Fittings are a crucial step in the product development process and can yield a wealth of information about your design. In addition to testing the actual fit of the garment, you have the opportunity to test the design, pattern, and fabric as well. Consider these steps below to make the most of each fitting.
Check sample construction
Before the fitting begins and the team has assembled , go over the sample you will be fitting and check the construction and sewing quality. Does the sample have the finishes requested? Does the stitching look even and consistent? Check the sample against a previous sample, tech pack, or requested construction specifications.
After you evaluate construction, get out that measuring tape and measure the sample against the requested specs. Are the measurements correct? Make sure to write down the sample measurements and any discrepancies within the tech pack. If your sample is off, you’ll want to keep this in mind when fitting the garment.
Wash the sample
If your sample is made in your final fabrication, you can even use this fitting as an opportunity to test washing and care. Wash and dry the sample and take note of any changes to its measurements, fabric hand, or other quality. This will provide you with better information as to what should be on your care labels as well as the ability to see and wear the garment in a state (post wash) that your customer will be seeing and wearing it.
When the fitting is about to begin, gather your supplies. You’ll want pins, measuring tape, marker or pen (for use on fabric), scissors, something to take notes with, camera, and, of course, the sample itself.
Perfect the fit
Once the fitting has begun, the obvious task of importance is to evaluate the garment fit. Work from top to bottom of the sample and pin and correct any fit issues. It may take some experimenting with where to pin or let out to get the fit just right. If the sample fit is very off, focus on solving the biggest fit issue and wait until the next round of sampling to solve the smaller problems. A lot will change when a large issue is fixed. Make sure to take notes of all corrections. Write down the measurement changes and the new desired measurement. For example, you could write “increase waist circumference by 1.5in to equal 32in total”. This way there are checks and balances in the changes you communicate.
Check the balance
Next is to check the balance of the garment. Are the side seams actually on the model’s sides and hanging straight down? Is the shoulder seam sitting at the top of the shoulder? Unless you have a style line that alters or changes the appearance of these basic seams, make sure they are balanced front to back and side to side when the garment is resting comfortably on the model. If the seams aren’t balanced, I like to use a fabric marker or pen to draw balanced seam lines on the sample.
Consider the proportions
After the sample is fit and balanced, take a step back and consider the proportions. How does the overall garment look? Is the hem and sleeve length fitting for the design? Are the style lines hitting the body in a flattering way? The location of style lines can either add or detract to the flattering appearance of a garment.
See how it moves
Asking for feedback from your fit model is a wonderful way to make the most of a fitting. Have your model walk around, sit, stand, dance, or move in ways you think your garment will be commonly used. Ask her how the garment feels when moving. Is it constricting in any way? Does it feel too tight when sitting or bending? You can also watch to see how the garment and fabric behave and look in movement. This is why fitting on a real person is so important; fitting on a dress form cannot tell you all this.
Also ask your fit model about the ease of getting in and out of the garment. Was she able to get into the garment easily by herself? Did the crew neck stretch enough to get over her head smoothly? Are the cuffs the right size to fit comfortably around her wrists but not fall over her hand?
Think about fit-inclusivity
Take another step back and look at the garment from the standpoint of different body types. If you happen to have several people of varying body types and heights try on the same sample, this is even better. Look for areas that could pose issues when worn by a person of another body type or height such as strap length for a dress, inseam length for a jumpsuit, or snugness of a waistband. Is there a way you can make this design or the fit more inclusive for your customer while still maintaining the intended design? Are there ways you can engineer your design to make common alterations simple? Asking these questions at each fitting will help your design become an easy-fitting style with fewer returns.
Evaluate design intent
Throughout the whole fitting, be evaluating how the sample embodies the design. Does the fabric lend itself well to this design? Is the fabric the right weight, stretch, and feel? Is the construction appropriate for the fabric and garment type? Does the overall garment look how you intended?
Take reference photos
Taking photos of each sample on the fit model is a great way to reference needed pattern corrections and remember the changes you made during the fitting. Try to take a photo of each side as well as any details you want to specifically call out.
Double check your notes
Before the fitting ends, make sure that you’ve written down all the changes you want as well as any other notes from the fitting. These will all be added to the tech pack sample page alongside the sample’s measurements.
Decide next steps
With the team still assembled, decide whether the design makes the cut and whether it needs another round of sampling and fitting before approval. If the design is approved, decide what needs to happen next to move the design towards production.
With each fitting, you have the opportunity to gain so much new information about your design – even beyond just how the garment fits. Have you been making the most of your fittings?