This was a big year for me in terms of figuring out how to fit my figure better. My fit journey started like many others do – measuring the bust/waist/hips, comparing it to the pattern, and picking a size. based on those measurements -I’m 5’8″ and 34.5″/29″/39″ (plus or minus 0.5″ on any given day)* – I assumed I had a mild pear shape .
After six+ years of sewing, I’ve realized I don’t fit easily within any of the figure typing systems – not without caveats. The closest I can get to a neat description is an extra-wide-shouldered long-torsoed short-legged rectangle in the front / hourglass in the back. And yet with a body type that apparently doesn’t exist and some physical asymmetry, I can walk without falling over. Sometimes, I even find RTW pants that fit reasonably well.
All that is to say, I don’t think I’m that unusual in needing a more nuanced way of talking about shape and fit. I think quantifying and naming our unique shape – without judgment – can be a way to treat our bodies with more care and attention.
So, listed below are some of my fit epiphanies this year.
I learned just how wide – 17″ – and square – I require an extra 1/2″ at the shoulder seam – my shoulders are. Luckily for me (and perhaps frustrating to almost everybody else!), the Big 4 across-shoulder measurement seems to run quite wide; I can wear a 14 in the shoulders, which works well enough for my waist and hips in fitted to semi-fitted designs.
Having square shoulders means there’s more distance between your shoulder tip to your armpit. I do a 1/2″ square shoulder adjustment the back of every bodice (since my shoulders are also forward) grading to nothing at the neck line. After fixing the shoulder, I adjust the sleeve. To my great surprise, I’ve been able to successfully do this on every Big 4 pattern I’ve tried. It’s also positioned the bust darts correctly.
As for raglan sleeves, I now know I need either a two-piece sleeve or a dart; the angle between shoulders and neck is just too sharp for an unshaped raglan sleeve to hang off of it. (Imagine a towel draping over the arm of a chair.) This was the key in fitting my Yona coat, which has a two-piece raglan sleeve, and my McCall’s 6992 sweatshirt, which has a dart.
While I can sew a 14 for my shoulders, waist, and hips in Big 4 patterns, my bust is smaller at 34.5″. I’ve had luck with both grading down to a 12 through the bust for the front and back bodices, or doing a 2″ SBA to a 14. I think grading down is a better method as I wear a B-cup, which is the size Big 4 patterns are drafted for.
Waist / Hips / Rear
I noticed something strange when I was working on my skirt sloper – my back waist arc was dramatically smaller than my front waist. Comparing these numbers to the drafting standards in my manual was enlightening. My front waist measured 16″ and back waist 12.75″, which put me in very different sizes from front to back.
To make matters even more interesting, the situation reverses itself at the hips – my back hip arc is much, much bigger than my front. All this is to say there is a dramatic and challenging curve in my back torso, and not a lot happening in the front. No wonder I always have fabric pooling at my low back.
In the upcoming year, I’d like to try a couple of experiments for fitting my lower half – sizing down combined with a full butt adjustment, grading between different sizes in the waist/hip and back/front, or getting more into self-drafting.
So that’s where this year brought me – some standard shoulder adjustments, a small but fairly easy to fit bust, and some front-to-back asymmetry from the waist down. Sometimes it sounds like an exciting puzzle; other times I just want to sew up a giant caftan and call it good!
How are you doing on your fit journey? Any interesting realizations this year? Have you noticed any fascinating asymmetry – 0r maybe even rarer, perfect symmetry! – in your figure?
*Just a note, I’ve stayed away from sharing measurements and sizes in a cohesive way, but I’ve been changing my ideas (perhaps due to an interesting conversation that Heather started!) I don’t like how often elements of women’s physical appearance (and increasingly, men’s) are quantified and judged. But since I’ve started sewing – and I hope I’m not alone in this – mine and others’ measurements feel more quantitative and less qualitative.