Getting to know my sizes
Many surprises when I started exploring pattern blocks earlier in the year. One was that many methods of drafting patterns to individual measurements assign half your bust/ waist/ hip measure to front and half to back. Surely not, I thought. And indeed it isn’t true for me.
Some pattern making books do include front-back differences. I’m using :
Knowles. Pattern making for fashion designers : juniors, misses, and women.
Allemong. European cut.
Liechty, Rasband, Pottberg-Steineckert. Fitting and pattern alteration (hurrah, my birthday present this year).
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Taking my measurements from waist to thigh
Wearing leggings and tank, I rigged myself up with :
- horizontal velcro tapes at waist, high hip, hip.
- vertical tapes at CF, side seam, and CB.
Needed to adjust the position of the side tapes so they :
- looked from the front as if they were at the edge of my body.
- looked from the side as if they roughy divided the area of the body in half.
No photos – I haven’t got a leotard, so it was all rather untidy !
I don’t attempt to measure to an accuracy of 1/16 inch or 1 mm, as BML tells you to. Impossible accuracy with a soft flexible body. It’s easy to change the measure much more by a slight change in tension of the tape measure or posture of the person being measured.
I know 1/8 inch can make a difference to the quality of fit. But that’s in fabric being tried on. I aim for measures to the nearest 1/4 inch/ 0.5 cm. Details to be adjusted on the ‘muslin’.
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My total waist measure is 33-1/2 in., total hip 43-1/2 in.
Both Big4 pattern size 18.
Apparently no problem there then.
But look at the details and a very different picture emerges :
. . . . . . . . . front . . . . back . . . . total (inches)
waist . . . . 19 . . . . . . . 14-1/2 . . 33-1/2
high hip. . 20-1/2 . . . 21 . . . . . . 41-1/2
hip . . . . . . 20-1/2 . . . 23 . . . . . .43-1/2
(Sitting hip 46 in., important to know for ease allowance.)
Interesting, I still have a waist at the back, but there’s all that stomach sticking out in front. Yes, it does go in and out daily.
And my high hips are important, so :
- darts below waist need to be short, and mainly at the back.
- below high hip there’s little change.
My high hips are about 3-4 inches below my waist. But as I have a tilted waist (higher at back due to high hip pads), a level high hip is not the same distance below my natural waist all the way round.
Double those measures – so these are just imaginary numbers, assuming my back and front are the same :
. . . . . . . . front . . . back (inches)
waist . . . . . 38 . . . 29
high hip . . . 41 . . . 42
hip. . . . . . . . 41 . . . 46
Comparing those numbers with the BMV size table, that means my pattern size is/ are. . . (I’ve added bust here, I knew this before.)
. . . . . front . . . . back
bust . . . . 14 . . . . 16
waist . . . 24 . . . . 14
hip . . . . . 16 . . . . 22
Eeek ! no wonder I’ve never been able to wear a sheath dress or a leotard
I’ve still got an indented waist in silhouette from the front, but have difficulty fitting it. Easiest with a waist seam, which isn’t usual in a blouse. I’m sure it is possible to get princess seams to fit me well at the back, but I haven’t got round to it.
Here’s my personal waist-to-hip pattern which shows the different front (right) and back shapes.
These measures helped me understand much, but they don’t give the complete picture. My front waist and hip measures may be similar, but I’m not the same shape all the way down – forward spreading waist becomes hips spreading sideways. Visually, my widest hip is lower in my silhouette from the front than it is in my silhouette from the side. And unlike my stomach, that large back is just generally large, not protruding.
Don’t even try to imagine what I look like in a RTW fitted jacket !
Though I do promise I have never bought one
Some people need front bigger than back below the waist. Sandra Betzina ‘No Time to Sew’ p.15 says she cuts a size 14 pants front and size 10 back.
Above the waist, I have small bust and wide back. Many people have larger upper front than back. FBAs need to be adjusted for personal shape and ease preference. See my post on the FBA for some comments.
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Other special features of my shape
Here are some other features of my body, as described by Liechty et al.
Short lower rib cage/ high waist.
short between armhole and waist
High neck base.
similar to sloping shoulders but I think this is more ‘me’.
raise back neckline, lower front neckline
Low bust position.
Rounded upper back.
Shoulder darts essential
Cylindrical upper torso.
Scoop out armholes sideways. I haven’t got large biceps but do need a large armhole. I’ve learned to check cut-on sleeves to make sure they’re not tight.
Don’t know if my bones are large, but I do like to be comfortable when I bend my arms.
Longer lower torso.
Cylindrical lower torso.
long crotch extensions on pants
Here’s some things which affect style rather than fit :
- I’ve recently realised my forward head has made my neck go visually from long to short.
- lumpy knees and thick ankles.
I have got good features too
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No I don’t look like a freak.
But RTW doesn’t look good !
And, with so many non-average features, no wonder I find it easier to get good fit by starting from my personal pattern block and adding style elements to it. Rather than starting from a commercial pattern and making all these changes.
I don’t think all this self awareness gets you out of making a trial garment. Even when you’ve gone through the pattern-muslin-pattern-muslin cycle several times and have a good fit, it’s best to check that length, ease, and style elements such as collar shape, pocket placement, etc. are flattering.
Also best fitting method depends on personal preference. I don’t at all enjoy tissue fitting. I prefer working direct with a muslin, ‘reading the wrinkles’. Rather than trying to get all the adjustments done accurately to the pattern before ever trying something on.
But many people love ‘Fit for Real People’, and tissue fitting, and not having to make a muslin. So try different methods to find what you prefer. Every little step is an improvement
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P.S. There have been so many comments about this, perhaps I’d better add some more :
I’d like to to encourage people who have unusual fitting challenges. Of course it’s marvellous if you find commercial patterns which are close to your body shape, or a fitting aid which works for you. But there are people who have too many features away from average for that to be possible. And many of those special features aren’t dealt with in the pattern making books which claim to tell you how to draft a personalised pattern.
I’m not so analytic about all this when I do the actual fitting. I fit by ‘reading the wrinkles’ on a muslin. I make no attempt to resolve all my fitting issues one by one on the pattern before cutting out.
Though there are many fitting issues which need a rough change to the pattern before cutting the fabric, or there won’t be enough fabric available to make the detailed adjustments. (Though if you make a muslin, you can slash and spread on the body to add the wedges of fabric needed.) Such as a long body, or square shoulders, or a large bust cup, or protruding front and rear when fitting pants. Or different sizes front and back, above and below.
And I am the sort of person who likes to understand what I’m doing. For example, I need a personalised armhole to be comfortable. Liechty et al is the only book I know which explains what it is about my body which makes this necessary, and what to do about it.
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Patterns and links available November 2011
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