The Perfect Pattern

Complaint - I can’t find a pattern to fit me!

Reply - Neither can any body else. Commercial patterns don’t fit.

Reason - Everybody has a different body.

You want to pick up a pattern, cut it out, sew it together and have a perfect fit. That isn’t going to happen. There are too many variables. About 50 different measurements are needed to make a fitted pattern. The chances of having all 50 of those measurements, exactly the same as the pattern is impossible. The pattern company has to start some where so they use, what they call, “average”. Once you learn where you differ from that mythological average, it is easy to adjust the pattern.

The best book to learn fitting is “Fit for Real People” by Pati Palmer. It is easy reading, with hundreds of pictures and line drawings. Ms Palmer designs patterns for McCalls Pattern Company and she has her own business teaching fitting in Portland OR. She understands the problems from the viewpoint of the pattern company as well as the seamstress. This book will help you to get a great fit from commercial patterns. When you have read “Fit for Real People”, you will know how to choose patterns to get the closest fit and how to alter patterns to get the perfect fit.

Understanding the fitting process is the first step, the other thing you need, is a fitting buddy. This is some one you are comfortable around when you are in your underwear. It is very difficult to get all of the measurements and see what is happening on the back of your own body to fit a garment. Together, you and your buddy, can figure out what changes are needed to get any pattern to fit. Don’t say, “ I am short waisted.” The correct way is “The patterns are too long waisted.” Your body is right - the pattern is wrong. Discover the corrections that need to be made for your body and they can be made on all patterns.

The big four pattern companies, Simplicity, Vogue, McCalls and Butterick, all use exactly the same sizes. So many times I have heard someone say that Butterick fits but McCalls doesn’t. That doesn’t make sense because Butterick, McCalls and Vogue are all the same company. They even use the same web site. Sometimes it is the style of the designer you like rather than the brand of the pattern. You may find yourself reaching for one pattern catalogue rather than the others, go with the styles you like. 

The style of blouse that is most often seen on the square dance floor is a variation on the peasant blouse. That is because they are very simple and  do not fit closely to the body. They hang from the shoulders and tuck into the skirt. Peasant blouses are action blouses because they have loose full sleeves that allow for active movement of the arms. There are always peasant blouse patterns in the catalogues. Look for other styles that will make more interesting and flattering dance wear.

When selecting styles for dancing remember that you are going to be moving - a lot. Stay away from cross over fronts, low neck lines, kimono or raglan sleeves and lowered arm holes. Look for set in sleeves with a high underarm, interesting collars, and a more elegant style. Check the “Retro” section of the catalogue for appealing fitted designs.

To make a fitted style of blouse you need ‘fitting opportunities’. These are seams and darts that are used to make flat fabric bend to fit curved bodies. More seams and darts equal more places to change the pattern, to let it out or take it in, for that custom fit. Many stitchers are afraid of the more complex patterns. For the first garment use an inexpensive fabric, but one that you really like. Make the item using the same workmanship that would be used on the best fabric. Confidence will be gained while mastering the techniques and there may be changes you wish to make during the construction process. The test garment may come out better than expected and you will have two new items.

Getting a pattern to fit properly is not difficult but it requires an investment of time and effort. Each fitting is a learning experience. Once you have that perfect pattern, it can be made over and over. Using different fabrics and trims will make each garment unique. People will not notice that you are wearing the same pattern. What they will notice is that your clothing fits beautifully and that you are comfortable and confident in your own unique style.