Challenged to find stylish clothes that fit and flattered her shape, body positive activist and pattern designer Jenny Rushmore decided to take back the power of fashion and develop a line of clothing patterns with contemporary style – and curves! By encouraging sewists to make clothes that fit their unique shapes and showing them how to do it, Jenny opens the world of sewing to real women with real bodies.
Have you been sewing since childhood? When and how did sewing and designing patterns become a career path for you?
I learned to sew at age 30, having always been creative but never exposed to sewing, let alone the idea of sewing clothes. However, as soon as I sat down at a machine I was enthralled by the possibilities. Not just creatively, but by the idea that I might be able to make clothes that I actually liked, in a size that fit me.
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As a plus size woman with a big bust, it was borderline impossible to find stylish clothes that fit well. It generally made me feel pretty badly about my body. Learning to sew literally changed that, and indeed my entire life. I learned that I could change my clothes to fit my body, rather than my body to fit clothes!
However, when I started sewing, there were very few sewing patterns available in my size. That led me to launch Cashmerette, the first sewing patterns dedicated to curvy sewists with cup sizes from C to H. We now have a size range from 0 – 32.
Why do you do what you do? Is there a message behind your work?
I know the power of having well-fitting clothes that suit your personality, because it has made a huge difference to me. How can you feel confident and poised if you’re wearing clothes that dig in or gape? If they are tent-like and baggy, or are meant for people decades older than you?
Society has a very narrow view of what your body “should” be like. Learning to sew clothes that fit well is transformative if you don’t meet that narrow view. Suddenly, anything is possible! I compare it to being restricted to eating from one restaurant all your life and then learning to cook. You can take back the power and express yourself exactly as you are.
What makes your Cashmerette pattern line different from traditional garment sewing patterns?
Cashmerette is all about fabulously fitting garments to make you feel confident. We do that by exclusively designing for curvy bodies. What that means is cup sizes on all our patterns from a C to H cup, along with other features like different pelvis shapes on our pants, and different sleeve pieces for fuller arms.
Every step of the way we help you master fit. We have a unique sizing calculator (cashmerette.com/sizing) which will tell you exactly which size to make. And my new book, Ahead of the Curve: Learn to Fit and Sew Amazing Clothes for your Curves, takes you through exactly how to identify and fix fit issues in a totally body positive way.
What advice do you have for sewists who are new to garment fitting? Are there a few things to focus on first so as not to get overwhelmed?
Fitting can definitely feel overwhelming when you start – that’s exactly how I felt as a beginner! However, in Ahead of the Curve I explain simple adjustments that make a radical difference to how your clothes fit. You will have them fitting way better than store-bought clothing ever could. Which adjustments you need to make depends on your body shape. Very common is grading between sizes if you’re different sizes at the bust, waist and/or hip (which is incredibly common!). The Full Bust Adjustment is a must if you have a bust size larger than a C or D cup.
What is the most important takeaway you want readers to gain from your new book, Ahead of the Curve: Learn to Fit and Sew Amazing Clothes for Your Curves?
That fitting doesn’t have to be impossible; it’s totally possible to sew and fit clothes without feeling bad about your body. That is something which I understand is all too common. In my book there are very clear “before” and “after” photos of the fit adjustments, and I focus on the most common ones that are going to make the biggest difference in your garments.
You absolutely can deep dive into fitting if you want, spending months finessing the exact angle of a sleeve, but you know what? If instead you just do a few simple adjustments you’ll still make a huge improvement in fit, and it’s way easier! I think good fit is personal, and it’s to do with what you as a sewist want to achieve and feel. So I hope people feel liberated from perfectionism and that seeing curvy bodies like theirs, and reading about adjustments in a totally body positive way, empowers them to feel great about their garments.
Check out all of the great patterns, classes and tutorials on Cashmerette.
Interview posted February 2022
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