Fit vs Size


"Let me get you Another Size"

All my life I have had difficulty finding clothes that 'fit'. In my teens in outback Australia in the 70s, before the days of bootcut, relaxed fit and the myriad options available today, I suffered (greatly) to wear jeans.  If they fit around my bottom and thighs they were HUGE in the waist, and wearing them without a belt wasn't an option.  If I wore I belt, they would be too tight in the crotch,  they would cut in and I would be in agony by the end of the day.

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Fit, Sizing & Measurements - The Fashion Industry & Garment Manufacturing


It is obvious to women who buy clothing - at least in Australia,  the USA and the UK - that sizing is inconsistent across the clothing manufacturing industry. 

In Australia, you can be a Size 10 in one label, but a Size 8 in another, or even a Size 2 if the product was manufactured in the USA.  In the USA the measurements for the bust of a Size 6 in ready to wear clothing equates to a Size 14 in a Commercial Sewing Pattern (e.g. Vogue, Butterick, McCall etc).

That RTW Size 6 mentioned above used to be a Size 14 (same as the Commerical Pattern size), but was down-sized to make women feel better about themselves;  this has been termed "Vanity Sizing".

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Fit: A Perfect Fit or a Good Enough Fit? (Including Asymmetrical Figures)

good enough fit

The Challenges of a Perfect Fit (For Women in Particular)

There are a few reasons why persuing a perfect fit can sometimes seem a fools errand.   In this article I am talking in particular about garments made of woven fabrics rather than stretch, and close fitting rather than loose or baggy clothing.  It goes without saying that getting a comfortable fit with stretch is easier than with woven fabric, and that patterns with a lot of style ease are less problematic, but for those of us who like woven fabric and want to (ocassionally, sometimes or often) draft close fitting garments, there are things to consider when trying to persue that perfect and comfortable fit.

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Fitting Issues NOT Figure Faults


Quite a few fashion and sewing books use the term "Figure Faults" to describe any way figures differ from The Standard Figure, but I dislike it intensely because of the obvious implication that there is something "wrong" with the figure of someone how has (for example) a large bust or square shoulders.

Having Square Shoulders, Narrow Shoulders etc. isn't a "Fault".    There is certainly nothing faulty with your body because it's not standard.

Therefore, I prefer to use the term Fitting Issues.  It might sometimes sound clunky, but I am unsure what other term to use.  If you have a better idea, please let me know.

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Large-Bust Adjustment

In my block making instructions, you can create larger bust-cup sizes within the block-making process.  This is in comparison to most block making instructions, where you create a block with a B-bust-cup, then (when finished), you make a Large Bust Adjustment and create a new block.

This article is to show (or prove, if you like) that my instructions for drafting larger bust cups is actually the same thing as doing a Large Bust Adjustment.  I then go on to also show that the drafting of the large bust cups needs to be based on the Upper Bust rather than the Bust measurement or it will not fit.

Please remember that when I talk about cup sizes, I am not talking about bra cup sizes.  My bra cup size is F as there is 6 inches difference between my Under-Bust and Bust.  My cup size for patternmaking purposes is D as there is 4 inches difference between my Upper Bust and Bust.  See the article Bust Cup Sizes.

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Large-Bust Adjustment: The Gotcha


People new to block making and patternmaking, especially those with little or no sewing experience, often don't understand the instructions for creating blocks.  They simply just follow along step-by-step.  It is often difficult or impossible to see if and when an assumption is being made within those instructions.

Even if you do sometimes understand an assumption - e.g. that the block will be made with a B-bust-cup, you sometimes don't understand that fully.  For example: when you use your bust measurement to make the Bodice Block - how can it then be too small in the bust?  Most cases it will be, if the instructions are assuming a B-bust cup.  Even if you do realise that you have to do a Large Bust Adjustment to create a bigger dart, you still may be missing part of the picture; that the underarm width will be too big for you.

If you don't really understand the full ramifications of a B-bust-cup, you will make your B-cup block, then do a Large Bust Adjustment (LBA) from that block, and then.... be caught by the Large Bust Adjustment Gotcha.

The Problem


I made a block to my measurements, and I was aware that the result would be a B-bust-cup.  The toile was very ill-fitting.  As well as being tight in the bust, it pulled from the armhole to the bust.  It seemed big in the underarm area also - but that was being complicated by the pulling from the armhole to the bust. 

It was obvious that there wasn't enough ease in the bust, and I needed a Large Bust Adjustment.  The issue with the underarm and armhole, according to all the books I read, was due to the small bust dart...  if I did a LBA, that would fix the problem. A few of my textbooks said something along the lines of:  "if a loop forms in the armhole, that what is needed is a Large Bust Adjustment ".

Which I did.

Then it just became more wrong.  It went from being too tight in the bust to enormous everywhere. 

Of course, I thought I had made a mistake and increased the bust cup too much.... but that wasn't the problem.

A Clue

There was a clue in one book; I can't remember what book and exactly what is said, but it was along the lines of:   "if your upper body is smaller, and your bust is much larger in comparison, draft the block for a smaller size and add a large bust adjustment."  But I couldn't understand what exactly is "a smaller size"  - which of the measurements of the smaller size did I use?  Those particular instructions I was using at the time didn't create the front and back separately, and I just didn't understand what "a smaller size" meant, in real terms.

A clue that didn't help me much then, but eventually led me to realise what creating a block with a B-bust cup really means.


The Answer

The definition of a B-Bust-Cup is the Upper Bust is 2 inches smaller than the bust.  A C-Bust-Cup would be 3 inches smaller in the Upper Bust, and a D-Bust-Cup 4 inches smaller (etc.)

So if you make a block using your Bust measurement, and the block is going to create a B-bust-cup.  It is assuming the Upper Bust measurement of the B-cup (2 inches less than the bust), and the amount of ease in the underarm is worked out on that Upper Bust measurement.  If you have a D-bust-cup, you will end up with an extra 2 inches ease on top of whatever amount of ease a B-cup will have.   A  DD-Cup will end up with 3 inches more ease than the B-cup.... etc.

The image titled Large Bust Adjustment Gotcha further up this page shows the extra ease I ended up with by creating a block for a B-bust-cup, then doing an LBA. The brown block is my correct block, the purple area is the unnecessary extra. Remember that the block is half the body, so that extra ease is on both sides of the body.

For a correctly fitting block, you need to do the bust shaping from the correct Upper Bust measurement.

Making the Block to your Upper Bust

The problem is that if you draft a block to your bust measurements, and you don't have a B-bust cup, you need to make adjustments to the Upper Bust (armhole area) as well as the bust. 

I think it's more sensible to use the Upper Bust to draft your block. You can then create the correct bust cup dart following on from this.  This is the way I do in my instructions.  See my article: Why Upper Bust rather than Bust?  for details of how this works.

Making Toiles for Fitting


Some people may disagree with some (or a lot) of what I am going to suggest.  This works for me and the reason I use this system is:

  • my focus is on fitting, not having a pretty toile
  • I want to make it easy
  • I want to make it quick
  • I want to be able to see where things are right/wrong
  • drawing lines corresponding to most measurements (e.g. Upper Bust, Shoulder Slope, Across Chest..) helps in understanding the measurements, the toile and the fitting.

In these examples, I am going to use the Bodice Block toile (Bodice Front, Bodice Back & Sleeve), but the same system will work for other blocks.

Feel free to not use this system, or to disagree with me.  I am just telling you what I do and why.

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Reduction in Width for Stretch Blocks

knit sloper SF

As is my custom, before I started drafting a stretch/knit block for myself, I did a lot of research.  I looked at a number of textbooks (not just one), watched as many different video tutorials as I could, and then looked online to see if I could find anything else; blogs, Youtube vidoes,  or any other textbooks. I then collated and that information to see what hte difference were.  I also made some blocks to different methods and compared them.

I found, also as usual,  that there is always some difference between different methods and different authors.  Most textbooks use stretch and knit interchangeable, and that was confusing when it came to stretchwovens. 

Most textbooks that I have or have seen deal mainly with patternmaking for woven, and contain one chapter on Stretch/Knits, and the information supplied didn't seem comprehensive.  I did eventually come across a thick textbook of 500 pages for patternmaking purely for knits.  It stated that it was using Industry Standards, whereas some tutorials  I watched have said there are no Industry Standards when it comes to Stretch.

I'm not going to give you definitive answers for exactly how much reduction to apply to your Block,  but I will summarise what I have found,  tell you what worked for me, and give you suggestions of where to start.  

You really need make your own toiles and determine yourself what is good for you; everyone has different tastes in terms of what is comfortable and how tight they want their stretch garments to be.

Reduction in Width

 In a nutshell, these seem to be the Industry Standards for the measurements used to draft Knit Blocks:

  • Stable Knits (Knits that stretch 18-25%):  Reduction of 2%, or 98% of the body measurements
  • Moderate Knits (knits ch 26-50%): Reducttion of 3%, or 97% of the body measurements
  • Stretch Knits (knits that stretch 51-75%): Reduction of 5% of the body measurements
  • Stretchy Knits (knits that stretch 76-100%): Reduction of 10% of the body measurements

These are the amounts that I got from a textbook specifically for knits.  The textbook gave instructions for drafting knit blocks directly from measurements (i.e. not drafting it from another block), and those measurements were body measurements with no ease added.

Some patternmaking books and tutorials I've seen start with the Torso Block (which has some ease) and reduce that by 2%, 3%, 5%....  I've also watched some tutorials where the instructor stated the above standards of 2%, 3%, 5% reduction, but she was applying them to commerical patterns, which may have even more ease than the block.

In effect, if you choose to use the reduction that are stated in the textbook, this means:

  • Stable Knits are made to exactly your body measurements
  • All the other knits are made with Negative Ease; 97%, 95% & 90% of your body measurements.

Note that the above doesn't apply to Stretchwovens; even the textbook on Knits said something vague like "the normal Torso Block should be used, but some reduction in the width is needed". 

My Recommendation: From Torso Block to Stretchwoven Block

To draft your Stretchwoven Block, reduce your Block by 2%. 

I always prefer to test sleeveless garments first for testing fit (why add the extra work of the extra element of the sleeve?) so the Sleeveless Stretchwoven Torso is the first Stretch Block I created, and it fit well.

Note the changes made to the Torso Block to crate the Sleeveless Torso Block:

  • Reduction in width of about 1/4 inch
  • Armhole Raised 1/2 inch

My point here is: if you make changes to your Torso Block (with Sleeve) to create a Stretchwoven Block (with Sleeve), and then you want to draft sleeveless garments, you may want to try reducing  reduce your Stretchwoven Block and raise the armhole again.  

My Recommendation: From Stretchwoven to Knit

First try reducing your Block Measurements and testing that. If it's far too big, remake your blocks using percentages of your body measurements, as above.

Once you've done the main work in creating your first Knit Block, it's not that difficult to make the further changes; i.e. it is a case of redrawing the side seam line.


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