Drafting a sloper part 2: Making It Fit

Fitting is a very big topic with a lot of resources. To narrow the scope of this piece, I wanted to focus on the resources I have found most helpful for fitting bodices, in the order I prefer to use them. 

Beyond “Just Follow the Wrinkles”

Author: Kenneth D King

Title: Kenneth D. King’s Smart Fitting Solutions: Foolproof Techniques to Fit Any Figure

ISBN: 978-1631868566

  • If you only want to make sure your sloper fits, Kenneth’s “Moulage” book has extensive notes on fitting your moulage muslin, so that will be the ticket. 
  • If you want to get even deeper into fitting techniques for any project, you’ll want to check out Smart Fitting Solutions. This is my go-to for checking and fixing the fit of a muslin. 
  • This book promises, “Fit Any Figure, Solve Any Fitting Challenge.” I have to say it delivers. This is a slim volume, but it’s packed with information and useful instructions. 
  • Professor King takes on fitting for several different shapes/ bodies with comprehensive, clear photographs. He doesn’t get bogged down on naming specific “figure problems”, but instead teaches how to look for how the clothes hang, hug, and/ or gap on the figure and train the eye to proportions. 
  • The book uses 6 different models who “are short or tall, slim or plus-size, busty or not, and have different shaped derrieres and curvy or straight figures.” These models are all shown wearing clothes from their own wardrobes as well as muslins in-progress.  I love the pictures towards the end of the models smiling happily in their fitted and corrected muslins.  
  • He shows how to take muslin changes back to flat paper in great detail using several techniques, from the standard “slash and spread” and moving seam allowances techniques to his innovative, “net loss” technique. I like how he uses photographs that are not-too-close and not-too-far, so you can really see what the problems are and what he does to fix them. 
  • This book includes very brief but essential appendixes on measuring points in the figure (it’s 11AM, do you know where your bust point is?*) and mapping them back to a flat pattern, how much wearing and design ease you need, how to make a full bust adjustment, rotating a dart, and fitting a sleeve. 

*My beleaguered spouse has been pressed into service as my measurer during the pandemic. We’ve been together for more than 23 years. Despite this, we can’t agree about where my bust point is, which seems like something we would both understand by now. The diagrams in this book have helped me teach him what I want him to measure.

Look at that joy!

Not “Fit for a Mannequin” 

Author: Pati Palmer and Marta Alto

Title: Fit for Real People

ISBN: 9780935278439

  • The Palmer/ Pletsch fitting method has been taught and written about for more than 30 years. It’s a classic for a reason: the methods they teach are accessible and this book has a nice range of figures to help the reader see how different adjustments can be made. 
  • The preferred fitting method in this book requires a sturdy but transparent paper pattern to work quickly, although some discussion of using muslin (and especially gingham) is included. If you draft your own patterns or are working with patterns on heavy stock paper, the tissue-fitting method won’t work well for you without the extra step of preparing thin pattern pieces in full scale.
  • I love how they use models of all shapes/ sizes and ages. It’s very refreshing to see many figure types represented and to include discussion of sizing up patterns. 
The dust cover has seen better days. It’s still a great book.

Adele Margolis Recommends a Girdle (but we forgive her)

Author: Adele Margolis

Title: How to Make Clothes That Fit and Flatter: Step-by-Step Instructions for Women Who Like to Sew

ISBN: 978-1112934261

  • This book was originally published in 1969, but was reprinted in 2018 with a new cover and the same text/illustrations.  My copy is a little shopworn and tattered, as it was a vintage find that I stumbled across in 2017. It begins with the philosophy, “To be well dressed one needs more than a dazzling design and a lovely fabric; the key to that fashion-plate look is proper fit.”
  • Adele was born in 1909 and began her career teaching fashion when she was in her 40’s. She published her first book on fashion design in her 50’s! Her author “voice” is warm, charming, and funny, if somewhat dated at times.  I wrote a little note to my daughter (it says, “outdated advice”) and stuck it in the book where she exhorts the reader to lose weight and wear a girdle for goodness’ sake.  
  • This was the first book I ever found that really explained how darts work rather than taking for granted that I understood the underlying theory.
  • I refer to her description of grainline so often when teaching that I have a bookmark on page 133 of this book. 
  • The fit-standard explanations and illustrations include 11 pages on “rescuing” a garment that is already cut out and how to alter the pattern afterwards to ensure the next garment fits well.  
    • While I always encourage students to cut/ fit a muslin before they get into their “real” fabric, this is a really good discussion to have and I can think of a few friends who could save themselves some tears with this information. 
    • Many home sewists work in woven fabric after wearing knits most of our lives. Fit standards for things like “where a shoulder seam should sit on the body” and “where is your waistline” are really helpful for amateurs. 
  • She includes a suggested sequence for fitting and addresses both dress patterns and pants patterns, even showing the reader how to draft culottes from a fitted pant pattern. 

Fitting with a Minnesota Accent, “This Method is Different, Doncha Know” 

Author: Jan Minott

Title: Minott Method Total Pattern Fit

Available at: https://www.sewinganddesignschool.com/shop-online.htm

  • This book briefly explains how to draft slopers and basic styles but focuses on adjusting commercial patterns.
  • This is only available as a new book digitally through the Sewing and Design School. I bought mine and got it printed and spiral bound locally, because I stare at screens too much as it is.
  • There are pages and pages of worksheets and very specific body measurement and shape directions. If you want to learn how to draw a you-specific hip block, this is the reference for you. 
  • Jan gives very practical, no-nonsense instructions for making pattern changes, constructing a muslin, testing the fit of the muslin, and taking marked changes back to the pattern. 
  • The ‘wrinkle charts’ in this book span 28 pages and are shown with clear illustrations to help the student see where fit changes are worth trying based on how the muslin sits on the figure.  
  • There is a lengthy section on applying lessons learned from your basic block to commercial patterns, called a “fit code.”
  • A lot of effort is put into building the reader’s understanding of posture and body shape, including putting names to specific variations.
This is my dress form cover, where I didn’t perfectly pad out the back hip. It’s a good illustration of what happens when fabric and the underlying figure are not the same shape.

A Comprehensive Classic on Wrinkles To Improve Your Fit

Authors: Elizabeth G. Liechty, Della N. Pottberg, and Judith A. Rasband

Title: Fitting and Pattern Alteration, A Multi-Method Approach

ISBN: 87005-739-1

  • This is the only book that Susan Khalje recommends, and honestly that’s why I took the trouble to find it. I found mine second hand because a new copy was out of my price range (given that I already had a favorite fitting book). There’s no shame in buying a book secondhand! 
  • To review this book, I actually read the sections on evaluating the figure that I skipped when I first bought it. Honestly, the “ideal weights” in the book are based on a measure of elbow breadth compared to height I have never seen before and suggests that people were fairly slim in 1983. 
  • This book assumes you are adjusting paper patterns and includes a nice discussion of fitting standards and making/ fitting a muslin that spans more than 40 pages.
  • The 23 pages on alteration methods cover the standard ways most flat patterns are adjusted: slash, seam, and pivot.  
  • The real meat of this book is the 200+ pages with clear illustrations showing how fitting issues look on a muslin when worn on the body and how to use the slash or pivot method to correct the flat pattern (I have a bookmark in page 204).

That’s it for my favorite fitting resources. Next up: Now you have a bodice sloper that fits. Good for you! Now you want to design your own garments! But how do you get there? I will discuss 8 resources that I have found handy for designing my own garments from a flat sloper.

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