Sunday, February 26, 2017

fitting and pattern alterations

One of the more challenging aspects of my job is drafting patterns to fit a variety of body shapes and fitting them to the individual.

Over the years you realize that almost no one is symmetrical, but some people are less symmetrical than others, sometimes from their occupation, sometimes from bad posture or habits (like carrying a heavy bag on one shoulder for years) some from injuries or occasionally a medical condition.

This week I fit a mock up suit on an actor/dancer who has scoliosis.

I had not measured him myself nor had I fit him before, so I drafted up a jacket and trousers to his basic measurements making no special pre-adjustments, figuring I would do that in the fitting.
Here is a photo of the my fitting adjustments.

I pinned out across his back as the left side is quite dropped, and on his right, I just cut the toile open over his blade.
(a good reason to make a muslin because you can cut it open rather than guess how much to add, and you can draw on it! )

Here is a look at it on a stand.

So, what to do?
First, I let it sit for a while, getting on with some other things which gave me a bit of time to think about it all. Then I made copies of the original pattern so I had individual pieces for his right and his left sides. Two back two side panels and two fronts.

I altered the left side of the pattern for a severely dropped shoulder/side. This entailed cutting from the mid back and mid front, angling down to the side back and front panel seam and closing out a good 1.5 cm there. the side panel piece was similarly reduced. (I will refit and see if this was enough of a modification.)

On the right side, I cut open the pattern down over the blade to the waist line. I cut horizontally at the waist line allowing the panel to spread apart the amount that I determined it needed in the fitting.
This opens up the back shoulder of course, and creates a large dart.

Now, this is going to be a striped suit. 
I laid the back patterns out on the fabric and had a look at what my options were.
The lower portion of backs need to be parallel, and could be, no problem. The CB at the neck needs to end up mid stripe or give that impression as well. I knew I might have to modify the dart placement to be as discreet as possible. 
I was not sure how this would look, but I chalked it out and pinned it up and I think it looks pretty good. At the neck, the left back ends up on a red stripe and the right back ends up with a full blue stripe! Win, win situation there! I did modify the dart placement slightly and I hope it becomes less noticeable once it is sewn
I am hoping that this does the trick, but I expect to have to tweak things a little bit more with some light padding here and there so I have my fingers crossed and onwards we go. The fronts need a bit of modification as well, but minor compared to the back so we will put the shell of this together and see what else needs to be done.


  1. This is amazing. I would love to take a class with you, if you ever teach? The only experience I have had with asymmetrical shoulder issues I had to solve with shoulder pads built into a t shirt, since we had no time to hand tailor for the actor. It worked pretty well, although the look of this really makes me wish we could've done better by him! Can't wait to see the finished product.

    1. I do teach sometimes. On occasion I have been hired to come in to a theatre wardrobe and give master classes to small groups and I have also done some one on one teaching which really works for me rather than teaching in academia.

  2. Terri - how did dropping the left shoulder so much affect your left sleeve circumference at the arms eye, and can you share what you did to fix that given so much was pinned out to accommodate his shape?...

    1. I have dropped the left side but have not touched the armhole.
      The whole armhole gets lowered in this case by slashing out below the armhole, i dont know if you can see that cut and taped area from mid back to the side back seam. This maintains the overall shape of the armhole.
      More later when I have a bit more time to respond.

    2. I did end up making adjustments dropping the left armhole further which he needed. It also helped keep the armholes similar in size, otherwise, yes, we could have had two different sized armholes and therefore two different sleeve patterns.
      I did have to adjust the set of the left sleeve compared to the right.

  3. Ahh...I was either reading the pictures too fast or hadn't had enough coffee! :)

  4. Very interesting, thank you. I look forward to Act II.

  5. Nice. No signs at hip level?
    I would have done a quasi dart on the left shoulder too, so it looks symetrical

    1. That is an excellent point and I wish I had thought of it myself.
      He does not seem to have much distortion at hip level, but it is something I am checking at the next fitting.

  6. Hello, thanks for this post and blog.
    I am tailoring learner from Indonesia.
    it`s hard to find a blog about tailoring in my mother language and my english is awfull. Fortunately, your writing is quite understandable (with assisst google tranlate offcourse).
    So please keep writing and sharing. :)

  7. I have scoliosis as well and it's great to see it addressed in the fitting... especially a coat. I always struggle with this because I don't want to over adjust and have it draw more attention to the deformity.