Please allow me to unburden myself of all useful information I can think of relating to ease… Today’s post is a little wordy, but it all hangs together. Be sure to let me know what I missed!
I had a hard time grasping the concept of “ease” as an intermediate sewist. For years, I only thought of ease as allowing me enough room to move- “wearing ease.” I cast around for reasons my garments were over-fitted and stumbled across the concept of “design ease.” The penny dropped. That’s the amount of ease a designer builds into a garment for the purposes of design. What makes a blouse blousy or a coat swingy?
Ease is a very personal preference. Some people prefer looser garments than others. It’s common to confuse a close fit (very little wearing ease- it’s tight) with a good fit (skims the body with nary a wrinkle, but does not constrain movement). I think the photograph above shows good fit rather well. It’s the same dress on two different body types, with very little ease.
As a general rule, I find that the more “fat” in a given area (everyone has it), the more ease will be necessary. For example, the industry standard for an average woven “fitted” garment is 2″ ease through the bust, 1″ through the waist, and 3″ through the hip. The breasts and buttocks are common places to carry fatty deposits, and in the case of hips the 3″ barely provides room to sit properly.
This is yet another issue I have with many plus-sized patterns- they provide the same amount of wearing ease as for other body types. However, the plus sized body will usually feel more comfortable (and therefore more confident) with a little extra ease.
A tip I picked up about waistlines- if you find your waistlines consistently cut into your flesh when you sit down, try taking your waist measurement while seated. I can’t remember where I read this, but it’s sensible.
Ease can also help camouflage ridges and rolls created by undergarments. I like about 1″ – 1 1/2″ ease across my back for this reason.
It’s important to pay attention to the designer’s intended design ease when altering patterns. It’s far too easy to alter all the design right out of a garment. It may fit like a glove, but “over-fitting” will edit the design details out of a charming blouse, a clever coat, or breezy sun dresses. Before I alter a pattern, I double check the design ease.
You can make design ease work for you. It’s a balancing act- as a general rule, the more design ease in a garment, the less it will need to be altered for “bulk.” If I measure a blouse pattern and find it has 8″ of design ease through the bust, I won’t trouble myself to alter. If I measure and find it has 5″ of ease, I will alter gently (lazily). If I measure and find it has less than 5″, I’ll carefully alter to my measurements.
First, decide on a size.
Measure each line. Metric is useful here because it allows emotional distance from your measurements (vice versa if you’re already metric). Besides, the standard seam allowance on most patterns is 1.5cm, which is easier to juggle than 5/8″.
Write the measurement on the line. Take off seam allowances and darts. I don’t get pedantic about measurements- I round to the nearest half cm or quarter inch. Experience tells me it’s not worth stressing over anything smaller. (Though you should by all means if it makes you happy.)
Double check the “size” measurements on the pattern envelope. The pattern’s measurements you just took will be larger. If you subtract the size measurements (in my case, 39″) from the pattern measurements (42″), you have an idea of how much ease the designer put into the garment. I find this is very useful for altering patterns and preventing over-fitting. If you’re lucky, the pattern paper will have the “finished” measurements printed right on the pattern.
If you’re new to altering patterns or drafting, you can also measure existing garments in your wardrobe. If you have a blouse that is neither too loose nor too snug, then measure it through the bust, waist and hips. You can make note of these measurements and it will help with your pattern work in the future.
One more type of ease: Negative Ease. Negative ease is most commonly seen in knits, swimwear, activewear and lingerie. The fabrics used are stretchy, which means that even when they’re made up with zero or negative ease, you will still be able to turn handsprings, sing, eat, laugh and reach the top shelf in your sewing room. Negative ease garments skim the body closely.
I hope this mini-series on pattern alteration has been helpful. Now tell me, what is the most pressing alteration I should methodically photograph and explain? Short/long waists and how to measure them? FBAs? Something weird you really want to be able to do but can’t find a good tutorial? Let me know, maybe I could do one a week as a regular feature.
I have some Crowd-Sourced Tee patterns tweaked and ready, I won’t have a good block of time to sit and “electronify” them until Friday. Friday!
Here’s an intentionally fuzzy preview of the near future:
Halter-style Indonesian batik dress with full skirt and uneven hem and pleat details? Are those finger waves for summer? Yes, please!