Monday, 30 July 2012

Fit for purpose

One of the benefits of making your own clothes (other than an excuse to buy fabric and do some sewing, of course) is that you can have clothes which fit you properly.

I am not a standard dress size. I have long arms and legs, but a short torso. As a result, ordinary dresses have several centimetres of excess bodice bunching on the top of my hips.

Bodice too long

Petite ranges help a bit, but there a still problems. Some are still too long. The range tends to be very limited, and the garment you loved in the shop window is never available in petite. Worst of all, because the entire garment is resized to petite, the sleeves are always far too short on me, giving a shrunk-in-the-wash look.

Sleeves too short

Making your own clothes means that you only need to alter the pattern pieces which need altering. However even then, a little caution is needed. Dress pattern pieces often have a horizontal line marked on them, to show where the piece can be shortened or lengthened. On bodice pieces this tends to be just above the waistline, as this is the simplest place to make the alteration. However I need to shorten pieces between the bustline and the shoulder. This is trickier as it frequently involves altering the armscye, and of course the sleeve if there is one.

Unfortunately I had a few dressmaking mishaps before I figured this out. Armholes on sleeveless tops were far too big, and some necklines ended up alarmingly low cut. In one case I had to add a pleated ribbon trim to the neckline of a dress, when I realised that it really wasn't suitable for wearing to the office!

My version did not look like the demure illustration!

If you are working with commercially available patterns, once you have worked out the alterations needed on one pattern you can usually just apply the same changes to other patterns of the same brand. This is because all the patterns, however different the finished garment, will have started from the same basic pattern, called a sloper. However different brands will use different slopers, and so may require different alterations to get the same fit.

For example, both the "if it can go wrong" dress and the purple dress are made from the same New Look pattern. They use completely different pieces for the bodice front, but the adjustment was the same for both of them. I could make the adjustment between the bust dart and the armhole, so I didn't need to alter the sleeves.

The 'tarantella' dress is being made from a Style pattern. To work out what alterations were needed, I first made a toile, or test version, of the upper part of the dress with a single sleeve. I then marked the waistline and bustline on the toile. The waistline was marked on the pattern pieces, but the bustline was not, so I had to guess where it was. Then it was a case of trying on the toile,looking to see where the waist and bust lines fell on me, and shortening the toile where necessary. Although the pattern was a little too long between the bustline and the waist, again most of the shortening was required between the bustline and the shoulder. This time however I made the adjustment higher up, partly to keep the neckline in the right place and partly because the toile just hung better that way. It also needed taking in a little at the waist and on the shoulders.

The toile, with alterations made

I redrew the pattern pieces with these adjustments in place, and redrafted the sleeve head in line with the reduced armhole. Now I'm ready to cut the dress out.

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