Monday, February 18, 2013

Both ends of the size spectrum

Last week I was able to get a couple of fittings on the Bekishe coats that we are making.
These are traditional long coats traditionally worn at weddings.
The designer wanted very soft construction and not necessarily a perfect fit, so these will get some breakdown later. They have only a single layer of hymo for support, no shoulder padding and they will only get a half lining to keep everything soft.
I was happy that they worked out so well. though one could argue perhaps too well, since the fit was pretty spot on.

We have four of these Bekishe and two of the Kapoteh to make in sizes from 36" chest to a 52" chest.

When I am cutting multiples, I prefer to have one prototype fitting to see if I have interpreted the style to the designer's satisfaction. Unfortunately, we didn't have that opportunity, so I was cutting right into fabric hoping that both the fit and the style were OK.

I don't grade my patterns up or down to get the different sizes. I just draft each of them as I go. Grading isn't a skill that I really have- I understand the premise but I really don't have practical experience with it. I tend to draft one pattern in which I work out the proportions I think I will use on the other sizes, ( the amount of waist suppression, the size of the panels at the waist, overall length, the amount of flare in the skirt) make notes and then draft each one separately. Drafting new takes less time than trying to teach myself a new skill set that may or may not be the best choice in the situation.

In the top photo, I am dealing with the smaller end of the size range and the bottom photo shows the larger.
The gentleman in the top photo I had never seen before, I just got his numbers and a photo to work from so I felt very gratified to have such a good fit.
In the bottom photo is someone I have made for before, but hadn't done anything like this for him. 
(you know, I keep certain patterns but honestly I rarely get them out and use them again, not that an eighteenth century coat pattern would have made life any easier)

The challenge for me was to try to quantify my draft in a larger size. 
Most drafting systems are based on a 5'8"tall man with a 36" or 38" chest and as you draft for sizes past about a 44" chest, the formula starts to go wonky. Things like the depth of the armhole and the width of the back neck.
That's when I think it comes in handy to be willing to adapt and adopt bits and pieces of knowledge as you go. It also helps to have a lot of experience, to lessen the worry when cutting right into the fabric.

I do wish I had more time to analyse things like this while at work, but for now I just try to scribble notes on the pattern as I go and hope that at some future time I can go back and look at it, and it will make sense. 

Tomorrow I have one more to cut out in fabric, and the linings and bits of the three I fit this week to cut so they can be finished. 
Then I can start my patterns for the next show. Onwards!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Shirt Rant

Shirt Rant
I have been lurking for a while in an mens internet clothing forum and it is an eye opener in many ways.
Since I am concerned in my day to day work with theatrical tailoring, most of the styling I deal with is more period than current. 
That isn't to say that I have had my head buried in the sands of style.
I have been watching the modern suit and it's changes.

How short can they make those jackets?  How narrow can they make the trousers? How ill fitting are most of these suits on your average guy?

It isn't limited to the suit either. The shirt, once a comfortable garment is now tightened and modified without consideration to the person wearing it or its function. Worse, it is marketed  as something you can custom order to your own measurements. Just fill in the handy chart. Now there are masses of guys who have been measuring themselves (a bad idea) and sending in orders for slimmer and slimmer fitting shirts only to find they cannot bend their arms or wonder why there is still some excess fabric not plastered to their bodies.
On the plus side, the trend of the suit and learning about fit and clothes that go beyond a pair of sweats or jeans and a t-shirt is commendable.
But, these guys have little idea how a garment should fit, no idea of the limitations of fit especially in the online MTM business, yet they order anyway only to bemoan the ill fitting product they receive in the mail. They just don't know what they don't know. If you know what I mean.

I have been tempted to put in my two cents when I see things like this, but I just don't think I have the time to try to explain and enlighten the masses. Heck, I can barely find enough time these days to post on my own blog! 

So, shirts:
A shirt is a washable garment to wear next to the skin that, historically speaking,  that acts as a buffer between the body with its oils and perspiration and the more expensive and less washable over garment.
It provides both coverage and style. 
A shirt should have ease through the body. (A shirt is not a fitted bodice)
How much ease? Well a close fitting jacket is typically 4" larger than the chest measurement overall, so a shirt should have more ease than that. I have seen drafts with as little as 6" of ease total to 10 or 12" and more of ease.
The depth of the shirt armhole is generally lowered to allow for an easier fit. 

The rule is:
The smaller a garment gets, and the less ease it has, the  more it needs to be shaped to follow the three dimensionality of the body.

The shirt has limitations in fit.
 The fit is achieved through the seams and occasionally, vertical darts in the body. The front of a shirt is straight. The neck point therefore is much closer to the CF line than a jacket neck point is. In a jacket, the shifting of the neck point away from the CF is basically creating a dart in the front. This, among other things, allows the armhole to be closed down in size, and be shaped more like the body it is on. 
Simplistically speaking, in a shirt, some of the armhole size at the front  is reduced by sloping the shoulder  but there is a limit to how much can be taken out before it causes a problem fitting the actual shoulder. Surplus fabric could be taken out below the pecs by a vertical dart, but unless there is a dart or a seam going either into the armhole or up through a front yoke or bib front,  a shirt will naturally have some excess fabric in the front armhole.

This is generally not a problem until you start reducing the chest ease excessively, and raising the armhole.

The centre back of the shirt is cut on the straight. There is usually a yoke that allows for some shaping in the back over the blades. The armhole can be reduced in the back by shaping the yoke seam, as well as by some slope of the shoulder. There is a limit to the amount of fitting and armhole reduction here as well, because in men, the upper back is often more developed than the chest. There is also a range of motion that must be accommodated . Movement of the arms is generally forward, expanding the muscles of the back, and this needs to be allowed for.
A shirt will naturally drape off the upper back and the fabric will not sit sucked up against the body at waist level.
A shirt can have vertical darts under the blades to reduce excess fabric in the body and provide a cleaner fit. I have read over and over the advice to just take in the side seams. This is not going to do it, especially if you have prominent blades or a developed upper back.

The last seams available for shaping on a shirt are the side seams.  You can use them to reduce from the circumference of the chest to the size at the waist but again, only to a certain degree. You have to increase back out over the hip though. If the hip is too tight, the shirt will naturally ride up and blouse out at the waist.

What about armholes and sleeves? Traditionally, shirt armholes were straighter than jacket or vest armholes and the  sleeves were cut with a flatter and wider sleeve crown. 
A shirt usually allowed the arms to be raised close to horizontal without pulling the sides up.
If the ease in the body is reduced, the armhole is both smaller and more shaped. When this is combined with an attempt to reduce the armhole size by other means, the sleeve is now in a dilemma. It still needs to be wide enough to encompass the arm and the expansion of the muscles in movement.  It still needs to allow for some raising of the arm so it still needs a relatively flatter crown to go into an increasingly un-shirtlike armhole. What happens then is that the sleeve looks strangely bunched up when in a resting position. If the sleeve shape is modified to be more like a fitted bodice, or jacket, you limit the easy raising of the arms. 
It just feels like a no win situation doesn't it? I don't think the MTM shirt sellers can really be totally blamed because they are just working with the numbers the well meaning customer inputs into the system. You just can't manipulate the pattern randomly either, it is much more complex than for example reducing the size at any one point. Perhaps they should be defining the fit parameters and what they can modify to an individual and maybe avoid the returns and remake requests they must get on a regular basis. 

My thanks to the anonymous photo donors for their willingness to ask for advice online. 

End of rant.