I spent an interesting afternoon altering the pattern for my Simplicity 4044 blazer. This is a vintage revival pattern, made to fit “modern” size charts.
Problem: I don’t know my modern size. Neither for patterns nor for RTW. For circa 1930-1965 I sew a 16 with mods:
- 34″ high bust, 37″-39″ full bust, 28″waist, 39″ hips.
- .75″-1.25″ FBA (though for 1950’s I usually just lower the bust darts, maybe a .5″ FBA)
- nip in the waist slightly (for some reason I have a little more room, maybe somehow extra spillover from the FBA. It’s a mystery.)
- 3/8″-1/2″ shortwaist
- 5/8″ sway back
- 3/8″ narrow shoulder
- For a 1930’s fitted sleeve, I do a FBiA.
With practice, a list of standard alterations becomes quick and painless. I know when I finish, the size isn’t a number anymore. It’s size Steph, and is perfect.
When I faced this:
Modern size 16- automatic pass.
Modern size 14- fit my waist, but not my high bust.
Modern size 12- fit my high bust, but not my waist. I could have sucked in and pulled the tape measure tight and fantasized that I have a 26 1/2″ waist, but why?
I don’t need to fantasize. I love how clothes look on my shape but I did not always feel that way. It took me a while to get accustomed to having a 28″ waist. I’ve always been slimmer. Then I had a baby. I’m fit, I’m strong, I’m healthy and my husband thinks I’m smokin’. Once I realized that, I gave up caring that my waist was a good 3″ bigger than it had been.
Besides, a well-fitting garment makes you look:
- Rich- you can afford custom made clothing
- Clever- you made it yourself, and it fits like a second skin
No matter your measurements, it is never ever a bad thing to look rich or clever.
Returning to the process:
Of course, you fit your bust by a high bust measure rather than a full bust because pattern companies draft off a B-cup size. High bust ensures that the shoulders and back fits as well. Because the bust size for 14 was closer to my own full bust measure, and because I alter the back anyway, I decided to do a 14 with a smaller FBA.
I traced off the 14 and began my series of flat pattern measuring, starting with the back.
- 4″ below my back neckline
- across the width of my back from underarm to underarm, at side seam.
- Down the CB to the waist, along the seam line.
My back measurements dictated I had to do a LOT of altering. And the shoulder seam was much too long. Something wrong with the pattern.
New plan: Retrace size 12 for the shoulders down, tapering to a 14 at the waist.
I drew a line perpendicular to the grainline at the waist and chopped my pattern piece in half. I like to do that because I find it easier to play with the pattern above the waist. I took a 1.5cm tuck in the back from the waist up, parallel to the grainline, based on my measurements and ease calculations. The upper shoulder could have more taken out, and I probably will when I’m sewing it. That will be easy because I have a center back seam. I allowed myself 1″ of ease across my back.
Printed on the pattern was 5.5″ ease for the bust. Size 12= 34″ bust, 39.5″ finished.
My full bust is 39″. Add 5.5″ for 44.5″. I should add 5″ of ease.
I had 1″ ease across the back, I just needed another 4″. I hate doing more than a 1.5″ FBA (distorts things nastily sometimes) so I decided my semi-fitted jacket would be slightly more fitted. I won’t line it, which will reduce bulk.
I chopped my piece in half at the waist and only worked with the top portion to perform my 1.5″ FBA. I also chopped out the area of the bust dart and repositioned it.
AFTER the FBA, I measured the front waist. I measured again and again and again, somehow it was exactly right. I re-attached the bottom half of the pattern piece and graded the side seam.
I measured down the center back to the waist, compared that to my own, and took out a 3cm wedge, tapering to nothing at the side seam. Re-attached the bottom half of the piece, trued up the seams. The back seam looks weird.
Basted the whole thing together, tried it on, fit like a dream. Size Steph.
Sorry for the switching back and forth to metric, I find it easier to do my alterations metrically because seam allowances are 1.5cm.