Thursday, September 12, 2013

Size-ism and Capitalism

Pattern blocks used to conform to this body model.

Ah, the firestorm of size-ism. The Colleterie site's "thoughts-on-sewing/grading-patterns-for-plus-sizes" conversation is intense.

As it should be. It's a big, personal, complicated issue. There's no way to contain all of it in one blog or letter or song or book.

I must apologize for throwing any hornets' nests into a small room, but sizing is, I believe, a cultural convention, and that sewing defies that in a political action.
Dress form of recent vintage. No hips on her!

I believed this long before Elizabeth Cline wrote "Overdressed"; she didn't go far enough by my lights.

Sure, our (choices define (commerce) defines our choices), perpetuating a feedback loop of "cheap and shoddy clothes that fit no one that are bought by everyone, creating more demand for cheap and shoddy...

You get the idea. Clothing is cheap because we expect so little from it. You get what you pay for.

This is the same thinking for sizing blocks for The Big 4 (the big 2:McCalls/Butterick/Vogue/KwikSew and Simplicity/NewLook). Two organizations, with remarkably similar basic shape assumptions. They've got a lot of product to crank out, in a standard that really fits no one, but has been accepted by the majority. We voted for it by buying it.

See the photos of dress forms for a few ideas about the "ideal" body type assumption. Was anyone that shape? No. Industrial strength corsetry made the first image possible. Each was the sizing block of its time.

18th C Wood/Iron dress forms: The back is swayed and the frames are for the skirts, which will stand away from the torso

This is my argument: if you expect free and cheap patterns, you will get the midrange house sizing. If you want more than that, you will pay for it. Your rate of exchange will either be higher priced patterns or your labor in adapting/redrafting those patterns.

In marketing and business, there's the idea that you can have something quick, good or cheap. You can have two out of the three, but you cannot have all three. You have to decide. And just letting the decision go is deciding that you don't care about it

It's not that patterns are too expensive, it's that they've been underpriced for years. See that $30 price on a Vogue Pattern? Did you ever pay that?* See that $22 on a Sewing Workshop? Ever pay that? Were your expectations different? Why? The same level of technique went into both; but one company is underwritten by a mammoth empire (the patterns are a promotional write-off) and the other one isn't. Those badly drafted 'plus size' patterns are a sop, designed to keep your business and keep you quiet. You can have it quick and you can have it cheap.....

The other house motto we have at Ernie Labs is: make it easy for people to give you money. If someone asks you for an item you don't sell (that would make sense for you to sell, like a grocery store selling cabbage as well as lettuce), you should try really hard to get that item in. You do NOT tell a potential customer why you can't; they will write you off and go to the next door/store/website down. Never say no; say 'soon.' 

On a personal note, it makes me very angry to see people giving away their hard work on Burda and Craftsy. I make myself mad at undercharging for my hard work because someone else is giving my patterns away for free. I compete with myself at the end of the day, and the only way i can beat that is by adding value to what I already have out. You stole the pattern, but you forgot to steal the instructions.

I keep going at it because it's what I enjoy working hard at.  It sets my brain on fire in a way that no other activity has. I'm okay at it,  but i will be brilliant someday, tenthousand happy hours later.

And when I get there, I sure as hell will not accept $2 for a pattern.

* I feel really badly for our UK/Aus/NZ pals who do pay something like this. Now and then, there's a Vogue that really does teach you something new in the construction and instructions, but I confess I wait them out for the deep discount sales at Joann's. And I do pay $22 for a Sewing Workshop pattern, because i know what went into it. 

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