Custom fitting is a big part of sewing. It's the reason why I learned to sew back when I was a teenager...ready-to-wear isn't always an option for those of us with figure problems, and even when sewing a garment from 'scratch' only a very few of us fit the standard sizing charts for patterns.

Thus the art of fitting is one very important aspect of sewing -- one that makes the difference between a garment that looks perfectly tailored and one that looks 'home made'.

The information presented below is only a starting point...this page is meant only to increase awareness of what fitting does. A basic knowledge of what fitting is all about can help you choose both ready-to-wear and sewing patterns that will work with your body.

If you are new to garment sewing, I highly recommend purchasing at least one book on fitting. The two books on fitting that I like the best are "Vogue Fitting" and "Fabulous Fit". There are many other books available on the subject of fitting and others which pertain to general sewing. Many general sewing books have chapters on fit. When I come across these books, I list them for sale in my eBay Store - click the link to see what's available there right now - reasonable prices and media mail shipping!

Posture Positions that Affect Fit

The three figures on the left show the most common posture positions.

The biggest posture problems for women are the "dowager's hump" (a slight hump to the back just below the neck) and 'round shoulders' - yes, the reason why your grandmother always told you to stand up straight...a slouching stance can affect the way your clothes fit.

If you are new to pattern adjustments and must make a correction for posture problems, choose a pattern which has few embellishments through the shoulder, sleeve and neckline areas.

Figure Shapes that Affect Fit

There are four different figure types, and every woman's body falls into one of these categories. When dealing with the plus-sized figure, these figure types may be more exaggerated and thus cause additional fitting difficulties.

The hourglass shape is proportionate, with the bust and hip measurements the same or nearly so. Those women lucky enough to possess such a shape, need little fitting and most styles can easily be adapted for proper fit. Defined waists and belts can draw attention to a small waist, but caution must be used as it can also add unwanted fullness to the appearance of bust and hips.
The triangle or "pear" shape is smaller through the shoulder and bust areas, and usually has a defined waist. The hip and thigh area have much larger measurements than the bust. It is frequently easier to fit a pattern for a pear shaped body if you purchase the pattern to fit the upper portion of the body and then increase the lower areas to fit. Garments with many seams such as princess seamed jackets and dresses or gored skirts make fitting the pear shape much easier. Some defined waist garments are not a good idea - peplums and anything other design detail which attracts attention to the hips can be problematic if you are trying to minimize their appearance.
The inverted triangle or "apple" shape is larger through the shoulder and bust areas. Often the waist is not well-defined. The hips are the same size or only slightly larger than the waist. Legs are often thin. This can be a difficult body shape to fit - patterns must be chosen carefully. Purchase patterns with proper measurements for the upper torso and adjust from there. Styles without defined waists (no belts!) often work better for this body type.
The rectangular or "boyish" shape is one where there is little definition to the bust, waist and hips. The torso measurements will often be nearly identical with this body shape. And, like the hourglass shape, it's easier to fit - most styles can be easily adapted...garments with waists help create the illusion of curves - belts are a good thing for this body type.

Taking the Proper Measurements

The body measurements you take are translated to the pattern so that you can sew a proper fitting garment. The following things are necessary to insure that the measurements you take are accurate:

The person being measured should be wearing the foundation garments that will be worn under the finished garment. Bras, control-top pantyhose, and other shapewear cause variations in body measurements depending upon style and the amount of lift and control.

The person being measured should be wearing just the foundation garments or if modesty is an issue, a very close-fitting garment such as a bodysuit can be worn over the foundation garments. Taking measurements over bulky clothes (yes, that includes your denim jeans) will result in a garment that is too big.

The person being measured should be standing and breathing 'sucking in' the tummy - it will skew the waist measurement and the resulting garment will fit too tightly for comfort.

You should also check to make sure that your measuring tape is accurate - measure it against a wooden or metal yardstick occasionally...plastic and cloth tape measures will stretch over time. Invest in a new tape measure if yours is no longer accurate.


Where to Measure for Best Fit

This list is fairly complete - you can eliminate some of these measurements depending on the style of garment being made (or ordered - great for wedding party and special occasion rentals!). This guideline is also beneficial for on-line clothing sellers and buyers. It shows the critical areas that need to be measured for accurate fit.
  1. Bust - Measure the fullest point with tape measure straight across back.
  2. Chest - Measure at the underarm above the breasts.
  3. Diaphragm - Measure around the ribcage, halfway between bust and waist.
  4. Waist - Tie string around waist - leave in place for remaining measurements - measure waist at string level.
  5. High Hip - Measure 2" to 4" below the string at the top of the hip bones - record both circumference and distance from waist.
  6. Full Hip - Measure the fullest part of hip - record both circumference and distance from waist.
  7. Thigh Bulge - With feet together, measure the circumference around both legs at the fullest part of the upper thigh, also record distance from waist.
  8. Circumference of Thigh - Measure the leg at the fullest part of the thigh.
  9. Circumference Knee - Measure the leg at the fullest part of the knee - also record distance from waist.
  10. Circumference of Calf - Measure the leg at the fullest part of the calf - also record distance from waist.
  11. Circumference of the Instep - Measure from the top of the foot around heel.
  12. Neck - Measure the circumference at fullest part.
  13. Front Neck to Waist - Measure from the base of the neck (hollow between collar bones) to waist string at center front.
  14. Bust Point - Meausre from bust point to waist string and from bust point to bust point.
  15. Shoulder - Measure from base of neck to shoulder bone and from shoulder bone to shoulder bone.
  16. Arm Length - With the arm slightly bent, measure from shoulder to elbow and shoulder to wrist bone.
  17. Bicep - Measure the circumference of the upper arm at it's fullest point.
  18. Wrist - Measure the circumference of the wrist at wristbone.
  19. Back Neck to Waist - Measure from the prominent neckbone to waist string at center back.
  20. Back Width - With arms moderately forward, measure from armpit to armpit.
  21. Crotch Length - Sit on a a hard straight chair; with a ruler, measure at the side from the waist strong to chairseat.
  22. Outseam - Measure from the waist string to floor.

Copyright 2004 *** all written content prepared by Ditzy Prints***

Some images are from "Fabulous Fit", edited by Patricia Perry. Published in 1977 by Butterick Publishing.