Fit Rules – Personal Block Development

Fit Rules – Personal Block Development

For over 20 years I’ve been teaching pattern making and I swear I can teach that subject blindfolded.  However recent events have me delving into an entirely new area of expertise; personal fittings. 

Why RTW doesn’t fit so many of us:

Industry pattern making (my background) and RTW (ready-to-wear) is based on a size chart that favours the median in the population.  By that I mean we work with size charts derived from a large number of body measurements, from an even larger number of people (representative of the population, around 5-10,000 people/cases).  All those measurements are analysed and they arrive at the median fit for the population across a set of sizes.  My understanding (sorry no reference here. :/) is that the median, as represented in the set of sizes used by RTW and commercial pattern companies, only covers 20% of the population.  So if you have nine friends (10 of you in total) then only two of you can buy RTW without much grief.  The rest of us (80%) have to make-do and be condemned to never find a well-fitted dress or pair of trousers.  :/  This is the experience that drives so many to sew for themselves.

Median: The median of a finite list of numbers can be found by arranging all the observations from lowest value to highest value and picking the middle one (e.g., the median of {3, 3, 5, 9, 11} is 5).

What I discovered:

In the last few months I’ve run the Personal Block Development (PBD) workshops twice and have finally settled on a format that I think maximises understanding and practice.  I’ve found it’s not sufficient to merely make the initial changes to the block based on body measurements.  These changes are often considerable but are in fact only the beginning of the process.  The opportunity to see how these block changes sit on your body is crucial.  So the initial half-day fitting offered with the workshops has now become two half-days of fitting, set one week apart.  Yay, the opportunity to make at least two toiles to perfect your block fit.  🙂

The diagram above sets out the sequence of the Personal Block Development (PBD) workshops and the link through to Basic Pattern Making (BPM) and the Advanced Pattern Making training (ADV).  These workshops will always be scheduled on the weekend and scheduled to give students an opportunity to use the all the skills learned before moving onto to the next level of pattern making.   Check out the website for more detail and bookings.  If you’re not in Australia I now have my garment blocks online as PDF downloads for you to try.  And follow this blog for posts about fitting and pattern making.

Fit Rules & The Median:

As you work your way through each of the body measurements you begin to observe certain relationships between the measurements (I call these Fit Rules).  For example if you have to add 1 cm to your shoulder length then it’s likely you have broad shoulders (only compared to the median) and you may need to see the same changes in the across back measurement.  If you always find that shop bought dresses are too high in the waist: then it’s likely that you’ll always have to increase the length of the bodice to the waist in all patterns and blocks.  For each individual sewer there’s a set of personal Fit Rules that can be identified and used to alter any block or commercial pattern.

Using my own Fit Rules, I’ve included an example below of the conclusions reached during Personal Block Development and the Fit & Alter sessions and how I’ll use them to modify any pattern or block based on a commercial (median) size chart.

If you’ve any questions about your own block or pattern alterations or this post, don’t hesitate to ask.  Always happy to help.  🙂

Anita McAdam
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