Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Sewing Skivvies: Mary from Young, Broke, and Fabulous on Sewing her Amazing Swimsuit

I am so pleased to announce that Mary from Young, Broke, and Fabulous is doing a guest post today. I haven't been following Mary for very long - her wonderful outfits kept popping up in the MMM flickr group and every day I resisted for some unknown reason, but then it turns out that she went (goes?) to my alma mater so I knew it was meant to be. 

And it was meant to be! She makes the most adorable vintage-inspired clothing, like this sailor skirt and top, this Leanne Marshall dress with trees! and birds!, and this beautiful version of the Colette Licorice. But don't think Mary is all about the vintage inspired dresses. She made a pin-up Robin cosplay outfit, she's making a quilt out of Nightshade fabric, she made a Colette dress out of Victorian gothic fabric, and, in case you haven't recognized her quite yet, she competed in the Super Online Sewing Match. This girl is on fire! Of course, as this is part of the Show Off Your Skivvies Challenge, I asked Mary to talk a bit about her (adorable) swimsuit and how she made it.

Hey there, skivvy folks! A couple of weeks ago, Kristin asked if I would be interested in writing a guest post about my me-made swimsuit, and I heartily agreed. This is actually my first-ever guest blog post, so please bear with any awkwardness. -_- 
So I guess I fall into the "big girl" category of seamstresses, though I don't particularly feel "big". My apparent fatness, however, is part of why swimwear and I have had a rocky relationship over the years. Last month, I made myself my very first me-made swimsuit for a trip to the beach. I was really excited to go about doing this because swimsuit shopping has always been a fairly traumatic experience for me. The last time I went to a store and bought one, I literally ended up crying in the dressing room. It was always an awful scavenger hunt looking for something that was comfortable, well-fitting, supportive, aesthetically pleasing, affordable, and that I didn't feel too self-conscious in. I always, always had to settle. 
If I found something supportive, if was always a halter-top that killed my neck (36G breasts are downright painful when mixed with a halter-top). If I found something in a color and style that I liked, it wasn't available in my size. Everything was at least somewhat uncomfortable given that my thighs chafe horribly and finding a women's swimsuit that covers my thighs and that I actually like is high near impossible. Even if I found something that suited my bare bones necessities in a swimsuit, it always cost me at least $100. Trust me, there was a reason that I very rarely went swimming or to the beach. 
Sewing's changed all that. A while back, a friend of mine had commissioned me to make her a ballroom dress that was basically a leotard with a Grecian style drape over top. I used Ohhh Lulu's Ginger bodysuit pattern for the leotard, and that was essentially my first venture into swimwear-esque apparel. When I decided that I wanted to make my own swimsuit, I chose to use the bra-top separate version of the Ginger pattern for my bikini top. 
Deciding on the bottoms was trickier, but then it occurred to me to use the new Megan Nielsen Tania culottes pattern for the bottoms. I made up a test version in a knit and I was pleased to discover that they actually looked like a circle skirt, rather than "dorky shorts" (as Megan herself said on the subject). 

Last month, I ordered up some nylon spandex from The Fabric Fairy and some swimsuit lining for the the bikini top from Hancock's. The culottes part was an easy sew. 
My main alterations were eliminating the seam allowances of the waistband to account for the knit fabric (the pattern was created with wovens in mind) and created a dart in the back waistband to prevent gaping (I have a small waist in comparison to my large hips). I cut off the inside part of the dart once I sewed it, and then finished the new raw edge, essentially creating a seam in the back waistband. 

The top was a little trickier. I wasn't sure what I was going to do for the cups since premade cups in my size virtually don't exist for home sewists and swimsuit cup foam cost more than I could afford. I ended up harvesting the cups from an old bra that I had that was falling apart. I probably should have done an FBA for the top, but I wasn't entirely sure how to go about it with the Ginger pattern. 
The top ended up fitting well enough, though I'm a little wary of spillage when I wear it near my period (my boobs grow like half a cup size during that time of the month). Like I said earlier, I'm a G cup, so women below that size shouldn't have a problem sewing the Ginger top without an FBA. 

I still need to practice sewing that place where the cups and lower bodice come together because I can never seem to get it right. It's the one place where the fabric stretches to the point of distorting the print a bit. 

I'm also a little iffy about my strap casings, but that's mostly personal laziness. I made the casings before I really knew what I wanted to do with the straps. I found this elastic in my stash that's really strong and seems to be chlorine safe and turned out to be perfect for the straps, though not as wide as my casings. I didn't feel like turning them inside out and re-sewing them again, so... Yeah. I just have to deal with the loose casings twisting a bit over the course of wearing the swimsuit. 

Everything else on the top sewed together well and I didn't have any problems finishing it with the elastic. Fitting in the underbust elastic for extra support was a little tricky, but that had more to do with my stubborn sewing machine giving me grief. I'm glad I put forth the effort to add the elastic because it really does give a nice amount of additional support. 
So now the body issues stuff. Believe me, I am no stranger to body insecurity. I've never been what society would consider to be a "skinny" girl, but I've never been what I consider to be "fat". I've always been at this in between size that caused me lots of frustration before I started sewing. I was too big for stores that sold stuff for my age group (like Forever 21), but plus-size stores carried clothes that were too big for me or I just plain didn't like. 
My upper thighs have always been an area on contention because as I said before, I chafe horribly there. Short shorts and pretty much all commercially available swimsuits are all terribly uncomfortable for me. I have a bunch of biking shorts and whatnot that I wear under my skirts and dresses in my quest to prevent chafing. 
Once I made this swimsuit, I was excited to finally have swimwear that i could wear out and about without having to worry about being in pain the entire time. A bitchy "friend" of mine told me upon seeing it, "You know that your swim bottoms are practically capris, right?" I kind of wanted to smack her. All the other feedback I got regarding my swimsuit was overwhelmingly positive. 
Let's talk about these pictures, shall we? 

I'm continually amazed by what sewing has done for my self-confidence. If someone had told me last year that I would be swing dancing in front of other people in a swimsuit a year later and then posting the pictures on the internet, I would have laughed at them. Because of my ability to make my own clothes, I feel better about my body now as a 190ish pound 22 year old (the "biggest" I've ever been) than I did as a 150 pound 17 year old (the "smallest" I've ever been as an adult-like creature). 
I look into the mirror and I'm happy, and I think a large part of that is because my personal style and image is no longer limited by what the fashion industry deems appropriate for me. I can literally wear whatever the hell I want. If I want purple scalloped shorts and a dinosaur print top, then I can damn well make and have them. Pretty stylish clothes are available to me in ways they weren't back when I could only find them in "small" sizes. It's a lot easier to be body positive in relation to yourself when you're able to dress yourself in a way that makes you happy. 
But yes, back to the pictures. This was at a lindy exchange in South Carolina (kind of like a swing dance convention) and on the last day we had a cook-out and a slip and slide. I didn't actually take part in the slip and slide, but I did wear my swimsuit (like most of the other attendees). After all, it was like 90ºF outside. I admit, I was a little nervous taking off my cover up top, but once I did, I got so, so many compliments. 
The culottes looked kind of awesome dancing, and the top was plenty supportive, despite the bouncy dancing. I got tons of commission inquiries and compliments from attractive members of the opposite sex and for the first time ever, I felt hot in a swimsuit (and I'm not just talking about the weather). 
So I guess the point of what I'm saying is that if you don't like swimwear and don't feel confident wearing it, then make your swimsuit yourself. I was able to show off my favorite parts of my body and hide the parts that I don't particularly like. I was able to address all the issues I have with commercial swimsuits (chafing and neck pain) and actually choose my swimsuit's print and color, rather than settling for what fit. 

Ok, so how do I end this thing? *awkward silence* 
Here, have a bucket of sloths.  
Seriously, go check out Mary's blog already!


  1. She's an inspiration - and only 22! I'm impressed and encouraged by her positive body image!

    1. Awwww, thank you so much! Gah! *warm fuzzies*

    2. She really is! The second I saw her post about the swimsuit I knew I wanted her to guest post for the challenge (and, you know, in general)! :-)

  2. Loving this suit! The Ginger top looks really great! I've been a bit nervous about testing it out, since I wasn't sure how supportive it would be. But, seeing her's means it will probably fit me ;)

    1. Just make sure you have really supportive straps! That seemed to be the key when I was making mine.

    2. I think you'll be fine, especially if you follow Mary's tips! (I still think you'll be fine in the Jasmine as well!)

  3. Thanks so much for having me over! And ah, yes, I went to Elon, but ended up transferring this year after discovering my senior year that I hated my major. -_-U

    I do miss Elon, though!

    1. Thank YOU for guest posting and sharing your swimsuit with everyone on my blog.

      Ha, the funny thing is that I hated Elon the whole time I was there (and ultimately my major as well), and I wanted to transfer, but there were... complications. Anyway, now that many years have passed, I have a soft spot for the school and anyone who goes/went there!

    2. Ha, I know EXACTLY what you're talking about! And no problem- thanks for all the kind words!

  4. I can't believe your friend said that about your swim bottom look awesome in that suit, and your photos show that you feel awesome in it. I am totally with you in the halter top neck pain department (36DDD), and I am usually active when I'm in swimwear, so I want to feel confident that the suit will stay where it belongs. I'm new to sewing clothing, but you've inspired me to make the best suit I can for my body, so I'm going to give it a try next winter in prep for summer. Thanks for sharing!

  5. What an awesome bathing suit! I am suppose to make my own for this summer, but I'm afraid that I won't get to it until the fall weather starts rolling in!

  6. what a great idea to use the tania culottes for a bikini bottom- it would solve my inhibitions on the beach so I must copy this for next summer! you look gorgeous and the style is so retro and cute.

  7. I would love to read your sewing blog linked in the post but it says invited readers Only. Am I able to be added?