There’s a reason I haven’t been making many posts recently: All I ever do is make muslins that don’t fit quite right. I don’t even cut into real fabric anymore! This has been a little discouraging (I want to be able to make beautiful clothes, RIGHT NOW!), but realistically I have made good progress in learning how to change patterns to fit my body. And, I’m sick of making nothing but wadders.
I do have a couple of fitting books, but neither of them seem to address the particular problems I have, or if they do, they don’t address them in quite the right way for my body. Of course, my own inexperience is largely to blame. I don’t know what I’m doing, and I don’t have a fitting partner to help me.
Lately I have been making endless muslins of Vogue 8765. I was making endless muslins of Butterick 5638, but needed a change. Vogue 8765 is a simple dress with kimono sleeves (the sleeves are drafted in with the bodice, not attached later). Yay not having to mess with set-in sleeves! The dress is so simple looking, but I still haven’t gotten it right.
The first thing I did was optimistically make an unaltered muslin in a size 12, B-cup bodice. Maybe the dress would fit me just fine! Maybe I would immediately be able to go to making a beautiful dress in a fashion fabric! Sadly, no. The usual problems presented themselves- way, way too much fabric on the back, forming a huge bubble mid-back, and diagonal drag lines from my bust to my hips. I didn’t take a picture, because ugh.
My first impulse was to shorten the waist by folding down the fabric from above the waist down to meet the waist. I didn’t want to make a new muslin at this point because of laziness, so I removed the zipper and altered the muslin itself as a trial. This made the muslin look sloppy, but was an OK way to try to get a good fit.
I still had excess fabric at the back, so I followed the directions in one of my fitting books and undid the side seams and removed 1/2 inch from the width of the back piece at the sides. Ugh, this did not work for me at all. The dress was way too tight above the waist, squeezing me like a sausage (attractive!), whole still leaving me with the problem of excess fabric on the mid and upper back.
At this point I became desperate and willing to take risks. None of the fitting books seemed to have suggestions that addressed this problem adequately, so I had to try to figure out a solution on my own. Keeping in mind my goal of having the fabric lie smoothly on my back, I grabbed my pins and headed towards a mirror. Manipulating the fabric by grabbing it and trying to figure out where exactly the excess lay, I ended up with huge amounts of fabric in my hands at the sides of my neck. I pinned these in place and went to see how to manipulate the dress when I wasn’t wearing it.
In order to incorporate the fabric removal into the muslin, I pinned the fabric down, making faux darts running diagonally from the side of my neck to my armpits. These darts are huge- 3 inches at the side of the neck- but improve the fit of the dress amazingly. They taper to nothing by the time they get to the armpits. This is weird, because I perceive this are of my body to be the relatively large, out-of-proportion part. Huh. By removing this fabric, a lot of the back problems were removed, and the bodice itself sat higher and more securely on my shoulders, eliminating a lot of the gaping at the top of the bodice.
Finally, a change that made an actual improvement to the muslin! To incorporate the change into the pattern, I noted where the changes were on the fabric, then transferred them to the paper pattern. Rather than cutting into the pattern and removing excess that way, I was able to simply fold the pattern flat. If the changes wouldn’t lie flat, I would have
had to make more permanent changes to the pattern itself, but luckily this wasn’t necessary. I was also happy to see that the actual shoulder seams were not affected, so I wouldn’t have to make any corresponding seam length adjustments to the front of the bodice- all the fabric removal is in the neck portion.
Now that I had something to be happy about, I was willing to admit something to myself- the bust apexes were not at all in the right place. No, no, no. They were much to high. I jammed one of my shoulders lower than it should be by sleeping on my side, but that can be fixed with a shoulder pad. The bust apexes…not so much. I realized that I shortened the waist much too much (2 1/2″!). Also, the dress was too tight across the bust. Being squashed into your clothes is not attractive! I made another muslin using the faux slash-and-remove pattern alteration method on the back described above before admitting this to myself.
To figure out where the waist should really be, I put on my latest muslin and tied a ribbon around my natural waist. I marked my natural waist with a sharpie, and was surprised at the difference. I am still figuring out how my body differs from the standardized bodies used to make sewing patterns. I thought I was really short-waisted, so I moved the waist up 2 1/2″- but it turns out I should have only moved it 3/4″. what a difference! I made another muslin with this waist change, and was very happy with the results- the dress was much more comfortable, and I didn’t have sausage waist, since the bodice was now also wider!
My longer-waisted muslin still was a bit tight at the bust, so I took a chance and tried a c-cup for my next muslin, making the necessary changes to the waist and neck. Success! The bust apexes were still a tiny bit too high, but acceptably good compared to earlier versions. The problems with excessive back wrinkles remained, but at least I didn’t have a fabric hunchback.
I still haven’t made the dress in the
fashion fabric I plan to make it
in- a nice lightweight linen with black threads running one way and hot pink threads running the other way (it looks better than it sounds. Hilariously, I planned to make this dress for last spring and summer- my sewing skills have not progressed as quickly as I thought they would). I am still not happy with the back, but I think I know what I need to do- remove more fabric horizontally from high up on the back, without affecting the fit in the front. I made another muslin where I pinned in fabric to try this out, and was reasonably happy with the results. The darts or wedges are horizontal- I tried deepening the original diagonal faux slashes, but was not happy with the resut- so somehow taking length out this way seems to be the answer. You can see that in the lower picture, the back is much smoother. For me, this is acceptably smooth, because it is so, so much better than any other back I have made so far. Yes, there are strong diagonal wrinkles running from my armpits to my neck- but maybe that is because of the kimono sleeves? Is that reasonable, or am I wrong? Can these wrinkles be removed?
So, the next change I need to make is figuring out how to transfer the horizontal wedges to the pattern so I can put them on my next muslin. I think this might involve actually cutting into the pattern paper, which makes me apprehensive. I need to make a tracing of the pattern that I can work with without being afraid of ruining it. I am also going to make the skirt a bit straighter, instead of slightly A-line.
What do you guys think? How can I fix the wrinkles on the back? Am I going about this in the wrong way, ignoring a better solution? Is having armpit-to shoulder wrinkles on a kimono sleeve normal, or can they be fixed?