Clothes_fit_blog_large

Whether homemade or store bought, do clothes tend to fit you well? If you’re like me, chances are you’ve had countless occasions in life where you’ve fallen in love with a gorgeous dress only to find that the fit is totally off. Or you’ve excitedly cut into your precious cloth with a sewing pattern you adore only to find there’s no way in the world the design is ever going to fit. That’s why we sew, I gather, to try to achieve perfection in fit and style, but there will always be those alterations which need to be done in order to achieve that close-to-perfect (if not flawless) fit. But there’s hope! Read on…

Taking Time to Read:



Photos directly above found on The English Muse, a gorgeous and inspiring blog!

Let’s begin with some great books that will aid you in altering clothing and patterns from full-figures to petite figures, which have been tested by real people for comprehension and have passed those tests with flying colors.

Fit For Real People— What people are saying: “One of the best examples of why we sew was the fitting example of Martha’s jacket. The book showed Martha wearing an altered size 12 pattern. It also showed her wearing jackets in similar styles in various price ranges and from various stores. The altered size 12 was the best fitting and most flattering by far. It outshone even those designer jackets costing hundreds of dollars.”

“I have been sewing for over 50 years. The one thing that always bugged me over the years was pattern fitting. I soon found out that I was not a standard fit when the bodices of dresses did not meet across the chest and the front waistlines were up around my ribcage. I had a larger than a b cup bra. It wasn’t until recent years that I was told that patterns were only drafted for b cup bras. So many books simplify one problem and do not let you see how the alterations affect other seams. This book goes through the whole process. It is the most comprehensive book on the market today.”

The Perfect Fit: The Classic Guide to Altering Patterns— What people are saying: "Since I have more than a few figure flaws, this book has given me so much help with pattern alterations. Good Pattern alteration has been the biggest issue with my joy of sewing. This book has made it fast and easy with photos of real people with specific issues from “full figure”, to “tiny figure”.

“Now I can tailor my clothes so that I don’t look like I am wearing someone else’s leftovers. It shows you how to figure out your own body type and then how to alter the patterns to fit it. The fashion industry has not done justice to good taste in clothing styles. We all seem to be expected to fit in to their mold and it’s just not possible. Now I have the freedom to make clothes just for me and what I like and most of all what LOOKS GOOD on ME. "

Sewing for Plus Sizes: Creating Clothes that Fit and Flatter— What people are saying: "What I especially like is that this book addresses problems such as adjustments for a lower hanging bust (most patterns think you’re a 20-year-old B cup) and hanging belly. No book would know or dare to put adjustments in their book because someone might get offended. I’m not offended, I just want my darn clothes to fit properly! "

“This book is a masterpiece of practical information for those who would sew for any size person. Barbara Deckert has geared it to the “plus size” person, but the information it contains about line, design, fabric selection, equipment for sewing, and pattern alteration is applicable to anybody. The book has many very useful illustrations of various body shapes and the way various styles will look on them, along with suggestions for modifying garment styles to make them the most attractive on those shapes. "

Pattern Fitting With Confidence— (This is actually a re-issue of Fitting Finesse By Nancy Luedtke Zieman, the latter includes a DVD)— What people are saying: "I’ve always known I’m hard to fit – short, heavy, 40G bust, big belly, large thighs, short arms, big biceps, extremely short rise, etc… After working through my measurements and comparing them with the information in Fitting Finesse and the industry “standard” measurements, I finally understood why I am so hard to fit. The book was worth its price just in finally feeling validated instead of picky when nothing fits right. I guess that’s why I sew…"

“I loved this book. It gave the best and easiest directions on how to enlarge patterns and get them to fit, that I ever read. I had been trying for years to get patterns to fit my larger “attributes” and this books tells you concisely how to enlarge or make smaller all the parts that you would need to alter. Very good for the entry level to intermediate sewer ."

Customization is Key:



If you’ve not yet ventured into making a basic pattern block (or sloper as we say in fashion school) I guarantee that you will come out on top if you take the time to create some for yourself. Once you create one basic skirt sloper you can make countless skirt variations, knowing that the fit will be spot-on each time you cut into that pretty fabric!

Begin with: Basic Skirt Sloper

Also try: Basic Bodice Sloper

Create a custom fitted dress from the skirt + bodice slopers above: Basic Dress Sloper

En Francais: Le patron de base pour le chemisier

Experiment with: A-Line Skirt Sloper

Go all out and try: Basic Trouser Sloper

Feeling confident?: Ruffle Dress Sloper

Classes On The Tube + Web:



If you feel like you’d like you need to see sewing happening live to understand what the heck is going on, you must be sure to check out the shows and classes below. BurdaStyle was a media sponsor for It’s Sew Easy season 2, which features one of our members! Guess who?

It’s Sew easy

Power Sewing

Sew Much More

A list of free classes on YouTube

BurdaStyle members— we’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions for how you make your clothes fit better, and how you alter your patterns. Be sure to check out our Resource Map too. If you have any resources or tips you’d like to share, leave a comment!

53 Comments

  • Missing

    Dec 14, 2012, 08.20 AMby Jona roland

    my mum has been a tailor for more than 30 years but not as long as you. i just built a website focus o custom dress http://www.adorona.com/ i find it is really difficult to ensure each dress fit each customer well even we tailor in accordance with the size they measured. Learning a lot from this blog. thank you so much

  • Nicole_n_2011_088_large

    Sep 4, 2011, 12.04 AMby Nicole Nolan

    Definitely going to try the pant sloper! Pant shopping is absolute hell for my 36" inseam legs and 26" waist as retail stores generally don’t carry Tall below size 6. It’ll be nice to have a proper fit with little effort. Might get me past my loathing of pants!

  • 990745-073_large

    Aug 29, 2011, 12.56 PMby nehmah

    Excellent topic. If the fashion industry/pattern makers want to survive they will have to take off the rose-colored glasses and take a realistic look at the women, (also men and children) who wear garments today. There are more C- to-DD cups than A cups, yet it has only been in the past decade, at the most since the major pattern companies have addressed this issue with more than, “Well, for Heaven sake, Lose some weight, Dearie!” attitude. I believe that the sudden uprising of breast augmentation procedures is a major cause, in the changing trend of A-B-C-D cup patterns. (No proof, mind you; just my opinion.) Have you noticed how many patterns are for “knits only”? Following RTW’s solution of knitwear for all, just doesn’t give enough options. Not everyone can afford to buy a machine. Silly things like rent, food, healthcare taken out of lowered wages, keep the majority of those who would financially benefit from sewing at home, in Walmart. Yet Walmart sells sewing machines. Their financial gurus can smell thecoffee, LOL. I’d love to see the option available in SF, NYC, Chicago, of rent-a-machine and space of cutting, etc. grow. One aside, For more than 40 years, I have had a standing offer of free sewing lessons starting with skirts, while teaching how to adapt patterns for the student’s body. The same women who willingly pay to have garments made to fit, just won’t take it up. No time, too much to do, whatever. Nehmah Cordially, Nehmah

  • School_black_sit_large

    Aug 25, 2011, 07.54 PMby Kuby McCarty

    I have some of these books. I really enjoyed this article. Glad to know someone who has also been sewing for many years is puzzled by fit

  • Dexter_comic_large

    Aug 24, 2011, 09.21 AMby toesocklove

    Ah, I never know about clothes fitting before. This is deep and deeper kind of clothing.

  • Dsc01201_large

    Aug 15, 2011, 07.12 PMby Maria Alejandra Curbelo Cal

    I make my custom clothes.Because I always bought clothes is wrong.Pants, for example, are too long and if I look good hip never be good at the waist.Tops for example I too tight in the bust for common sizes. How each figure is different and clothing industry is massive, as each figure is different is constructed based on standard measures.

  • Christinewebsquare_large

    Aug 13, 2011, 06.31 AMby cloff

    I have most of these books — great recommendations! Clothes that fit well look better than any store bought clothes you can buy. Yay for sewing!

  • Drink_thumb_large

    Aug 13, 2011, 04.05 AMby wintersky

    I have decided recently to back to vintage patterns and possibly amend them so they fit my shape. I’m a pear- Small arms and bust and from waist down – which often means on my top i vary from a 12 to 14 British sizing i think to 14 or more on the bottom half ( or burdastyle – 40 -42 ).

    I recently went into buy a pair of jeans. I find that jeans are the hardest to buy for and so i said the to guy- “Hey- i have chunky legs and hips and i want something that isnt too low on my hips…. and i just really want something that fits” – after more then 30 different types of jeans where given to me and probably 40 mins i only found two variations that fit me!

    In dresses- i have had to edit the dresses themselves because the arm holes are meant for someone taller- and so the darts dont match up and in one of the dresses i looked like in a upper class bar maid because my bra was sticking out and so was the cleavage…. I was thinking hm it’s not supposed to be this way >.>

  • Img_1414_large

    Jul 30, 2011, 03.56 PMby Syrena B

    the only pdf files I could get to work are for the basic skirt & basic bodice… the others only give me a blank page…? Is the link broken?

    1 Reply
    • Letterbicon_large

      Aug 1, 2011, 02.41 AMby burdastyle

      The links are all working on our end!

  • Fb2227aaf242c0d041dbcd583baae4e4ccfba73d_large

    Jul 30, 2011, 03.50 PMby loulourosa

    Shop bought clothes don’t fit me mostly. I have a bigger size for the bottom then for the top, buying dresses is allmost out of the question. Also when I use Burda or other patterns I have to add extra width on the hips, make the pintucks for the bust deeper, and the shoulders narrower. Maybe It would be better to make a sloper, and I know how to draft patterns but I’m too lazy and I have all these nice patterns,…. But I want my clothes to fit, for sure. The biggest help for this is a person who can help you with the fittings, I have my mum who’s great with this! She helps me to get the hemline straight, and pins everything till it’s right.

    2 Replies
    • Img_1414_large

      Jul 31, 2011, 01.26 AMby Syrena B

      You have very similar fitting problems to mine… except my shoulders are wide… it can be frustrating cuz OTR clothes make it look like a had a double masectomy… I just wasn’t blessed with the proper size bosom to match the ample bottom! It’s good to know I’m not alone…LOL

    • Sushi_party_large

      Aug 8, 2011, 05.51 AMby notdeadredhead

      Amen to you and Balcsgirl! I’m definitely pear shaped and “petite” is the word I believe fashion industry uses for those of us shorter than most. X^D I’ve struggled with this for a while, and I’d have to say that learning how to adjust patterns using a French curve or free-handed is amazing! :^)

  • Img_1414_large

    Jul 29, 2011, 10.38 PMby Syrena B

    This post has been so helpful!! THANK YOU!!

  • Unted_large

    Jul 28, 2011, 03.57 PMby fefi

    this is a great post!

  • Quilt_blocks_sept_09_005_large

    Jul 27, 2011, 03.44 AMby stitchikles

    Purchased tops are okay, pants a little bit harder with my lovely curvy waist & hips – usually I’m a 12-14 (Australian). And yet if I take my measurements and look at a paper pattern, it will invariably tell me I am a size 16 bust and size 18 waist. This is obviously not the case and I have never understood why this doesn’t work! Does this happen with anyone else? Is there some basic calculation I have been missing for the last 15 years? Sigh….

    1 Reply
    • Missing

      Jul 27, 2011, 12.55 PMby bynn

      Hiya! While I’m not the most experienced member on here by far, I think I can help with this one. I have two really annoying words for you: Vanity sizing.

      Vanity sizing was the result of several market studies where they observed women shopping for garments, and they discovered that women will purchase the garment with the smaller size on it 99% of the time, simply because they don’t want to be a higher number, even if it fits a little better.

      So, where I am usually a 18-20, in “real” patterns, I’m a 22-24. Now, I promise you, I’m really a 22-24, but since the clothing companies and retailers actually want me to buy clothes, they’ll flatter me and tell me I’m smaller than I am. This is also the reason why a size 12 or 14 will fit gorgeously in one store, and yet something very similar will need you to boost up to 18 in one store and down to 10 in another. Vanity sizing is not regulated.

      Hope this helps!

  • Zdj_cie066_large

    Jul 26, 2011, 11.13 PMby skwarynia

    Every single top I buy is narrowed in waist. thus the adges are not straight but curved. I’ve made it so many times, that now I don’t have to use pins, just draw the lines and sew. I think that today’s fashion is not necesserily made to for female curves.

  • Zdj_cie066_large

    Jul 26, 2011, 11.13 PMby skwarynia

    Every single top I buy is narrowed in waist. thus the adges are not straight but curved. I’ve made it so many times, that now I don’t have to use pins, just draw the lines and sew. I think that today’s fashion is not necesserily made to for female curves.

  • Zdj_cie066_large

    Jul 26, 2011, 11.13 PMby skwarynia

    Every single top I buy is narrowed in waist. thus the adges are not straight but curved. I’ve made it so many times, that now I don’t have to use pins, just draw the lines and sew. I think that today’s fashion is not necesserily made to for female curves.

  • Missing

    Jul 25, 2011, 03.04 AMby MamanADroit

    Clothes never fit me right since I’m short and large-busted. I’m hoping to learn to make lots of my own clothes. I’ve never heard of a sloper before so I’m glad you mentioned that!

    1 Reply
    • Dahlnyc_1352392376_600_large

      Jul 25, 2011, 06.31 PMby alisondahl

      Cool! Even if you just customize 1 single pattern (that fits you the way you like), you then have a template for creating countless new pieces of clothing. It’s addicting completely after that!

  • Dsci0410_large

    Jul 23, 2011, 08.05 PMby momsgotanewhobby

    Thank you for the links! I will be trying to make a sloper for myself soon. Truthfully I have not found a garment in the last ten years that has fit me well. Always something is “off”.

    I have been losing weight since January and doing well, slow and steady keeping it off and I think I’m ready to make some things for myself. I’m tall, broad shoulders, D cup-though they and my rear are “shrinking” with the weight loss, lol! I am looking forward to wearing better fitting garments (and avoiding having to buy ready-made and then going through the effort of adjusting it). I use the New Complete Guide to Sewing by Readers Digest, the book has a pretty good section on alterations and pattern modification.
  • Dscn5250_large

    Jul 23, 2011, 10.14 AMby mixtlii

    Thanks for the links… I started sewing because I could never find anything that fitted in stores. Now, its much much better with what I madùke… But I still have a problem with my bodice slopers, even with the ones I draw myself: the armhole. Its either too small and hurt my shoulder when I move my arms toward the front, or too wide and my bra is showing… Any idea to help me?

    2 Replies
    • Dahlnyc_1352392376_600_large

      Jul 25, 2011, 06.33 PMby alisondahl

      Normally, a basic bodice does not have much EASE, which would definitely make for tightly fitted armholes. Try adding 1/2" ease to the seams and work from there. As we know in sewing, making something smaller is much easier than making something larger!

    • Blythe_large

      Sep 9, 2011, 10.09 PMby piackdy

      I wonder if these observations by an industry pro in patternmaking might explain why you struggle…

      http://www.fashion-incubator.com/archive/sleeve_cap_ease_is_bogus/

      http://www.fashion-incubator.com/archive/how-to-re-shape-armholes/

      http://www.fashion-incubator.com/archive/japanese_dress_forms/

      I also have the same problem, but haven’t gotten around to fixing my sloper. Actually minimum wearing ease is the bane of my life. I’m constantly drafting patterns that fits my dummy perfectly, but I can’t breath, sit, or go to the toilet in!

      I’d love to understand where the ease really needs to be and what’s the minimum I can get away with. I’ve seen very close fitting RTW on other people before, so I’m not convinced it has to be frumpily roomy to be comfortable.

  • Dodo_large

    Jul 22, 2011, 03.48 AMby lila-1

    In NZ, most of the clothing you get in stores is made in asia. This is to keep prices down I think. Unfortunately, they appear to be designed for delicate asian girls, which I am not. The sleeves and armholes are too small, the bust is too small, there is no allowance for bums or shoulders and I generally find that the clothes appear to have been designed for women much shorter than me. I am only 5’7". Modern patterns often have similar issues, especially with the height and boob problems. If you have a bum and boobs and are over 5’5", then in addition to a good sewing book, try patterns from pre-1960ish. They’re easy to adjust, and can be easily modernised by shortening the skirt or lowering the neckline.

  • Robyn_-_2hawaii_large

    Jul 22, 2011, 01.31 AMby elaineren

    Just watched the “Fit For Real People” DVD, borrowed from the library. Can not wait to try the process. I want this in my home library!

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