Where is it obvious that Ready To Wear clothes don’t fit you well ?
Where does the fabric strain ?
Where does the fabric sag ?

If RTW doesn’t fit you well in that way, then sewing patterns are not likely to either. Because both are designed for an ‘average’ shape person.

It is possible to have beautifully fitting clothes when you make your own clothes. But you do need to alter the pattern to do that fitting.

3 main sections in this post :
– common fit challenges,
– methods of fitting commercial patterns,
– note on making your own patterns from a well fitting starter block.

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Fit challenges

Here are the most common differences from average you may need to allow for.
If your waist isn’t obvious, take it as an inch/ 2-3 cm above your belly button.

tall – petite

broad – narrow shoulders
square – sloping shoulders
forward shoulders
high round back

long – short arms
sleeves tight – baggy

forward neck
gaping neckline

long – short from shoulder to waist
underarm not half way between shoulders and waist

full – small bust
bust point high – low, wider apart – closer together
wide back

large – small waist

sway (hollow) back
high hip shelf
wide – narrow hips

long – short between waist and crotch
fuller – flatter seat or tummy
deeper – shallower from front to back at bottom of torso

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Which of these has a big effect on the look and comfort of your clothes ?
Change your patterns to fit and you’ll be the only person who knows about them !

How many special body features have you got !
Put them in order of importance.
Work on them in turn.
You may find when you’ve dealt with the biggest issues, some of the others disappear.
You may find you have to return to some issues, as later changes affect earlier ones.

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Fitting commercial patterns

Fit is a huge topic. And there are many fitting methods. People have strong preferences. Here are some to try.

I suggest Nancy Zieman Pattern Fitting with confidence for fitting beginners. Clear and simple for the ‘pivot and slide’ method, with many diagrams. (You do have to redraw the pattern. Get used to the idea that a pattern is just a starting point !)

Though that book is not complete. ‘Pivot and slide’ works well for many fit changes, but not for bust or crotch. For these, you need to ‘slash and spread’ the pattern to get the added fabric where it’s needed. Here’s some starter guidance :

– Full bust adjustment. Adding fabric across and up-down the front needs bigger darts and changed armhole shape. A good FBA adds fabric while keeping the same length stitching lines. See this Sewingplums post Note on the FBA. Links at the end of that post to pattern lines which include different cup sizes.

– Large rear or tummy or thighs, or deep torso. Added fabric wedges do change stitching line lengths, and alter pant crotch shape. See this Sewingplums post on Fabric wedges below the waist.

Still unsatisfied after you’ve made these common fit adjustments ?
Have a look at the fitting ‘bible’ Fitting and Pattern Alteration by Liechty and Co., which includes 88 body shape features.

Or try ‘reading the wrinkles’. You don’t need to know the name of your difference from average, or how big the difference is. You make a test garment and move the fabric around until the strains and sags disappear. Try Sarah Veblen’s Complete Photo Guide to Perfect Fitting. She also has on-line classes at Pattern Review and Taunton Workshops.

I haven’t mentioned the ’tissue fitting’ method. It’s almost impossible to do without help. Even with expert help the result is only good with a limited range of styles, as paper and half garments don’t behave in the same way as fabric and complete garments.

Making a trial garment to get the fit and proportions right may seem like a lot of unnecessary work. The early stages of exploring fitting methods and finding what works for you can be very dispiriting. But the more you come to value quality, the more you’ll learn that this extra work has huge pay-offs in how good your clothes look.

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Personal pattern making blocks

There are two very different stages to the formal method of making your own patterns :
– getting well fitting basic pattern blocks/ slopers,
– altering these to make other styles.
If the starter blocks fit well, then the styles made from them will fit well too. Hurrah !
There’s another huge world of guidance about these. Personal pattern block drafting methods, and pattern making software, deal with about half the fit challenges listed above, about quarter of the challenges covered by Liechty & Co, also above.
So they may not solve your fitting problems without some adjustment using the methods in the previous section. But it is worth doing the fitting work to get good personal blocks, for several reasons :
– if you want to do your own designing.
– so you know what fits you well, to use when changing the fit of commercial patterns.
Several posts on this approach at Sewingplums.

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It’s unlikely you’ll get your fit all right in one step.
Many people find getting a good fit is quite a lengthy process.

So remember that each little step makes your clothes fit better than Ready To Wear. 😀

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