What are “fitting patterns”?
They are very basic – and yes, very boring – dress or pant patterns that you’ll use to achieve your perfect fit before making sewing patterns for your new designs.
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Boring as it is, the commercial dress or pant fitting pattern (which becomes your basic block) is the “blank slate” upon which you will apply your creativity to develop new and distinctive designs.
And they’ll fit every time, because you worked out your fit issues on the boring old dress!
Fit is key to great looking clothes, and for most of us, we make the same sewing alterations over and over again (shortening sleeves, letting out seams, etc).
Once you’ve made those alterations to the basic dress or pant, the corrected pattern becomes the basis for ALL of your designs going forward.
You’ll never shorten sleeves or legs again, because the sleeve or pant leg you start with will be the correct length.
ANY adjustments you make to your fitting pattern will carry over to EVERYTHING you design and make from now on. It’s well worth the effort, don’t you think?
When fitting the muslin, you can use a dress form, fit it on yourself, or have someone else do the fitting on you (or, if you're making this for someone else, you can fit it on them). Start with the bodice, then do the skirt. Even if you're mostly interested in making blouses or tops, the upper part of the skirt helps to fit the lower part of a blouse or top. Set and fit the sleeve after you've made sewing alterations to the bodice.
Sew the pant without the waistband. Fit the waist, hip, and crotch areas first and mark the waist so the waistband will sit properly when you set it to the pant.
This dress or pant will be very close fitting, but it shouldn't be tight. There is fit ease built into the pattern; there should be room for movement when worn. If it is too tight or too loose, that indicates an area that needs an adjustment.
Clothing that fits properly, no matter the
style, will allow for ease of movement. Some styles, of course, are
designed to have more ease (this is "style ease" as opposed to fitting
Oversized garments, surprisingly, aren't always more comfortable
or easier to move in. When the garment is very oversized, the
excess fabric often gets in the way (something to bear in mind when you
design your own fashions). The fitting pattern (this dress or pant) should have
enough ease for movement, but it's should not hang loosely anywhere.
Tie a string or a piece of 1/4" elastic around the waist. This should be somewhat snug, but not tight or binding. This makes it easier to see if the waist seam (bottom the bodice/top of the skirt) is straight and even. Again, if the line isn't parallel to the floor, you'll probably have to adjust the length at the waist (we'll get into specific fit issues in the next pages).
You're ready to start fitting and making sewing alterations to the pattern!
The examples on this site reflect MY fitting issues and how I resolved them. Your body is likely very different.
But, since this is a site about the mechanics of making patterns and not specifically about fitting, I'm not going to address other fit issues here. And believe me, there are others who can address this issue better than me.
Any of the books listed below will help you achieve good fit. You can use the techniques on any pattern; but why make the same corrections over an over again? Apply the principles to your block, and the fit corrections YOU need will be automatically built in to every pattern you make!
I can recommend any of the following books and an online course to help you achieve good fit, no matter what your size or shape. I own or have used almost all of the books on this list, and have been pleased with how they address fit problems.
- Sewing Pattern Alterations: Fixing Fit Issues - This online course from Udemy is essential for creating clothing with a good fit. There's nothing worse than spending time and money on making a garment, only to find it doesn't fit well! Learn how to fix the pattern BEFORE you cut into your fabric! The course covers necklines, sleeves, skirts and pants.
• Pattern Fitting With Confidence - A very useful book written by the late Nancy Zieman, host of the TV series "Sewing with Nancy". She provides a straightforward, down-to-earth approach to sewing and fitting. Very user-friendly.
• The Complete Photo Guide to Perfect Fitting - I love this book!!! So wonderfully illustrated with photos, using commercial patterns to demonstrate the pattern alterations. It addresses almost any fit problem you might have. So easy to understand and follow!
• Sewing for Plus Sizes - Creating Clothes that Fit and Flatter - A great book for Plus sizes! As a woman gets larger, it's not just the measurements that change - our overall proportions shift, too. This book addresses the different body types and proportions you commonly see in larger women. Truly helpful for larger women.