Fabric is an empty canvas until is transformed. An essential part of the transformation is the fit of the fabric. The fit is not as simple as being determined by the measurements you are making the clothes to fit. It is greater than numbers. The different factors that go into determining the perfect fit are wide and varied: the fashion trends of the present, the fall of the fabric, the stretch it allows, the preference between comfort fits and body-hugging fits, and the type of figure and size it aims to fit. As important as it is to create the perfect fit, it is also integral to know how to alter it when required.
Fitting is an art that requires you to toil through with patience. You must prepare for alterations before the fabric is cut. Once the fabric has been cut, you have very limited room to make alterations to the fit. The most you will be able to do after it has been cut is changes to existing darts and whatever the seam allows you to do. This is where the principles of dresses pattern alterations come in. Alterations can be made within the pattern, making it possible for you to make alterations before you reach the stage of garment cutting.
As is the case with any art form, there are principles that must be followed. These principles will help you solve problems with fitting that may arise later on when the garment has been cut. This is a prime example of how prevention is better than cure. To make high quality garments that fit just right with the body of the wearer, follow these principles in making sure you get the best out of pattern alteration – be it for dress pattern alteration, maxi pattern alteration, or even skirt pattern alteration.
If you are trying to find the best fit for a figure, numbers are your best friend. Similarly, in terms of pattern alteration, make sure you have all the exact numbers down. A few principles for pattern alteration measurements are listed below.
It is essential to ensure that where the fabric will fit the body corresponds with the measurements taken on the pattern. For instance, if you are measuring your hip, which was taken ten inches below the waistline, then make sure measure at the same point on the pattern. This will make the point of measurement of the circumference of the pattern ten inches below the waist seamline as well.
Make sure you compare the measurements taken from the body against the measurements from the pattern. The difference between the two will make the amount of alteration that is required. For any successful alteration, there are a few measurement guidelines that you must follow. These are the preliminary checks that are required to ensure a perfect fit. Start with the use of a ruler and the extension of grainline markings across the length of the entire pattern piece. They must be visible clearly through the process of alteration and cutting.
In order to extend the grainline, place a ruler alongside the marked line. Proceed to extending the grainline to each outside edge or seamline. Ensure that your line is straight. Furthermore, another point to be noted when you are cutting up or putting back together the pattern pieces is that the original grainline that went lengthwise should be maintained as much as possible.
In order to make sure your dress falls and fits correctly, you must ensure that the lengthwise grain of the pattern fabric is at a right angle to the floor. This should be true when it comes to the most major parts of the body such as the front and back centers. This is true unless the pattern is cut on the bias.
Remember this rule of thumb. If you are attempting a skirt alteration, for instance, and the alteration required is under 1 inch or 2.5 cm, look to the seam allowance. More often than not, these can be made within the existing seam allowances. There are, however, exceptions. If you are attempting to alter areas such as the shoulder length, shoulder slope, rounded shoulders, or the upper arm sleeve circumference, the sway back, bodice front, thigh bulge, or hollow chest.
Once you have done your measurements, marked your pattern, and cut apart as necessary, it is time to set everything in place. Place you anchors in the main sections of the pattern using pins placed into the cardboard or the corkboard, as applicable. Use tissues under the areas where it is required. Place pins into other sections of the pattern by adjusting by pivoting or positioning them first. Once you are certain that the alterations and pattern sections are in the right places, go ahead and tape the pattern and tissue into position.
Another principle of alterations is to take one piece at a time. Every alteration creates a chain effort, affecting areas down below as you begin altering the areas that come first. For example, during dress alterations, start with the lengthwise alterations that are required in the shoulder or neck area first. Thereafter, begin working down. Similarly, if you are altering width, start with the neck and shoulder areas and work down from there. There is a good chance that many of the problems that are presenting themselves in the side seams, or the center front or back, or the length will fix themselves as the pattern is being correctly fit in the upper regions of the neck and shoulder.
These are a few principles that are applicable to dress pattern alterations. Maxi pattern alterations and skirt alterations also follow these basic rules of thumbs. There are other rules that go more specifically into the type of pattern you altering for whatever type of garment. These include not changing the shape of the upper regions, that is the neckline, armholes, and shoulders more than necessary, and making sure the alterations are made at the source of the problem. These are applicable across a range of garments and patterns. These will ensure that the dress pattern alterations you are undertaking result in a high-quality fit. Dress patter alterations, maxi pattern alterations, and skirt pattern alterations are integral for a fit that looks and feels high quality.
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Alejandro Esparza: Entrepreneur/ Founder @ smartpatternmaking.com/ Designer/ Professional Pattern Maker/ Startup Advisor. He has the ability to work with small entrepreneurial companies’ private label customers and large organizations. Alejandro is a graduate of Los Angeles Trade Technical College Fashion Design Program. He is an expert with over 25 years experience in apparel garment industry and has published multiple articles about the garment industry. Copyright © by Alejandro Esparza. All Rights Reserved. No part of this article may be copy or used without written Permission from Alejandro Esparza the Author.