British boobs; Fitting in

For the last couple of years, I’ve been knitting from my stash almost exclusively. The lids of all the tubs* close easily now – no sitting on them to get the pleasant snap of shutness – and the general clutter of my workroom has one or two fewer auxiliary bags and small boxes of random balls and skeins. Stress, impatience, curiosity, and occasionally need has had me on an accessory-making binge for most of the time too. But to make a real dent in the stash, I need to finally commit to a few sweater/jacket projects.

But I’ve already got a couple sweaters on the needles that have been languishing for nearly (or over) two years… mostly because of fit issues – I’ve cleared the busts comfortably, but I’m left with bagging armpits, or the need to decrease too much and have to completely re-do the pattern’s math…

I’m late getting the memo that most (many?) women are wearing the wrong bra size. I’m  also several decades late in accepting that I’ve got protruding mounds of flesh in an inconvenient spot when I so dearly prayed (and kneaded bread) for them as a tween. I finally got some late sprouts that didn’t quite fill out the darts in a shirt, but didn’t entirely deflate them either, in my late teens and I was content with the shape of things into my early 20s. Then they grew and grew and grew and I didn’t gain other weight or have babies or nurse babies or do anything with intention that would increase their size so I grudgingly started to minimize with ugly wide strapped chest appliances and things stayed under control for a bit…

(As an aside: genetics are not in my favor on either side…

gran and sis

…and for too long I’ve teased my mother that she needed a belt rather than a bra, so what comes around, ‘yo…)

So now I’m knitting, and in theory if you make your own clothes, you can make them to fit every weird nook and cranny of your own body. But I’m math-challenged (and ashamed of it) and focus-challenged and I’d love to be able to just knit a pattern as written, only adding in a bit of extra length as the extent of my modifications. I really like a few patterns from British designers but all of the bust shaping seems impossibly high (and waists impossibly short). I’ve been watching several British mysteries and dramas and noticed that man of the women do in fact largely have high breasts. But that doesn’t make sense – an entire island of people can’t share the same tiny pool of high-breasted genetics (in most cases)…


Recently, I tried to buy a suit. I’ve tried to buy a suit many times over my life, and always end up with separate jackets and trousers. I can find woolly tweedy jackets (mostly from the ’70s) at the thrifts that fit well, but I’ve only had two proper “business” jackets fit well in my lifetime. I got rid of one that had gone shiny along the seams during the last move, and when I went to put on the other, my favorite, the best jacket ever that’s gone on countless conference talks, interviews, and other business-dress bullshit activities, I found a couple of little holes. I tried to fix the holes, but N noticed and tried to brush them off, but they didn’t bulge. So my only jacket is unwearable for the times when appearances count most (perhaps it’s still okay for conferences in my field). I panicked and hit the nearest ladies-wear shops. The Spring lines were already on the racks, and I’m not going to wear pink, or red, or bright blue when I’m trying to look “professional.” I’m also not going to plunk $200 on a polyester suit made in China, but I felt like I had no other choice. I tried on pants and eventually found some long enough (I’m too short for talls, but too tall for regulars) and then I started trying on the matching jackets… And kept returning for more… Then a salesperson started helping me. Then she suggested I wear a different bra and go online to order the tall jacket that they didn’t stock in the store. (None of that was helpful at the moment, and I got away with a thrifted cashmere twinset and thrifted “business” trousers out of my closet for my clothing need at the time.)

But the “different bra” stuck a bit in my craw – the salesperson wasn’t the friendliest, so I took it as an insult, but she had a point – rather the jacket had points, and they were too high for me. I can’t afford to (or would generally rather not) go to one of the fancier shops or department stores to get properly fitted, so I pulled up a number of online fitting calculators and lassoed myself with tape measures. I came up with a magic number and letter that reads more like a bin number in a warehouse store than a bra size. I went online to the brand of minimizers I usually buy and didn’t see either number or letter and got the closest one instead. And for fucks sake, things are starting to get into places where they should have been. But the fit still isn’t perfect, so I’m on the hunt for the right size and I’m finding that the British brands have the wider variety of sizes that the common American brands do not. So what we have here is a cluster of tiny countries of women wearing appropriate-sized bras and a giant capitalist consumer-driven one that does not?

So now I’ve got an appropriately supported rack on the days I wear my one new bra and my sweaters fit well, my shirts stay buttoned, and on all other days I’m better off  wearing clothing with more ease and bagginess. To compound things though, middle-age is shifting things around a bit and I’m left dubious if something that fits well now will fit a week or two out of the month, or next year, so I’m hesitant to knit fitted garments, or garments that fit right, right now….

But this is all a bit ridiculous, so instead of making some fancy fitted sweaters out of my limited quantities of yarn that I’ve been hording for such purpose, I’m going to make some giant glorious neck things (that also do well to drape over other things on their unsupported days).

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(I’ve been holding on to this small stash of cashmere in an awesome purpley-brown that I got on an unbelievable sale but was still more than I typically spend for a skein of wool, to make a very fitted, very elegant v-neck three-quarter length sleeved sweater, but fuck it, I’m about to crack it open for a Paris toujours shawl/scarf instead.)

And I’m only looking at patterns for the bigger bulkier sweaters and coats that embrace frumpiness, coziness, and shape shiftiness…

(And I’ll possibly make a giant blanket.)

(And I still need a suit).

*My goal isn’t too solid, but I’d like to get the commercial yarn stash down to 3 not-quite full tubs – one with a few sweater/blanket quantities, one with sock yarns and random bits of superwash for gifts, and one for whatever – mostly the nicer skein or two I pick up at festivals… (and of course handspun and unraveled sweaters have additional storage…)



Filed under knitting, thrifting

2 responses to “British boobs; Fitting in

  1. Pia

    I’m also living with the conundrum of starting a sweater and when it’s done my shape has shifted. So I’m beginning to make everything supersized on the safe side with extra baggy armpits, because that still beats sausage skins around my arms. I used to be able to wear the same jeans and t-shirts for a decade, now I have clothes with the labels still on because weather didn’t happen to match them when I bought them and the next time summer comes round they have shrunk. Of course my problem is opposite yours, I’m a size hobbit lengthwise, but xlarge clothing tends to grow not just in width but also in the other direction, meaning sleeves down to my knees and necklines cut to my bellybutton…

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