Monday, February 27, 2012

An Enlightening Exercise, and a Grand Plan

Because it was my birthday, I was able to corral Hubby into doing my bidding yesterday and had him help me make a Body Map.  It was a Very Interesting Exercise.

For the last week, I've been spending the majority of my sewing energy reading up on fit, in preparation for a plan I have for the end of March.  Hubby has to go to a meeting for several days, so I decided that I'm going to use that space of time to try to conquer the Peony dress.  It finally occurred to me that knowing how to do various alterations is no help if I don't have a good grip on the alterations needed for my body.  Thus, I've been reading both the book my mom gave me for my birthday, as well as Fit for Real People, which I bought a few months ago.  The other day I got to the part about making a Body map, and decided I wanted to try it out.

The book has step-by-step instructions on how to do it.  You are really just transferring major points on your body to a large piece of paper and then tracing around your body (hence the need for a helper).  It's not very clear because we did it in pencil, but here's my full map:

The only big paper I had was gift wrap!

I have to admit that there was a part of me that thought his exercise was kind of hokey.  And yet, it both confirmed some ideas I had about my body, and pointed out other things of which I wasn't aware.  The gist of the exercise is that you are comparing your body to the ideal proportions of a body - not measurements, but proportions based on height.  The reason why the paper is folded is that the proportions are based on dividing your body in eighths, so you fold your outline in half from your feet to the top of your head, and then fold both those in half again.

So here's what I found out:

Confirmed
1)  my legs are short
2)  my head is small
3)  my shoulders are a tiny bit broad
4)  my hips at their widest point are the same width as my shoulders




Enlightened:
1)  My waist is exactly half way between the top of my head the the bottom of my feet - the ideal proportion!  I've always assumed I'm long-waisted because when I knit sweaters, I generally have to add an inch or two in length at the bottom.  (And this opens up a whole other topic that's been on my mind lately:  the difference between getting the right fit with hand knits and getting the right fit with sewn garments.)

2)  My right shoulder is about 3/8" lower than my right shoulder.  Which explains why my right bra strap is constantly falling down!

3)  Although my legs are short for my height (which these ladies said is most common for women under 5'6") my lower legs are long.

4)  My left hip is fuller than my right hip, which explains why I often feel some bagginess in the right hip on pants.  I really thought I was just imagining it!

5)  Because my shoulders and full hip are the same width, I have an hourglass figure (how glamorous!).  Until yesterday, I've always believed I was a triangle.

6)  My left hip is lower than my right (interestingly, by the same amount that my right shoulder is lower than the left).  I'm wondering if this has anything to do with the bursitis I have in my left hip . . . 

7)  Although my shoulders don't slope enough to be considered "sloping," my armpits are slightly higher than the norm, which may explain whey I often feel that the shoulders are too high in garments.

right shoulder

right shoulder 

At least something is where it's supposed to be!

This isn't the whole story, but it does provide me with some initial clues that I'm hoping will help me find the fit I'm looking for in fitted garments like the Peony dress.

torso


Have any of you ever done this exercise?  Did you find it valuable?

29 comments:

  1. Well Happy Birthday! I have always wondered about doing one of these (you know how I love anything that might be a gimmick :-)) but I haven't got around to it.

    I think I would find it valuable. Everything one can learn about ones body and its proportions is entirely useful - whether sewist or no. As you know, I've been doing yoga for more than half of my life so I have a very good understanding of my symmetries and asymmetries. It matters not only because of how you look in and wear clothes, but because it's a reflection of how your body functions.

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    1. Thanks, Kristin! You were the first person I though of, actually! I'm kind of surprised you haven't done one!

      I do a lot of yoga too - and have a pretty good understanding of my asymmetries in movement. But I never made the connection to fit! Doh!

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  2. I was actually looking at this concept recently,
    I came across this page:
    http://www.insideoutstyleblog.com/2009/04/body-proportions-explained.html

    I actually have a blog post planned on the exact same thing! How coincidental! Though I didn't do a full on body map like you. It's an interesting concept to think about!

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    1. Too funny! Thanks for the link - I'll study that in full when I've got a little more time (trying to get my house cleaned at the moment, but easily distracted, as you can see!). I'll look forward to reading your experience with it.

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  3. Happy birthday! I am fascinated with this exercise and had never heard of it. It seems it would help you to know what would look good on you before you make it, rather than trial and error method most of us use.

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    1. Thanks, Kristen! Yes, knowing what styles look good for each body type is one of the upcoming chapters. Haven't made it there yet because of all the birthday revelry!

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  4. Happy birthday Gail. I hope you had the best of days!

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  5. I've never done this but can absolutely see how useful it would be. Isn't is so interesting to think about our bodies and shape in this way -- I love your notes.

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    1. Thanks, Evelyn! It's very interesting - I usually just moan about how nothing fits, but I've never really questioned why until recently.

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  6. how interesting! I've never heard of body mapping, but it sounds so fun. Funny to find you're not short waisted, you're a glamorous hourglass, etc. I don't sew much clothing (and instead spend my time griping about how store-bought clothing doesn't fit my extremely lanky figure), but this totally makes me want to do a body map and start sewing!

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    1. Well . . . I can't say it was fun. It was actually a little stressful (physically) having to stand completely still for such a long time. I ended up feeling faint and had to take a couple breaks!

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  7. Interesting - I'd never heard of body mapping before! It sounds like a useful exercise but I must admit that I don't like the idea of comparing oneself against an ideal. It always begs the question: whose ideal?

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    1. I'm surprised you hadn't heard of it, because you've spent a lot longer studying than I have, I think. I don't like to compare myself to an ideal either, but if this is the standard pattern companies are using in drafting their patterns, it could be useful information to have. And there has to be some kind of standard, because bodies come in too many varieties!

      Per Johanna's link above, it looks like the system originated with da Vinci, although I've only skimmed the article as of right now.

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    2. When you put it that way, I see how it could be useful to compare oneself to a standard.

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    3. Possibly not as useful for you, since you know how to draft your own, and it seems you tend to use independent designers' patterns more than the big pattern companies. But a good little piece of information to tuck away.

      It has made me curious how much the independent designers follow these standards, especially given your post yesterday about the Banksia blouse.

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  8. Firstly, happy birthday!!

    This is so interesting. A good portion of my brain wants to do it so that I can have a more objective view of my body and proportions, but that other part is smacking the first part and asking what the heck its thinking. :)

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  9. This is such a cool idea. Being able to visualize why items don't fit is something I struggle with. I'll have to check it out!

    Also, happy birthday. :)

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    1. I don't think it's the whole story, but it's a good start!

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  10. I've wanted to do this since I got "Fit for Real People" but as usual a lack of time gets on the way. Maybe this fall? I hope you’re able to usefully translate this into your Peony.

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    1. Once I got to that part of the book, I remembered you saying you wanted to try it. I haven't had time yet to read further on how to actually use this information!

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  11. Oh, wow, what a cool exercise! I really struggle with fitting garments and trying to understand what is really going on when something looks or feels wrong. How enlightening!

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    1. Me too. I wish sewing was ONLY about the construction. 'Cause that part is super fun!

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  12. I just posted about my croquis and body map, and kristinm100 commented about your fun with body mapping. Ha! I thought it was a bit hokey at first, too, and although it confirmed some things I already knew, it was still enlightening.

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    1. I just checked out your post, and I'm going to be interested to see what use you make of it. I'm still a little on the fence about the next step in the book: the tissue fitting.

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  13. First: Happy Belated birthday! I'm so behind :-( I hope you have a great getaway.

    Second: This is on my never-ending to-do list. I'm glad to hear it was valuable and eye-opening. It will bump up on my list! P.S. I wouldn't have thought to use gift wrap, but that's a good idea!

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    1. Didn't you have a birthday too? I seem to remember our birthdays were close together!

      LOL - the gift wrap was because I was too cheap to use my "expensive" pattern making material! Plus, I don't think it would have stuck to the wall so easily, since it's kind of heavy.

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  14. Our mental image of how we look is usually way different than what others see.
    This exercise sounds like it's a good way to learn more about one's self.
    Now you have a possible explanation of the whys some garments fit, or miss-fit :*)
    I'm thinking that my Intagliata Henley Pullover could possibly a total 'win' if upon completion it's a comfy fit. Flattering? That an entirely different subject.

    You know what they say, "The more you know - - - "

    thanks
    Gerry

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