I may not have been as clear as I could yesterday about my approach to fit issues. In discussing pattern alteration, I prefer to ignore the body image aspect. We can talk about it later. Instead, I want to lay out a basic introduction to pattern alteration before I plunge headfirst into writing how-to tutorials.
Pattern alteration is a technical, hands-on skill. It’s translating the topography of your body into lines and curves and coaxing a flat piece of fabric to fit and drape beautifully. It’s just a brain-puzzle. It is not an emotional struggle between woman and pattern. Words like “sway back” or “forward rotated arm” are not death sentences or judgmental criticisms, they’re useful existent terms to help sort out fitting issues. Nothing more, nothing less.
Besides, I find wearing a well-fitted garment trumps all those niggling worries about size or shape. Think about it- good fit visually communicates one of two things: cleverness or wealth. You’re either nimble-minded enough to make clothes to your individual specifications or rich enough to pay someone else to do it. ;)
On to Weight/Muscle Distribution: This is the most individual type of pattern alteration as it focuses on muscle mass and fatty deposits. Weight Distribution is a function of genetics and habits. Through working with hundreds of individually shaped women, I noticed a few basic “types.” These won’t apply to every person on earth, but I find this to be true most of the time:
- “Petite” body type- A-B cup, usually with a “straight up and down” silhouette. This person may not need to alter commercial patterns much for fit, and when they do alter it’s often to make adjustments for bone structure rather than weight distribution.
- “Average” bodies. Often a B-DD cup, this type encompasses most women. Colette Patterns caters to this type of body very well. This person may have one or two “bone structure” type alterations, and any number of “weight distribution” alterations.
- “Plus” bodies are often the most unique, which is part of the reason that pattern companies and retailers aren’t that great at dressing larger women. When I am working with a plus-size woman, I try to nail down any “bone structure” issues first. Then I focus on the main “weight distribution” alterations.
Common “Weight Distribution” Alterations:
- Full Bust Alteration or FBA- This is an alteration that adds length, width, and changes the shape of the armhole so it lies flatter against the body. If you are a C or larger, you may notice rumpling in the from armhole, wrinkles pointing from your arm to your bust, wrinkles below the bust, or the back of your tops are too big.
- “Narrow Shoulders”- Kris mentioned this issue in comments: “I have ridiculously narrow shoulders for my size. I usually cut an 18 at the shoulders and adjust to a 22 at the hip...” I would say based on experience, this is completely normal. A LOT of people have to do this. Shoulder length (from neck to where your arm starts) doesn’t change much as a person puts on weight. It’s relatively constant. Patterns forget that.
- “Sway Back”- Of course, true sway back is a bone structure issue. Sherri at Pattern Scissors Cloth did a truly magnificent post on sway back, including all the other issues which may be creating those lower back wrinkles. I think “juicy booty” may be much more common than actual “sway back.”
- Full or Thin limbs- I sometimes alter for a full bicep, as do many people. Thighs are another area which may need attention for comfort, mobility and drape. These are often simple “slash and spread” type alterations.
I plan a post for each of those alterations. It’s the main points of Weight Distribution fit issues, please tell me anything else relating to weight and muscle distribution you’d like to see. If I don’t know how to do it, I’ll find out.
Also, I forgot to pick a giveaway winner! I’m so sorry! I got absorbed in this t-shirt project and lost track of time. After printing the comments and putting them into a hat, I let Lila draw. She picked LizaJane from LizaJane sews. LizaJane! Send me your address!
Next Up: All About Ease, and perhaps something pretty and fluffy after all this technical stuff.