This week, I was a judge for our local university's fashion and merchandising program. Each year, its an honor and pleasure of mine to be invited to evaluate the junior and senior final collections with a couple peers of mine and we choose the best in their final runway show. Its really fun, and a lot like Project Runway thanks to my colleague Josh. We both argue different perspectives- I'm all about the sewing, construction, and pattern, he's really smart about what's marketable. We both come together on creativity and design.
However, a great topic came up with one designer who technically, was doing great- she tried out a lot of cool craft techniques, and she did have her own perspective show in the development of her collection. However something was just off- really off- when we looked at the designs. Proportionally, the garments were not successful, and it was really affecting the entire design of each garment in the collection, even though the idea, craft, and sewing was great.
And the weakness in proportion comes from a lack of experience in draping. Or even seeing how clothes lay on the body enough times to critically evaluate what works and what doesn't work. And this whole experience inspired me to write this blog post for our students and readers. In your sewn fashion practice, you may not have the experience or need for draping- often its used for custom work, custom costuming, bridal, or coming up with one of a kinds or developing a unique design. It can be used in the pattern making process too, and it can be a pretty intuitive process. But, due to the kind of process it is, its not something you might have a need to do for every project you sew in your wardrobe.
However, the principles of proportion and fit that are learned in draping do really help your everyday sewing and experience with fit! Today, I want to show you how the Learn and Make the Fair Fit Dress online course uses the Fair Fit Pattern to teach you basic draping principles, and how that relates to your individual body proportions and fit of your garments.
The draping lessons
The beauty of draping is that you are able to shape the garment, and customize it to your own proportion and unique form. When you see how different your body's proportions are when you dig into measurement and customization, you will really see why its hard to achieve this with a commercial pattern. In a commercial pattern, you are expected to customize it, alter it, and make it your own. But lots of people get thrown either by WHY it looks wrong, or what's not working. Sure, you know it looks wrong, but why is it wrong? Where do you begin to know what to change?
I tend to start with proportions, and knowing proper proportions is something you need to develop with experience. In my Pattern Fit and Alteration class, I described that fit is a "visual, spacial, and compositional" relationship. Knowing your proper proportions and how to see them on your own body will develop your visual eye to discern a better proportional fit in your clothing that you sew in the future.
The Portions the Pattern teaches:
In my years of looking at garments and helping people make them fit, there are a few critical areas you need to know to get your proportions specific to your body - these are pretty basic, and are key locations to know and identify, with any garment or pattern. As you can see in the technical sketch, this pattern has a lot of ways that the shapes and pieces can be changed to customize the fit for your body's proportions.
Shoulder to the bust
Why its important, a lot of times, this area on the body has a lot of variance from person to person. Often, if this area isn't right, it creates the necessity for bust alterations, but sometimes its really a length issue, rather than a dart or armhole problem.
Working with the Fair Fit pattern with the students in our live class, I really saw how this area is really different from person to person, it has just as much variance as a bustline!
Darts can be designed land in a lot of areas around the bust- as long as they are about an inch from the apex. But have you ever sewn up a swim suit or bra, or formfitting top and this area just doesn't look right? This can be because of the spacing of your breasts, or width across the chest, which varies from person to person, just take a deep dive into bra making and you'll know what I'm talking about. The Fair Fit Pattern has darts to help you identify where the best place is for them to land to get a shapely fit, and the pieces move so this can be customized.
Bust to the Waist
Here you will consider the proportion of your torso, and how long or short your waist really is. Ever wonder where the best spot would be for the waistline of your jeans, or how long your shirts really should be? Its a simple proportion, yet when its not customized can throw off an entire outfit.
Waist to the Hip
This is important too, depending on your height it really varies from person to person, and the shape of your torso to hips is important to define as well. Without it understanding your body's shape here, you may end up with skirts that twist and don't fit properly, or pants that gape at the back. Its also helpful when Identifying the shapes of skirts that are the most flattering, and what shapes and silhouettes look best on you.
The Fair Fit pattern is like a puzzle, and though that may seem complex, it actually is really fun to use to help you customize your garments fit. By moving the pieces around, you will see that fit doesn't have to be as complex or intimidating as it can appear to be.
This process also helps you develop that visual eye I am talking about above. By allowing you the opportunity to customize, measure, and play, you will be able to try out other approaches that you can't get with another pattern.
Learn and Make the Fair Fit Dress is 6 week online course with live workshops with me to teach you how to make the dress, learning principles of fit and proportion along the way. Since the dress is draped, you have the opportunity to learn another skill to add to your fashion sewing arsenal of techniques too!
Each class right now has a limit of 6 people- If you are interested, you must apply. Please fill out the application here, and more information will be sent your way. I read each one, and appreciate you taking the time to get in touch!
Also, this application is a necessary first step towards working with me- every question is important, and helps me put you in a group of sewists at your skill level. Incomplete applications will not be considered- and please don't apply if you don't like the dress. The pattern is a specific tool and is designed to teach you fit, so you are kind of stuck with the design until you learn how to customize it!
Thanks so much for reading! If you would like more information, I describe the pattern and the teaching approach in this post here:
and I also describe how the pattern can be customized, and show off examples sewn from our local workshops in this post here:
Please don't hesitate to contact me if you have any questions :)