Sunday, January 19, 2014

Vogue Knitting NYC 2014: The Fitting Station

I worked one volunteer session that's still on my mind: The Fitting Station, a partitioned place where anyone could get a list of their body measurements.

Measurements: so loaded, so uncomfortable. But to a crafty person: probably pretty necessary.

Any person creating a garment probably needs to know if a sleeve will fit over their arm, or if the waistline will be too long, or if the garment in general will feel comfortable when sitting/walking/etc.

So I got in people's business and helped record their dimensions, according to a tape measure.

Some conference members seemed grateful to finally have their measurements in front of them, and I wished them all happy knitting with a demystified explanation of their measurements.

The following reflection is anecdotal, but I couldn't help but notice some trends that made me sad.

Let's break it down: I took measurements for three straight hours, and almost always had a line. The process took less than 5 minutes. I may have given 60 women their measurements today. Almost every single one made disparaging remarks about their bodies.

Nearly. Every. One.

And it was in those most famed categories that the wisecracks came: Waist, Bust, Hips.

When I first heard these comments, I laughed along. These ladies were funny and quick and smart! But then the disparaging remarks kept coming, and coming, and coming.

It may interest you to know that there were even some trends in this expression of body dissatisfaction. Women with smaller bodies usually said, before their bustline was even measured, "Too small" or "Nothing there."

Women with bigger bodies said almost those same words when they heard the word waistline. "What waist?" or "Too big!" were common laments.

It probably doesn't help that we recorded their actual numbers on the other side of this diagram, which is really great for displaying where each line is on the body. (We didn't only measure bust, waist and hips! Arms, back, shoulders, sleeves--all of these are important when creating garments.) (Again, it should be empowering that these measurements were given for folks to make their own clothes/styles! I was not measuring folks to push weight loss drugs or workout machines. Just sayin', it shouldn't have been stressful for anyone but there were points of tension and sadness, for the women being measured, and for me, hearing all this negativity.)

But those numbers were given with a chart with the most ridiculous, inhuman cartoon body on the back. Our model was six feet tall, but with a healthy bust line, cute little hips, a long supple waist. She's a leggy Caucasian dream.

I did not measure a single woman who looked like that cartoon.

So I fixed her. I made her look like me!

Clearly, you don't have to look like this redesigned model to be an ideal knitting Guinea pig. Shorties, tall people, the busty, the not-too-busty, the hip-y, the less hip-y, the post-baby, the baby-still-in-belly, the never-never-never-having-a-baby and more came through my line today. It is so cool that all of those folks can make garments that fit their shapes in whatever way makes them most comfortable.

Yet it was devastating to hear so many women feel so uncomfortable in their own skin, or let some number hold so much meaning over them.

So cut it out, knitters! No two bodies are alike, and you are powerful enough to customize your clothes. Only use those waist/bust numbers to convert into inches of rows of stitches. STITCHES!!

And we all know what the perfect measurements are, anyway. 36, 24, 36? Only if you're 5'3"!

(Nope! Kidding! The perfect measurement is whatever you are right now. Duh.)

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