Good morning to all of my friends at CSC! I decided to write a short post about the fit challenges that have happened to me as I age. As my body has matured, I have encountered new fit challenges that have made my clothes fit differently. Over the years, I learned to fit patterns well, but then It happened: I got older, and new problems started to appear.
Not all of my fit challenges are related to aging. I reached my full height of 5’8″ at age 12–taller than any of the boys in grade 8 and taller than most of my teachers. I was BIG. I was not overweight, but nobody else looked like me, and I felt like I was some sort of freak. I don’t remember being teased or singled out by others for my size, but I remember feeling invisible. It has taken me many years to change my feelings about my body. Now I feel grateful that it has lasted so well and remained quite strong at age 63.
As my fit issues started appearing, I initially called them figure flaws. I have changed my mind about that; flaws imply there is something wrong with me. There is nothing wrong with my body, and it is aging as it was intended to age.
Last year at Puyallup I attended a workshop give by Lorraine Henry on how to alter for variations in figure and I had a breakthrough lightbulb moment! I was so excited about what she was talking about that I went right out and bought the book she recommended: Fitting & Pattern Alteration by Elizabeth Liechty, Judith Rasband, Della Pottberg, Steineckert.
What a great textbook! It has changed my life and the way my clothes fit!
In the next part of this post, I list my figure variations and then give ways to detect if you also have any of these variations. Many of these things start to happen slowly, and some of them come in clusters.
My personal figure variations
- Forward head: My neck is no longer upright. It now comes off my spine at a forward angle. What do you notice in your clothes? A crew neckline is too high and it often feels like I am being choked. My shoulder seams pull forward and my upper back is too tight and pull lines appear across the shoulders.
- Stooping, forward shoulders and rounded upper back: This one is pretty obvious in a mirror as you can see what my mom calls a dowager’s hump. What you notice in your clothes is that the back of a jacket or blouse pulls back and you notice wrinkles between the neck and the shoulder in the back. This is especially noticeable in woven fabrics. There is not enough fabric to go over the rounded back and shoulders. The back also broadens.
- Shoulder is rotated forward: You notice that there is too much fabric across your upper chest. You see a hollow across your upper chest when you wear certain clothes. For me, it is most noticeable in a fitted jacket. The front of sleeves are too tight and you feel like your front is much smaller than your back. I was altering my shirts before this class as if I had narrow shoulders. I have changed that now that I know differently. I also notice this in the armscye. In most patterns and RTW, the armcye does not follow my body. If the armscye is too large, the front of the sleeves don’t fit well.
- Tilted pelvis and a recessed pelvic bone: RTW pants and patterns generally have too much fabric in the front. You are able to grab a lot of fabric at the crotch on a pair of pants.
- Large inner thighs and a layer of chub on the inside of my knee: I don’t think this is related to aging but the pant alteration that I need to fix this in pants goes together with my alterations. What you notice is a pulling and wrinkles that show up at the back crotch pointing directly at your back crotch and often right at the knee.
My personal pattern alterations
Above I have talked about my changing body, what you notice in how your clothing is fitting, and why things don’t fit. Now I will tell you how I fix a pattern to make things fit well for me. I have cherry picked what works for me from various sources. A number of instructors offer various ways to seek fitting help. Jennifer Stern, Loes Hinse, Louise Cutting, Lorraine Henry, and Judith Rashband all offer classes, videos, or tutorials on pattern alterations. I also choose to study my Fitting & Pattern Alterations textbook and pick what works for me.
- Forward head: I don’t wear many crew necks, and high-necked patterns need to have a scoop done at the front neckline. This is especially noticeable in a boat neck and in a woven high-necked shirt or dress. I much prefer V-necked or scooped neck patterns and t-shirts because they need fewer alterations. I tend to like to make blouses with buttons that I can leave undone.
- Stooping, forward shoulders and rounded upper back (Dowagers hump): I generally do a broad back adjustment. I usually add 3/8-1/2″ addition at the mid point of the shoulder seam. On the pattern back, I draw a straight line on my pattern from mid shoulder straight down to the hemline parallel to the grain line and cut and spread the pattern. I then add a dart of the same amount to the shoulder so that the front shoulder seam will match. The dart makes a nice curve to the back of the jacket. I also add a center back seam so I can add about a 3/4 inch extra fabric where it is needed at the upper mid back. Then I cut the seam allowance off and spread like Lorraine Henry suggested.
- Forward shoulder: The front pattern alteration that I do is one that I was shown how to do at a Loes Hinse workshop. Starting just below the shoulder point on the front of the pattern on the armcye I start a drawing a line making the front 1-2 sizes smaller ending at the underarm seam. I use my French curve to make it a nice line.
Then that exact amount you took out of the front of your pattern has to be added back on to the front of the sleeve head. This makes the sleeve curve bigger at the front and gives extra room. This is often enough extra room in the sleeve for me. Look for pattern designers that do NOT have sleeves designed the same front and back. Burda and Loes Hinse are 2 that come to mind. Ottobre magazine pattern t- shirts fit very well and need very little alterations for my body.
- Tilted pelvis and recessed pubic bone: I have to shorten the front of the pant at the low crotchline. I draw a line horizontal from the low crotch at right angle to the grain line. I cut along the line stopping at the sewing line and create a pivot point. I then overlap the pattern fabric by at least 1 inch, sometimes 1 1/2 inch depending on the pattern brand. I also make the front seam much more shallow a curve. My front pattern looks strange and almost has no curve at all.
I then add all of the amount I took out of the front curve and add that back on the back of the pattern to allow extra room for my full and rounded bum.
I have learned over time that certain pattern companies make patterns that need fewer alterations in pants. I have my best luck with the crotch curves in Burda and Stylearc.
5. Chub rub inner thighs and knee. Again this alteration was suggested to me by Lorraine Henry. I add 1/2 inch to the inseam of both the front and back of my pattern from the top to the bottom. Then starting at the same spot on the outer seam across from the crotchpoint I gently take out the same 1/2 inch all the way to the hemline. I generally do not do the second alteration on the pattern itself but after the pants are at the try-on stage. That gives me a bit of extra fabric where I might need it to finesse the fit. But I always go back and take out the 1/2 inch at the hem line even if I don’t take it all out to the hip line.