Fitting Issues - General Information


These Fitting Issues pages contain instructions for making adjustments to commercial patterns to get a better fit.  These adjustments will maintain the balance and proportion of the garment.

If you are new to sewing, you need to careful when making change to patterns; sometimes what seems like an obvious fix can create problems elsewhere in the pattern.  It is essential to maintain the integrity or the silhouette of the pattern - meaning whatever changes you make should not affect the basic structure. For example; you need to make alterations at the stitching line rather than the cut edge and when you make an adjustment to one pattern piece you need to check if adjoining pattern pieces also need amending. If you make changes to two adjoining pieces, you will need to true them up.  You generally should be careful making changes to the armhole (especially if the pattern has sleeves) as you don't want to be making the armhole smaller or bigger, but rather changing the shape slightly while maintaining the same measurements.

In a nutshell,  you should check and follow the prescribed method of amending patterns for each individual fitting issue.  So if you have square shoulders, you should check how to make an adjustment for square shoulders, rather than just raising the shoulder line, and therefore making the armhole bigger.   However, this presupposes that you know you have square shoulders.  You may not understand any of your fitting issues; you may only know the manner in which clothes are uncomfortable; e.g. high necked shirts ride back and feel like they are choking you, you keep on having to pull it down in front.

In order to get a good fit is essential to work out all the ways your figure differs from the standard figure before you start making adjustments to patterns.  This is much easier said than done, but necessary if you want to get a good fit.

Indications of a Bad Fit

With some fitting issues the problems are obvious.  For example; if you have a large bust you probably know that (a) you have a large bust, and (b) that pulling across the bust is a fitting issue that relates to your large bust.  If you have narrow or wide shoulders you probably know that and you can see that the shoulder length is too long or too short.  There are a number of fitting issues that are not so obvious.  You may or may not realise that you have shoulders that are squarer than the standard, but even if you do know that, you may not be aware that this is why your neckline rises at the centre front and feels like it's choking you.  When you have a number of fitting issues it becomes more complicated and you may not be able to separate them all out.  So in order to understand your fitting issues it is important to train your eye to recognise fitting issues.  This is a process and it may take some time, but you need to start paying attention to what the fabric is telling you.

indication fitting issues

Indications of a fitting problem are:

  • drag lines - either horizontal or diaganol
  • folds of fabric  - vertical folds show there is too much width, horizontal lines show too much length
  • flares - when fabric flares away from the body it can mean a fitting issue; this would be the case where flare is not part of the design, particularly when using a fitting toile

In order to really understand your fitting issues, the best way to do so is through making a toile.  Having said that, this can be difficulty or impossible to do by yourself for yourself.  If you are trying to

Figuring out your Figure

figure out your figureThere are a few ways you could approach figuring out what your fitting issues are.  The point of this is to compare your body to the stardard figure in order to make changes to commerical patterns.  (If you want to make your own clothes then you make customised blocks to your own measurements, and then make patterns from that block, and therefore it's not really essential to understand your fitting issues, except for a few fitting issues that can't always be accomodated within the block and are better addressed with making certain garments styles, avoiding certain styles, and making some minor adjustments when drafting patterns).

Even though you may only want to make adjustments to commerical patterns, making  a custom block to your measurements is one way of understanding your fitting issues.

Commercial Pattern Fitting Shell

Butterick and Vogue sell Fitting Shells that are for this purpose; determining what your fitting issues are.  The drawback to doing this is that it is very difficult to do by yourself, especially if your body deviates from the standard figure in a number of ways.   You really do need someone who knows something about fitting for you to end up with workable information.  The person fitting needs to be able to see what the problems are and may need to cut and insert fabric, not only pin in superfluous fabric.  Someone with no fitting knowledge of practice will have little chance of doing this sucessfully.

vogue fitting shell

After doing the fitting, the person then needs to understand how to translate the changes to the original Vogue or Butterick pattern to end up with a working block.  If you do have someone who can do all this, once you do have this working block you can see how the pattern differs from the standard pattern and make those changes to any future patterns. However you can only assume this for patterns within the same brand . (The Vogue and Butterick fitting shell shapes are so similar I would say you could use either brand fitting shell and work with that information across the two brands).  If you use patterns from other brands, you may have to fine-tune the fit somewhat to each one of them.

Again, the dificulty with this is you need someone who (a) knows how to fit, (b) knows how to transfer these changes back to the original pattern, and (c) you need to understand how to make those changes to future patterns. 

Make a customised block to compare to Fitting Shell

The difference between this and the first option is that you use your measurements to create a block, which you then compare to a Butterick or Vogue Fitting Shell.  You will need to draw in the stitching lines on the Vogue/Butterick pattern in order to do the comparison.  This means that you need someone to take accurate measurements.  When you lay your block on the fitting shell, or visa-versa, you can then see where the blocks differ and therefore where your fitting issues are.  You compare some key points:

  • Centre Back and Centre Front Lengths
  • Across Shoulder
  • Shoulder Slope

vogue fitting block

If you don't want to make a block from scratch you could just use the Fitting Shell (or one of the downloadable blocks I sell on my website), and start with that.  My downloadable blocks are printed on an inch grid, so that makes it easy to check and adjustment the measurements.

I will be writing an article going into the steps involved in comparing the key points on a block or fitting shell,  and what differences (shortfall, excess) means for understanding the fitting issues you will have with standard patterns, and how to determine the fitting amounts.

Making a Start

A good exercise for understanding fitting issues is to look really look at people and start noticing what their clothes are saying about fit. Look people on the television, peolple in the cafe, on the streets.  See where there is extra fullness and where there is pulling.  Try to work out (without staring, which is why people on television are paricularly good guinea pigs) where the proplem is.  If you look through the indications of bad fit images on each individual page you will start to understand and separate different fitting issues.

Note Regarding Comments & Emails

With the exception of emails regarding purchased Blocks or Books, please be aware that I only answer comments or emails every two or three weeks.

I can only answer questions that take 5 minutes of my time.

The content I provide on this website is free but that does not mean I also provide unlimited one-on-one free assistance.

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