10 useful tips for fitting the clothes you sew

Neon sign spelling the word perfect

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A perfect fit

Do you spend too much time sewing garments that fit OK but not great?

How about that cute top that twists and pulls in all directions so now you don’t feel like wearing it anymore?

And, do you wonder how the shirt you sewed can droop like that when you checked and re-checked the measurements a hundred times? You don’t have to be embarrassed, everyone that sews has been in the same situation sometimes.

You’ve probably got it wrong somewhere. But where?

Have a look at these 10 useful tips for a perfect fit, and try some out.

It’s hard to know what a good fit looks like

As bad fit seems to be the standard these days, a good fit was more of a big deal back in the days. Before Ready-To-Wear, people either got bespoke garments made for them or sewed themselves. I think it’s lost general knowledge, and it’s sad. A good fit has so many benefits that everyone should get the chance to experience it.

Luckily, the choice to fit and sew our own clothes hasn’t disappeared. Everyone can have the luxury of clothes that fit.

It doesn’t have to be confusing

Sometimes it’s easier to narrow down what a good fit is by pointing out what it isn’t.

Here’s an overview of the most obvious places to look for fit and some useful tips to fit your garment to make you aware of what issues you can end up with and the reason why, so you can fix them. With this list, you’ll know where to start.

I’ve also made a checklist with the most important measurements you need to avoid the most common fitting mistakes you can download. You can get it at the bottom of this page.

10 things to look for when you’re checking your fit

In the front

1.Dropping shoulders

It occurs when the pattern doesn’t match your cross shoulder measure in combination with your shoulder width. The seam between the shoulder and the sleeve sits too far down on your upper arm.

2. Dragging neckline

A neckline pulling towards your back, and kind of feels like it’s choking you, is a sign that the shoulder seam isn’t positioned right. It’s a fairly common problem, which usually indicates that your shoulders are forward compared to the pattern seamline.

3. Drooping neckline

Most likely due to a mismatch of the shoulder slope of the pattern vs. your shoulder’s slope. Sometimes in combination with a difference in back width measure.

4. Gaping button band

A clear signal that the bust width of the garment is too narrow to accommodate your bust. The best way to avoid this is to make a full bust adjustment or choose a larger size.

5. Misplaced dart

There are many different darts you can use in a garment, but typical for all of them is that the end of a bust dart should always point at the body’s bust point. As a rule of thumb, it should end approximately 3 cm or just over 1 inch from your bust point. Closer if you have a larger bust, farther from if your bust is smaller. If it doesn’t, there’s a major risk that it ruins the look of the garment. And the fit.

Not over it and not under it, but directly at it.

6. Pointy dart

It occurs when there’s too much fabric between the dart point (on the garment) and the bust point (on the body). The dart needs to be longer, or the end of the dart tip is too straight.

7. Inadequate armhole/armscye

Too tight; You have chosen the wrong size or made a mistake when cutting and sewing the fabric.

It is too loose; it’s either a design feature or your arms are much thinner than the wearer it was designed for. You fix it by blending the pattern between sizes. An excellent reason why making a test garment is not a waste of time.

8. Creeping waistline

Not only a sign that the waistline is too tight, but it’s also almost always a clear indicator that your waist and the waist on the pattern are at different heights.

In the back

9. Pulling back

Not enough wearing ease in the back is very uncomfortable; the simplest solution is to choose a larger size.

10. Sagging back

When the back pattern piece is too straight and doesn’t accommodate the slight curve most people have in their lower back. Usually found on garments that don’t have a seam in the center back. And is very apparent if you have a sway back in combination with a fitted garment. Chose designs with a seam in the center back for easier fitting.


Don’t overdo it

Even if there seem to be endless ways to tweak the fit, there actually is such a thing as a too fitted garment. Please don’t overdo it. Remember that “good enough” is just that. Take the style into consideration, so you don’t alter the design when you’re fitting. And, you still want to be able to breathe and move. 

All of the above issues are interlaced. I only address the most common ones here because I know how annoying it is when you discover them after you’ve already finished your garment. Now that you’re aware of these issues, you can save some time and frustration in the future.

You can avoid most of them entirely by knowing and recording your measurements and keeping an updated measurement list nearby. And the absolute best way is to make a test garment or muslin, but that’s a topic for another post.

What’s next

Now you can start practicing your fitting skills with the help of the Better-Fit Checklist; use it to note the most important measurements you need to get a garment to fit perfectly.

Download the FREE checklist

This post is the third of a 4-part series about fit that covers the basics about fitting the clothes you sew:

What part of a garment do you think is the most important to fit well, and how do you usually solve it? 

Sew great!


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