My greatest challenge when fitting patterns is my back. I have a narrow back which cause huge vertical folds of fabric to cascade across my back. I'm also high-waisted, so my back is relatively short (for the record my other fit issues are having to lengthen everything because I'm tall, having a high derriere, and having borderline narrow shoulders). Ok, back to my narrow back issue. The drafting for the basic 4 pattern groups (Vogue, Butterick, etc..) pretty much makes altering for my small back a necessity at least 85% of the time. My small back is the main reason why I'd like to get a custom dressform. It would just be so much easier to do alterations instead of taking off and putting on a muslin over and over again to perfect the fit. I do love the fact that I don't ever have to make this adjustment in knits. Also, I rarely hear about people having very narrow backs. Know of anyone? I mostly hear other sewers complain about having broad backs and shoulders.
To be honest adjusting for my narrow back can be a real pain. For years I've struggled to find the information to deal with different garments. For one there's not a ton of info out there. Secondly, for the few adjustments that are out there the one you choose depends on what you're making. Sometimes a narrow back alteration can be different when making a dress or a shirt. The idea is the same but it may have to be executed differently. All kinds of questions can arise. Do I alter for the narrow back above the waistline? What if I'm altering a dress, do I reduce circumference in the skirt? So many questions. Of course it depends on the design. And in short it just takes experience to sort it all. I feel I've finally go a good handle on this and I'm happy about it. I'm familiar with several ways to reduce my narrow back and attribute that to having great resources. My FAVORITE books on fitting are.....
So armed with this info I proceeded with making my coat. For starters I picked a coat out a coat of my closet that fit me very well and I used those back adjustment to compare with the back adjustments of this pattern. I noticed the upper back was about 1" wider so I decided to take the inch out of the shoulder down to the mid back. This reduced the width of the shoulder would require me to ease in the front piece when I sewed it but that wouldn't be a big deal. After I finished up this alteration I decided to make up my test garment out of muslin and mark the waist and grainline.
Here's the muslin of my coat without the attached scarf. As you can see the front looks good, with the exception of me needing to lengthen the sleeve a couple of inches.
Now take a look at the back......
So to take it a step further I decided to pinch out the excess fabric from the lower shoulder to the hem of the garment. I think I read about this alteration in a sewing magazine and decided to give it a try.
See how much better this works. The fit is perfect.
This adjustment is great and doesn't change the grainline one bit. For me, it's too much work to try and translate this change onto a flat pattern. I think Peggy Sager's says it best in her Achieve great Fit through Muslin DVD (I highly recommend this and I own all but 2 of her DVD's)---she says, to paraphrase, that you can do whatever you need to in the muslin. Tuck, dart, whatever. If you make too many changes you can always use your muslin as your pattern. And in this case that's exactly what I'm gonna do.
I'm sure it's all of our dreams for the the patterns to fit perfectly right out of the envelope. Sometimes making pattern adjustments it seems like alot of work especially when working on such a simple pattern as this one, but of course it's a necessity. But we do what we have to do to create the perfect fit and it's SO worth it!
I'm currently working on another quick coat muslin and hope to have this baby complete this weekend. On top of that I have some client alterations to do (I'm hemming a 4 layer Ball Gown) ---- so I'm pretty busy. I'm running behind schedule but I hope to catch up. But before I go, let me ask you---what alteration do you normally have to do that is or used to be "a pain to do"?