Sorry but I can’t point you to a source which will instantly solve all your fitting woes. Fit is an area which repays effort, as every little improvement can make a garment look and feel better. But don’t expect it to be a quick and easy process to get to where you’re satisfied !
We all have different fitting issues, and also different fitting styles – we prefer different methods. And we prefer different teaching styles. The methods mentioned here are the ones I have noticed as they work for me. Sadly I can’t guarantee they will work for you 😀
I’m talking here about methods which deal with getting a good fit by making a test garment, here called a ‘muslin’. May also be called a ‘toile’ (french word pronounced twaal).
A first test of woven garment can be made in any broadcloth type fabric (not just muslin (US) /calico (UK)), or in Pattern Ease.
I love using Pattern Ease as you can trace the pattern onto it and then stitch it together, so cutting out one step of the test process if you use fabric. But it doesn’t move on the bias in the same way as fabric, so it’s not a final fitting solution.
It can also be good to make a first test of a knit pattern in a woven fabric (unless the pattern has negative ease). Amount of stretch greatly affects the fit of knit patterns. For final test of knit patterns you need to use fabric with the same amount of stretch as in the pattern.
I don’t mention ’tissue fitting’ as it is impossible to do without help, and paper doesn’t behave the same way as fabric. (If you can get to a face-to-face real class organised by Palmer-Pletsch yes, otherwise no.)
Fitting issues covered in a method
There are many ‘easy fitting’ methods, but I haven’t listed them here as I’ve tried many and they don’t work for me. I’ve also worked my way through many on-line classes and books, done much block drafting from personal measures, used a couple of personal pattern making software lines, all without success (many posts on my fitting adventures at Sewingplums).
I would love to be able to use a drafting ruler or a master pattern. They cover most of the issues dealt with by an ‘easy fitting’ method, and make drafting a basic block look so easy. They should certainly give you a result that is better than using a commercial pattern. But sadly I haven’t got a standard shoulder slope and upper back, or a standard armhole and sleeve head shape which are the same at front and back, or the standard distribution of bodice length above and below the armhole, or a standard crotch curve. And my waist and hips are not divided into 4 equal lengths by centre and side seams (I could go on – did I mention I have prominent high hips.)
Those two tools give you a ‘basic block’, which you then go on to change to make the style you want. Many sewists don’t want to do their own pattern making, so they need to know how to get a better fit from a commercial pattern.
All the fit issues I mentioned are ‘non average’ curves, bumps, and proportions. Some ‘easy’ fitting and pattern drafting methods do include bust cup size. But, for most curves, bumps and proportions, ‘easy’ fitting and ‘personal’ pattern drafting methods just use ‘industry standard’ shapes and measures. And poor fit in such areas all affect the look and comfort of a garment.
Liechty et al’s fitting bible includes 88 fitting issues, and most easy-fit methods and personal block drafting methods include quarter of them at best. I don’t actually use the methods in that book (most of the issues interact so you can’t deal with them in isolation). But I did find it well worth the investment as they include several fit difficulties not mentioned elsewhere.
Detailed help with getting a well fitting personal block
I finally got good sleeveless bodice and skirt fit with the help of Brooks Ann Camper. She doesn’t adapt an ‘average’ pattern or use any ‘standard’ body measures. She has you draft a starter block entirely from your own measures. Then has you fit a muslin made from it to your body, with instructions and much help available. By the time I’d finished the fitting process there was not a single feature of my starter bodice block that was unchanged. It’s not quick or easy, but very rewarding (at last I have comfortable armholes, most fitting methods don’t mention them).
But we all like different teaching styles, she’s not for everyone.
There are classes for skirt (essential prerequisite for the others), sleeveless bodice, pants. I haven’t tried her pants class as crotch shape is my big problem there, and I solved that with the help of Joyful Expressions, see below.
I haven’t tried it myself but have seen good reports of the sleeved bodice class from Alexandra Morgan. Also has a personalised armhole and sleeve head – which I need and are never mentioned in ‘easy’ fitting and pattern drafting methods.
And again, these two sources are only helpful to people who want a personal block so they can do their own pattern making.
Fitting and pattern revising style
So – what about fitting commercial patterns ?
Like many other topics in sewing, different people have different preferred fitting styles.
It doesn’t work for me to assume altering a flat pattern tissue will solve all my problems. Though as a basic book on understanding fitting problems I think Nancy Zieman’s Fitting with Confidence is clear and simple. But she only deals with the basics (many of the items in this list), not all the curve issues I listed above as problems for me. The ‘pivot and slide’ method also doesn’t work for fit issues which need changes to a pattern piece shape, such as cup size and crotch curve.
I have found most of my fitting issues need to be dealt with directly on my body, by ‘draping’ a ‘muslin’.
There is a fitting class Sew the Perfect Fit from Linda Maynard at Craftsy which illustrates my preferred method.
You can see from the photo that she adds in fabric to the fitting ‘muslin’ in areas where the starter fabric is not large enough.
There are also several different methods of getting from a fitted muslin to a new pattern. I don’t follow Linda Maynard’s method of getting a well fitting pattern by making the same alterations to the paper pattern as you’ve made to the fitting muslin. I find it easier to take the muslin apart and trace off the pattern pieces to make a new pattern.
Here are some of the free items I do find useful.
Common fit challenges
Ease levels (Sewingplums)
Adding width – videos from Louise Cutting on various ways of widening for bust and / or hips.
Modify sleeves for better mobility, video from Threads magazine.
Sure Fit Designs doesn’t include all fitting issues but she has some useful articles.
Bust fit :
How to add a bust dart – video from Sure-Fit Designs (no need for their shirt kit, instruction book, or other tools)
Basic Full Bust Adjustment, from the Curvy Sewing Collective.
Full Bust Adjustment – Debbie Cook’s tutorials on doing an FBA on various pattern styles – scroll down to her Alterations.
Pants fit :
Diagrams of problems and solutions from Closet Core patterns.
Photos as well as drawings from Melly Sews.
Fitting your crotch curve using a bendy ruler, 2 videos and photo tutorial from Joyful Expressions. I haven’t got an unusual rear, I have got a deep torso with a base that slants plus a protruding stomach. This method is what solved my pants fit issues for me. Most ‘easy’ pant fitting and ‘personal’ pattern drafting methods don’t even mention crotch curve shape, but Liechty & Co. have over 40 pages on it.
You’re very lucky if you find an ‘easy fit’ method that works for you.
I do think those methods are irresponsible when they claim they work for everyone. I remember how much distress I suffered until I realised that if their tool didn’t work for me, that meant there is something wrong with the method, not with me !
Many of my fit posts at Sewingplums are about understanding why most ‘easy’ and ‘personal’ methods don’t work for me – by finding the difference between what the ‘easy’ or ‘personal’ method includes and what my body needs for a good fit.
Unless you are lucky and have a close to ‘average’ body, don’t expect fitting to be quick and easy despite all the claims.
It can be a challenging process but the pay-off is huge, and every small improvement makes your clothes look better.
A good fit makes anyone look as if they have a good body 😀 😀 😀
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First published July 2020, links checked December 2020
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