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Fitting the aging figure, Part 2: master fit on the sleeves and lower body as it changes.


YOUR BODY IS CHANGING SHAPE every day, and this means learning to overcome the fit challenges we face when sewing a garment. These solutions are easy for any skill level to achieve. However, the trick is to recognize what's going on, discover why it's happening and learn what solution is needed for successful sewing results.

Common figure changes include forward-sloping shoulders; a curved abdomen or protruding belly; flattened, dropped or fuller buttocks; wider hips, uneven hips from front to back or high hips; larger waists; and a smaller neck base. With time and downward shift, a curvature of the spine can also develop, causing narrow sloping shoulders, shorter front torso lengths, a longer back armscye and a lower bustline (1). Although these fit issues are visible on an older figure, they start to affect how our clothing fits much earlier in life, gradually becoming more obvious. If you understand what's actually happening to the body, then you can address it more accurately when fitting and sewing. In the Sew News Aug/Sept '16 issue, we learned all about the front and back torso. Here we delve into sleeve fitting and lower body solutions for any body.


Fitting Symptoms: Unlike the torso where visual fit issues might go unnoticed, arm and sleeve issues will announce their presence the moment you move your arm. You might experience tightness in the bicep or, if you raise your arms, the cap of the sleeve might rise off the body. Look in a mirror to evaluate your sleeve issue. When you hold your arms forward, does the back of your garment pull? Do you have odd drag lines on your bicep? These things point to a sleeve-fitting issue.


Diagnosis: A common sign of a sleeve issue is pulling and long, vertical drag lines that appear when you set in a sleeve. Drag lines usually point directly to the problem, so they are like a map. Horizontal lines tell us that the bicep is too tight, vertical drag lines tell us the cap is too short and angular drag lines tell us there is a shoulder tilt and armhole placement issue.

The How & Why: Sleeves often begin to fit more tightly due to the increase in the cap height and fuller bicep that develops with weight gain or loss of muscle definition. As shoulders begin tilting forward even at a slight degree, the armhole shape and fitting needs change.

Fitting Solutions: Sleeve fitting is made far more complicated than it needs to be. By following a few simple steps, any person of any body type with any fitting challenge can fit their sleeves with ease (pun intended).

* Always sew a test garment for the upper body or torso, and fit it to the body without the sleeve attached. Make sure to wear correct foundation garments.

* Refine and polish the torso fit.

* Pencil, chalk or pin in the shape of your armhole according to the garment type. If the shoulder point tilts forward, it may be necessary to set the seamline where the sleeve joins the torso, just to the inside, to allow for better movement. A seam that falls on the bone or just outside may feel like the garment is pulling in the back, commonly misdiagnosed as a back-fitting problem.

* If needed, pad out a hollow on the front upper chest if you have a forward-tilting shoulder. Refer to the Aug/Sept '16 Sew News for complete upper torso fitting guidelines.

* Ensure that the sleeve fits your arm length and width. As a general rule, the width of the sleeve should measure two inches larger than your arm. Adjust this for fabrics with stretch or add more for heaver fabrics. Vertically, a sleeve should match the arm from shoulder point to bicep, bicep to elbow and elbow to wrist.

* Leave a 1" seam allowance at the top outer edge of the sleeve cap.

* Place the arm in the sleeve and pin-fit the sleeve to the garment. Adjust the placement until you have the ideal level of comfort and movement. If you have a forward-tilting shoulder, it is necessary to set a sleeve into the armhole tilted forward to match the angle of the bone structure (2). On a dress form this will look incorrect, but on the body it will look normal and unnoticeable.



By following these steps, you can address any sleeve fitting issue on any garment seamlessly every time.


Fitting Symptoms: When fitting clothing, have you ever had a hard time fastening the center front closure because of a rounded lower tummy? Garments that bunch at the waist because they need darts or tailoring, hemlines that hang incorrectly (shorter in the back, etc.), waistlines that ride up at the sides or roll down over the hip bone, side seams that pull from the front to back or the reverse: these are all signs of fit issues in the lower body.

Diagnosis: Stand in front of the mirror and evaluate your figure. Hold a yardstick across your natural waist and hips. Evaluate how they line up from left to right. Many bodies are higher or lower on one side than the other. If the hipline transition is not a smooth contour or if the spine curves in at the center back, you might have a "shelf" on the derriere. Lastly, if the lower tummy below the navel has become rounded, abdomen adjustments will be needed on the pattern.

The How & Why: Changes in the bone structure and posture, childbearing, nutrition and many other factors change our lower body shape throughout the years. As we age, the waist becomes larger and more contoured as does the abdomen area below the navel. The hips widen more in the back, and the buttocks either widen and drop or become narrow compared to the waist. Dropped buttocks will create an entirely different lower hipline on the back, separate from the higher hipline on the front. Each should be parallel to the ground on the pattern and they will need to join at the side seam, but the pattern needs to be adjusted for each separately. A full abdomen across the front might create an additional horizontal area of fit from the front hipline or, if very full, might replace the hipline all together.

Fitting Solutions: On any lower body garment, you'll need to adjust the front pattern separately from the back. Adjust the front abdomen first by making the upper area of the pattern match your body. The full abdomen can be high and located close to the waist (in which case shorter darts are necessary) or it may be further down (longer darts are needed). Adjust the upper portion of the pattern so the fitting darts will match your abdomen shape. If your abdomen is a good distance from the waist and fuller than your hips, than use the hipline on the pattern as the abdomen line and tailor in the rest of the pattern to fit the narrow hips.

Address the hipline on the front and make the waist and hip widths match the body's width measurements. Avoid using total hip and waist measurements. Instead, measure from side seam to side seam across the front and use front measurements only for the front pattern adjustments.

A very noticeable issue on the changing figure is the ski-slope hemline. This is where the hem is significantly shorter in the back than the front. In this instance, the problem stems from the top of the pattern, not the edge. With a fuller backside, the pattern needs to be increased horizontally to add space for sitting and movement. The pattern may also need to be lengthened from the waist to the hipline due to a dropped buttocks (3). If the back narrows, the seat of the pattern might be baggy. In this case, it is important to adjust the darts and seams to contour the garment and to adjust the pattern scale and proportion to match your unique shape.

Lastly, once you have altered the front and back pattern, you simply need to create a fit sample and pin-fit the side seams to join them together, blending from front to back. It is okay if the hiplines from front to back do not touch at the sides, but they should both be parallel to the floor (4). Think of the hiplines more like horizontal fullness fitting lines that can be placed anywhere on the lower body, giving you a reference point for matching a pattern to your body.

Fitting the aging figure has some special considerations. The key is to observe the body first and diagnosis your shape for the proper fitting solution. Wear correct foundation garments to level your shape or fill in the gaps. Adjust your pattern to match your body and sew a fit sample. If you follow these steps, the changing body is not any different from any other body type or garment.



Avoid these common mistakes when fitting sleeves properly.

The biggest mistake in sleeve fitting is attaching the sleeve to the garment before polishing the fit on the torso. If you attach the sleeve to an unfitted garment, it makes it difficult to see the real culprit of particular fitting problems. Something incorrect on the torso will translate over to the sleeve, and something wrong on the sleeve will transfer over to the torso. The wrong diagnosis is then often given for the fit issue.

Avoid a misplaced armhole. If the armhole of your garment is too far outside the body line or set too far inside the armhole line, then your sleeve will not fit or move correctly. Only for creative designs reason should you break the rules and use out of body placement.
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Title Annotation:Joi of FITTING
Author:Mahon, Joi
Publication:Sew News
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2016
Previous Article:Cool tools.
Next Article:Better buttonholes.

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