So how do you do that?
Introducing the Body GraphThe best book I have found to help me understand how to fit garments is Fit for Real People. It’s got lots of great details around modifying patterns for particular fitting challenges. It all begins with helping you understand how your body is different than what pattern companies design for.
Buy this book. Look at all these happy women and their properly fitting clothes!
The big pattern companies like McCalls, Simplicity, Butterick, etc. basically use the same sloper (a master pattern with no seam allowances) for their patterns. In order to get a good fit, you need to understand how your body compares with the “ideal” that they have designed for. You can do this with the body graph.
How to Make a Body GraphThe book has great step-by-step instructions with illustrations. Here’s a general idea of what to do:
- Trace your body onto a large piece of butcher paper.
- Mark a few key points:
(a) Top and bottom of head
(d) Hip (where your thighs join, also mark the widest part of your hip if this is different)
- Divide your body up based on these key points. In the “ideal” body, all these are equally distributed.
- Start comparing your body to what the pattern company’s design for. There is a wonderful worksheet in the book that walks you through it step-by-step. You’ll be looking at things like the width of your body at certain points, the slope of your shoulders, etc.
What I Learned About My BodyNow is the part where I reveal quite a bit about my figure in hopes of helping you understand this.
Here is my body graph:
Notice something right away?
My Left Leg is ¼ of an Inch Bigger than my Right Leg!Readers, let me tell you, I never even knew this was the case. Even looking at my legs now, I can’t really tell the difference. But, boy does it matter when you’re fitting clothes. Take exhibit A here, a pair of pants I am currently working on (Butterick 5895).
See that? Excess fabric because Slim is so thin.
All I had to do was take in the leg a little bit on my right side. Ta da! Now I’ll have a great fitting pair of pants.
I Don’t Have Broad Shoulders, I Have Square ShouldersI always thought I had very broad shoulders. So much so, that I would stay away from puffy or fluttery sleeves lest it draw attention to them. Turns out I have been operating under a misapprehension!
The shoulder slope the pattern companies are designing for is 1 5/8 inches. I have a ¼ inch slope to my shoulders! This makes them square. The shoulder width is 4 ¾ inches, mine is 4 ¼ inches. So mine are not broad. So now I have no fear about wearing things like the lovely Colette Taffy and looking like a linebacker.
I am Short-WaistedAccording to pattern companies, your waist should be mid-way between your underarm and where your thighs join. I have 18 1/4 inches between my underarm and where my thigh join. So here’s an image that will show you the differences between me and the ideal:
If you’re more than 1” above or below the “ideal” then your short or long-waisted for your height. I am short-waisted. I like wearing high-waisted skirts and pants because it allows me to accentuate the thinnest part of my torso. I also find it to be more comfortable because it matches the shape of my body!
How You Use ThisGoing into any project, I know up front that I will have changes to the pattern based on my body graph. Things like:
- A full bust adjustment. The major pattern companies design for a B-cup in the “ideal” form.
- Shortening the waist.
- Adjusting the shoulders to account for my squareness.
- Taking in the right leg a bit on pants.
A Caveat for Indie Pattern CompaniesIndie pattern companies don’t work off the same slopers as the big ones, so you’ll likely have to make different adjustments. At least you understand your body enough to know what that might be!
For example, Colette Patterns designs for a C-cup instead of a B. I’ve found Gertie’s patterns from her book always require narrow shoulder adjustments for me, and I don’t usually have to make those changes for the larger pattern companies.
An Ode to ChubsIn closing, I will leave you with a limerick in ode to Chubs, my left leg.
Oh Chubs, you throw things off kilter
It’s a wonder I don’t just change to a quilter!
Because of my body graph
I can just laugh
Instead of being bewildered!