How to spot a good fit

What is a good fit?

When you sew a garment it’s obvious you want it to fit, but it’s not always equally obvious what “a good fit” means. And how do you spot a good fit or bad?

A good fit in a garment includes a range of factors.

Not only how the garment sits on your body but also shape and the balance your clothes has on you and with each other. The balance, or harmony, depends on the color, texture, and print of the fabric too. It’s a whole science.

It is complex, but don’t give up the idea of perfectly fitting clothes. Like everything, the concept is easier to grasp when you divide it into smaller parts. Let’s get technical for a while and ask ourselves;

What’s the definition of a good fit?


The traditional definition

One of my favorite definitions is in the book Fitting and Pattern Alteration (3rd edition) by Liechty, Rasband, and Pottberg-Steineckert (Bloomsbury Publishing Plc) it reads:

“For a good fit, the contours of the garment must conform closely to the contour of the body…] […Clothing must lie smooth, without wrinkling, pulling, or sagging while camouflaging figure variations that would otherwise be emphasized by the wrinkling, pulling, or sagging! It sounds simple but it’s not.”

Seriously, what’s not to love about that “wake up and smell the roses” kind of message? 🙂

But no bad light on the authors! The description looks much the same in any published text about fit. The general rules of fit aren’t very exciting but they’re good to have anyway, so let’s dive in.


Ease is added space in a garment make it wearable, and not only a second skin. There are two types of ease.

Wearing ease

Is the room in a garment that allows you to breathe and move around. It’s usually only a couple of centimeters or less than one inch to get you into the clothes but not enough to sit or bend.

Design ease

The flow or structure needed to fulfill the look the designer had in mind when she envisioned the finished garment.


The wearing ease and design ease together make up a garment’s silhouette. Here are three basic silhouettes but you can find a range of variations of these in an actual garment.


A fitted garment should follow the contour of your body and the center front, center back and side seams should be exactly perpendicular to the floor. You can clearly see the body shape behind the fitted garment.


A regular-fitting garment should follow the proportions of your body and not be baggy. The shoulders and back of the garment should match the shoulders of the person wearing the clothes. The garment skims the body without being too revealing.


Oversized garments should be balanced with a good fit over the shoulders and neckline should not be too big. Side seams and center front and center back seams should hang perpendicular to the floor. The body shape is totally hidden by the garment.

11 general rules of a good fit

Here are the technical descriptions of fit in different parts of a bodice, so you’ll know where to look:

    1. Start at the top. The garment should hang straight down from the shoulders and lay flat against the body without wrinkles or creases.
    2. Shoulder seams lay on top of the shoulder, straight out from the neck to the shoulder tip and invisible if you view the garment straight from the front or back.
    3. The upper back lay flat and there’s no drag lines or folds.
    4. The neckline lay flat against the body and is not too deep or too narrow.

    5. There’s enough room for the bust and the buttoning doesn’t gape.
    6. Darts in the front, pointing  straight at the bust point.
    7. Armhole (armscye) seams are in line with the crease between the arm and the body.

    8. Side seams sit vertically in the middle between the front and back of your body and perpendicular to the floor with no slanting.
    9. Waist and hemlines are parallel to the floor.
    10. Sleeve seam is at the center of the underarm.
    11. Sleeve cap grainline is perpendicular to the floor. Always fit the sleeves last.

Fit also includes how you wear your clothes… Ok, I can hear you go; “Holy cow, does it ever end?!” 

Relax, that’s a topic for a whole other post.

I’ve created a checklist for you with all the information you need  to take the measurements I’ve talked about in this article. It also comes with a list you can fill in with your personal measurements.

Get your FREE checklist here

What’s next

Now it’s time for you to check out your wardrobe and analyze the fit of your clothes. Do they have room enough? Maybe they’re too roomy?

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

What’s your definition of a good fit? 

Sew great!

Leave a Reply

Share this with a friend