Monday, July 12, 2010

fit to flatter

I've been meaning to post a link to this fabulous series of tutorials over on Stash, Knit, Repeat for a while. Although they are designed for knitters to help in choosing patterns and making modifications to get garments that really flatter your body shape, most of what's in them apply to any garment choices, not just knitting. There is so much to be learned from what Amy writes, and her photos are wonderfully illustrative of the difference a choice in neck shape or sleeve length can make.

I'm not creating an argument here that all clothing choices should be based on what is most flattering - that line of thinking can land us all in 'invisible' clothes pretty fast. But nonetheless, sometimes you want to know if something really suits your body shape more than something else, and Amy's lessons are really helpful in that regard. I think in part the value is in really looking at our own bodies in greater detail and recognising (as Trinny and Susannah would say) that it is all about shape, not size.

There has certainly been a few light bulb moments for me in understanding that choosing for shape isn't the same as choosing for size, and when you really do get your shape, your clothes look and feel so much better. In many ways understanding how to flatter my shape has helped me make bolder clothing choices, to stop dressing so much like a fat girl and more like someone who wants to make the most of how I look.

So head on over and check it out. And then let's all cross our fingers that someone half as smart as Amy can put something similar together for skirts and pants...

Sunday, March 28, 2010

more fittings

True to my word I have taken the really wrong pants out of circulation and have been dissecting the pants I put in the could be better pile.

First up a quick fix. These jeans were OK, a bit big but not enough to either jetison or bother with a major renovation. But really it was their colour that didn't work for me so I tossed them in the washer with a couple of packets of black dye and voila, much improved. I try not to have an all black wardrobe, but can't argue that with my colouring, I really think darker colours work better for me.

Next I tackled the jeans I made myself in February. While I was pretty happy with these, I wasn't 100% - particularly with the waistband. Since I decided to pull it off, I took the sides and the back seam in a little while I was at it. I would have fiddled with the leg inseams too, but with a whole lot of top stitching as well as regular stitching to fight through, and a fit I was pretty happy with I called it a day. I redrew the waistband, particularly the back section, and re attached it. A better fit and more comfortable. I bought a piece of cheap denim when I was out on the weekend so my next step will be to go back and redraw all the modifications on the pattern (including the leg inseam modifications I thought I should make but didn't) and then make another pair to check that I have it right.

Although the 'after' pictures on the right look much lighter, these are indeed the same pair of wide leg black bengaline pants. I removed the wide, shaped waistband, took in the side seams, took in the leg inseams (more from the back than front) and re sewed the crotch. I took in the waist band and then sewed it back on. I think these are much better (though still not perfect!)

I took off the waistband, took in the side seams, took in the leg inseams and took quite a bit out the backseam all the way through the crotch, took in the waistband and then reattached it. pretty much teh same as above - lots of improvement, not perfect but certainly closer to the right fit.

I was tempted to set to on a skirt I wore the other day, but I managed to stop myself in the nick of time. I thoroughly recommend this focus on a single garment thing. I really feel like the subtleties of fit are much easier to see if you aren't distracted. I've also gotten a lot from a few books about fitting and alterations, such as Fast Fit, which demonstrates a range of common alterations for body shapes and problems. Very worth while.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Those of you who read my blog may have noted the vow I made at the start of the year to stop buying premade clothes. I was clear back then that there may be some exceptions, but my starting point was home made is best. I have been taking photos of what I wear and trying to pay attention to the garments I wear, how flattering I think they are, how comfortable, what they cost, how well they last. I wanted some data to back up my feeling that buying clothes is not better, and to help me decide if, what and where I'd be buying any clothes I didn't make.

I've been finding this vow an easy one to keep. In fact once I made the decision and stopped paying attention to store made clothes I felt entirely liberated about six different ways. But then I got a yearning. I read this post and I suddenly felt an overwhelming desire to buy me some jeans. Some designer jeans, made especially for plus sizes and heavily discounted. I had just made myself some jeans and they weren't bad but they weren't perfect either and in a rash of consumer lust I just wanted a pair of perfectly fitting wear every day jeans.

Now I wear jeans a lot. If I'm not at work and the weather isn't too too hot odds are on that I'm wearing jeans of some kind. I love them and for me they are pretty close to the perfect garment in terms of practicality and comfort. I'd started sewing my own last year because at my size I have pretty much been confined to cheap chain store plus size versions and for many years I bought pretty much any pairs I could find that fit me because, well they weren't too easy to come by. At around $50 a pair I've probably bought and worn out (or thrown out) a pair or two a year and while I've continued to buy and wear I don't have many super fabulous my favourite jeans memories.

On top of all this I've lost a little weight in the last year. Not a heap mind you, but just enough to make the jeans that were a wee bit big before too be quite big now. I've kept on wearing them but my consciousness is growing that they are probably looking worse now than they ever did. I think I tend to sit between two sizes and err on the side of caution, buy them slightly too big, wear and stretch them and end up with baggy bum syndrome.

So when I seriously considered buying some new fancy pants jeans and started touring the Embody site it didn't take long for me to start lusting in earnest for some proper fitting jeans. And when I found the model I liked the most had a discontinued colour that I could get for less than a quarter of their original price it was a done deal. I bought them, dyed them to darken the colour and shortened them. They were a much tighter fit than I would normally buy and at first I was hesitant. I wore them for a day and found them quite comfortable, but they gave me a bit of a 'muffin top' (a look I detest) so I decided I needed to do some comparing.

I started out just wanting to compare them to the jeans I had most recently made, but the exercise quickly extended to every pair of pants I own.

My conclusions?

Most of my pants need altering!

Pants that look OK from the front can look pretty awful from behind. I think this is because my belly is the most 'oversized' part of me shapewise and because I can see it I tend to buy or make clothes that look right from the front. The lower part of my butt is relatively small and all my hip shaping is at the back instead of the sides. So while I need to measurement of the hips to be big, it needs to be in front and back, not side to side, and I don't need a correspondingly large measurement across the lower bottom.

I think this means I need to work harder on making the same pattern until I get a better fit around the butt. There are a few things I already know to do on patterns - drop the side seams a little, curve a shaped waistband to have the curves further towards the centre back and front rather than the sides, slightly raise the centre back and take in the centre back seam. But I need to mess with those crotch angles to do something about those flappy bits above the tops of the back of my thighs if I ever want to wear wide legs again!

I also need to pay a lot of attention to fabric plus pattern plus fit. Rows 11, 12, 13 and 14 are all made with the same pattern but different fabrics. One has already been altered and another needs altering, but the other 2 are fine. There are other examples here of the same pattern used twice, though in different sizes, and both times whatever was wrong the first time wasn't fixed by changing the size, because shape is just as important as size.

So weigh in - which ones do you like and why? What ones look awful, what alterations do you think need to be made to what? Can you guess which ones were bought or home made, which ones were expensive (in either fabric or bought garment) and which ones were cheap??

edited to add -
I've done my first refit! The last row pants now look like this - befores on the left, after on the right.

As though I were making the pants new I took in each seam - it would have been good to pull them apart before I did this but I didn't know when I started that I'd have to go this far! I took off the waist facing and started with the side seams. Next I took in the back and crotch seam and then the inleg seam. Before attaching a new waist facing I lowered the waistline, most on the sides, then the front and least on the back. Lastly I attached a new waist facing. They aren't perfect by any means - the back of the leg still sits lower under the butt making creases on the bias from front to back. Not sure how to fix this! Anyone else know?

Also - I am fascinated by your opinions - thank you!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Oh oh oh - very nice jeans on sale for plus sizes!

I read this lovely blog post by one of my fav fashion bloggers, Frocks and Frou Frou. She's promoting an amazing 25% off great jeans for plus sizes over at Embody. But be quick!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

plus size vintage and the daily wardrobe peek

There's an interesting discussion over on Gertie's blog about what is plus size anyway. You might want to check out her blog if you like vintage stuff, she's working her way through Vogue's guide to better sewing from 1952 and has done a few posts about fit and adjustment and sewing from vintage patterns. She's doing really well at including the plus size angle in an area notoriously small sized! (Thanks to Kate for putting me onto her!)

And while we are on sites I am currently loving, I am addicted to frocks & frou frou. Lilli posts great clear pictures of her fabulous and extensive wardrobe, plus info about where she buys and some shopping experiences. Already through her site I've finally found some really good reasonably priced leggings (sadly they are currently out of stock of larger sizes but I am sure they'll be fixing that soon). Lilli is not as big as me but I just love how she dresses and her extensive shopping knowledge. I'm hoping she'll head over here and do a few posts on Large for us. (Thanks to Kim for discovering this site for me!)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

dress forms

You may recall the fiasco that was my attempt to make a duct tape dress form. Needless to say it hasn't been used and I have no desire to reproduce the experience or making it, even with the superior gummed tape. But my desire for a dress form just grows. In recent months I have been doing a lot of refashioning and making garments without patterns and this involves a lot of taking half finished and pinned pieces on and off and attempts to fit things in a mirror. Hardly ideal!

Previous attempts to locate a dress form in my size has proved pretty fruitless. All the ones I found online were overseas and offered by companies that don't ship internationally. I did find one, but the customer reviews about the quality of the mechanisms for adjusting it were so scathing I was convinced it wasn't a good idea.

I did find an aussie ebay seller who imports dress forms and sells them at a reasonable price, but their larger size was just a fraction too small for me. Despite supposedly fitting up to size 20, the measurements are smaller than mine and I wear a size 18. Yet another dead end!

And then it occurred to me to ask my local fabric retailer if she could order in dress forms in larger sizes. While she didn't have the size known as fuller figure, the manufacturer of the style she had on her books did make it so she said she'd find out for me. In the same instant it dawned on me that getting it back to Melbourne would be a bit of a pain so I rang a couple of places in Melbourne to make the same inquiry. Experience so far tells me that there is a lot of price variation (I have been quoted between $195 and $395 for the exact same thing!) so I decided to do my research on this one. Clegs came back to me fastest and they could get me a fuller figure, though at $395 I was looking at a fair bit more than I thought I would have to pay.

I also realised that while all the forms I have looked at are made by the same manufacturer, Clegs only carry the supafit model, while my local store and my favourite store, Tessutis only stocks the Diana model. In searching for reviews it seems the Diana is a sturdier and easier to adjust model with a better stand, and it was the short comings on the supafit that I had read about with the very first place I looked to buy.

But a side benefit of trying to find reviews and comparisons of the different models (through this fantastic sewing forum discussion site) I found a long thread about padding out dress forms. Not only does it seem possible, but most of the experienced hands recommend padding as a way of achieving a shape closer to your body. You see adjustability to the right measurements is one thing, but mimicking the distribution of those measurements on your body is a whole other thing. Those who hadn't padded their forms repeatedly posted that their dress forms never got used while those who had made their forms look more like themselves found them really useful. And of course if you are going to pad it out, you want the actual form to be smaller than yourself.

So now I am contemplating buying one in the easier to get smaller size and doing the work to make it look as much like me as I can! I'd love to hear from anyone about their experiences padding models out, reviews of different models or recommendations of places to buy.

Edited to add -

I just read through another tutorial on fitting a form to your shape (thanks for the link Nichola!) and found a couple of interesting things. The first is, the author recommends distributing your padding more evenly than you are in reality and claims this will make your garments look better. I'd like to know how, so I'm posting a comment and will let you know!

The second thing I found was that reading through the comments section there are recommendations for two form types I hadn't come across. Unlike the standard dial adjustable types I've looked at, the Fabulous Fit has a solid base with a padding fit system and removable cover. This means it is adjustable by size and shape and saves you the trouble of making your own padding and cover to fit. I gather this is the kind of form used by professionals and I can see why. Sadly, it stops at an American size 16, but the Uniquely You, which has many similarities goes up to a 50" hip with adjustments via the covering. And this company ships to Australia! Of course, while the form is only $139, the shipping here is $254.38!!

But aside from the issue of cost, another comment got me thinking about another problem. I hate how if ever I buy commercial patterns I measure myself accurately and find that the pattern size chart says I'm a size 26 or so. I know I may choose a size 18 or 20 in commercially made clothes, but the pattern says that for my measurements I need a size 26. If I make the garment in the size 26 (don't laugh - I've done this!) it is of course miles too big. I don't know why this is, but I basically don't use commercial patterns so I avid dealing with it. But it occurs to me - what if the dress form is the same? What if I buy one and find it is way too big? One commenter on the above post had exactly this experience and I can't imagine what I'd do if I paid $250 shipping only to have to return it!

Anyone else been down this road and know what I'm talking about?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

test knitting

Just a super quick post here to let you know that the lovely and talented Kate is looking for a test knitter or two in the 42-50inch bust range for a really lovely cardigan she has designed.

I have to say as a long time knitter who grew up knitting men's garments and mostly disasterous home designed knits because commercial patterns stopped at a size 14 I am thrilled to bits with how many pattern designers now take their sizing up to the loftier heights. And critical to this is good test knitting and feedback to designers.

So I hope someone here will take her up on the offer and get a great cardi and ensure the rest of us continue to have access to well designed and fitting patterns!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

shopping by body type

So a friend of mine who is in search of a dress for a special occassion has been spending quite a bit of time looking for ideas on line.

Now I don't wear dresses much (recent sewing notwithstanding) since I spend most of my time running around after children, doing domestic chores and generally being a graceless slob, but I so think a good frock can look stunning. I also think a badly chosen frock can make you look really awful.

Anyway, she found that the large US retailer Nordstrom has a really excellent feature for their online dress shop - that capacity to search by body type (see the drop down menu on the right hand side half way down the screen). You can also search by plus size or garment type.

I don't have plans to buy anything from Nordstrom any time soon, but I think this is a fantastic way to think about garments and feel a little more confident that the dress you like might suit you. I haven't explored the site in detail but my guess is we'll be seeing more and more of this kind of thing, assisted shopping. Anyone else know of other retailers or sites that offer similar features?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

another shirt renovation

You might remember a shirt I altered last year.

Well, I've done another one, this time in a quite different way. I started with the exact same linen shirt (except in black this time instead of olive) and ended up with a fancy shaped and detailed top.

You can read more about what I did over here (scroll down to the second half of the post.)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

sewing with knits

For all those who wanted to know more about the sewing of the bathers, I did a post on my other blog with some info about sewing with knits. Happy to answer any questions!