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Get tips for adding boning to off-the-shoulder tops and learn fitting techniques for princess seams (just in time for prom season), plus learn all about pattern ease.

Sounds like your top needs some well-placed bones to keep it erect on the body. Traditionally cut tops fall from the shoulders where they're supported. Off-the-shoulder and strapless garments need to anchor at the waist and be suspended from the waist up with plastic or metal bones. Hopefully your top has a lining so you can place the boning in the lining. If not, stitch bones into the seams on the wrong side.

Plastic bones are the easiest to find and insert into a lightweight top. Rigilene is a plastic boning that is stitched into the lining using the sewing machine. Covered plastic boning has a cotton sheath that is stitched into the garment by machine or by hand. Remove the boning from the cover before stitching it to the top, and then re-insert the boning once the casing is attached.

Cover the boning ends so they don't irritate your skin. Close the casing at the upper and lower edges using secure stitches, or wrap a small piece of stable fabric around each boning tip.

If possible, position the bones so they begin at the waist and end just shy of the seam at the garment upper edge (1).

Decipher where the bones are needed by seeing how the top collapses. Use bones in the side seams and other fitting seams. Place some into the neckline to keep it properly shaped or extend a bone from the waist to the neckline in the center front and along the side of the bustline if there's a place to hide the insertion (2).

Full bust adjustments are most easily made in a princess-seamed bodice. The seams offer plenty of places to make adjustments that will lead to a properly fitting dress (3).

Most of the adjustments reside to the front and side front pattern pieces so first take your front bust measurements from side seam to side seam. Measure at the high bust, full bust and under bust, then measure the vertical span between these three measurements (4). Compare these measurements to the front pattern pieces when joined at each place along the seamline (5). Full bust adjustments don't just add width, they also need to add length.

Classic places to adjust the pattern are in the side front and center front along the bust curve and in the bust length. Make an educated guess how much extra you need and change the pattern accordingly (6).

Once you've added to the pattern so it's closer to your body measurement, cut out and baste together a mock-up from the waist up in a similar fabric to test the fit. If the dress fabric has spandex, use a spandex fabric that has similar qualities. Wear the right bra for each fitting and have a friend on hand to help you evaluate and nuance the fit.

Pin the mock-up closed on your body and observe if it fits smoothly. If there's gaping fabric, pin it out in the seamlines or in dart-like wedges that end at a seam to get a smooth fit. If there's excessive tightness, release the seams and determine how much additional space is needed (7).

Take off the mock-up and transfer the adjustments to the flat pattern. Add additional paper to the pattern as needed and use a curved ruler to smooth out the new cutting lines. If you adjust a pattern where it joins another pattern piece, remember to adjust the adjoining pattern as well so they match perfectly along the seamlines. Make a new mock-up to test the changes before cutting the special prom dress fabric.

Get smart about reading the written design descriptions in addition to looking at the photos and sketches on your pattern as you make your purchase. Notice the amount of ease built into each pattern. The most common terms used by commercial pattern companies are close fitting, fitted, semi-fitted, loose fitting and very loose fitting.

* Close-fitting garments, such as strapless dresses or skinny pants, have very little ease added to the garment measurements. The resulting garment finished measurements will be very close to the body measurements listed on the pattern.

* Fitted garments are usually fitted with seams and darts for a figure-skimming fit. These garments usually have a few inches of built-in ease to accommodate movement.

* Semi-fitted garments sit near the body but don't hug the curves. There might be a few darts or styling seams, but nothing too snug.

* Loose-fitting garments are more generously cut and have few fitting elements like darts and shaped seams. They have a generous amount of ease in the pattern pieces.

* Very loose-fitting garments tend to be oversized and often feature rectangular pieces that hang away from the body.

Another way to assess pattern ease is to compare the body measurements to the finished garment measurements. You can do this with your own garments to assess how much ease you like. Take your body measurements and then measure a couple garments that fit well and compare the two. You'll discover what your fitting preferences are.

Use this information to become a savvy sewing consumer. If you prefer clothes to fit closely, choose patterns labeled very close fitting, fitted or semi-fitted. If you prefer easy fitting clothes, choose a semi-fitted to very loose-fitting pattern.

Here are a few extra tips to remember:

* Outerwear styles need more ease then tops or dresses just to accommodate general movement and garment layering.

* Lean bodies require less added ease than full-figured bodies that shift and spread with changing positions.

* Look to see if the pattern is designed for knits or fabrics with spandex. These patterns will have less ease added, which works best with stretchy fabrics.

                    Bust Area
                    Dresses, Blouses,    Jackets
Silhouette          Shirts, Tops, Vests  Lined or Unlined

Close-Fitting       0-2 7/8"             not applicable
Fitted              3-4"                 3 3/4-4 1/4"
Semi-Fitted         4 1/8-5"             4 3/8-5 3/4"
Loose-Fitting       5 1/8-8"             5 7/8-10"
Very Loose-Fitting  over 8"              over 10"

                                        Hip Area
                     Coats              Skirts, Pants,
Silhouette           Lined or Unlined   Shorts, Culottes
Close-Fitting        not applicable     0-1 7/8"

Fitted               5 1/4-6 3/4"       2-3"
Semi-Fitted          6 7/8-8"           3 1/8-4"
Loose-Fitting        8 1/8-12"          4 1/8-6"
Very Loose-Fitting   over 12"           over 6"

Chart courtesy of The McCatl Pattern Co., Inc.

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Title Annotation:CURVE APPEAL; sewing tips
Author:Cumbie, Rae
Publication:Sew News
Article Type:Instructions
Date:Feb 1, 2019
Next Article:COPPER TONE CAPE: Add capelike sleeves to a loose-fitting jacket to create a flowing, stylish effect.

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