Good morning to my Tribe of Sewing Friends!
I wanted to share my experience with altering Vogue 9153, a Marcy Tilton pattern, to fit (or not fit, in the end). While I didn’t end up with a final garment that I am in love with, I thought you might be interested in my fitting process as a follow-up to my post on alterations for my aging body.
I have been sewing for more than 50 years, so I have a series of alterations I know I usually need. But, alterations are trial and error. Muslins are made and wadded in the name of good fit! I cannot tell you how many failures I have had in my sewing lifetime. Sewing is just practice. It may not be so cut and dried for you if you are a newer sewist.
This blouse I spotted via Pinterest served as my inspiration. I have been looking for just the right shirt pattern and this Marcy Tilton pattern is it. The pattern, Vogue 9153, is described as a “loose-fitting button-down shirt has collar variations, mock-front button band, side-front seam with casing, tie, buttoned mock-pocket, left-side darts (stitched on right side of fabric), shaped hemline, front longer than back, wrong side shows, and stitched bias hem facing.” I rarely sew patterns from the “Big 4.” They are really a problem for me to fit properly and can be a lot of work! The sizing is not terribly consistent. But, the fact that I was willing to give this a go speaks to just how much I wanted this pattern to fit!
However, I only like the left side of the pattern. I like asymmetry but, to me, the left and right side of this pattern do not go together. This is only my opinion only but since I will be the one wearing the shirt I guess it is the only one that counts! I want a shirt pattern that can be changed in many ways and look different each time. I don’t want to do all of the fitting work to only use the pattern once.
Choosing a Size
The bust measurements for the pattern range from 29 1/2″ to 48″. What size should I choose? My measurements are 44”-41”-48”.
The finished garment measurements for each size are listed on the pattern pieces. The only one I think I need to consider in choosing a size is the bust measurement. The bottom of the shirt is very relaxed and there should be room for my ample backside. I chose to start with the Large (16-18), which has a finished bust measurement of 46 1/2″. I plan to do a ¾” FBA for my D cup to will increase the measurement at the bust by 1 1/2″, giving me 48″ across the bust and 4″ of ease. Since FBAs are well-documented on the CSC, I will not walk through that alteration.
After choosing a size, my first step was a quick tissue fit. Not a complicated tissue fit, but just to see if there were any obvious problems on the front of the pattern.
The first problem I saw is that the neckline is too high! This shirt will cut off my airway! As expected, my forward head alteration was needed: I also saw from my tissue fit that a forward arm alteration was necessary. I was quite happy with the length, though! I have had to add length to the 2 other Marcy Tilton patterns I have made in the past, but I didn’t on this one.
This is the upper front alteration I used:
I wanted to drop the front neckline by 5/8″ without changing the shape of the neckline. I did not want to alter the collar. So, I drew in the 5/8″ seam allowances and then drew in the lines, always parallel or at 90 degrees to the grain line. I cut along them much like a FBA, leaving pivot points.
I dropped the front at the neckline by 5/8″. I drew in the line to keep it straight.
Then I taped it all back together and see that I have not changed the neckline at all. You can see that the overlapped area at the top of the pattern, by the neckline, is a place where I often have extra fabric on a RTW shirt. This alteration is from the wonderful book described in my post on alterations for my aging body.
Oh, I almost forgot to check the front facing, it will have to be changed as the top of the pattern was shortened by 5/8 with my forward head adjustment! I just cut the 5/8 off at the top of the facing!
Forward Arm Alteration
Looking at my tissue fit I saw that the armscye is just WRONG for my forward arm. I have always been stumped by this and it took a trip to Carmel Beach to a Loes Hinse workshop to discover how to fix this. I have never seen this alteration in print. There may be a professional pattern maker out there who will cringe! I use it because it works for me. The place where the problem is under my ring finger! My front chest is at least 1″ narrower than the pattern at this point. The shoulder is not bad.
Now, how I fixed the armscye: I took 1″ out right at the notch on the front arm, and taper to nothing at the neckline and under arm. I used my French curve to get a nice smooth line.
You can see that I have not changed the shoulder or the underarm. Now, I put the amount I cut off onto the front of the sleeve. The notch is where the full 1″ was added. Now the front of the sleeve looks pretty close to the XXL and the shape of the sleeve head has changed to be longer and sloping at the back, with a big upward hill at the front. That is what fits my body.
So in the end, I have less fabric in the front armhole area, and a bigger armscye. And I added extra fabric on the front sleeve to equal the amount taken out.
Full Arm Adjustment
The sleeve bicep measurement is 16 1/2″ on the L. This is on the edge of too tight for me, so I added about 1/2″ to the side seams for comfort. I think I can just ease the extra into the armscye. This is a lazy woman’s BAA (beefy arm adjustment).
Now the back of the pattern. This is a pattern for a woven, so I know I have to fix the back!
Again, I just use the left back pattern piece. I put in a center back seam so I can fine tune the back alterations and accommodate my rounded and enlarged back. I do a 3/8″ alteration to the mid-upper back and another on the upper back, adding a dart at the shoulder seam. This addition is 5/8″. I also rounded the center back seam to follow my spine curvature. This gives me a 1″ longer back length. I should not need a sway back adjustment because of the trapeze shape at the bottom.
This pattern has hip darts that are not for fit but for funky styling. I chose to ignore them and just straightened out the side seams. I also added 1/2″ extra when cutting out the side seams, for fit insurance. It could mean the difference between a muslin that is wearable and one that is a wadder!
Now that I have made my changes to the pattern, I sew a muslin to see how it turns out. I am pretty happy with where the neckline and darts are sitting with just the shoulders basted! The armscye looks pretty good!
I am pretty pleased with the back seam. I may take out a tiny bit of curve later as I finesse the fit! You can really see the curvature of my spine and you can sure see my forward head in this picture.
The front: I finished the collar and front facings. I basted the side seams at 1″, so I did not need the fit insurance. I’m liking the position of the front armscye and the darts are pretty good. I might take a bit of trapeze shaping out in the front only.
But, I am not loving that round shape around the bum. I will think about that on the next one.
Ok, let’s get the sleeves in and get her done.
I don’t think you can see that the shoulder seam is centered properly at the neck, but then, instead of going straight towards the ball of my shoulder, it goes toward the back, pulling my sleeve towards the back and making some sleeve wrinkles. How can I fix this for the next shirt? My favorite fix is in this Louise Cutting video. She shows 2 slightly different fixes. I will plan to use the second one.
Conclusion: A Wadder
You know, now that I have this pattern almost fitting well, I don’t like it much. The shirt is too trapeze-shaped and too long in the front. The front is longer than the back and I don’t like the round frame around my bum! I could finesse the side seams by taking them in and I could pick out the front facings and shorten it to make a wearable garment. I could change the back for the next one. But do I want to waste button holes and buttons on a shirt I don’t care for? The sleeves can’t be fixed on this muslin; I don’t have extra fabric.
I may just chalk this up to a learning experience and let this one go! Sigh! I so wanted this to work. I usually just quietly wad my failures, but now you know, too.