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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!


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    Jul 21, 2011, 05.45 AMby AshSyme

    very helpful :)

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    Jul 21, 2011, 01.14 AMby happytomodachi

    Alas, things don’t fit me so well. I’m just shy of 5 feet, but curvy for someone who is not so tall. This post was very helpful. Thanks so much!

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    Jul 20, 2011, 05.37 PMby kelsrose22

    This is exactly what I need, as I have a very large chest and have trouble altering patterns. I usually just make my own from scratch. Thank you so much!

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    Jul 20, 2011, 01.19 PMby rshelly13

    The book Fit for Real People is perfect to start off this post. This book has helped me incredibly. When wearing well fitted clothing, I get a lot of compliments on the garment. I believe that this has a lot to do with how well it fits my particular body shape. I have shoulders that slope forward (i change the angle of the shoulder seam for this), shoulder blades that point out my back (added fabric to the back area) and have shoulders that are different than how patterns usually come. The Threads fitting DVD series has helped me also with this. I got it from my local library. For shoulders, they say that you should have someone draw your shoulder line onto a piece of paper and use this to compare your pattern to. Then, adjust the shoulder line so that it matches yours. This makes it so that there is not any extra fabric falling or strained because of your shoulder line.

    1 Reply
    • Dahlnyc_1352392376_600_large

      Jul 20, 2011, 02.41 PMby alisondahl

      Thanks for the input! It’s genius the way you can slightly alter a seam to fit your body’s lines. Glad to hear you’ve mastered it!

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    Jul 20, 2011, 11.24 AMby luxihere

    after years of toiling, now i can say i have self drafted patterns which fit well on my Daughter, sister, mother , MIL & Self !

    Yes a basic bodice & fitting basic skirt sloper definitely is a must. Then knocking-off any designer outfit is no issue !

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    Jul 20, 2011, 09.58 AMby popbabe7

    I used to be a size 8 at the top and 10 at the bottom, and skirts tended to be loose on the bust and too tight on the hips. I found putting on weight and wearing an elasticated belt on the waist helps and now it doesn’t look as bas as it used to be , but would love to be able to make dresses that are just right for me.

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    Jul 20, 2011, 08.24 AMby Judy Garland

    Thank you so much for this article! When I read that patterns are always made in B-cup finally understood why dresses bodice tend to have a terrible fit on me but looks great on my mom (we both have size 38 but I’m 75D and she’s 75B). I’m not confident to draw my own patterns yet, but I’m sure I’ll be there soon. I’m getting a little frustrated over all my dresses ending up in mom’s closet instead of my own : )

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    Jul 20, 2011, 06.16 AMby bohemiannow

    Wonderfull article and I agree with all of you. Fitting is the reason that got me started. We don’t have to fit clothes, they have to fit us right? I don’t know much about pattern alterations yet, except my usuall of combining two sizes in one pattern, to match my pear shaped figure and adding depth to back darts, but I was currently looking for a good book. It definately takes effort but it’s worth it. What aggravates me is not the fact that most people don’t know when a garment actually fits, but when they won’t bother with the smallest fitting adjustment and they look for the perfect fitting in industry producted clothes. Yeah right if you find it let me know!

    1 Reply
    • Dahlnyc_1352392376_600_large

      Jul 20, 2011, 02.45 PMby alisondahl

      I’m currently designing my bridesmaids dresses and I’m learning that almost everyone is 2 different sizes on the top and bottom— my trick to work towards everyone’s advantage is to make the dresses with fitted bodices with looser gathered or A-line skirts to accommodate.

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    Jul 20, 2011, 05.55 AMby Glory2eva

    Urg! Try being 4"11, size 4/6(UK), and 30A!!!!!!! :/

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    Jul 20, 2011, 01.13 AMby jenss-1

    The first question, perhaps should be, “How do you know if your clothes fit well?”

    Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t know that their clothes don’t fit so well. The mass produced, “average” shaped and incremental sizing have led many to believe that if they can fit their body into the marked size, then it “fits.” Mass production means a lot of people have gotten used to really bad fitting clothes. Sigh.

    How do you know if pants fit? The side seam should be absolutely straight (no curves to the fore or aft). “Smiles” on the rear view, camels on the front, creases running towards the calf, muffintop/pinching waistband…are just a few common signs that pants don’t “fit.” It may seem obvious, but a look around shows it’s not really—even with many sewers. So…I’d love to see more articles here on all aspects of fit (especially with photos and technical info!)

    2 Replies
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      Jul 20, 2011, 04.57 AMby sclundy

      I agree! Well said!

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      Jul 25, 2011, 12.36 AMby emilybib

      Hear hear! As the step-mum of teenage girls, I often find myself jumping in to offer hints about the off-the-rack clothes they pick, and they almost always go for size over shape or style or fit! I’m sure they think I’m loopy, but I’m just trying to counsel them out of any potential disasters – education is the key!

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    Jul 19, 2011, 10.58 PMby Sewing And Style

    My answer is – very rarely the bought clothes fit perfectly, and when it comes to making my own- I learned it hard way, the pattern must be measured and compared to your own measurement before cutting it out of the fabric- it will only save you time and a lot of grief!

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    Jul 19, 2011, 10.42 PMby jmkump

    Timely post for me, I am in the middle of drafting my very first pattern from scratch using a sloper. A book that really helped me with this is Design-It-Yourself Clothes: Pattern-making Simplified.

  • Missing

    Jul 19, 2011, 10.24 PMby Robin Denning

    Those articles on How to Make a Sloper make me wonder why they never taught us anything like that in our geometry classes back in school days.

    It would have given me patterns and taught me to like math! ha!

    I’ve had very good luck with Bernina My Label, pattern-making software. I got very nicely fitted blocks, very quickly. It doesn’t run well on Mac, and it’s not cheap, unfortunately, but I seem them on Craigslist now and then. I use mine on Windows XP and it works perfectly.

    2 Replies
    • Dahlnyc_1352392376_600_large

      Jul 20, 2011, 02.47 PMby alisondahl

      I was one of Bernina’s testers when they were fine tuning the software for My Label and I really enjoyed it. I wonder how much it has changed since 2006? I also have a mac so most pattern making software seems incompatible with my computer, still looking for the right one.

    • User_9697999_1238456472431_box_large

      Jul 24, 2011, 12.05 AMby Timea Schmidt

      Do you think My Label worth the price? I would like to buy it and downloaded the demo, but it doesn’t let you do many things. Can you alter basic things like round neck to V neck or cut angled hem lines? I would appreciate your intake on this. Thanks:)

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    Jul 19, 2011, 10.07 PMby freakusbzzz

    I just bought: The Perfect Fit: The Classic Guide to Altering Patterns and can highly recommend it.

    I am a 14 on my shoulders, small bust, 8 on the waiste and have muscley thighs and arms Also my waist would come about 4cm lower than natural waist on store bought c lothes. it is impossible for me to get anything to fit except skirts.

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    Jul 19, 2011, 09.48 PMby accgmom

    I am an in-between size. Size 14 (US) patterns are too tight and short in the bust, and size 16 patterns are too big everywhere. I started altering the 14’s to be longer, but I still haven’t figured out (successfully) to add add fullness to the bust.

    1 Reply
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    Jul 19, 2011, 09.35 PMby iroiro

    Sometimes I find that there is pulling in the neckline down my front, both on handmade and shop bought clothes. I’ve come to the conclusion that my shoulders slope downwards more than the standard fit.

    A book (The Essential Sewing Guide) told me to widen my back neckline, however I have found simply adjusting the angle of the shoulder lines much more effective; the other advice just causes gaping at the back.

    Hope this helps anyone else with sloping shoulders!

    1 Reply
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      Jul 20, 2011, 12.38 AMby mollykatherine

      I have always had the exact same problem! thanks for the tip :) because broadening the back always just ended in gaping for me too

  • Missing

    Jul 19, 2011, 09.28 PMby denise2003

    A very useful list of resources… Thank you!

    • This is a question
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