Getting a Great Fit

Imagine this.  You spent more than you usually do on some totally gorgeous fabric and you have taken great pains to make it into an absolutely fabulous dress.  You can’t wait to wear it, so as soon the final seam is sewn and pressed, you try it on.

No!  It won’t fit.  It is too tight and there is no way to make it any bigger.  You can’t even get into.

This happened to me with an Easter dress I made several years ago.  I made a number of mistakes.  I used the same size pattern as the size that fits me when I buy a ready-made dress. I had always did this when making dresses for myself and it had always worked perfectly before.

However, this dress style was more form fitting than I usually wear.  It lacked the ease I am used to and it would not even zip comfortably.

You can avoid mistakes like this with some simple steps.  First, always take accurate measurements and compare them to the measurements on the pattern package.  I will have more about how to take accurate measurements and the mysteries of pattern sizes in my next two posts.


Accurate measurements are the key to handling any type of fabric, including stretch varieties, such as this stretch charmeuse.

Second, although the ideal way to fit any garment is to make a fabric sloper, you can get a rough idea of how the finished garment will fit by trying on the pattern.  Cut out the pattern.  If it is a multiple-size pattern, cut on the line a size or two larger than what you think you will wear; this will allow you to make adjustments if need be.  Pin baste the pattern together in the size you think is appropriate, making sure that you place the pins on the seam lines, rather than in the seam allowance. (If you place them in the seam allowance, the pattern will fit slightly more loosely than the finished garment will and you will not get an accurate idea of the final fit).

Classic taffeta

Remember that you only need to fit the main part of the garment in this way.  It is not necessary to pin baste the pattern sleeves to the pattern bodice.

Gently try on the pattern.  If needed, adjust the size up or down.  Frequently, you may need to use two sizes, one for the bodice and one for the skirt.  When fitting pants, you may need to use one size for the waist and another size for the hips. Carefully taper the seam line from one size to the next, using a marking pencil or regular pencil.