
Wow, would SHE need a custom dressmaker!

Let’s compare the B doll with the Goddess of Willendorf; her friends call her “G-Willi.” She is a Paleolithic (“Stone Age”) fertility goddess, thought to have been sculpted from life. Here she is in a hot little number from her resort collection. The original is about 5 inches tall, and is naked, but I can’t have naked goddesses prancing around my studio, so I made her a bikini. This is a body to be worshipped.

Here’s what we really know about actual, average American women. According to an anthropometric study (anthropometry is the scientific study of the human size and form) that was published in 2008 by the Center for Disease Control (the CDC) *, the mean (meaning about “average”) for all women ages 20 and over in this country, in all ethnic groups, is 

  • Weight 165 pounds
  • Height  5’4”. 
  • Waist measurement  37 inches
  • That waist measurement corresponds to a standardized pattern size 22, and about an 18 in ready-to-wear sizing. 
In general, RTW sizes are about two sizes smaller than standardized pattern sizing. In the ready-to-wear world, any size larger than a 14 (about an 18 in pattern sizing) is regarded as plus sized.

So this means that in reality, way over half of all women in this country maybe closer to ¾ the adult female population, are regarded as plus sized by the RTW world, but we almost never see positive images of larger people in the media. Usually, fat people in the media are negatively stereotyped as “losers,” people who are unsuccessful, unlovable, unattractive, poorly dressed, psychologically damaged, poor, struggling, ugly, lazy, sick, and stupid. My local news stations always use stock video of unattractive, poorly dressed fat people, with their faces cropped or blurred out of the images, when they air pieces on the latest diet drug or sensationalized health scare story about fatness. One time they used video of an older fat woman with medical equipment in the background, shown struggling to climb up on a gurney while wearing a skimpy hospital gown, probably just before a medical procedure. Her face was blurred out but her heavy legs and arms were completely exposed. The video was probably taken without her permission, so this means that the TV station effectively “up-skirted” her, and their not so subliminal message was: “if you’re fat, you’re sick and icky looking.”

So if you’re a large person, it’s not surprising that you might not feel very good about yourself.  You might have experienced discrimination in the workplace because of your size. You might not socialize much because you feel you have nothing appropriate to wear. You might put off sewing for yourself because you are struggling to lose weight and you don’t feel worthy to have new clothes. But even if you were scheduled for gastric bypass in the morning, it might take a year for you to safely loose weight, and during that year, you need clothes to wear. You can’t go to the gym naked.

However, clothing does so much more than just cover our nakedness. Clothing is semiotic! It sends signals to others about our self-esteem, occupation, income level, status, and taste. To live full, successful, happy lives, we need clothing that sends positive signals to others around us rather than reinforcing negative fat stereotypes.

Unfortunately, buying clothes that send positive signals about us is hard to do.

Fat-O-Phobia in the Ready-to-Wear (RTW) World:

If you’re more on the average side of plus size, you might be able to shop locally, but that can be an exercise in futility and humiliation.  If you try on 20 pairs of jeans and none of them fit, for example, you’re going to think that something is wrong with your body. In reality, there is nothing wrong with your body; there is lots wrong with all those jeans. 

Most of us get dozens of what I not-so-affectionately call “fat lady catalogues” in the mail every week for large sized clothing. Most of them display clothes on thin models, not on women our size, so it’s hard to guess how they might look on us.  The garments don’t fit well, the designs are either very faddish, bright and overly trimmed-out, or they’re dowdy and dark, without much of anything in between. They’re mostly synthetics, and they’re cheaply constructed. A few years back I lost 60 pounds in a year, and I was very busy, so as a treat to myself I bought a bunch of clothes from one of the better catalogue/Internet sources. I ended up returning or giving away nearly everything I bought. Nothing fit and I didn’t have the time or energy to alter everything; the fabrics were cheap and the construction was worse. These clothes were not worth the time it would take to alter them to fit.

It’s not a treat to shop for plus size clothing, and there are very important reasons.

Here’s a dirty little secret. Most designers never learn to fit large women, or even average size women. They learn design, draping, patternmaking, and fitting on small, standardized, industrial dress forms, usually a RTW size 8. Unlike real people, dress forms will stand still for hours and they don’t scream if you jab them with pins, but they don’t look like real people. Sometimes students learn to fit one another, but young design students are mostly thin and have regular figures. Lots of design schools don’t even teach sewing or fitting anymore, since almost no clothing sold in the US is manufactured here.

Here’s another well kept secret: most of the clothing sold in the US has never been fitted on a human body. Instead, RTW manufacturers use sets of measurements that target a particular market, they email their design specs to factories overseas, the patterns are computer drafted using Auto CAD programs, and the clothes are manufactured, shipped back here, and sold. Then we buy them even though they don’t fit and they aren’t what we want and need.

Unfortunately, designers and others in the RTW industry live in the same fat-o-phobic culture as the rest of us. Many of the most highly esteemed designers openly and frankly express their hatred for large people, and state that they have no idea how to design for us, which is true; they are clueless. Plus size clothing is very low prestige in the RTW world, and it’s nearly always budget apparel. The designers who end up working for the plus size clothing industry  generally don’t like their jobs, they have no training for what they do, and they aren’t very good at it.

This is why even though RTW is cheaper compared to other goods and services than it has ever been in history,  RTW may never meet our needs for clothing that fits our bodies and our lives.

Now, let’s talk for a minute about the issue of sizing: Sizing systems help RTW retailers sell us clothes, and they help the pattern companies sell us patterns.

In the RTW world, sizing is more like a marketing tool. Manufacturers target particular markets, and they make assumptions about people’s size, taste, income level, and so on in order to sell them clothing.

What kind of assumptions does the RTW world make about the market for fat people’s clothing? Do they think we are rich? Follow fashion? Have a need for career clothes that enhance our status? Not so much.

Ever noticed how inconsistent sizing is in RTW? That is partly because of “vanity sizing.” Sizing is used to sell things; the smaller the number, the more likely women will buy. There are even “Size ‘’0’s”. If you buy 0 pounds of coffee, how much coffee do you really have? What’s next, size “-2?”  Well, we’re there. Just recently, retailers started selling jeans in size “000!” If a size represents some complicated quantity, then there are no size “0’s.” They don’t logically exist. Sizing in RTW is so inconsistent that it’s like calling clothes a size small, medium, or large.

Dressmakers have a little joke about this issue. If you slip your dressmaker a $10 bill, she’ll be happy to sew in as size 8 label into your dress. If you slip her a $20, she’ll sew in a size “0.”

Let me tell you a story. Many years ago, my mother-in-law “allowed” me to make her a suit. So, I took her measurements and blithely told her that she was a 24 on top and a 22 on the bottom. She was so angry with me. She yelled, “That can’t be right; I’ve worn a size 12 all my life.” That was probably true, because as she got bigger as she matured, the size numbers for the RTW that she bought got smaller.

Size Acceptance in the Sewing World:

Unlike RTW, pattern sizing has been consistent since the late 1960’s when I started sewing. Occasionally, someone tries to twiddle with it, but it has been pretty reliably the same for the past forty-some years. Standardized pattern sizing is the same from pattern to pattern and pretty much from pattern company to pattern company.  This is good, because it allows us to take our measurements and buy a pattern that is close to what we need, without guessing.

Sizing is like ice cream. If we buy a scoop, we get an approximate amount. The size of a scoop varies from shop to shop, and scooper to scooper. If we buy a pint, we get an exact amount.  Either way, you still get ice cream. So, RTW sizing is like a scoop, and pattern sizing is like a pint. 

That’s where my class comes in!

Most home sewers buy a pattern to make their clothing; they buy the size that they think is closest to their measurements or the biggest size available if their body is bigger than the size range for the pattern. Then they cut and sew the garment, and cross their fingers, toes, and whatever other body parts they can manage and hope and pray that it’s a magic pattern and that it will fit. Sometimes we get lucky, but as often as not, the garment doesn’t fit well and it makes the sewer look and feel miserable. What a waste of time and materials!

This is how we make “baggers,” those garments that don’t come out right and we pitch them in the charity bag or the trash bag.

No More Baggers!

As a custom dressmaker, I have developed methods for making every garment that I sew fit any size and shape of body well, since I can NEVER risk make a “bagger” in my sewing business. If I did, I would lose money at best or get sued at worst. I have to fit any style of garment on any size and shape of body that walks in my door, and believe, me, I have NEVER had a customer who looks like Barbie!  I have to practice what I call the “Cover Your Backside Method of Dressmaking.”

Home sewers, on the other hand, easily end up with baggers because sewing patterns are standardized in their sizing. Actually, that’s a good thing because that helps us buy a size that’s usually close to start with, but real women’s bodies are not standardized. Every body is a unique combination of basic dimensions at bust, waist, and hip, plus a whole lot of other places on the body, plus cup size, plus figure variations.  

This is where the size acceptance part comes in.

When you make your own clothing, it no longer matters that your body is not standardized. 

It doesn’t matter if you look like Barbie or G-Willi, because when you sew your own clothing, fitting is an essential part of the process of sewing. Remember, “fit” as a verb is transitive: it takes an object. Does a garment fit Barbie, or G-Willi, or does it fit you?

There is no magic pattern!

We make patterns fit as a part of the sewing process, and as we do, we practice size acceptance where it really matters: for ourselves and for our bodies. 

Size acceptance starts at home, and it starts in the sewing room.

To help plus size sewers with this process, my class teaches how to adjust standardized patterns to fit a sewer’s unique dimensions, cup size, and figure variations common to plus size women, and it shows how to size up patterns to fit dimensions beyond the available size range.

Here’s how I demonstrate this process: I start with an industrial plus size dress form, which I padded up in a random manner to look like a typical plus size woman who might walk in my studio door and ask for a custom made garment. I gave her extra padding all around, an F cup size, a rounded upper back, a pert backside, and a belly. Then I sewed up a simple top pattern, Vogue 8815, right out of the envelope as many people do, and put it on my well-padded friend. Of course, it didn’t fit well, despite my crossing my fingers and toes and hoping it was a magic pattern.

Then I show how to adjust our sample pattern for the padded dress form’s measurements, cup size, and figure variations. After adjusting the pattern, I cut out the top and I show how to baste it to make it ready for a fitting.

Then I demonstrate how to do a basted fitting, right on our well-padded dress form. 

The basted fitting is the difference between the way home sewers try to fit a garment and how professionals make every garment fit, without fear and without failure.

After the fitting, I show how this simple top pattern can be easily adapted to make three fun design variations, for work, play, and special occasions. I talk about how to make the simple drafting changes and I talk about the design process.  Since every garment that we sew for ourselves we also design for ourselves, Plus Size Pattern Fitting and Design teaches plus size sewers some basic tools of design that will help them make their custom made garments look as fabulous as they fit.

The class includes exciting extras:  how to take 26 measurements and record them on downloadable charts with illustrations; how to make an inexpensive paper tape dress form that looks just like you; how to quickly try out designs by sketching before you sew on plus size fashion figures that you can download; understanding wearing and design ease; and more downloads about plus size sewing tools, fiber content, alternate construction techniques for the sample top,  and resources for professional sewing supplies.  

To learn how to make patterns fit your body, whether plus size or average size, take my class.

 Plus Size Pattern Fitting and Design 

See more on youtube!

Read Your Wrinkles!

Measure Front Waist Length

Meet Craftsy Instructor Barbara Deckert

  * "Anthropometric Reference Data for Children and Adults: United States, 2003-2006." National Health Statistics Reports,  Number 10, October 22, 2008.

I'm a Craftsy Instructor

Monday, July 04, 2011

The Dressmaker's Daughter's Wedding

At Last  . . . . . . .  . . . . . . . 

Wedding gown and veil, bridesmaids' dresses, and tuxedoes by Barbara Deckert Couture
All photos courtesy of Balance Weddings

Here and below are just five of the over 800 stunning images from the wedding. I will post more later when we get them! Many, many people told us that this was the most beautiful wedding they had ever been to. Someone said that with most weddings, there is one thing that is good: it might be the photographs, the flowers, the clothing, or the food; but with Claire & Steve's wedding, everything went perfectly, and I never use that "P" word lightly, without worrying about making the Gods laugh at me.

The weather for the outdoor ceremony was gorgeous; no one stumbled on the brick pathway to the altar; no one got sick; no one flubbed their lines; all the vendors did an outstanding job. In all, the wedding was a celebration of life, perhaps the celebration of a lifetime.


With the dress bustled after the ceremony, at the demi-lune window in the bridal suite of
The Elkridge Furnace Inn.

I hope readers enjoy these pictures, as they show the results of all the technical steps needed to actually produce the garments that I blogged about in previous posts.

My heartfelt thanks to my son, who made the wedding and groom's cakes, the mini-desserts, and the croquembuche; to the Elkridge Furnace Inn (where both the bride and her brother worked for many years); to the florist for the beautiful flowers; to the craftsman who made the silver, pearl, and blue topaz custom jewelry for the bride, bridesmaids, and myself; to the DJ's who kept the young people dancing all night long, and to Balance Weddings for their light-blessed images.

And now, on with all our lives!

In Anticipation