When I first began sewing, I saw patterns as silver fitting bullets. Unlike the ready-to-wear garments that gave me conniptions, from their gaping waistlines to buckling busts, sewing patterns were the key to unlocking my perfect fit. Or, so I was told, anyhow. Imagine my surprise, when I made my first garment! Despite precisely matching the envelope’s measurements, my dress had the very same issues as RTW. The bust was a smidge too tight, while the waist was quite a few smidges too big. The armscyes gaped so large, I thought any moment they might start flapping and send me into flight. While that would have been an adventure, sure, I was upset. Patterns were supposed to fit me right out of the envelope. Everyone said that sewing was the secret to well-fitting garments. So, what was wrong with me?
The answer was, of course, nothing. Just like there’s nothing wrong with my body, when ready-to-wear doesn’t fit me, there’s nothing wrong when a sewing pattern isn’t instantly perfect. Patterns aren’t designed with Mary Danielson’s proportions in mind. They’re designed to fit the average of a line’s target demographic. While I will happily rail against small size ranges in patterns, it’s rare that I am upset by a pattern’s initial out-of-the-envelope fit. For both plus size and straight size seamstresses, patterns really are just a jumping off point. This realization was the single most important turning point in my sewing. It took my clothes from ill-fitting and baggy to pieces that get mistaken for RTW, which from a non-sewer is a high compliment.
My entry into fitting was the Full Bust Adjustment, which is a must for anyone with a large cup size. It made gaping armscyes and straining bustlines a thing of the past. After a few much more successful projects, I was hooked on fitting. I bought book after book and consumed online tutorials, like a kid with Halloween candy. There is seemingly no end to the type of fit adjustments one can take. Now, I regularly take a large bicep adjustment, small waist adjustment, full tummy adjustment, and a myriad other little fitting tweaks as they suit my fancy.
So, why am I telling you this? Simply to remind you that you are not alone. Do not be discouraged by people’s claims of patterns fitting them perfectly out-of-the-envelope. While fitting is a deeply individualized part of sewing, we all have to do it. No one, from size 2 to size 22, can fit into every single pattern perfectly. It’s statistically impossible. Women with the same general measurements can be a million different heights and shapes. None of us are imperfect, despite what adjustments we have to make. Patterns are not universal, they are merely helpful starting points.
What’s more, even the concept of perfect fit is different for every woman. While I may have the exact same body measurements as another seamstress, the way we go about fitting may be completely different. Not every 46-35-46 is going to be shaped the same or care about the same issues. I can’t handle a too high waistline, but I’m perfectly fine with a dress back being a bit baggy. What doesn’t faze me may drive someone else batty! Some may want more ease in the bust, while others feel best with a close, close fit. That’s a-okay, kittens. The beauty of learning to fit is that all of your clothes can suit not only your measurements, but your preferences, as well.
To beginner seamstresses, fitting can seem like a magical art, something learned by osmosis and taking remarkable skill. That’s just silly, y’all. I’m here to tell you that fit is an ongoing, personal process that we all will keep honing forever. Don’t let other people’s fear of bust adjustments or sleeve fixes get in your head. Every fitting adjustment is just cutting paper and taping it back together. You’ve been doing that, since you were knee high to a grasshopper! In my opinion, the more we can demystify not only how we fit, but when and why we do so, the less scary it becomes. I guarantee there isn’t one accomplished sewing blogger you read who doesn’t regularly take fit adjustments. Get out the tape, grab some muslin, and start your own fitting journey.
So, I’m curious, readers. What sort of fitting adjustments do you take? I love seeing the differences in this process, because it reinforces the fact that every seamstress is an individual. Our bodies are not only beautiful, but uniquely ours.