Many people complain that patterns don’t fit. But devising patterns that fit everyone is an impossible task.
We have problems with fit, not because pattern designers are doing something wrong, but because we each have a different body shape.
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Our different shapes
There are some data from North Carolina State University, which I analysed in a couple of posts starting here.
They found :
About 1 in 8 of us has waist larger than hips. About half of us have no clearly defined waist, the rest have indented waist.
About quarter of us are larger above the waist than below.
About quarter of us are larger below the waist than above.
How can anyone possibly design a pattern which fits all these people – except some sort of sack, with belt supplied for people who want to show their waist.
And they didn’t even look at fit issues like short-long waist, square-sloping shoulders, high round back.
Or any of the other 80+ fit issues mentioned by Liechty and Co. in Fitting and Pattern Alteration.
Here’s a list of common fit challenges.
My most obscure body shape element is that I have unusual armholes. Liechty and Co. is the only book I’ve found which tells me what to do about that. We all have different preferred methods of fitting. I like ‘reading the wrinkles’. Sarah Veblen’s good book on this method, Complete photo guide to perfect fitting, has a section on fitting individual armholes. But she doesn’t mention the major pattern change I need to get a comfortable fitted armhole.
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“Yay, this pattern fits me !”
It always annoys me when people enthuse that a pattern fits them out of the envelope, without saying anything about their body shape.
Suppose I recommend a pattern because it fits me marvellously. Should you rush to try that pattern ? Well, I have hips two sizes bigger than top, small bust, short waist, high hip shelf. If you have square shoulders, a generous bust, and slim straight hips, that pattern would cause you a lot of fitting work.
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‘Average’ is best
Many RTW clothing companies use a ‘fit model’. They choose someone close to their idea of ‘average’, and make their clothes to fit that person. Yes, there are people who make their living by having clothes fitted to them. There aren’t all that many people who are close enough to ‘average’ US size 8/ UK size 12 to be eligible !
RTW companies use ‘average’ fit, because over the whole population, fewer people will be far from these measurements.
In the same way, the best that pattern designers can do for fit is to design for ‘average’.
(Unless they’re willing to target only a small part of the market.)
An ‘average’ shape pattern, statistically, though not for the individual, over all the people who use the pattern, will need the least fit adjustments.
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Bad patterns ?
Of course there are bad patterns. In these days when cheerfully inexperienced people can sell terrible download patterns, we’re all aware that patterns need to be of professional quality. So they do have ‘average’ proportions, no mistakes, and all the pieces fit together properly in all sizes. And they have clear markings and instructions.
But patterns aren’t bad just because they don’t fit a specific person !
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Learn to fit
I think pattern companies make a mistake by not making this fitting limitation clear. Then people are disappointed with their product, and don’t understand that disappointment is unavoidable.
Beginner sewers can be upset that their hand-sewn garments don’t fit them by magic, even though RTW doesn’t.
Few instructions for beginners mention that there’s a lot of learning to do with gaining fitting skills as well as sewing skills.
Yes, if you make your own clothes you can have beautifully fitting clothes. But only if you do the fitting work.
Well fitting clothes make you look as if you have a perfect body.
I once saw an exhibit about ‘couture’ which included dress forms for some people who were famous for being elegant. Oh dear, some of them were a mighty odd shape underneath.
So it is worth doing the fitting work !
There are several methods of improving fit. Such as taking measurements and altering the pattern. Or making a muslin and ‘reading the wrinkles’. Tissue fitting is often mentioned but is almost impossible to do without help. You may need to try several methods before you find the fitting method that works best for you. There are several Sewingplums posts about body shape and improving fit.
Those of us who are further from average have to do more fitting work. It’s just something we have to accept as part of being us.
Good Luck to everyone who is far enough away from average that they have to do fitting work on all patterns. It’s inevitable for many of us !
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