If it doesn’t fit; it doesn’t sell. That’s why fit is so important – especially for slow fashion brands that value the quality and longevity of their designs. Fittings are the part of the development process where you get to evaluate your garment, test it, and make changes as needed until it is approved. Even during fittings, though, mistakes can happen. Here are five fitting mistakes you might be making and how and why to avoid them.
Fitting in dark colors
Dark colors like black hide everything. (That’s why we say black is slimming, right?) During a fitting, though, you want everything – including fit issues – to be fully visible. This is your chance to catch fit issues and fix them before you invest in production, so you want to be able to see the good, the bad, and the ugly. You don’t want to approve the fit based on a black or printed sample and then come to find out that that style in the pastel pink colorway just isn’t flattering. Make sure to fit your styles in a very light solid color even if you won’t be producing that color. If it looks good in white, it will look good in the darker colors too.
Fitting on yourself
Fitting on yourself isn’t always a mistake, but it can be risky. You want to fit your designs on a fit model who represents your average customer. This means finding someone in your middle size – for example size medium if you offer sizes XS-XL. Using yourself as the fit model if you aren’t your average customer in your middle size will result in a garment that isn’t the right fit for the actual customer who will be buying from your brand.
Another reason why fitting on yourself can be a mistake is that it is hard to be objective about our own bodies. We all have some part of us that we feel self-conscious about or are particularly partial to. When evaluating garment fit, it is important to be objective about how we feel about the garment and not get that opinion mixed up with how we feel about ourselves. It is easier to evaluate the fit when you as the designer can take a few steps back from your fit model and see the whole look before you.
Fitting the sample without measuring it first
Fittings are for testing the garment and making changes as needed. Communicating the needed changes with precise details will ensure that the changes are made as you intend them. Instead of just saying “shorten the body length a bit”, measure it precisely and write “shorten the body length 2 inches”.
But even measuring and communicating the changes precisely can result in a mistake if you aren’t comparing apples to apples with your patternmaker. Sometimes it isn’t the pattern that is off, it is the sample itself. If you don’t measure the sample and compare it against the specs before the fitting, you won’t know whether the long length is because it was cut too long, the hem allowance was sewn too short, or because the pattern needs to be shortened.
Measuring the sample and measuring the seam allowance of the sample against the specs before you fit it will give you a baseline from which to measure and address any fit issues. The best way to write comments in order to make the changes mistake-proof, is to write the change and the desired measurements. For example, “shorten body length 2” to equal 36” total length from HPS”.
Fitting in a different fabric
Every fabric has its own properties and fitting in a fabric that is different from your final fabric can result in fit mistakes. You’d be surprised by how much fabric affects the design. You want to be able to test the fabric during the fitting and make sure that the pattern, design, and materials all work together to create the fit, look, and feel that you want. If you fit in a basic muslin fabric, but your final fabric is much different, your resulting garment may not fit at all like the muslin sample you approved. The sample fabric (if the final fabric isn’t available), must be nearly identical in weight, stretch, and drape in order to get an accurate fit and avoid having to redo the pattern and refit later.
Fitting only on a dress form
Again, fitting on a dress form isn’t a mistake in itself, but mistakes can happen if you never fit your garment on a real person. I’ve seen samples that couldn’t fit over a person’s head (a dress form doesn’t have a head, so the size of the neckline hadn’t been tested) and samples where you couldn’t move your arms freely to drive or give someone a hug (dress forms can’t tell you the ease of movement even if yours has arms).
There are some aspects of fit that only a real person moving around, taking the garment off and on, and living in it can tell you. Fitting only on a dress form is a good way to start a design or test an initial concept, but at some point sooner rather than later during the development process, you’ll want to fit on an actual person to avoid fit mistakes.
Fittings are all about eliminating as many possible mistakes before your design gets to production. Avoiding these fitting mistakes will get your design to production faster and, more importantly, get your production back to you without disappointing surprises.