Movement is one of the four keys to good fit. A garment can look beautiful on a mannequin or on the hanger, but if it isn’t comfortable to wear and move around in, it is not going to be worn (or even bought). Think about your favorite pieces of clothing. They probably are the ones you are most comfortable in that don’t hold you back from any of the activities throughout your day. This is why drafting patterns and fit testing for movement is so crucial. Here are seven ways that the pattern and resulting garment need to move.
Arms forward (driving or hugging)
This is a classic issue. Anyone who has ever tried on a jacket knows what it feels like to NOT be able to move your arms forward. The back pulls at your shoulders and the folds of the front sleeve dig into your bicep. You may not even be able to cross your arms in front without feeling like you’ll rip the garment seams. It does not have to be this way – even with a tailored garment with no stretch.
What gives a good range of forward motion for your arms is how the pattern is cut. You may think it is the shoulder that is too small, and while that can be the case, it is more often the shape of the armhole and sleeve cap. The armhole needs to be rotated forward as our arms are more to the front than the true sides of our bodies. The sleeve cap needs to rotate slightly forward as well and have sufficient width across the muscle to give your arm freedom to move how it naturally does.
Raising arms (reaching for a high shelf, raising hand)
Tailored garments tend to have more issues with this motion than looser or more casual garments. Being able to move your arms up has to do with the sleeve and armhole fit as well as the sleeve cap height. When there is enough room to raise your arms, some garments will move up with you more than others.
The sleeve cap height and how much the garment moves up with you is also partly a design decision. Tailored garments like a blazer tend to have a slimmer sleeve with a taller cap so that the shoulder has a sharp edge and the sleeve hangs straight when your arms are resting at your sides. More casual garments like a tee-shirt have a more “T” shape position to the sleeves accomplished by a shorter sleeve cap and thus wider bicep. This allows more upward movement to the arms, but doesn’t lay as smoothly with the arms down. Balancing the movement and the look appropriate for the garment type is a design decision as well as a pattern drafting one.
For any pant, skirt, or dress, this is a key movement. For pants, the place movement can be constrained is often at the front thigh as well as knee. Sometimes the back waist can gap and pull down when the pattern isn’t cut right for walking motion as well. For skirts and dresses, the hips can ride up when walking if there is not enough ease at the hip or if the hip shaping is off.
For pants, it is the rise shape that affects the walking movement the most. The length, shape, and balance of the rise and inseam needs to be cut to account for forward leg motion. For skirts and dresses, it is the hip ease, side seam shaping, and dart intake that will keep the skirt laying smooth whether standing or walking.
Not only are your legs in a different position when sitting compared to standing, but body weight is distributed and carried slightly differently when seated. Not only does the movement of changing from standing to sitting need to be considered when cutting the pattern, but the resting position of being seated needs to be considered as well.
For pants, the thigh and back waist/rise are places to watch for. You don’t want the back waist to gap when sitting. For skirts and dresses, the hip needs to be able to fold and gather at the front lap while not stretching too much across the back/seat. For tops and jackets that fall close to the hip, proper shaping in the pattern hip can help the garment to lay smoothly and not hike up on the torso. You’ll sometimes see side or back vents on jackets for this same purpose.
Getting the garment on/off
Have you ever gotten stuck in a dress half way into it? Or not been able to get a high waisted pair of jeans over your hips even with the zipper all the way down? It seems obvious, but it is important to be able to get a garment on and off. Sometimes this is accomplished with closures like buttons or a zipper, while other times it is by way of stretchy fabric or a looser silhouette and neckline. Generally it is the hips and shoulders that are the broadest and are the points where this motion might be hindered.
Getting the garment on and off is a super important movement to consider when designing and pattern drafting. The designer needs to specify how they want the garment closures (or lack thereof) to function and look. The patternmaker needs to consider what size and shape of closures (or neckline) is appropriate to make it easy to get on and off.
In addition to the basic movements above that apply to all garments, some markets need to consider additional motions that might be specific to your customer niche. Your customer’s profession, demographic, or ability might go along with common movements. This is where it is helpful to know about your customers and their lifestyle. If you know how they spend their time and what their daily life looks like, you’ll know what activities and movements to consider when creating the patterns and fit testing the samples.
In addition to your customer niche, the garment may have a specific purpose that corresponds to certain motions. Activewear is a great example of this. If a garment is made for running, biking, climbing, swimming, etc., it needs to be patterned and tested to make sure it functions well with those movements. A big part of the garment’s purpose in this case is the movement. Those motions cannot be overlooked when creating the pattern.
Movement is one of the keys to good fit that often gets overlooked during design and development. All garments need to be patterned, fit, and tested with basic motions that we all use as we go through our day. Some garments may need to consider additional movements depending on the market demographic and garment purpose.