Candy + Bagel

Responsibly Handmade Fashion by Jean Chung


I am small.

Jean ChungComment


By small, I don't mean figuratively, I'm not small hearted or small voiced or anything like that.

By small, I mean my size.

I'm not bony or skinny, but my average Korean body in this everything-must-be-big-America often result in interesting shopping experiences.

I'd go for a dress shopping for a really romantic dinner date, and I'd find myself trying on 10 different silhouettes. One is too long for my height. One is too short for my height. One is too high-waist for my figure, and one is too low waist for my figure. One would be too "va boom" for my figure and one would be too simple to be anything special. And so on.

I am 5'4" and my "waist to knee" is 20" while the average American size for my size is 23 3/8". And my hip size is about 2.5" smaller than what an "average American" at my dress size would be.

All this came to me because I started sewing. Sewing pattern sizes haven't changed since 1970s and unlike the "vanity sizing" you see in stores (when you say you wear size 6, please know that you're actually size 12 or 14 in the "real" size; Marilyn Monroe was a size 10, and she was not big) which clothing companies arbitrarily adopted to make the consumers feel better about themselves and buy their clothes over other stores' clothes.

I started paying more attention to body sizes. You hear this all the time "shopping clothes for me is not really fun because I don't look good in anything." Or "women come in many different sizes!" There are plus size clothing stores for people who are bigger than average people, so why isn't there a petite shop? Why do short people have to face the humiliation of shopping in the junior section or worse, wear something that doesn't fit right?

Although in knitting, when you're looking at different sizes to knit, you can pick the bust size that's closest to your size and you're good to go because unless you're REALLY different from most people, the stretchiness of knitted fabric makes it easy to make something fit you. But sometimes it's about the proportion than the fit.

You can see in many of my designs that I like to knit sweaters little bit longer, sleeves are little shorter, etc. I think I was subconsciously knitting for my people, i.e. short and petite people.

So lately, I've been thinking about "designing for petite people." I know the general trend of knitting designers going all the way up to 52" bust but I think I want to focus on people in the 28"~38" bust sizes. I don't want to pretend to know how my garments will fit on a person with 52" bust, because I don't. If I take my design and just increase the stitches, I don't know if it'll be flattering on that person. What designers usually work with is STANDARD (is there really any standard in body sizing?) size charts and those assume that you're 5'7"~5'8". I don't know about you but I've seen people who have 48" bust and 5'4". This person will most likely be unhappy with the way my design fits on her body because I worked from the standard chart and she is not standard size.

There are many designers who cater to plus size/women's size people and I don't believe there's a place there for me as a designer. Maybe someday I'll have the luxury of doing an expansive survey of women of different sizes and be able to make my designs in bigger sizes.

Of course, for my designs in many publications will still be available in bigger sizes because that's what most editors specifically want, but for my self published patterns, I will be focusing on the audience I want to cater to: short, petite size people.

I understand that my decision may be an unpopular one. But after carefully reviewing some of the feedback I got from my customers and my own view of fashion, I realized that many of my designs are considered "young" and many of my customers told me that they were knitting my designs for the younger women in their lives like their granddaughter or younger friends. I want to be the designer that these people remember when they get requests from their daughters for a new sweater or from their school friends for a shawl.

Because, let's face it. Your 17-year-old daughter isn't going to much appreciate a huge circle lace shawl. It just doesn't belong in their closet.

Another reason why I'm doing this is just general promotion of healthy life. I know that plus size people can have a healthy life... It's just that most plus size people don't. And I'm not going to pretend that I'm okay with this new notion of  "we should cater to everyone, even the unhealthy ones, because that way we appeal to more people who are overweight and we can sell more designs and we'll make more money!"

If you looked at my patterns and thought you wanted to make one for yourself but it doesn't come in your size because you are 5'3" and have 48" bust-48" waist-52" hip... Well.... That's really your personal problem and not mine. You can always buy the pattern and hopefully you know how to make a swatch and take the gauge and re-calculate. I don't have to design anything to please people who are already overindulging themselves to the point to near-death.

A little harsh? I think so too. But hopefully this means that I can really concentrate on my audience (really, there aren't that many young knitters OR designs in the knitting community) and offer something unique.


By the way, I am perfectly medium and average in my home country, South Korea.