Designing for Larger Women

This is a guest post by Natàlia Prats on designing for larger women. It's a topic I know very little about and I'm thankful for her willingness to share her experience, insights and sense of humour with us.

I learned to sew my own garments because I found it very difficult to find beautiful, classy ones in my size. When later I learned to knit, my motivations took me along the same path.  The available choice for larger sizes was -and is- ludicrously small. Making the garments myself helped me have some more choice.
Well, almost.

I soon found out that, as with sewing patterns, knitting patterns came mostly in a very limited range of sizes. When I found patterns offered in larger sizes, many of them were off-puttingly ridiculous. Or they used certain features that, whereas they allow for more room, they are not necessarily going to look good (i.e. Empire waists: some people love them, yes, but a majority of us have to avoid them or be complimented over our imaginary future baby). Apparently, ladies with curves are not allowed tasty clothes. You get a square bag with holes for head and limbs and there it is. Garish colours. Flashy designs impossible to wear in a sober environment. And above all, apparently larger ladies have all a rack that’s at least DD. Guess what, I don’t.

Pedrera (back)

Other features made many patterns a no-no for me: ridiculously tight short sleeves; ridiculously wide long sleeves; ridiculously long sleeves (think young Enrique Iglesias). A constant in winter sweaters was the lack of shaping finished off by a disproportionately tight rib just below the waist and a too tight round neck at the opposite end. Low quality materials and a lot of glitter.

Nowadays we have some more choice, thanks to having easy access to a lot more design work, and a number of designers decided to tackle the problem and create beautiful patterns that actually fit in more sizes. It isn’t still enough, though. I decided to contribute.

I found my experience in garment sewing and pattern drafting very valuable. That and an understanding of the different types of body shapes are essential in order to create a well-fitting top that makes you look good and not like a rumpled sack of potatoes. When I develop a new design, I want it to help me look neat and feel comfortable. So I try to avoid all the mistakes I’ve seen in other designs along the years:

-Some designers, for some strange reason, thought that it was enough to just scale up everything. I still came across such an instance recently: a top with a fully turned boat neck. It worked well with smaller sizes, but it became evident they had never tested the larger ones when I tried to make one for me; the garment was tube-like and the measurement of the neck had to be the same as the body with arms and all, so at my size there was no hold for so much fabric unless you had JJJ boobs (at the very least). I had to frog the entire thing. 

Bodies don’t just grow in all dimensions -otherwise we’d have lots more giants around. The reality is that most larger people are exactly the same height as the rest. Which means their extra humanity spreads widthwise. There is no point in increasing the measurements related to length except to account for the increase in volume. It’s the horizontal measurements the ones that do the hard work. This is why, if you compare the numbers in a sizing table, they sort of correlate in groups, but not all along the table. As the body shape changes when a girl grows into an adult, the measurements reflect this. As the body becomes bigger than average, another, different adjustment takes place. You cannot just say ‘I’ll make everything larger and that’s it.’ That’s when you get a tent-like shapeless garment.

-The best tip I’ve ever learned is to show you have a waist. Everybody has a waist. Granted, sometimes it hides. But in most cases, if you do something to highlight its existence, it will pay off. That’s why I prefer creating sweaters with a waist. Even if the shaping is soft, it will improve the general look. This works for bigger and smaller people alike.

-Body types. Whether you’re a pear or an apple or whatever, the combinations are infinite and you may very well never be identified with one of those models. In a very interesting conversation on this subject recently in the Designers group of Ravelry, somebody was seriously trying to determine plus size body shapes, because obviously what fits certain types won’t fit so well other types in the same size. It is a very complicated problem to which we still have no solution. The variables are too many. My take is that we’d better offer what we can, and hopefully the increasing assortment on offer will finally be able to cater for everybody. This is also another reason why different designers have different styles. Everyone tends to work with designs that fit the body types they know best.


Sometimes, when I release a pattern designed especially for plus sizes, I get asked to release it for smaller sizes too. The thing is, in the same way that not all designs are suitable for fuller figures, not all designs are suitable for smaller ones. Not only that: in the best of cases, it means having to do all the work all over again, so it’s actually like creating two versions of the pattern. Therefore, if I can’t cover all sizes I’ll work for the plus group. Smaller people already have thousands more designs to choose from anyway. 

We are constantly manipulated by the whims of the media and mass production industries. Independent designers are trying to change this, but it takes a lot of time and effort. I am glad to be helping with that change. I’ll keep working in this area, trying to create a variety of designs flattering for people who, like me, are tired of what they are not being offered.


  1. What a fantastic read. I am also not a 'mainstream' shape which means I really struggle with clothes fit, which is why I don't usually attempt any fitted clothes. How amazing that Natalia went ahead and designed her own patterns to flatter her shape, good on you!!

    1. I loved what she has to say too. I'm skinny, but so much clothes doesn't fit me anyway. It is like most brands design for a stick or for odd proportions, or should I say perfect proportions and I think maybe one or two people have walked the earth with perfect proportions. If pants or skirts go over my hips, you can almost be sure they will be gaping at my tummy and back... sigh...

  2. Excellent post! I agree with all of it, from personal experience. Trying to find well-fitting, flattering, good quality knitwear this winter in the shops has been a futile exercise for me. I haven't yet had the courage to knit my own jumpers, but I will someday, if only to finally have something that fits like I need it to. I'm going to go and have a look at the patterns now!

    1. Please don't be afraid to knit jumpers, it is such a joy, especially once you figure out what styles and designers flatter your shape. If you ever need a little hand holding, you know how to get a hold of me :)

    2. Thank you. My main issue is that I will need to do so much tweaking of patterns and that will put me off. Too much maths!