Apple, pear, banana; long-waisted, short-waisted... And that's just the women—we haven't even started to talk about the men yet! It's no wonder we're confused about body shapes. Seems like every website you go to has different terminology, not to mention a different sizing system. This can be extremely frustrating when you're sitting in front of a pile of beautiful yarn and all you want is to make sure you end up with a sweater that actually FITS.
The good news is that fitting a sweater is not like fitting one of those skin-tight sheaths at the Oscars! Knitted fabric has give and stretch, and knitting yarns have texture, sheen, and softness—all of which are quite a bit more forgiving than the stiff, body-hugging satins on the red carpet.
It is important, however, to know a few key things about yourself. One thing to keep in mind: If someone else tells you are a pear or short-waisted or whatever, realize that they are not the expert in you; you are the expert in you! Maybe they are right in their evaluation; maybe not. Some women go for years following the advice of some shopclerk or relative who told them something about themselves, only to discover years later that the advice was incorrect. Discover yourself for yourself.
Becoming an expert in yourself: For this, you need to be truly fearless and go stand in front of a mirror, in your skivvies. (Be brave! Be bold!) Take your friendly neighborhood measuring tape with you and a notebook and pen. If you don't already have your bust, waist, and hip measurements, go ahead, measure up, and write those down first.
Next, measure from your "neckbone" (collarbone) to your waist, and then from your waist to your crotch. Compare the two measurements. Is your neck-to-waist measurement longer than your waist-to-crotch? This is the traditional definition of "long waisted." Other way around? Short waisted! This makes sense if you study yourself in the mirror: The closer your waist is to your armholes and bust, the shorter (higher) it is; the further away from your armholes and bust, the longer (lower) it is.
...and long-waisted Sandi!
Take some time in front of that mirror. Study your curves. Experiment with measuring different bits and see what you discover—what is the width from one shoulder to the other? How does that compare to the measurement from one hipbone to the other? Shoulders wider than your hips? Or the other way around? Think about tracing an outline of yourself on the mirror: what would it look like? (If you have a really good friend or a spouse, maybe ask them to do just that— have them draw your outline in soap or wipe-off markers and see what you come up with!)
The final step is to see if you can sketch a schematic of yourself (whoo!). Try it! It doesn't have to be the best artwork ever, but see if you can get a basic sketch, with some basic-to-start-with measurements: bust, waist, hip. Neck to waist, waist to hip. Shoulder width. It's not the whole story, not yet, but it's a start.
Questions for you: What did you learn about yourself in this exercise? Any surprises? And most importantly: How does this exercise begin to help with your own knitting?
About the photo of Bertha: The pink yarn is at her waist, and the orange dot is a polite guess at where her crotch would be. Bertha is 13" from neckbone to waist; and about 7.5" from waist to orange dot. Thus: Bertha is long-waisted.
About the photo of Sandi: The pink yarn is around my waist; I decided I preferred not to have the orange dot on my jeans in that location (you understand, I am sure!). I am about 17.5" from neckbone to waist and 10.5" from waist to crotch. Thus: I am also long-waisted.
Sandi Wiseheart is the founding editor of Knitting Daily. She is now the author of the popular Knitting Daily blog: What's on Sandi's Needles.
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