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Sewing, Body Issues and Finding the Perfect Fit

Edith Head illustration, via Flickr

About 3 weeks ago, I found myself having a mini-meltdown in a Banana Republic fitting room. Yet again, I could not find a pair of pants that fit. You see, over the last 6 months or so, I’ve gained about 10 lbs., which ordinarily on my fairly tall frame, wouldn’t be that big of a deal. But, this particular set of 10 lbs. have put me past the point of comfortable in most of my clothes. Some call it “happy” weight, but I’m not happy about it.

So I faced a dilemma: lose weight (duh), buy new/bigger clothes or sew some new ones. I’m working on the first, but it takes time and I can’t really afford the second. The third option, sewing, didn’t really appeal to me though. Mainly because in the past, I’ve stupidly restricted myself from sewing clothes until I felt I was the “right” size. It was my reward for losing weight. Issues, right? I’m working on that!

The other problem I’ve had with sewing garments is that I’ve never been able to get the fit right. My top and bottom are two different sizes and even then, for whatever reason, the clothes looked like they are swimming on me (remember the Audrey dress?). Not flattering at all!

Enter Craftsy. During one of their online class sales, I signed up for Sew the Perfect Fit, by Lynda Maynard. I swear, this class is changing my life. I never knew how to alter a muslin correctly and transfer the changes to the pattern. This class will show you how to do it.

Plus, the message is that the problem is never with your body. It’s about making the pattern perfect for you. Should be obvious, but when you have body image hang-ups like I do, it’s nice to hear.  Also, you learn how to look at your body objectively to figure out how to alter a pattern.

Vogue 8766 – Option D

In this class, the pattern you use is Vogue 8766—a dress pattern with multiple options. I’m choosing to fit option D, a sleeveless fitted bodice with a fitted skirt. I figure if I can get this to fit right, I can get any pattern to fit.

To start, you make a muslin based on what size(s) you are. Based on my bust and waist measurements, I cut out a size 16 for the bodice and an 18 for the skirt, based on my hips. As usual, even though my measurements matched the sizes, the dress was hanging off my dress form, which I’ve now dubbed, Betty. Following the class instructions, I ended up first shortening the shoulders and then taking in the side bust darts. Then I had to shorten the waist. By the time I was done pinning it to size, I had changed nearly every detail of the bodice. There had to be a better way.

Muslin #1 – pinned in the bust, side darts, shoulders and waist

Then Lynda mentioned that if you’re trying to get the shoulders to fit, especially with a commercial pattern, and you’re over a B cup, you should use your high bust measurement instead of your bust. Light bulb moment! If the shoulders fit, but it’s too tight in the bust, you just need to make a FBA (full bust adjustment).  The hardest part, which I can attest to as well, is getting the shoulders to fit right.

Muslin #2 – using the smaller size, I only needed to shorten the waist

I went back to the pattern and made another bodice version, this time a size 14 based on my high bust measurement. I sewed the new bodice muslin together and lo and behold, I only had to shorten the waist! Woo-hoo!

I still have to attach the skirt to the bodice and transfer all my changes to the pattern, but it’s a good start!

Now, I am pumped to finish this sewing project!

For more information on Sew the Perfect Fit, please visit Craftsy.com.

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