Fashion design with MyBodyModel custom croquis: Ruby sits at a table in her sewing studio surrounded by colorful thread, dress forms, and sewing machines. She is wearing a blue tee shirt made from her own Arm Candy Tee sewing pattern, and sketching on a sheet of paper that has six small My Body Model croquis figures on it.

From Fashion School to Indie Pattern Designer: Breaking Design Standards with MyBodyModel

Ruby, indie pattern designer and founder of Spokes & Stitches, shares her creative journey toward a new, nurturing approach to fashion design that welcomes people of all shapes and identities. Read on to hear all about how Ruby uses her MyBodyModel croquis to design for her body, her wardrobe, and her vision for an inclusive and joyful sewing community.

My handmade wardrobe journey is a bit unusual. I’ve been sewing and designing my own clothes since I was a teen. As a young person (and a millennial from an artsy family), I was encouraged to turn my passion into a career. I went to undergrad for fashion design and struggled for years afterwards to find my place in the fashion industry.

I wasn’t interested in mass-production, and I was turned off by the industry’s fixation on a particular body type, which I myself did not possess. Here is a photo from my senior collection fashion show:

Two people are walking down a fashion runway together. The fashion model to the right is tall and slender and wears a silk cocktail dress. Ruby is on the left wears jeans, a sparkly black shirt, and red cowboy boots. Her body proportions are much shorter and wider than the model’s.
Walking down the runway for my senior collection fashion show

I ended up working in higher education and tutoring fashion students on the side. I made my own clothes for the office, and I took commissions for artistic projects here and there.

I started my indie pattern design company, Spokes & Stitches, in 2020. I challenged myself to bring to life the kind of company I’d always wanted to work for but hadn’t found. I wanted to approach clothing and pattern design in a way that felt nurturing, gender-expansive, and DIY. I started going to webinars and online events in order to learn how the landscape of home sewing had changed since I was in high school over a decade ago.

I first learned about MyBodyModel through a virtual sewing event called World Frocktails. As soon as I heard Erica speak about the product, I knew that it was exactly what I’d been wanting all these years and that it aligned perfectly with the mission of my company to welcome people of different sizes and genders into the world of sewing a handmade wardrobe.

Though I was able to make clothes that fit my body, I always had a hard time drawing myself. I tried to retrain my eye many times, but my drawing skills were “stuck” on the default fashion illustration style I was taught in fashion school: a ten-head-tall figure with impossibly long limbs, a narrow waist, a swan-like neck, and perky breasts. Basically nothing at all like my thick-waisted, large-busted, narrow-hipped, five-foot-one-inch tall body. 

Fashion illustration sketches of fantastically tall figures in bathing suits are positioned next to Ruby’s MyBodyModel croquis figure, which is proportionally accurate and about half the height of the illustrated figures.
The elongated ten-head-tall fashion figure vs. my custom MyBodyModel croquis designed for my body

Every few months, I’d try to draw myself a new croquis that was more “me-shaped,” but the task was always psychologically taxing. It’s so difficult to capture our own shapes objectively, even when tracing a photo. It’s so tempting to think “I can’t really look like that” and exaggerate or reduce certain features to be more aligned with what we want or expect.

As soon as I entered my measurements into the MyBodyModel tool, a world of possibilities opened. I no longer had to spend time fretting over whether the figure I drew was accurate or to scale: I could just accept that that’s what I look like and get on with deciding what I wanted to make for myself next.

I’ve used My Body Model for a variety of personal projects this year. To make it look even more like me, I photoshopped my head onto my body outline and made my own wardrobe planning templates too! 

A black and white photo of Ruby’s head has been added to the blank MyBodyModel template, and she has created a border with her Spokes & Stitches branding on her handmade wardrobe planning pages.
Photoshopping my head onto MyBodyModel templates: awesome or creepy? According to a poll I conducted in my Instagram stories: 50% creepy and 50% awesome. ⁠

Back in May, I decided to try the #mybodymodel3x3 Capsule Wardrobe challenge. I sketched out 9 of my favorite me-made items that I could pair together in interesting ways. This was a really helpful way to visualize potential outfits and combinations I hadn’t thought of before.

Nine illustrated handmade wardrobe garment cutouts are placed in the squares of the #MyBodyModel3x3 Capsule template, sketches by indie pattern designer Ruby at Spokes & Stitches.
My 3×3 handmade capsule wardrobe, paper doll style!

Here are a few of my favorite outfits from my #mybodymodel3x3 collection:

A #sketch2finish collage of Ruby's  capsule wardrobe challenge designs and photos of Ruby posing in her new handmade wardrobe garments.
My 3×3 handmade wardrobe, from #sketch2finish.

I’ve also used MyBodyModel templates to plan out new handmade wardrobe pieces for each season. Prior to this year, I had never thought to plan out my personal sewing projects like a collection. I just made what I thought I needed as it came up, but this lack of methodology meant that I often spent time on pieces that didn’t fit with the rest of my wardrobe and went unworn.

Fashion design with MyBodyModel custom croquis: Ruby sits at a table in her sewing studio surrounded by colorful thread, dress forms, and sewing machines. She is wearing a blue t-shirt made from her own Arm Candy Tee sewing pattern and sketching on a sheet of paper that has six small My Body Model figures on it.
My current handmade wardrobe design process involves sitting in my studio with a pen in hand, surrounded by inspiring fabrics and ready to start sketching on my MyBodyModel croquis.

MyBodyModel was instrumental in helping me plan my outfit for my casual self-uniting wedding ceremony this past September. I got to experiment with different shapes, stylelines, and silhouettes before I committed to draping my design directly on my dress form. 

Designing with MyBodyModel ensured that the proportions of my design would look good on my actual body and not just on my dress form, which is more of a standard size than my own body.

Four potential wedding jumpsuit sketches are positioned next to a photo of Ruby in her final wedding jumpsuit make: white wide-leg pants and a shiny, angular bodice with double spaghetti straps on each shoulder. 
My wedding jumpsuit! Before committing to a final look, I used my MyBodyModel croquis to experiment with different design ideas.

I think MyBodyModel is an invaluable tool to open up the worlds of home and custom sewing to people of many different shapes, proportions, and identities. I love the way that the product blends technology with DIY culture, offering a way for each user to obtain an accurate shape through which they can begin to find care and joy in dressing themselves and one another. 

I anticipate that I will continue to use MyBodyModel for my own personal wardrobe planning for years to come, and I hope that it allows others to envision themselves in my pattern designs too.

Indie pattern designer Ruby stands in her studio holding up a paper doll cutout of the My Body Model template dressed in a new addition to her handmade wardrobe. The paper doll wears a striped cardigan, olive green shorts, and a bright blue top. Ruby is wearing the same designs brought to life in fabric.

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