Home sewers and most educators approach fitting so differently it is no wonder it is so confusing. I like a combo of flat pattern alteration with the tweaking done in draping on the body. There is so much that plays into fitting from body structure, weight distribution, physical attributions and limitations, fabric type, the fabric weave, the fabric’s weight, and it’s stretch or lack of, and just how the wearer just personally likes a garment to “fit” them. And then of course, there is the pattern–how much is fit, how much is “design ease” or the silhouette of the garment (think mermaid skirt to a full-flowing ball gown skirt). Unfortunately, fitting is not a one-solution method, but what I will tell you is that most of us “over-think” it and make it much harder than it is.
Garment Structure and Undergarments
Remember the corsets and girdles of the last two centuries and more? Body parts were held firmly in place and supported. Fleshy portions of the waist and hip were smoothed out. Undergarments need to support areas of the body and most of us today want comfort over support. Wear a sports bra under a business jacket and guess what? The bust darts won’t shape as they should, there most likely will be wrinkles in the garment under the bust down to the waistline–the fabric will puddle like a drapery on the floor. Bust darts won’t point to the bust apex, and the garment generally just won’t fit right. Want a great fitting garment? Start with proper foundation garments.
In teaching classes on fit I always get push-back on “padding” out areas − like using shoulder pads. A dress or blouse “hangs” from the shoulders. If the shoulders aren’t supported, the garment isn’t supported. Padding also “evens out” uneven areas–and our goal is to make the garments we make look “balanced” (pad out a lower shoulder to equal the other). I think most envision “Linda Evans” ’80’s shoulder pads. That is a style. What I’m talking about are at least 1/4″ – 3/8″ shoulder pads that help support the garment from the shoulders and giving a smooth look. Take shoulder pads out of the equation on a garment requiring one, guess what? You’ll have drag wrinkles, a wimpy upper chest on the garment, sleeves that may twist at the cap, and just an ill-fitting garment.
I’ve discovered people basically know what they like in fit, but they are not confident they are “right.” Home sewers are so concerned about doing things the “right” way. Well, I’m here to tell you, that the “right” way often boxes us into a corner and the project then becomes a UFO. Feel free to give yourself permission to do what YOU think is right—because guess what, it probably is! Body measurements to the flat pattern translate into a 3-D fabric garment. Add length and width where it is needed, not just at the seams. There might be more width in the bust area from the apex to the side seam, but not from the apex to the center front, or vice versa. Add more fabric where needed, and take it out where it is not needed, being mindful of the fabric grainline.
That’s how I’ve developed some of the things I do that are out of the norm or not considered the “right” way to do things. Those are my “AH HA!” moments. For a long while I’ve been contemplating something about pattern alteration and fitting and hopefully sometime soon I’ll start experimenting. Who knows, maybe it will lead to a whole new way to think about flat pattern alteration and fitting.
Sew until next time… enjoy the journey of sewing!