Thursday, October 17, 2013

Fitting New Look 6095.

I'm going to talk about fitting today.  Most of us have read books about fitting - how to fit shoulders, full busts and so on.  These are technical alterations but there is a lot more to fitting than that - you have to think about whether the style is right, whether the pattern is right (there are some patterns that are just not going to work), and how the dress works on you.  You may alter but still find problems - that could be caused by poor posture for instance.  So with fitting you also have to develop an eye and a feel.

New Look 6095 is a simple shift dress with bust darts and back darts.  It has no front darts over the tummy. It is shaped at the side to go in at the waist and curves out over the hips and thighs.  That is what the picture suggests.

Ease is quite generous - 4 inches at the bust, 5 inches at the waist and 4 inches at the hips.  I was not sure what size to use - lots of commercial patterns are quite generous with ease.

Pattern companies design patterns with hips 10 inches larger than the waist and 2 inches less than the bust.  Slightly pear shaped.

I am not pear shaped, but slightly inverted, in that my shoulders are wider than my hips.  Some inverted triangles have large busts, but mine is a A cup - but I do have a protuberant rib cage.  I'm slightly rectangular as well, with bust and hips about the same measurement, and waist larger than 25 inches - 26.5-27 inches.

As the ease was generous, I decided to start with size 10.  This is a starting point.  I know my measurements suggest I have a 12 but, but that means that the garment will be far to big with the neck and far too long.  I've worked out I'm a sort of 6-8 frame with added bits.  Sometimes I use an 8, sometimes a 12 pattern.  And  if I have no idea how the pattern is going to work, I start at an in between size.  Also, I only have size 6-8 hips - too much distortion occurs if I try and mix sizes. 

Size 10  gave me the following look with drag lines and a very baggy zip curve - which was also too low.  The back waist is sitting too low as well.

It took me some time to figure out what to do as some of you already know, with multiple muslins made trying to sort out the baggy area around the zip.  I did normal short waist adjustments, sway back adjustments, straightened the zip area - ant the problem got worse

Eventually I did a standard short waist adjustment of 1 inch - not at just above waist level, but under the arms - and that raised the back curve and put the back waist where it should be - albeit still creating a kyphotic looking curve in the zip.  And the drag lines are still there:

Then the next solution came.  This dress is meant to be a loose shift - hence the ease.  That ease is there for a reason.  We tend to want to overfit and overshape - but some garments are not designed for that.  Shifts are a case in point.  The shaping for this dress can only come from the sides and a bit at the back.

The drag lines might have been because there was not enough ease - my bust and waist being larger than the pattern suggest, my hips smaller.

I added the missing ease to the bust and waist.  I could take the hips in to a size 8 but I have learnt that leads to a set of distortions as well.

The drag lines disappeared.

 Natalie Bray's book "Pattern Cutting", fifth edition, is a highly technical book that discusses fitting as both an art and a science.   It really is not an easy read, but has a lot of principles in it:

I have a photo taken from the book that  illustrates quite clearly what overshaping means.  I think the pattern may have learnt that way - and my inverted proportions made it worse.

Page 32, Natalie Bray, Dress Pattern Designing, fifth edition.

Unfortunately today I have a lot of interruptions, so photography was on the run - hence the crookedness.  Still, I am sure the information is what interests you, not my skills in photographic presentation.  I decided not to trim the text out, because I decided you might find it interesting.

You can see quite clearly here the drag lines caused by overshaping into the waist. Many fitting books I have read - developed for the home sewing market - suggest that folds are due to to much fabric or too little fabric - but that is not always the case.


A reader sent me an email asking me how I knew what to do with fitting as she has difficulties in this area.

Fitting is both a science and an art.  Flat patternmaking is relatively recent - Natalie Bray was the pioneer of flat pattern cutting.  She was an Engineer also highly skilled in dressmaking - I'll write more about here another day.  In the 1920's garments were starting to be mass produced - prior to that, garments were always fitted to the body (we are taking garments made for the rich here - the advent of mass production meant also that ordinary people could also access reasonable clothes at reasonable cost, but I digress).

Moving forward in time, people still use the basics of this flat pattern making.  Many books have been produced for the home sewer advising how to fit.  These are very useful and certainly give me technical tools to make alterations.

But sometimes it comes down to having a good long look and think.  Drag lines come from somewhere.  Conventional fitting books will say that the garment is too tight or too loose across a certain plane.  I took a more engineered perspective and could see it was from a high point of the bust,  to a low point, through the waistline.   So the problem had to be in this area. 

Fitting is time consuming and relies very much on eye.  I believe in trying anything new but I always make a muslin. Muslins allow you to check whether the style suits you - if not, don't make it.  Muslins allow you to alter areas that don't please you - in my case I altered the neckline and the shoulder line.

I think that will do for today - but I want to close with this idea - if you are curvy - don't use a minimally shaped dress like this for a shift, but use a princess line - that way you will have the seams that allow more shaping and fitting.  I'm a great believer in the princess line for curvier ladies - and that includes larger busts, hourglass figures, and pear shaped figures.

It's hard to teach people how to fit on the internet - but what I will do is talk about fitting more with garments I make. I'm making a dress later in the year and I will go through all the steps of fitting that with you.

One comment on my blog suggested maybe I needed to do a FBA.  This was not needed for a number of reasons - I don't have a full bust and it would have made for far too much fabric around the hips.  I do sometimes add extra at the bust - especially for jackets with two piece sleeves, but often find just a little extra on the sides works - I'm straightish through the sides, so this is the best place for me.
From Australian Stitches, not sure which issue.

As you can see, I did not need extra around the tummy of that dress - it was already loose, and I get narrower around my hips, not wider like a pair.

Happy sewing,

Sarah Liz



  1. Your persistance with muslims is inspiring! I really hope you are happy with the final dress.

  2. I agree with you completely on using princess seams if you have a full bust. I'd go one step further and strongly recommend shoulder princess seams as well.

    Congratulations on getting the shift to fit. This can be your TNT!

    1. Yes, I would agree with what you say.

      The dress will be a little TNT :)

  3. Lots of very useful information - thank you :)

  4. Lovely dress. and thank you for the wonderful information that you shared. So appreciated..

  5. I agree with your recommendation for princess seams on curves. I need to alter in various spots to maintain my curves and not lose them

  6. Thanks for sharing the Natalie Bray diagram - I tend to over fit too much and have learnt from experience that only some patterns can be successfully altered to achieve a really close fit

    1. It's a pleasure to share, Kristy. Experience is also the best teacher :)

  7. Hello Sarah, I would like to join make a garment a month. I'm just starting to sew and having a terrible time getting the patterns to fit my body and would like to get help from experience sewers like yourself. I don't have a blog and not sure how to post pictures so I can get feedback. I've made a top twice now and going on my third attempt.

    1. Sherry, I recommend that you start a blog so that you can communicate visually with other bloggers - that's how we give feedback. It's not hard to post photo's on blogger. Then post regularly. Also read books on fitting - look on Amazon.

    2. Whoops, forgot - I'll add you to our blog roll :)

  8. good job on the dress & a very educational post! When you said "Drag lines come from somewhere" - fitting started to make more sense to me.

  9. Hi Chris - I'm glad it made more sense :)