‘Fit to Flatter’ by Amy Herzog

Amy Herzog’s tutorials are a marvellous series about the style elements that flatter and don’t flatter different body shapes. And how to make fit changes.

It’s for knitters, but most is relevant to dressmakers. We have similar basic problems :

- We can’t try something on until it’s partly finished. So how do we know beforehand that we aren’t wasting our time, effort, money, and beautiful materials on making something that looks marvellous on the model and dreadful on us ?

- Most of us have body features that are not ‘average’. How can we alter an ‘average’ pattern so it fits us better ? This is actually easier for dressmakers – we just have to alter the paper pattern. We don’t have to calculate the details of stitches and rows.

In this series there are excellent photos of real people wearing right and wrong shapes (generous of them to show that). Especially tops and casual jackets. The examples are hand knits, but the advice about styling and shaping applies to any clothing, made or bought.
So read “dressmaker” instead of ‘knitter’ and “top” instead of ’sweater’.

Full of ideas and inspiration :D

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1. Introduction

2. Shapes
Types of body shape and suggestions about what flatters them.

3. Mindful project choice
Starting from body shape and showing what styles do and don’t look good.
Also starting from patterns and suggesting body shapes they look good on.

4. Sweaters [tops] and you
Use photos to identify your body shape.
Take interesting measurements.
Some comments on easier and more difficult pattern changes.

5. Necklines
Advice on necklines that flatter different body shapes.
Instructions for changing width and depth of neckline in knitting patterns.

(Knit stitches are not square, which adds complications. This is why she mentions ’knitters graph paper’. There are web sites where you can enter the number of stitches and rows to the inch/ 10 cm for your knitting yarn. The site produces graph paper with those proportions. You draw your required shape, with the natural proportions, on the graph paper. And use that to count how many stitches and rows you need to knit the shape.)

For suggestions about changing necklines in dressmaking patterns, see my necklines post.

6. Sleeves
Flattering length, width, and shape of sleeves.
Again the instructions section is about knitting.

For dressmaking patterns, it’s usually easy to change sleeve length.
To change sleeve width or shape which involves changing the armhole, it’s easiest to substitute the sleeve from another pattern. Match up the centre lines and shoulder seams of the 2 patterns and trace the armhole across. If you use the correct armhole for it, you won’t need to change the new sleeve.
If you want a wider sleeve without changing the armhole, most fit books tell you how to alter sleeve biceps width without altering the sleeve cap length. Or simply use a larger size sleeve from the same pattern, with the armhole to match.
Brensan Studios Shirt Club are patterns you can swop sleeve styles between as they have the same armhole.

7. Length
Where best to put the horizontal lines on your body.
When she says to use ’short rows’ if you have a tummy, she means add a downward curve to the centre front hem.
The section on pattern modifications uses measurements of the lengths of your body sections (taken in Section 4). So it applies to dressmakers as well as knitters. Guidance about where you need shaping darts.
For me it’s important to know about my high hips (circumference, and distance below waist) as well.

8. Shaping
Where you need darts, and how large to make them. Advice that’s the same for dressmakers. Good on shaping for the back – I recognise myself here.

When she tells a knitter to use short rows, it’s a way of adding length at the centre of a garment piece without changing the length of the side seams. Dressmakers achieve the same result by adding horizontal darts from the side seams.
Do you know how to add darts to a dressmaking pattern? It’s often easier than in knitting. Perhaps easiest to learn by experimenting with a trial garment to find what works for you.

She thinks we all look best with waist shaping in our clothes. Yes, in an ideal world. But in winter I wear so many layers that looking more shapely than a box really isn’t an option :D

9. Implementation
Making your custom styled top pattern.
Choosing the best style elements for you from all the previous sections : this is the same process whatever the source of your clothes – knitting, sewing, RTW.
The measurements section is also relevant to dressmakers. Though do add bigger ease levels if your pattern is for woven rather than knit fabrics.

There’s a section for knitters on doing the pattern calculations. This is the only section in the whole series where there’s not much for dressmakers.
For dressmakers it’s the usual strategy :
– develop well fitting personal basic pattern blocks, or learn what changes you need to make to commercial patterns.
– learn how to transfer style elements from one pattern onto another.

10. Conclusions
Review, plus ideas on how to use favourite style elements from any pattern in a way that’s best for you.

(Ravelry is a huge site for knitters. Somewhat akin to Pattern Review.)

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Amy mentions light/ dark colours but otherwise says little about colour, which for me is very important in getting a flattering result. But there are many interesting tips and helpful comments in all this. You do sometimes have to make an effort not to be distracted by details about knitting. But the general principles are the same for all clothes makers. Recommended :D

All the recent wardrobe planning reminded me how much I like sweater knits. But the simplest sweater patterns are basic rectangles, which are not good on my pear shape. So this Fit to Flatter series is just what I need.

It is very relevant to choosing flattering style elements for anyone. And for making appropriate pattern alterations in dressmaking as well.

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Links available November 2011

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Explore posts in the same categories: body shape, fit of clothes

3 Comments on “‘Fit to Flatter’ by Amy Herzog”

  1. Nancy Says:

    Thank you for posting these links. This was very informative!

  2. Marie-Christine Says:

    Sounds like the oldie but goodie “flatter your figure” by Jan Larkey could be more complete (includes color at least). I like it especially because it allows you to balance out strong pluses and minuses among different body characteristics. For instance, a woman with an overly-endowed bust will look different in the same clothes and need to pay more attention when that’s combined with small, sloping shoulders than with with good square ones.

    As to knowing in advance what something will look like, the home sewer has a good advantage: industrial espionage :-). Just go to a store and try something similar on, at least the same general silhouette. With a bit of practice, works even if the thing is not quite the right size or is a color vile on you. In fact, I find it good practice to go a couple times a year to a store and just try on every new style systematically. I’ve discovered that way styles that I’d never have thought of spontaneously. I also find it very helpful to consult sites as patternreview, where unadorned photos of people with my general body type are available in the styles I’m considering. My suspicions have been confirmed many times, saving me endless time and energy. Theory and speculation are one thing, practice is much better.

    • sewingplums Says:

      Thanks Marie-Christine. I don’t know that book but it sounds worth looking out for.

      Personally I find snoop shopping rather unhelpful and depressing. RTW is such a different shape from me that I look dreadful in nearly everything ! I hold up fashion pictures against myself in a full length mirror for a preliminary idea.


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