Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Sew A Long, Post 4 - Fitting

The bodice of this dress fits perfectly and I wear it all the time! 
Getting clothes to fit properly is a problem for EVERYONE. No matter the size of the person, it is the number one thing I get questions about.

Over the years I have realized two things.

1. Most people have had very few things that fit them perfectly ever in their lives.

2. Most people do not know how things should fit.

Think about the clothes you buy. Most of us are super casual these days and do not wear anything too close fitting.

This is partly social norm and partly the clothes that are sold. Also most people do not spend much on their clothes. Unless you are going to an office where you have to wear business attire, you probably almost never wear "real" clothes. Honestly I do not often wear "real" clothes either but I really like for my clothes no matter how casual, to really fit.

I am a big believer in "you get what you pay for". If you shop at Old Navy, you will get a low level of quality in both materials and tailoring. If you shop at Nordstrom's the cost goes up typically relative to the quality and complexity of the garment. And at Nordstrom's alterations are included in the cost of purchasing garments there. Not a service even offered by Old Navy. All of my store bought "real" clothes are from Nordstrom or Talbots. I very rarely by anything but t-shirts or workout clothes from places like Target, Old Navy or Kohl's. And increasingly I rarely buy clothes for myself. I am heading towards a totally me made wardrobe.

I challenge you to really think about how your clothes fit you and how you feel about your wardrobe. I also challenge you to accept yourself as you are. Anyone can look great in clothes that truly fit and flatter them. Additionally take a look at your undergarments. Bras in particular. This is one area where I do spend a fair bit of money. I buy really good bras. They make me look and feel great, and make my clothes look better as well as making me look slimmer. You should do the same!! Start with one really great bra, it may change your whole view of yourself and your body! I want to get into bra making.... but that is a whole other thing. For now, GO BUY A GOOD BRA!

When you buy store bought clothes, what problems do you usually have? Is there only a brand or two that fit well enough for you to even buy anything? Do you have to try on a million things to find anything worth buying?

I will walk you through the issues I have with finding store bought clothes.
- shoulders are always too big
- if the shoulders fit the chest and arms are too tight
- as I have gotten fluffier, sleeves fitting have become and issue
- darts are almost never in the right place
- on sleeveless things the arm holes are way too big
- the back neck gapes
- if the waist fits the legs are too tight, but
- if the legs fit the waist is too big

I could go on and on. In making my own clothes I have learned what adjustments I need to make. I warn you this is something that takes practice.

You are going to hate that I am saying this. You want a super easy solution. You want me to tell you there is an easy solution and exactly what that solution is. Well, there is not just one simple solution and there are many things that may need to be changed.

So lets look at our muslins. Put it on, look in the mirror and with a really critical eye decide what are the fit issues?

Here is my muslin. I am fitting it on my dress form with my measurements. First problem I see is that the neck line is gapping. Also the darts are too low, and I know that when I put it on the neckline is too low and shoulders are too big.

That sounds like a lot of stuff wrong right off the bat. Well it is and it isn't.

Let's adjust from the top down. Have you ever had a shoulder strap that you keep pinching up and thinking if this strap was just this much shorter this would fit perfect? Well for this particular top, that instinct might be right.

Look what happens when you pull the shoulders up. And it makes sense. If I was the weight that damn chart at the Dr. says I should be, I would wear an XS. My shoulders have not gained any weight and I have not gotten taller. I have a pretty small frame. And when I pinch this up it makes the shoulders about line up with the XS on the pattern.

Once the shoulders are in the right place, the darts are magically up at the right place, and the neckline is no longer too revealing. So three adjustments off the list already.

** Many pro sewers will say I do this wrong. The accepted wisdom is choose your pattern size based on your shoulder and upper bust and then do a full bust adjustment. Well honestly I have tried their way and it is a pain in the pants! I personally prefer my method. BUT keep in mind that my shoulder is an XS and EVERYTHING else on me is am XL or XXL. That would be a lot of adjusting to the rest of the garment. If you were going from an XS up to aS or M, I would say try their way if you like. But ....... I am here to tell you what has worked best for me. **

Last adjustment left on the front is the gap in the neckline. I took a pinch out of the muslin to correct that as well. Look how much better this bodice fits already.

One more change that the dress form is not really showing is that the waist hits me kind of mid - low boob. My chest is fuller than the form. So to adjust for this I am going to add length the the bodice so I have more room for my chest, the fabric fully covering the "girls" and then synching in at the waist is going to be way more flattering than a mid boob line. IF YOU ADD LENGTH TO THE FRONT DON'T FORGET TO ADD LENGTH TO THE BACK.  I put that in all caps because I have made that mistake enough times to choke a chicken. I am trying to save you some irritation and struggle.
In the photo on the right you will see where I taped in a piece the same width as the amount of length I added to the front bodice. Add length right above the top line of shirring. You want your front waist and your top line of shirring to match.

Now let's look at the back bodice. Because of my small shoulder issue we have a similar gapping issue with the back neckline that we had at the front.

Again we are going to pinch out the problem areas.

Once you have your spots pinched and pinned. You want to draw lines where you want to make changes.

Be careful, you don't want to take out all the fullness. You want to make sure that you will still be able to move in the garment.

When you unpin your garment you will have lines where you want to make your adjustments.

You will take you garment off your form (or yourself) and take the garment apart. Yes you will need to seam rip it apart. Then you can lay the muslin pieces out on your pattern and make changes or trace a new pattern piece from your adjusted muslin piece.

I was a bit lazy and did not take my muslin apart. I simply folded and taped my pattern piece in the places where I pinched my muslin. For example, I pinched out a bunch of extra fullness in the back bodice. So I simply folded the pattern the amount of that pinch and taped it down.

So now when I go to cut the new back piece, I will use the new line I have created as my center back line.

This is part of why some feel that starting with the shoulder size that fits and adjusting the bust and the waist is easier. Again I think that would be true if you were only changing a size or two.

Look how smooth that back lays on this version. I hate a gapping neckline, you really want to make sure that your neckline lays flat. Focus on this part of the fitting.

I wore this dress yesterday and got tons of compliments. I am not a tiny person, but I look great in clothes that fit!

One of our fellow sew-a-longers, Sherry, sent me a picture of her muslin asking for advice. The one on the bottom right is her first draft. She also let me know her measurements and what size she had cut. Based on that I suggested that she go down a size and lengthen the bodice.

If you look at the original bodice, there is not a lot of fabric there. Once she sewed on her skirt, she would have had the same problem I was having which is that the waist line would hit her in the boob.

The light green bodice is after she made the adjustments I suggested, which were not drastic or difficult. And she looks amazing! Much more flattering! And the new waist will accentuate the smallest part of her. Which is always what you want to do. It is super flattering.

What I think is not emphasized enough in sewing your own clothes or buying them is really look at the fit. Is it overall too big? Is it too short? Are the darts in a weird place? Play around with these changes. And see which is the most flattering on you!

I could go on and on forever about making changes. But that is something that lots of other people have already done.

Here are some resources for how to make muslins and adjustments to fit.
Made By Rae - Lessons Learned
Oliver & S, Tips for fitting a muslin 
Full Bust Adjustment aka FBA, Curvy Sewing Collective
Small Bust Adjustment aka, SBA, Colette Patterns

There are tons of great resources out there. Keep in mind the Washi is a simple and easy pattern that gives you a chance to focus on one area (the bodice) with only a few pattern pieces. This is dipping your toe into the waters of sewing for yourself. Take your time. Do it right. And then when you are ready dive into the deep end.

That is a lot of information to digest! Feel free to send me pics if you need an opinion.
email: c at

I will be on Vacay next week! And am not taking my computer with me. So do not fret if I do not get back to you immediately. But take the next two weeks to test and try and make changes. Also if you are in the slack group post pics for the other group members to look at and ask for advice there. We are in this together people!

Peace Out - Go get some sun!!!

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