Wardrobe pattern co-ordination : ease for layering

Yet more comments on how a pattern like McCall’s 6519 can be a good basis for building a core wardrobe.


Two previous posts on this pattern :
– the interest and usefulness of wardrobe patterns with 5 rather than 4 items. And some other patterns with more items (post here).
– a few comments on how the shape elements of the different garments in this pattern work together (post here).

This post is about how shapes fit together for layering : is one layer large enough to be comfortable over another ? I’m not attempting to say everything there is to say about layering of all styles !

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Movement ease

‘Ease’ is the amount the garment is bigger than the wearer’s body measurements.

The most basic is ‘movement ease’, the amount that needs to be added to be able to wear the garment at all. For wovens, this is usually either 2 inches/ 5 cm or 4 inches / 10 cm at bust level. Some people prefer a close fitting basic style. Other people like their basics a little looser.

Some personal pattern drafting instructions produce a basic block with 2 inches ease, some produce one with 4 inches. Check whether the drafting adds 1/2 inch or 1 inch to the quarter measure at bust level. If you’re going to draft your own pattern block from scratch, look for a method which produces the basic ease level you prefer.

As knit fabrics have stretch, they provide inherent movement ease. Even so, some people like loose knits, some people like no ease. Very close fitting garments made from very stretch fabrics (swimsuits, leotards) may even be designed with negative ease (cut smaller than the body).

So pattern making books have separate basic pattern blocks for knits and body fitting clothes. Different basic blocks for fabrics with different amounts of stretch.

Bending room

In the simplest fitting shell, ‘movement ease’ just means enough room to breathe. You may need more room for real movements.

For example, my sitting hip measure is about 4 inches larger than my standing hip measure. Many skirt and pants patterns have 2 inches ease at hip level. In those patterns, I need to go up a size, to add another 2 inches of ease. So I can wear that style without straining the fabric.

This isn’t a problem with the pants of McCall’s 6519 as they are very loose fitting, with hip ease of more than 9 inches.

It could cause problems with sitting down in that wrap skirt, and I would probably make a muslin to check.

If you are an active person, and like to be comfortable, you may find you need a larger armhole and more fabric at elbow and knee. And you probably know you only like some skirt styles, because you can walk and dance freely in them.

Design ease

Then add on ‘design ease’, the extra needed to give the garment the shape and style that’s wanted. This affects whether a garment is close fitting or very loose. The BMV ease table shows total ease, movement ease plus design ease.

There are modern jacket styles (not the one in McCall’s 6519) which are close fitting, with only movement ease. For example, Basic Patternmaking in Fashion by Lucia Mors uses the same block for making both jacket and dress. These close fitting jackets aren’t mentioned in the BMV ease table. They’re made in jacket fabrics with jacket styling, but not meant to be layered over anything more than a camisole. So it’s worth checking the ease level of your pattern. (Total ease = difference between finished garment measurement and your measurement.)

Layering ease

So ‘design ease’ includes ‘layering ease’ if need be. Make sure there’s enough room to put one garment on over another. Best to have at least 1 inch/ 2.5 cm extra ease for every additional layer something needs to be comfortable over, including a lining.

This applies to knits too, if you want them to be comfortable.

The ease levels in McCall’s 6519 at bust height are :
dress (knit) : 1-1/2 inches / 3 cm
top (woven) : 4-1/2 inches / 11 cm
jacket (woven, unlined) : 5-1/2 inches / 13 cm

So it might not look very good, but if you were cold you could wear all three 3 layers at the same time !

Armholes and sleeves

In this McCall’s 6519 pattern, dress and top are both sleeveless, so the problem of layering the jacket over another sleeve doesn’t arise.

If you want to layer one sleeve over another, then the outer armhole and sleeve need to be larger too.

It’s also easiest if all layers have the same style armhole : all fitted, all cut on, all raglan, all drop shoulder, etc. Most armhole shapes work over fitted, but not the other way round !

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Now there are three posts inspired by McCall’s 6519. The first two were on :
5-item wardrobe patterns
co-ordination of shapes

In the first post I mentioned the easy ways of adding more items to a wardrobe pattern to make a core wardrobe : changing fabrics and lengths. Those easy ways may not add much to the sewing interest 😀

How to add more styles when starting from one pattern ? If you’re ready to try a little pattern altering, you don’t have to go straight to a full-scope professional-training pattern-making bible. There are many simpler sources of advice to use as a starting point. Am planning a post listing some of them.

Or if having ideas for capsules and small wardrobes is the point you get stuck at, look at The Vivienne Files or Polyvore. You may not share their ‘modern classics’ styling, but they’re full of ideas for combinations that make outfits and capsules.

Enjoy 😀

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Patterns and links available March 2012

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Explore posts in the same categories: co-ordinates

5 Comments on “Wardrobe pattern co-ordination : ease for layering”

  1. Marie-Christine Says:

    Don’t you think that pieces that are meant to be used as they should to begin with ought to work at least as well? When I make a Burda jacket, i don’t worry about whether it’ll fit over my t-shirts :-). And it can be useful to look at such a wardrobe pattern in case you’re a bit stuck in the imagination about what to wear with what, but for instance I already have patterns for each of these things, which no doubt fit me better than a McCall’s, so no need for a special pattern.
    I guess my main objection to these wardrobe patterns is that they imply that the rest of what you make doesn’t go with anything. It’s simply not true..

    • sewingplums Says:

      What an interesting comment Marie-Christine.

      It hadn’t occurred to me that wardrobe patterns were trying to limit my options. I’ve certainly been writing these posts just using this wardrobe pattern as an example. Because the items in a wardrobe pattern all co-ordinate well, they provide us with examples of what to consider when co-ordinating. I said early in the first post of this group that I wasn’t suggesting everyone should use this pattern.

      I am also careful about assuming any pattern will layer well over anything that it is not shown on the pattern to work over. I have learned the hard way ALWAYS to measure a pattern at bust and hip level before using. And I now know from experience that I personally need to check the size of armhole too.

      • Marie-Christine Says:

        Actually, I have seen examples of wardrobe patterns where the top and jacket were cut from the same pieces. So unless you’d think ahead and say make a larger size for the jacket, you may end up with unseemly bunching, defeating the whole purpose.

        I just think wardrobe patterns tend to be odd ducks in the pattern world, especially big4 ones. I think snooping on fashion blogs can lead to much more constructive ideas of how to layer things.. Although to be fair the Burda suit patterns seem much better thought out, but Burda’s been kind of uneven in quality lately. And this McCall one you’re using as an example is interesting in that I think it’s the only one I’ve ever seen that shows 2 very different tops.

        Sigh :-)..

      • sewingplums Says:

        Good comments Marie-Christine There are a couple of other patterns with two tops in my first post on wardrobe patterns. But I agree blogs are much more helpful than fashion magazines 😀

  2. Chrsi Says:

    your posts always give me something to think about
    thank you

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