Friday, December 13, 2013

Bodice Sloper: the pictures

Yesterday I gave a synopsis of the class itself.  Today I'll show you the adjustments I made to my bodice sloper.

To get the right fit, I had to do the following adjustments:

* more width at waist
* broad back adjustment
* round back - shoulder blade area
* lower bust darts
* broad shoulders
* forward shoulder
* higher, more sloping left shoulder
* sway back

Most of these were done to the bodice sloper, but a couple were added in on my sheath dress pattern.  The sloper pattern included with the class, McCall's 2718, comes with alteration lines and "outlets" (increased seam allowances) already printed on the tissue.  The first thing we did after reinforcing the curves with tape was to remove the long waist and broad back outlets.  Of course, I had to open my back piece out again almost immediately!  I ended up having to add in a half inch broad back adjustment - yep, that's a whole extra inch across my back.   And we haven't even gotten to the shoulders yet!

Because my upper chest fell into the size 8 but my waist does NOT, we added width there in a couple different ways:  a quarter inch at each side seam, and reduced width at all four waist darts of about a quarter inch each:

One adjustment that surprised me was that taking a tuck across the upper chest made the bodice fit much better.  I don't know that I would have figured that out on my own!  Of course, doing that changed the bust dart placement, so both the bust dart and the front vertical dart had to be lowered (purple pencil lines):

I'd already begun to suspect that my right shoulder is forward, but it turns out both of them are.  I had to move the shoulder seam forward by 5/8", tapering to nothing at the neck (blue pencil line).

And then we had to deal with the rounding in my mid-back.  On my bodice sloper I was able to get away with only a small dart at the neck, but when I got to the sheath pattern I also had to add a wedge of tissue there.  (Dart in red is barely visible on the right; added tissue is just above the number 6.)

Once my swayback adjustment was in place for the dress, the edge of the pattern that was meant to be the center back fold was quite curvy.  The pattern called for a side zip; to ensure the best fit I added 5/8" seam allowance to my center back so I could move the zipper there and keep the curves.  No great sacrifice for me, as I prefer a back zip to a side zip!  You can see in my fabric once the darts were sewn how curved the upper back is.  Makes me feel a little dowager-y, but I think it's mostly due to rowing.

Adding that half inch to the width of the back still didn't account for my broad shoulders, so we added another half inch to the armscye seam, tapering to nothing just above the under arm:

As an aside, you may have noticed the gridded paper used to add tissue to the patterns.  This is the Palmer/Pletsch Perfect Pattern Paper.  A piece was included with the class, and I liked it enough that I bought a package to bring home.  It's marked with 1/8" increments to make measuring easy.

And we can't forget the hips!  For the sheath dress, I graded from the size 8 at the bust all the way out to size 16 at the hip - and then Janet had me add on another 1/4" on top of that!  Once my dress was made up though, I realized that I could have gotten away without the added extra.

One problem with tissue fitting in this way is that it doesn't account for asymmetries - and my body is quite asymmetrical.  In my initial fitting, Janet told me that my left shoulder is more sloping than the right.  I've also known for quite some time that my right hip is not as full as the left.  When I made up my dress I did remove the extra width at the right hip, but I forgot to adjust the left shoulder, so while the fit is good, it still isn't ideal.  For me to get the best fit, I should probably do a full right/left tissue fit and then cut my fabric single layer.  More work than I'm likely to go to for everyday items, but if I were making a special occasion garment I would certainly consider it.

Because I have so much trouble with garments being tight across my biceps and mid-back, I wanted to try out adjusting a sleeve under Janet's guidance - even though I wanted my dress to be sleeveless.  I didn't take pictures of my sleeve though, because my adjustment mostly involved cutting away so you can't see the original lines.  My sleeve cap ended up having a more vertical curve at the front; the dot for matching to the shoulder seam moved forward by the same amount as the forward shoulder adjustment; and tissue added to the back sleeve seam allowance (not the back of the sleeve cap) until the cap measured 1" greater than the armscye.

When we fit the sloper bodice, most of what we did made sense.  I had a harder time though with the "fashion pattern" - adding in the garment ease sort of threw me off.  I think it's going to take me a while to figure out how to use these adjustments to get a great fit, but not over-fit.

That said, the dress I made fits pretty well - certainly much better than anything ready-to-wear, and better than previous attempts at fitted dresses.  There are a few things I could do to tweak it:  fix that left shoulder for one.  Maybe bring in the side seams a litle from the high hip down.  And in my rush to finish my "homework" I completely forgot to staystitch and interface the neckline, and it did stretch out so it gapes a little.   But it's totally wearable - and I've already tried it out with my Holt coat and it looks quite nice.

Can you see how the home-made bias seam tape I made peeks out a little at the bottom back?  Sway back in action!  So interesting!


  1. This is so interesting! That class sounds phenomenal! It makes me wonder how many alterations I would need to do... I always feel like my clothes fit pretty well, but maybe I just don't know any better!

    1. It really was great! All the alterations sort of make me feel like a circus freak, LOL! My clothes have not been fitting me well, so learning which adjustments I need is the key to fixing that.

  2. Thank you for sharing your process in this class, Gail! It sounds really interesting. I need a lot of the same adjustments (broad back, broad shoulders, smaller bust than waist, swayback), so it was cool to see how you achieved those. I'd be curious to learn more the nuts and bolts of transferring those adjustments to a garment with ease - did Janet have any good advice?

    1. She really didn't. Or rather - it didn't occur to me to ask that until after I got home! It seemed though that it will usually require at least pin-fitting, if not doing the whole routine.

      One reason I have difficulty wrapping my head around it is that the preferred amount of ease is different for everyone. Lots of people prefer very little ease; I like more room, but don't want my garments to look so big that they don't fit. I think it's going to take a little work to find the happy medium.

  3. Very interesting! Looks as though you have some of the same fit "features" (not issues ;) ) as you. How exciting for you to learn this stuff. I'm going to keep fumbling along as I can't afford a class haha, hopefully I'll figure it out!
    I bet this will be so helpful to you :) keep up updated if you have any more revelations. I'm thinking of trying to create a perfect fit darted bodice block for myself... what do you think?

    1. I mean same fit issues as ME lol

    2. You have done a MUCH better job at figuring out this stuff on your own than I have! Taking this class only helped me catch up!

      I think you could do this on your own, especially if you have the book - but maybe even the sloper pattern has the instructions (I didn't look!). I think you do need an extra pair of hands, but it might be a good activity for a sewing meet-up?

  4. It's really cool how you can make these adjustments after one go already at the pattern.

  5. thanks for sharing this! it's so interesting to see all the adjustments needed for a good fit. maybe someday i'll have the patience for all that work...

    1. What? You already do adjustments, don't you? Or are you one of the lucky ones who doesn't need so many?

  6. Note to self: remember to staystich the neck! Also, I didn't realize until now that you were making the sleeveless version. I think my sleeve alteration looks a bit odd so I'm curious to see how it translates into the actual dress. I'm getting started on my homework today.

    1. Yes, reading the instructions might have been a good idea :-) You know how averse I am to that, LOL!

      I wanted to know how to do the sleeve alterations for blouses and for spring dresses. But for a dress like this I think sleeveless works better because I will always be wearing it with a jacket or cardigan. I hate it when my dress sleeves get all lumpy in the sleeves of the jacket! Also, I get too hot :-)


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.