Fabric laid out on bed with half-circle skirt pattern pinned on, ready to cut

The Clothes Make the Woman

64 Arts

Or, rather, the woman makes the clothes!

Last time we talked about measurements, now it’s time to get to the fit.

I love the scene in Monster In Law where Jennifer Lopez’ character says, “Well, I’m making the dress to fit me,” talking about her wedding dress and the fact that she’s not starving herself into one. Bravo for the sentiment, certainly, and that goes for any clothes!

So! (Or, well, Sew…) Presuming you’ve bought the pattern closest to your size it’s time to compare the base measurements to yours and see what, if anything, needs to be adjusted. In my case, being more plus-sized than the pattern, everything needed to be bumped 6 or 7 inches, depending on the measurement.

If you find yourself in the same situation, keep in mind that the difference between the pattern measurement and your own is TOTAL. If you have one pattern piece for the front and one for the back (or 2 sides or whatever), remember to divide the difference by each piece of the puzzle, adjusting for whichever section needs it the most and how your particular garment is constructed.

Here’s how it worked out, cutting the pieces for my dress:

Since the front is one long piece from shoulder to hem and fairly fitted, I decided to allow 4 inches of increase for the front. Your first thought might be that it’s easiest to just add a couple of inches to each edge but your first thought would not be the best in this case. While there are exceptions, changes to the length or width of a garment are best done within the body of the pattern.

Sometimes it will be clearly marked, like here, where there’s a line through the bodice that says “lengthen or shorten here.” Basically, this is the safest place to adjust the pattern without messing with any of the fiddly fit bits, pre-marked darts and so forth. This particular line is good for those with a longer torso. Though on garments designed with a longer line in mind, a bit of a fold of the pattern to get the marked waistline to hit at the right point would not go amiss.

Close-up of a dress pattern, with adjustment line shown

I’m pretty short-waisted and this pattern seems like it’ll do okay for me as-is, lengthwise. Where I needed the change was width! Like a lot of dress patterns, this front bodice is one piece that’s meant to be cut on a fold. While it may mean adding an extra dart or two to keep the neckline from gaping, the easiest place to add the needed width was the center. I just measured and moved back the pattern from the folded edge 2 inches (remember, since the piece is folded, only allow 2 extra inches for each side, totaling the needed 4 when it’s all flat). I could have also extended the waist and hip measurements but, after seeing how the front fastens at the back of the waist and the back covers it, a longer loop closure will take care of any needed inches and the back of the dress will hide it.

Cut out bodice pattern piece showing added center section

The back is divided into a bodice and 2 parts of a skirt. The back bodice was cut out last, but I’m showing it out of order so you can see another way of making a pattern fit your measurements. In this case I needed to allow a certain amount of additional width in the center so used the same technique as above, at first. Since the waist edge goes all the way around, though, I needed to make sure it would reach. Adding the extra inches to the entire bodice would have made it way too loose but extending just the tail of the sides wouldn’t work because it would risk a bit of a gap along the sides.

So I made a slit between the pre-marked dart and the inner edge of the shoulder/neckline and added a couple of extra inches by splicing in parchment paper (from the kitchen). Because I didn’t want to create issues with the shoulder seams not matching, though, I kept the shoulder the same width and just moved out the bottom piece in a wedge. I have a feeling this will work the best. Time will tell.

Fabric laid out on bed with half-circle skirt pattern pinned on, ready to cut

The skirt was a chore. While I’m certainly looking forward to the fullness the circle skirt will provide, cutting each half out flat was more than even the kitchen table could handle. The bed was the only place large enough (other than the floor–and I really hate having to cut out fabric on my hands and knees) to accommodate the pattern. Just make sure you don’t pin or cut anything but the layer of fabric you intended to!

This was actually an exception to the don’t add inches to the edges rule. Because of the pattern being so large and cumbersome (and fairly straightforward for a circle skirt) I just added about an inch or a smidge more to each edge to increase the waist circumference. Of course, as I’m writing this and thinking about it, the way this dress fits, I probably should have allowed more. I’ll be sure to pin-fit it first, but I have a feeling I’m going to need to add some lenth at the wiast edge–the best way to do that, I’m thinking, is just to cut a large hole in the center–after all, I’m pretty sure the skirt is going to need hemming, this way it won’t need as much!

Back bodice pattern with wedge-shaped adjustment made.

Which brings us to the why of the muslin. While I’m hoping that this test-dress turns out to be something I can actually wear, at least around the house, the muslin gives you a chance to work out the fiddly bits of a pattern. Usually what makes a piece of clothing interesting are the sort of details that can trip you up in the making of it. The fact that this dress, especially when done in contrasting fabrics, looks like a full skirt wrapped around a sheath dress means that I’ve got to account for my waist and hip measurements twice: not something I’d normally have to do. Then again, since my test fabric is a knit (and the pattern was meant for a woven), the stretchiness might help cover my errors this go-round while I sacrifice the fuller skirt for a heavier, flowy one.

It’s my best intention to get this sewn up this weekend so I can show you the finished muslin and we can move on to other forms of needlework. Of course, being that it’s December and everyone’s calendars are filling up fast–mine is certainly no exception–we’ll have to see what actually shakes out. Chances are I’ll be just as surprised as you next Tuesday!
Until then, is there anything that wasn’t clear about today’s portion of the project that I need to explain better? Are you willing to try your hand at making a dress of your own, yet, or have I totally scared you off?

Girl vs. Closet

64 Arts

Nearing the end of our Art of Dressing arc, here’s the conclusion to my personal mission to decrease my fashion holdings.


Do you know how many pieces of clothing I had between my closet, dresser and in the laundry?


Three hundred and six garments. And that’s not counting things like undies, bras or pairs of socks.


Now, my goal was to get rid of 1/3 or 33% of my clothes. That meant over 100 items out of the closet and dresser drawers.

But I’m getting a bit ahead of my day, here.

Divide and Conquer

The sorted truth of my closet

The "sorted" truth of my closet

The best tactic seemed to be to, first, take everything out of the closet and dresser and sort them into some obvious categories:

  • Frequently worn tops
  • Frequently worn bottoms
  • Almost never worn anything
  • Items with potential fit problems

After the closet, alone, it was looking about 50/50 between the frequently-worn and the problem children. Once I emptied the dresser, though, things shifted a bit. It appears I’d been holding on to more casual-wear clothes and t-shirts than I’d realized. Granted, I’ve gotten into the habit of switching into pajama or yoga pants and tank tops or the like almost as soon as I get home from work so my collection of lounge-wear has increased over the last year or 2.

The first-round draft picks

The first-round draft picks

The items that were in the definite keep piles went straight back into the closet to free up space on the bed. I’ll admit that the closet looked rather bare with only those few pieces in it.

Just Add Bad Lighting

Now was the time I was dreading: trying on the iffy things and being brutally honest in the process. It was like going shopping and dealing with the dreaded dressing room, times 50 or so.

There were a few pieces that I’d put in the fit issues pile that fit better than I’d thought. Some went into a maybe pile (you know, the if-I-lose-5 pounds-these-might-not cut-off-my-circulation-when-I-sit-down borderline cases) and a several went back into the closet.

I thought I’d hit the jackpot when I put on my old black jeans and they were loose. Loose! Just as I was wondering how in the hell that had happened I checked the tag and realized I’d put my new black jeans in the wrong pile. The old black jeans were still just as tight as they’d been the last time I wore them and into the give-pile they went.

Decisions, Decisions

Decisions, Decisions

Try on. Take off. Rinse. Repeat.

And, yes, I did get rid of some frequently worn, fits but does not flatter at all items.

I’m so proud of myself, I might just have to go shopping. (kidding!)

Why Don’t I Wear This Anymore?

Doesn’t fit, forgot I had it, it looked better in the store… the reasons were plentiful and almost everything in the hardly wear pile went into the give-away one, instead.

All of the above took about 3 hours (far less than I thought it would) and I started counting each piece as I put it into the large box I’d snagged from the move for the purpose.

92 pieces after the first culling.

At the time I didn’t know how far that got me to the goal. It was only then I started counting how much was still hanging in the closet:

  • 112 pieces hanging up
  • 45 in the dresser
  • 51 items in laundry-transit

Add in what I’d already tossed (and the 6 items I set aside as wearable but in need of minor repairs), and we get the aforementioned mind-blowing 306.

This meant I was 9* pieces away from my goal.

Girl 1, Closet 0


TaDaa! (please ignore the lower-right shoe-clutter, I'm still dealing with that)

Though the final cull was a bit tougher–I ended up giving up pieces that I really liked but knew weren’t a perfect fit (literally or figuratively)–I’m so happy that, for once, my closet isn’t stuffed to the gills and bulging at the seams. There are a few holes in my wardrobe, now (all of my brown slacks, for instance, ended up being tossed) and I’m in a jeans-liking phase again so I want a few more pairs of the type that fit well (I only own one each of blue and black), but those will be purchased with a clear conscience, knowing that I have the room and will wear them instead of buying just because they’re there.

All of the clothes that I’m giving away filled (to practically bursting) a large packing box from U-Haul that proudly proclaims it’s capacity as 4.5 cubic feet. All will be on it’s way to Goodwill very soon.

*Yes, I realize I rounded down. As soon as the repairman comes to fix the washer and dryer that was delivered less than a week ago and I get a chance to finish my laundry, I promise to toss one more (clean) piece of clothing into the to-go box to make it exactly 33%.


We’re almost finished delving into the fashion files but make sure you come back on Thursday for another helpful how-to and a fashionable giveaway!

Heading Back Into the Closet

64 Arts

Continuing to muse about the Art of Dressing, I’ve hit a snag of closet proportions…


Back when we started this art, I showed you a picture of my closet. Nice, organized, everything in it’s place. Getting dressed was simple and easy, each day, because I could find what I was looking for with ease.

Before we moved, I knew I was going to need to reorganize things as I went back to a standard single-pole closet–at least for a while. The plan was thin the herd before it was time to pack it up but, well, with the chaos that surrounded the move itself, that plan fell by the wayside.

For the last three weeks, getting dressed has been a chore. A third of my close are stacked on the dresser or piled into 2 suitcases. The stuff that does (barely) fit in the closet is packed so tight that finding anything is impossible. Garments fall off the hangers but don’t fall to the floor because they’re sandwiched so tightly together. Skirts and slacks are interspersed with tops and dresses, and nothing is in color order anymore.

Chaos reigns.

The chaotic new closet

I'm embarrassed to show you this mess. (In fact, I'm not even showing you the bottom half because it is just. that. bad.)

Sure, I could take everything out, install new closet shelving, put things back in order but… is that really the best way to handle is?

Could it be, instead, that I have way too many clothes (as evidenced by the fact that I haven’t had to do laundry in the 3 1/2 weeks we’ve lived here)? Could it be, honestly, that I could stand to downsize my closet contents considerably? Could I, to be so bold, get rid of 1/3 of my clothes and still have plenty to wear?

That’s what I’m going to try, this weekend.

Of course, with a task like this, having some parameters will make the culling process go more smoothly.

Here’s what I propose as criteria for keeping an article of clothing:

  1. Fit and Flatter
  2. Wearability
  3. Do I love it?

Fit and flatter is pretty obvious: does it fit and, just because it fits does it actually flatter my coloring, figure, personality, etc.? While certain items might be a little snug here or there, we all know the exceptions we make for things we think look great on us. Wearability is the  catch: if, when I wear it, I’m constantly adjusting it, pulling at it or having to adjust my posture to make the item less pinchy (a very scientific term).

If I love it, though, I’m going to keep it. I’m not going to use the 6- or 12-month rule (as in, haven’t worn it in x months, ditch it) because some things are special occasion wear and those occasions don’t happen every 6 months. Some things are waiting for the next cruise-ship formal night for an excuse to leave their garment bag, you know? Also, items with sentimental value, even if they no longer fit, don’t have to go into the Goodwill pile. But they also don’t have to stay in the closet with the other wearables, either.

So. That’s my mission this weekend. Anyone feel up to taking on the challenge with me? What’s your keep versus toss list look like?

Maybe your closet is fine, maybe it’s your kids’ toys that have overgrown their bins, the stacks of magazines that need to be read or tossed, or even (dare I say it) craft supplies that need paring down.

I’ll let you know Tuesday how it went.

the 16th Art: The Art of Dressing

64 Arts

To choose garments and jewels to embellish the body, according the place and circumstances.

Who’s up for a little window shopping?

The art of dressing can be summed up in one word: STYLE.

And style is a very personal thing. While it used to be that a select few designers or magazine editors would determine silhouettes, hemlines and palettes which the majority strove to emulate, these days the number of designers is multitudinous, the off-the-rack clothing options nearly unlimited and the diy-aesthetic so entrenched that having a personal style is more achievable than ever. The globalizing effect of the Internet is not to be ignored, either!

In fact, why don’t we start there?

I don’t consider myself a fashionista or trend-follower (I tend to choose what I like from what’s available and ignore the rest), I enjoy following a few fashion blogs that keep me up on what other folks are wearing while existing on their own wonderful wavelengths:

Gala Darling

Doe Deere Blogazine

Jazzi McG

Nubby Twiglet

Even though I don’t share these ladies’ style preferences, I still love seeing how they put outfits together and live their style choices.

Do you have any fashion bloggers in your RSS-closet? Do you share their style or just like to look?