Sunday, December 27, 2020


Fitting a Pattern for a Bodice or Top

Fitting Topic No. 1 - Choose a Pattern and a Size

I believe the biggest determent to sewing clothes for most women is getting a pattern to fit.  If we could be sure that after putting our money, time and energy into making a garment, it would fit when finished; most of us would be happy to sew!  However, many times after we finish a garment, we are disappointed because it does not fit well.  I would like to offer a few tips and techniques I have learned through many years of fitting by trial and error.  There are a lot of fitting methods and I have tried most of them in search of garments that fit me.  Fitting cannot be covered in any one session.  So, my plan is to give tips and techniques for fitting during my next few posts.  Fitting is a process that requires practice.  Don’t just take a quick glance at the back of the pattern envelope and start cutting your fabric.  Be prepared to spend some time researching fitting and trying techniques to learn which ones work for you.  Your goal is to create a well-fitting garment and careful preparation will ensure that goal will be met! 

Start with fitting a pattern that can be used to make a bodice or top.   I chose Simplicity 8061 because it is a simple pullover top with a jewel neckline, side seam bust darts and short sleeves.  The back has a single button and loop closure.  The pattern recommended fabrics are cotton, cotton blends, challis, silk, linen, and linen blends.  I recommend using a cotton or cotton blend fabric to make a mockup for fitting purposes.  You can use muslin for the mockup, but I am going to use some cotton fabric in my stash that I know I will never use to make a garment I intend to wear.  I know the fabric I am going to use is not a good quality cotton, but it will work for a mockup.  I will throw away the mockup after I create a pattern to fit me.

First, you will need to take a few body measurements:

Bust – Measure your bust over the fullest part.  Be sure to keep the tape measure level across your back.  Put one finger under the tape and read the measurement.

High Bust – This measurement is taken above the bust, under the arms and across the back.

Waist -  Measure around your waist comfortably – not too tight and not too loose.

Bicep -  Measure around your bicep.  Don’t pull the tape too tight.

Hip – Measure around the widest portion of you hips. 

Now that you know your measurements, you can pick a size to begin your project.  The back of the pattern envelope will not show a “high bust” measurement.  It will give only the “bust” size, the waist size, and maybe the hip size.  In order for the top to fit you well, it must fit at the shoulders.  The top hangs on the body from the shoulders, so it is imperative that you have a good fit at the beginning of the garment – the shoulders.  Most patternmakers increase the width of the shoulders as they increase the size of the bust.  However, that is not the way real life works.  You can have a full bust without having exceptionally wide shoulders.  Therefore, take your “high bust” measurement and find the closest “bust measurement” on the pattern envelope.  That is the size you will use.  You will get a better fit at the shoulders and you can increase the bust before you cut your fashion fabric.  For example, if your high bust measures 36 inches and your bust measures 40 inches, you should pick size 14 on the example shown below. 

Obviously, in order to get a garment on and off and be able to move comfortably, a garment must be larger that your measurements.  That extra room is called “ease”.  Ease is the  difference between your measurements and the garment measurements.  Most patterns will show the ease on the individual pieces.  For example, the pattern I used showed the total ease for the top on the front pattern piece.  If you add the ease to the bust measurement on the pattern envelope, it should equal the total measurement around the completed garment at the bust.  To make sure I will have enough room in the garment, I like to measure across both the front and back pieces of the garment at the bust from seamline to seamline.  Then I can compare that figure to my actual bust measurement and decide if it has enough ease to allow me to be comfortable.  To make it easier for me to take this measurement, I draw the seamline on the pattern pieces. 

A pattern for a blouse or top may not give hip measurements on the back of the envelope and may not give the ease over the hips on the pattern pieces.  You need to make sure the pattern fits over your hips with some extra room for ease.  So, measure across the pattern pieces at the hips from seamline to seamline as you did for the bust.  Compare the total to your hip measurement.  Now you know if you need to add anything at the hips before you cut your fabric.

One of the reasons a pattern may not fit you without alterations is most patterns are drafted for women who wear “B” cup bra sizes.  If you are not a B cup size, you will probably need to alter the bust on your pattern.  I will address that issue in one of my coming posts.  If you want to follow along with me and create a pattern for a top that fits you, prepare by getting a pattern for a simple top with side seam bust darts.  Take your measurements that I listed above and watch for my fitting posts on this blog. 

If you have any books or videos about fitting, you could do some research on fitting before you begin.  There are two excellent books on fitting that I use.  They are Fit for Real People  by Pati Palmer and Marta Alto and The Complete Photo Guide to Perfect Fitting by Sarah Veblen.  I don’t sit and read a fitting book from front to back.  Instead, I search it for answers to my personal fitting problems.  Then I do a sample to see if I understand the procedure and if it will work for me. 

Next time, we will begin to prepare our patterns for cutting a mockup.  I will also discuss making a full bust adjustment.

Have fun with your sewing projects!