Noticing fit issues in clothing everywhere you go (and thinking of solutions to fix them) just comes with the job of being a patternmaker. I’m always analyzing the fit of clothing when I’m out and about and imagining how I would change the patterns to make the fit better. I’ve fixed the fit of enough patterns that I can even see some fit issues by looking at the pattern itself.
Clothing should look flattering on a real person and be functional. Fashion is not just a stationary art. When there are fit issues, both of the look and function are compromised in the final garment and it doesn’t live up to its potential for the end customer. There are certain fit issues that I see over and over and there are five I find the most egregious. The good news is that they can all be fixed with a well-fitting pattern!
I know style is a personal preference, but I don’t think camel-toes in pants have ever been popular or trendy. There really isn’t anything flattering about a pant crotch that is simultaneously too tight and too loose – looking like a socked foot in flip flops. It’s not cute or comfortable. I see this most often on leggings that don’t have a side seam, and wide leg pants especially in larger sizes.
This fit issue can be a result of a few things in the pattern. It can mean that there isn’t enough crotch width in the pattern to comfortably fit the depth of a body. It can also be a result of the legs angling too wide (the inseam being too long compared to the outseam).
Excess fabric at the back waist
This fit issue is less immediately noticeable simply because it is on the back of the garment instead of the front. It can still ruin the beautiful look of an outfit, though. The front can be laying nice and smoothly over your curves, but then turn around and there’s a bunch of wrinkled folds of excess fabric at the back waistline. Unless you are making coffin clothes, the back should look just as good (or better) than the front! You’ll run into this fit issue most often if you have wider hips, a full bust, and more often in beginner patterns. The problem is made worse if there is a center back zipper in the garment as the stiffness of the zipper will spread out the excess into a row of bubbled humps – like a soft stegosaurus.
On the body, the distance from the shoulder to front waist is longer than from the shoulder to back waist. If the pattern is not cut to reflect this, that’s where you’ll end up with excess fabric at the back waist. For fitted bodices, the back bodice waist will arc up on the pattern to match the curve of the body. There can also be excess fabric at the back waist if the garment is too tight in the hips and is riding up when the wearer is moving. To correct this, widen the high and low hip of the pattern so there is enough ease to hang straight.
Drooping plus-size shoulder seams
I think we can all agree that plus size clothing in general needs to fit better. It does not work to simply add more inches to a small pattern and sew in a plus size label. A common fit issue I see in plus size clothing are shoulder seams that definitely do not sit on the shoulder. If it is supposed to be a drop-shoulder style, then fine, the shoulder seam can hang off the shoulder. But, if the sleeve and shoulder are supposed to meet at the tip of the shoulder, then the shoulder seam should actually sit on the shoulder in all sizes. Drooping shoulder seams are often accompanied by sleeves that are too long because the excess shoulder width hangs over the shoulder and adds length to the sleeves.
Pattern grading does involve math, but it also involves paying attention to body shapes and how and where weight is distributed. The girth grows quite a bit with each size, but the shoulder width does not. It does get wider, but not nearly as much as you think or as much as many brands add to the shoulder width of their patterns.
It is always the curves that are the biggest challenge. Both the curves of the body and the areas on a pattern that are curved are often the hardest to fit. Armholes are a prime example. I often see armholes that gap in the side front and don’t lay flat along the body. Fuller busts and bigger sizes see this fit issue even more often.
This fit issue is the hardest to explain the solution to. While the front length to the waist is longer than the back length on a body, the front armhole is actually shorter than the back. It is confusing, so no wonder armholes have issues. The size of the bust also plays a big role in the shape of the front armhole curve on a pattern, so fixing a gaping armhole usually involves reshaping the curve with the bust in mind.
This one is a classic! I’m sure you’ve owned or at least tried on a jacket that looked great until you tried to give someone a hug, drive a car, or hold the handrail on a subway. I truly believe that fashion should not just look good, but function well for whatever activities we have in our day. If you can’t move in your jacket, what’s the use?
There can be a combination of things that might need fixing on the pattern to make the sleeves be able to give a hug again. It could be that the across back is too narrow. It could be that the sleeve cap is too narrow. Another possible issue is that the shape of the armholes and sleeve cap are too symmetrical. Our arms are more on the front of our bodies, not on the direct sides, so the armholes and sleeves need to be rotated towards the front as well to give enough movement to the arms.
As a patternmaker, I’m always studying fit, analyzing solutions, and experimenting with patterns to get the fit just right for both function and fashion. I see many of the same fit issues over and over and these five are the ones that have me shaking my head every time I see them.
Have you noticed any of these (or other) fit issues with your clothing and patterns? Let’s chat about if we’d be a good fit to work together to get the perfect fit for your customers.