Oooh, polarizing title, yes?
Now, before you skim this for any potential photos, before you decide how minimally this concept interests you, before you determine that - as a non-sewist - this post is relatively meaningless to you - wait!
Don't wander off. Pretend we're at a dinner party. We've found the last two good seats on the comfortable couch. You have a fresh drink. It's boozy. You're eating something wrapped in bacon. You compliment me on my outfit - it's awesome, by the way - whereupon I launch into an impassioned discussion about how I made it / had it made / bought it and the fit is perfect. One thing leads to another and, before you know it, we're having a full on conversation about the concept of fit. It's not scary. It's not boring. In fact, on the basis of that lovely drink that's making your toes tingle (and my fun personality, natch), it's really rather compelling.
My portion of that conversation goes something like this:
I've always intuited the importance of fit. I grew up in a time when textiles weren't what they are today. Everything wasn't comprised of 3% spandex. In fact, nothing was. I had a very curvy body from a very young age and finding clothes that looked good was not easy. Of course, I had youth on my side. I was also pretty creative. I wore vintage cashmere sweaters before they were back in style. I knew that expensive clothes (which I had occasional access to) were more likely to fit.
I won't even go into the nightmare that was bra shopping. That was a special kind of torture. Back then, slim people were assumed to be modestly endowed (and people walked 5 miles to work in the snow). The whole thing was demoralizing writ large.
Eventually fabrics caught up with modern bodies and British women convinced British manufacturers that boobs can get much larger than originally imagined (and still not be all that large) and can exist on rather small frames. Times are good!
Wear a well-fitted bra, have great posture, exercise to tone your body in a way that is right for your shape and wear the right outer layer and everything's great. Right?
Yeah, that's the theory. But most of the time RTW fits marginally. Even if your shape is the shape that your preferred brand caters to, the likelihood that everything is going to click is slim. Note to reader: If I seem to be implying that the average body needs tailored clothing to fit perfectly, that is what I'm getting at. If you think that means, as you aren't a rich celebrity or child of a couturier, I'm suggesting that you need to be able to sew or alter your own clothing in order to wear perfectly fitting clothes if your body deviates even slightly from a straight line anywhere, hate to say it peeps, but that's kind of my perspective right now, and it's kind of a bitch. Of course, excellent shoppers find excellent fit on a regular basis... Who am I to judge for all?
(Ed. note: I suppose this is where I might lose the non-sewist readers.
OK, for those of you who are still here...)
I am taking this online course by tailor / author, Sarah Veblen, who's written this terrific book, which I learned about from a new friend of mine, S, (with whom I talk about sewing on a daily basis at this point and with whom I fit clothing). She's taking the course with me and we're about to start on our test garments.
Yes, we make test garments. Zillions of them, by all accounts as S has been working on a mythical pair of pants since 2009 (in truth, she had a baby in 2010 so she's been occupied) and we've just finished fitting my suit jacket from hell.
What I'm starting to realize, in this process (or series of fitting experiences), is that (as S says), the flat pattern alteration is a useful but blunt instrument. I started this post with the intention of assuring new sewists and any other sewists who don't much consider fit (some of these peeps are incredibly advanced at sewing technique) that perfect fit - or at least excellent fit - is attainable. Why? Well, I begin my own fitting process with the assumption that perfect fit will be the end result. Experts will tell you that it really doesn't matter what size you are (except in as much as that dictates the pattern size you construct), it matters what shape you are and how your eyes and hands adapt fabric to that shape.
How the volume of your body sits is totally unique to you and the best way to address this (in the opinion of certain experts - and I agree) is by draping practice garments over your own body, making specific adjustments - one at a time so as not to confuse things, reflecting those adjustments on the paper pattern and then starting the whole thing (with focus on a different area) over again. Eventually, every fit challenge is addressed and the end result is very pleasing.
Here's where I suggest you focus on the very pleasing end result rather than the process of getting there.
Draping sounds like a scary idea. It sounds like something people write 200 dollar books about (they do) and that other people go to fancy fashion schools to learn (they do). In my opinion - and I say this as someone with no formal training and pretty marginal spatial reasoning skills - it's really no more scary than doing anything else that making a nice garment entails. Admittedly, you can sew without knowing a thing about fitting and fit without the ability to sew. Why not just go whole hog and figure them both out?
I'm going to spend the next few posts discussing this in more detail. I promise not to be scary or boring about it. But if I am, do me a favour and let me know.
Let's get the party started with some questions: If you don't sew, how important is fit to you? Are you frustrated by fit of RTW? And for sewists: How important is fitting in your sewing process? Are you a draper or a flat pattern modifier? Do you do a combo of both methods? What are the obstacles, as you see them, to good fit? Can you share any good fitting resources, drape method or otherwise?
I'm so interested to hear what you think...