Auxiliary Reference Information | Test Garment Creation | 6. Fitting a Test Garment

Notice I placed this Unit with Creating a Test Garment because this is where we should be doing the majority of any fitting, on the Test Garment for either the Base Template, the Working Template or a Flexible Pattern. However there may be an occasion where you will need to refer to this Unit when sewing the final Garment because the design may warrant it for example if you have changed the Neckline substantially on the Front and Back on a Bodice. You should not be having to do too many alterations at the point of making the end garment unless it is a very unusual design far removed from the Working Template if you have been following the process or if you have a pattern that requires close matching.

If you are doing a fitting on a final garment then you will need to ensure that stay stitching has been done appropriately and also tack the garment on the sewing line to assemble it by hand or machine (use a 4mm stitch length) prior to the fitting. By tacking you are ensuring that if you need to make any changes that you can unpick and do them without much effort.

Just be mindful about fit on a final garment if you are changing the type of fabric drastically from the fabric you originally designed the pattern for, this can have an big impact on fit if the fabric is bulkier or less dense than the design calls for. For example bulkier fabric will take up more space when it is turned into a seam or folded, this space used is called the ‘Turn of the cloth and if you have not accounted for this in the design and pattern drafting then you may have a slight fit problem, on small pattern pieces like collars this could be an issue.

Back to the Test Garment, at this point you will have sewn up the Test Garment and be ready to fit it onto the body.

You are going to put the garment onto the Client to assess how well it fits and make marks in pen on the Test Garment. Decide what colour pen you would like to use, I usually go red with an initial fitting and then change colour if I make alterations then do a second fitting with the same Test Garment. Also ensure that your pen will make a mark on the garment so you don’t have to press too hard and also ensure that the ink does not go through the fabric and mark the Clients underwear permanently.

Other things you may do on the Test Garment during fitting is to open up seams or slash it to add extra fabric in places, or pin out any excess that we find, I simply mention this at this point just to get you used to the idea!

As you have been careful taking a multitude of measurements and careful drafting and sewing for the Test Garment then it should be a simple process to be able to fit the Test Garment to the body, because you have already done some of the hard work.

After an initial assessment with the Test Garment on the Client, they will take it off and each alteration is measured and marked for position, depth and length and these changes are detailed back to the Master Base Template draft to make sure they are all captured. Then the Test Garment is altered according to the confirmed changes methodically ticking off each alteration to ensure they have been done on both sides of the Test Garment and refitted to check what was done and to see if there is anything else to change.

If the Test Garment is too mashed up after substantial alterations after the fitting and it is sensible to create a fresh new Test Garment (i.e. a new cutting copy, and cutting fresh muslin, thread tracing and construction) to start a new fitting from this point, this does take time but this is what you should do. Too many alterations to a Test Garment can result in mistakes or reduce the accuracy of the fitting. There are some alterations I think that if needed should be done before continuing with a fitting because they would impact the rest of the fitting (altering the Bust Point Level may be one of those alterations to consider here) so by making those changes you create a new base line to start from. Also there is no maximum number of alterations that you can do in one fitting session it is really your judgement, is the garment looking too complex or has the client simply just had enough and needs a rest (some people feel dizzy or nauseous standing for long periods). So you can have any number of alterations and any number of Test Garments that you will need to mock up. My expectation is to do around 6 alterations per Test Garment, that’s enough to get your brain around in one session I think much more than this and it can start to get confusing, and I usually need to do 2-3 Test Garments, but if it takes you several fittings be happy with the fit then so be it. You need to get the Test Garment as good as you can and look on the plus side at least you are getting time to contemplate the construction order of any garment and also makes you more familiar with the pattern.

Fitting is really the most important step in the whole process so it’s important to take time over this. You have a chance now to get the fabric on the body and let the body and fabric speak to you, it is actually quite a creative process I think because you are going to make some design decisions and offer advice to the client.

Remember that your fitting is your saving grace, if you have made any previous errors in measurement or calculation or sewing or even in design then this is the step that you can use to put it all right. It is the step that is going to give you the final touches for a fabulous fit. Remember that all your garments are going to rely on the success and quality of the Base Template so you need to give this Test Garment extra attention.

If you have been accurate with your measurements and your drafting and your sewing you should be nearly there with the fit for the Base Template Test Garment and subsequent tests for the Working Template and the Flexible Patterns. Although it is worth checking with the client to see if they have lots or gained weight documented on the original measurement sheet.

As I previously stated we are aiming for an 80% fit, so we are not expecting this Test Garment to be a perfect fit at this stage. You could expect a better fit at Working template and consequent Flexible Pattern stage and sometimes I might even skip a Test Garment for a Flexible Pattern if the design is very close to a Working Template (but don’t tell anyone!).

You are never going to get a perfect fit so don’t aim for that, there are just too many moving variables. What you are aiming for with a Base Template is a good snug smooth fit all over, where all horizontal guidelines are parallel to the floor and where all vertical guidelines are perpendicular to the floor, and all seam lines are in the correct positions or where you and the client agree that they should be. I actually think that fitting a Base Template Test Garment is the easiest to fit as you are simply getting the fabric close and snug to the body with the side seams and shoulder in the desired position and the neckline and armhole at the correct position, there are few other design requirements.

For me to explain fitting to you is quite a challenge because by no means have I fitted every body shape possible, or every garment shape and design that exists in the world. There are going to be lots of things that you come across that I may not have dealt with. It is also difficult to see what is going on in a photo, it is easier to do this in person so I would recommend coming on one of my courses to help you to progress through this section.

Due to the fact that everyone is a different size and shape there is no real order to do a fitting, and changing one area can affect another area on the body and there are millions of combinations of everything. I will however be pointing out what things to look out for as there are key elements to consider and what to do about them and give you an overall feel for the process. You can use these basics in a similar way for most garment so we can get on with nailing the basics here. You will need to spend time getting a feel for the whole process, reviewing the notes below, looking at the Test Garment on the client, assessing, unpicking, smoothing, pinching, pinning and trying out different things to get to the final result.

Also because you have created the drafts purposely for the Client alterations are different somewhat to what you would need to make on a manufactured pattern, they are not going to be as complicated as you won’t be altering sizes or bust adjustments to the same degree.

As the knowledgebase grows I will certainly be adding more details and samples photos for fitting into this section with an aim to helping you with this minefield.

Because of the involvedness and intricacy of fitting it is recommended to read through the whole fitting unit from this point on before having a go with your own fitting, this will help give you a better feel for what you are about to do, don’t worry about understanding all of it, it all should get clearer when you are actually doing it.

Keep in mind when fitting for a Flexible Pattern especially that you are also checking for the overall silhouette and design and proportion and also if the garment is flattering for the Client.

The Baseline for a great fit

As I said earlier you can use these notes to fit any draft – the Base Template, Working Template or the Flexible Pattern and final garment. The following sample photos and supporting text really places the focus on the Base Template.

Remember with a Base Template being the Mother of all patterns we need to get the best fit possible, that way the wearer is going to be more comfortable, less fidgety and in the end more confident in all subsequent garments made. Anything you do now will be inherited into everything else like genetics! Don’t forget that the Working Template will be adding in any wearing ease at a later stage so will obviously be looser and Flexible Patterns can be made from those with design ease to create looser garments and more casual feel.

By looking closely at the Base Template you can see that you have a multitude of lines all over the body that you can use to help with fitting both horizontally and vertically and also a number of Darts have been used (even though you cannot see all of them in the Test Garment they are there in the pattern waiting patiently in the seams). You have no other complication of design elements in play so this is a great baseline to work from. You are simply finalising the moulding with the fitting, smoothing the shaping over all of the curves with your guidelines already there to help you map out key positions.

Review your draft and remember where all of the Darts are located, you have manipulated some of these Darts out of the Test Garment and so may not see any stitch lines for them, if it helps you draw them onto the Test Garment just to remind you where they are, for example draw a line from the armhole to the Bust Point to give you an approximate position. Also if it helps label the guidelines, especially if this is your first time fitting, use anything you can to help your orientate yourself.

If you have made any observations during drafting then it is a good idea to transfer them onto the Test Garment or circle particular areas of interest to remind you to review those points, just write them on in pen prior to the fitting. When marking alterations back to the draft you can see if your original thoughts were valid, I think this is a great thing to do to improve your self-confidence with drafting and fitting. You may even decide to start drafting differently if you see the same issue arising time and time again.Once the Test Garment is fitted correctly there should be not no;

  • Pulling or straining of fabric across a mound – which indicates that the muslin is too small in that area (usually where the drag lines are pointing to, or emanating from).

  • Drag Lines – can also indicate that there is excess fabric that needs to be pinched out.

  • Folds in the fabric – folds showing up where they are not required horizontally, vertically or diagonally usually indicates that there is too much fabric in that area.

  • Flaring of fabric away from the body that is not in the design - Can also indicate that seams may not be in the correct position or that some excess fabric needs to be pinched out and possible in an adjacent pattern piece.

There should be;

  • All horizontal guidelines should be parallel to the floor and at the same level all the way around the garment.

  • The position of seams should be where we feel we need them to be.

  • Vertical seams, for example Centre Front and Centre Back and Side seams should be hanging straight down in a straight line and you can use your Plumb line to check this.

  • Armhole positions and curves should be where we need them to be with good coverage especially on a larger body.

  • Neckline positions and curves should be where we need them to be.

If the Test Garment is for a Flexible Pattern you will also be checking the overall feel of the design and if it is similar to the intended look, and also if any swap out pattern pieces will work with the same garment for example different straps or pockets, or different Front or Back pieces etc.

So if this is the baseline you now know what you are aiming for as an end result.

Keep in mind that you are going for a closer fit on a Base Template so some of the following fitting points may not be relevant for a Working Template where you are simple adding in ease or fitting for a skirt or trousers or a Flexible Pattern where you may be fitting sleeves or have design ease.

Just to throw in another complexity, any alteration can affect fit in another adjacent pattern piece or another part of the garment. If you like logic puzzles then you are going to love fitting and alterations

Test Garment Assessment

Preliminary Guidance

You will need a red pen to hand, your pins, sewing scissors, and some off cuts of muslin just in case you need to add any extra fabric, which is a good way to use up some of your bits and pieces.

You will need to mark both sides of the Test Garment during the fitting process, left and right.

You will draw the change on both sides or pin both sides etc. However in the sample photos I have only done one side to illustrate the alteration and what it looks like as opposed to not doing it.

When reflecting any changes back to the draft the average measurements are determined from both sides and this figure will be used unless you have some other ideas around balancing the garment and perhaps need to take the largest measurement. If this is the first time that you are fitting don’t worry so much about how to transfer everything back to the draft just concentrate on looking at what needs altering for now as you fit.

As you mark any alterations onto the Test Garment give the alteration a number by writing the number on the Test Garment next to the area you have just worked on, it helps to circle this number so that you don’t get it confused as a measurement. I do this so that I can track my alterations just in case, it is also going to help you work methodically through each alteration when you check the change back to the draft. Sometimes you make a decision and then choose to back track on a different fitting so it can help to keep track of each change and when you made it.

Sometimes you may fit one area and then change your mind or realise that you should have started in a different place. This is fine, it is all part of the process and it is good to experiment to get the best results so try out things have a play and then step back and access what you have done and what it means. Stay positive because it is all part of the learning process.

If during the process you end up with multiple lines draw because sometimes you have to alter a seam for different reasons and this can happen especially on the Shoulder seam, then this can confusing, draw a small circle on the lines that you want to settle for – this way you know which lines you are going to use when writing back to the draft.

Look at this photo for example, the small red circles on the red line is my shorthand to confirm which line I should use. The large circle was added prior to the fitting because I did think that this would be an area that I would need to have a look at during fitting. The number 4 is my alteration number.

Try to focus on one alteration at once, changing one alteration can help with another issue or remove it altogether.

This is a fluid process that you will be doing on the body so you need to let the fabric speak.

If you allow it the fabric can tell you where it needs to go if you release it to do so which is going to give you a better result than trying to force it into a certain position, so don’t be afraid to open up the seams – you do have your pins to help you out. Smoothing your hands across the fabric to get rid of the wrinkles and following the shape of the body can help you work out what needs to be done as any excess will come along for the journey. Use your judgement to work out what looks right, and this will get better with more practice.

Fitting a Base Template Test Garment has an element of fitting and an element of designing, you fit up close to pinch out fabric but you design from a distance for example when determining where a seamline might go you would be designing so would usually step back to have a look at the whole effect. As opposed to alterations when fitting a Flexible Pattern you would also be checking for proportion and balance so lots of stepping back for assessment as you are more confident of a fit because you have already gone through the Base Template and Working Template fittings.

As you will be removing any excess fabric where needed or adding in fabric if you need more it makes sense just to explain how you would do this at a basic level and then when you need to do it on an area on the body you will be able to do this whenever or wherever you like.

Adding Fabric

It is harder to add fabric than it is to pinch it out to take it away, but having said this on the Base Template you usually (depending on what you choose to do) have approximately 1” seam allowances on every seam and also Darts that you can open up too so that is something to play with. However you may need to add in fabric in areas where there are no seams for example across the chest or across the shoulder blades, and don’t forget that you may need extra space vertically too and the shapes of the extra space needed could be like strips or wedges. With the process that we have gone through to this point we would hope that you should not have to add in too much fabric if any at all.

Now there is a reason why I placed Adding in Fabric above Removing Fabric in this unit and that is because I believe that if you have strain in a Test Garment anywhere then you should be considering dealing with this issue initially. If you add in the fabric that you may need then you are coming from a better starting point with a Test Garment that has enough room in it.

Let me give you an interesting example for this reasoning. When you first look at the Test Garment on the body you may think that the shoulder seams are too far backwards and the Bust Point is too high on the front, but when you look at the back you see straining across the shoulder blades and drag lines emanating from them. This would suggest that the back is too small in some way and by slashing across the back shoulders from side to side may open up a space for extra fabric to be placed and relax the neckline up thereby repositioning the shoulder seam and dropping down the Bust Point. If you had not spotted the straining you may have already adjusted the shoulder and the Bust Point unnecessarily.

So look very carefully to see if you have any strain particularly horizontally across the shoulders and the bust and vertically over the hips or around the armhole. Typically you will see the drag lines emanating from these areas. However drag lines can be caused by too much fabric that needs to be removed so make an assessment is it too little fabric or does fabric simply need pinching out around the mound.

There is a simple way to test this in some cases and that is to open up the seam a little in that area and see what happens, if the fabric relaxes and a gap appears then you no doubt will need to add in fabric as you have just released the strain.

Here is an example of unpicking a seam and the fabric deciding where it needs to go.

You should open out the seam even further in both directions until you are happy that you have released all of the strain. Sometimes you will need to release a perpendicular seam if you are still not sure and then smooth the fabric back into position, the fabric will define where it needs to go then you can re-pin opened seams and if there is not enough fabric with the seam allowance to use you can cut a strip of spare muslin longer and wider than the gap you have made and pin it on the inside to one side of the gap and then smoothing down the garment on the other side in order to get the position to pin that side down.

Fabric Strips to use, cut larger than the length of the gap and the wider that the width of the gap. ​​

The strips are pinned into the gap sitting on the inside of the Test Garment.

​​Here it is pinned on the other side.

You would use the same technique if you are testing whether a horizontal strip is required but if there is no seam for example across the back at the shoulder blades from side to side then you would cut the fabric in a slash. It is better not to cut all the way across leaving a little fabric at the armhole will ensure that the whole garment does not fall down, and see if the gap appears. It’s not going to look pretty and you will feel like a real dress maker when you do that first slash! You are working on muslin and this is a Test Garment to try things out, play with it little.

If you need to add in a wedge of fabric from the edge of the garment inwards for example in the back armhole cut from the edge towards the top of the dragline the fabric will relax and open up and then you can add in a wedge of fabric behind pinning it in place to create the extra fabric needed.

Obviously if after unpicking and slashing no gap appears then you probably don’t really have strain at that point so you can re-pin everything back together where it was (you could use a strip of fabric in the back to do this and support both sides pinning all the way down both sides to get everything back to as it was.

When you pin a seam back down it does help to fold one seam over the top of the over flattened out seam and pin flat from the front rather than trying to reach inside to pin the two seams together and stab the client.

It can take some experimentation to get the garment laying how you like it.

Whatever you change remember to do this on both sides. When transferring the relevant measurements of the new fabric wedge which we will look at later you will need to access whether you use the largest measurements rather than the average of the two sides to ensure a good and balanced fit.

Removing Fabric

Usually you will need to pinch out fabric when you see vertical, horizontal or diagonal folds because this is suggesting that there is too much fabric in the area.

If you smooth out the fabric to where it is bunching up in the folds on both sides of the area you can pinch the excess out to see the amount that may need to be removed.

You would then pin along the pinched line through both thicknesses of fabric to determine what that would look like if you made the alteration. So obviously some experimentation is required.

A common example of this is if you need to pinch out across the back because fabric is pooling at the waist seam due to there being too much fabric in the upper bodice length. You may have pinched out the same amount all the way across the width of the Back or you may have pinched out more at the Centre Back than at the sides.

You need to be mindful of adjoining seams whenever you pinch and pin, to determine how you have affected another area of the Test Garment. This is especially true with the last example because if you pinched out the same amount across the whole of the back from the centre back out to the sides you now have affected the side length and have given yourself something to think about regarding what to do about the fact that the front side length is now longer than the back side length. Incidentally a fix here is to consider the bust shaping and if extra shaping is required on the side Dart this extra measurement can be simply shifted into the Dart to reduce the front side length by the same amount that you took out of the back, and in this case you would extend the pinning into the Dart by smoothing the extra fabric into it to merge the excess into the current Dart to the Dart Point.

If you pinched more in the centre going to nothing at the side i.e. a wedge shape then you will not be affecting the side length but you may need to consider what shape you draw in for the Waist Shaping on the Back Draft because a sway back will need a different shaped waist shaping to the one we drafted in the Base Template. Pinching out the excess will determine what you will need to do. Ensure that you keep the Waist Guideline parallel to the floor in this instance and obvious for all alterations be mindful of your guidelines.

This is a good example of how one change is going to affect another area.

When you locate an area of fabric to pinch out, see if you can smooth this fabric along the body until you meet a seam or a Dart that can take up the excess. You may need to unpick a seam in a location close to the area in order to release it to allow you to smooth the fabric along then you would pin out the pinched excess and then re-pin the seam that was opened.

If you are pinching out excess in an area where you already have a Dart for example the armhole ensure it points to the mound and then this Dart excess will be placed into the nearest Dart when you transfer the information into the pattern.

Sometimes you will need to pinch out excess fabric where there are no seams or Darts currently for example in the back armhole or back neck. Firstly undo seams (in these cases the side seam or the shoulder seam) and try to smooth this excess into the area where you know you have a Dart on the pattern then pin out the Dart and re-pin the seam, you will usually find out that this resolves the issue. If you have ended up with a pinned out Dart where you don’t have one on the pattern you can manipulate Darts around manually on the pattern but it is easier to just do this while it is on the body.

If you are removing extra fabric from a seam, for example the side seam then open up the seam and allow the fabric to settle using gravity, if you smooth it the fabric will soon show you where it needs to go – this is always a better option that trying to push the fabric where you think it needs to be. Remember you are using the body and the fabric to guide you.

So when pinning be mindful of adjoining seams and merge the wedge that you have pinned out into the seam if you can. Or pinch out the excess fabric into an existing Dart or seam by smoothing the fabric along the body until you meet a seam.

Typical places where you may need to pinch out extra fabric on the Base Template Test Garment is vertically under the bust if it is a larger cup size. Below the Shoulder vertically in the princess seam, along the armholes if there is any gaping, on the hips to get a better shaping, armhole dart area and in the back at the waist.

Whatever you change remember to do it on both sides.

This photo shows excess fabric that has been pinned out on a seam at the Back Waist and the second photo is excess fabric that has been pinned out and smoothed into position approximately where I know that I have an armhole dart.

The Fitting

If we focus on the fit of a Base Template Test Garment as this is where you will no doubt be doing the majority of the fitting you can look at how we make the assessment.

Prior to putting the Test Garment onto the client pin the shoulder seams on the outside by folding over the front shoulder seam with the seam allowance folded to the back then laying it on top of the back shoulder seam, lining up the Princess seam and the two sewing lines end to end. This allows you quick access to change this seam if you need to whilst being able to clearly see the position of the seam from all angles.

This photo shows the Front and Back shoulder seams.

Here they are lined up ready to pin.

Here is the Seam Allowance for the Front shoulder seam folded back.

Here is the Front seam laid on top of the Back seam.

Here they are pinned.

Also and very importantly make sure that the armholes and neckline are clipped up to the sewing line otherwise it is going to be very uncomfortable for the client to try this on.

You will need the Client present to try on the Test Garment, wearing the same undergarments as they wore when their measurements were taken.

Get the client to hold the Test Garment on the front while you pin down the centre back. If you allowed a good inch or so of seam allowance in the back this should be a little easier to do. On a Base Template you may have to tug a little to join the two traced seam lines, remember you want this snug but not tight you don’t want to distort the body shape like a corset, although you may wish to warn the Client that initially it may be a little tight around the neckline and the armhole but that this can quickly be released to make fitting a little easier. You may need their help to push the fabric back at the waist and hips to give you a little extra fabric to help with pinning as it can be tricky to pin and you don’t want to stab them.

Pin from the Neck to the Lower Hip down the Centre Back line.

Give a little tug all the way around the bottom of the Test Garment to smooth everything out over the hips and to get the garment sitting better on the body.

There is no strict sequence to follow during a fitting although it does make some logical sense to follow the steps more or less in order.

With the client is wearing the Test Garment and standing correctly with feet hip width apart and relaxed shoulders and looking straight ahead and with hair tied back you can start the fitting process.

Step 1 - Observations

But just before we make any changes walk around the client and assess what is going on. I find that time gets slower in a fitting as I purposely take my time – which is not easy for the client sometimes but if you get them involved telling them what you are doing and asking for their view they will feel much more a part of the process and involved.

  • A step I like to do at this point is to take a photo of the client wearing the Test Garment Front, Side and Back. This can be useful when making any alteration choices after the Client has left the fitting. It is also useful as a learning exercise to review what you learned from the fitting. Also at the end of the fitting when alterations have been made to the Test Garment or a whole new Test Garment has been created it is a good idea to take photos again to remember the fitted lines which can help you make ease and design choices for Working Template and Flexible Pattern Drafting.

  • Your eye maybe drawn to the Armhole as there may be creasing happening under which will need to be relaxed shortly to make it more comfortable for the client. If they are not comfortable you may need to clip a little to help. However don’t clip too much because the fit may not be correct at this point and then you will have clipped incorrectly. So just a little for comfort.

  • Stand back and look at all of the horizontal guides the Waist line, the Hip Bone line, the Lower Hip line the Bust Darts/Points, are they in the positions where you expect them to be, are they all parallel to the floor and are they all even all the way around?

  • Look at all of the vertical guides, the Side seams the Centre Front the Centre Back and even your grainlines that you have Thread Traced onto every piece, are they perpendicular to the floor, do they look straight or are they curving, are you happy with where they are positioned?

  • Look at the position and angle of the shoulders are they where you expect them to be?

  • Look at the Bust Points are they where you expect them to be, if you really want to and your client is willing you could get the client to point out where the nipple is and you could mark this onto the Test Garment, are you out on the position up/down or two wide or to close together?

  • Look at the position and shape of the armholes and neckline do they look like they are in the correct position should they be higher or lower, more curved, or do they require more or less fabric?

  • Can you see drag lines anywhere, you could even draw on them to show where they are if you want to which might help you with focus on what to do about them, you can do whatever you want, it’s your Test Garment.

  • Can you see folds, if so what does that tell you?

  • Walk around the client and look for strain, do you think if you can see strain that if you released it that the garment may settle in a little better. If you think you can see strain that may affect the position of the Shoulder and Bust Points then review how you could deal with this in the Adding Fabric section.

  • Can you see any obvious areas where the fabric is bubbling or gaping from the body, perhaps around the necklines Front/Back or around the armhole or under the bust?

  • Look at any areas that you circled transferred onto the fabric from the draft – areas that you were initially concerned about, can you see anything happening that justifies your original concern.

Hopefully you are forming a picture of what needs to be done, if it helps write down your thoughts on a notepad because this may help you prioritise what you would like to try out first.

A Sample

Have a look at these photos, although it is not easy to see what is happening in a photo, what would you alter for this Base Template Test Garment to get it to fit?

This person has a G cup bust and this is the first time she has tried on the Test Garment.

Not in any particular order, here are some observations.

  • At first viewing all of the horizontal guidelines look good being parallel to the floor.

  • The neckline position looks good.

  • The length of the Test Garment looks appropriate to the body proportions.

  • The folds emanating from the armhole in the Front suggest extra fabric which will need to be removed from the armhole but there could be a requirement for extra fabric to be pinched out into the armhole dart. Some of this excess fabric may end up being moved into the Shoulder seam. Some experimentation may be required here and care will need to be taken not to storm in and take out too much on the armhole. It is important to keep flesh coverage in the armhole on the Base Template otherwise things can get a little unflattering.

  • The Bust Darts/Points look a little low and after asking the Client to point out the nipples we decided to draw on a little red cross that you can see in the side view, the client was happy to draw this on herself. So from this we can see that the nipples are a little higher than the Bust Point. The Bust Point and the shoulder will need a review, if the shoulder is in the wrong position or there is too much fabric in the Back Shoulder Blade area pushing the shoulder forward this can push down the Bust Point. Looking at the Back view there does not seem to be any excess in the Back Shoulder Blade area so I would now consider raising the Bust Point up ½”.

  • Moving the Bust Point will mean adjusting the shoulder and lifting it up on the front. Consequently causing more fabric to collect under the Armhole, so it may need a little snipping at the armhole prior to lifting when thinking about the Clients comfort.

  • There could be a closer fit under the bust, but this would need a little client discussion. Would the client ever wear a close fitting bodice on say a strapless dress and would they be happy accentuating their bust in this way?

  • There is a little bubbling happening at the Princess seam above the Chest Line, however this may be resolved after making the adjustments above this will need checking afterwards.

  • There does not seem to be any straining across the front of the bust however the Grainlines on the Centre Front piece do look very slightly bow out. Breast shape is obvious under the garment and does look a little squashed down at the front, the Client did not feel that the garment was tight in this area though. A test here would be to open up seams to see if there is any extra fabric required. However both the Centre Front seems and the Princess Seams on the body look straight enough and just slightly to the side of the Bust Point. The Princess Seam position is an aesthetic choice and in this case in my opinion the position in this photo is close enough. If it was to be moved closer to the Bust Point where the red X is it would make the bust look smaller from the front perhaps but the side of the breast may look even larger which we may not wish to do in this case. Keep in mind that any extra fabric added into the bust would be added in the Front side panel which would increase its width again. The Centre Front Panel controls the position of the Princess Seam the Side Front Panel controls the space needed for the breast. The drag lines coming from the armhole may indicate that extra fabric may be required in the bust but it is unclear at first glance as the strain does not seem to be showing all the way to the Princess seam, look where the point of the drag lines finish on the side photo.

  • There is obviously too much fabric at the Back Waist which will need pinching out. You can see this if you look closely at the slight bubbling below the Waist in the Back and although it is not clear in this photo the fabric at the Waist is folding into and settling into the body and not flowing over the top which is not flattering.

  • There are obvious bubbles of fabric at the Hip Bone line area on the side seams that will need pinching and smoothing out.

  • The side seams above the Lower hip line may need letting out a little however the Client does have shorts on that will need taking off to get a better view of this.

  • Although not clear in these photos the shape of the armhole in back may need a review as it seems a little short of fabric in the curve.

Step 2

You may need to now relax the armhole a little to get the garment to settle on the body better but only clip slightly for now, remember it is easier to take away than to add on.

Remember this photo where the armhole has extra fabric which indicates snipping is required or ever a little cutting away.

Compare this to the next photo where some snipping has been done to the armhole.

You can see here that armhole area has less drag lines after a little snipping. However there are still drag lines. During fitting I felt that I had taken the armhole as low as required without revealing too much flesh. Any excess fabric will be taken up into the Armhole Dart later.

Step 3

If you have any very obvious or extreme straining in the fabric to I recommend that you deal with this prior to assessing the Shoulder and Bust Dart Point position as this straining could be affecting their positions. If you feel you need to add fabric refer to the Adding Fabric notes above. You will need to open seams or slash fabric to test if you need to add fabric. The first cut is the hardest!

Don’t forget that the straining can be both vertical and horizontal.

It could be that you seem to be short of fabric in length across the body at the Chest line (or even on the Back on the Shoulder Blade Line which can happen with a very rounded back).

In which case you may need to add in fabric horizontally across the body at this point. You may need to add this as one long strip or wedges at the Centre Front/Back out to the side. You can test if this is necessary this by simply slashing across the chest or back leaving fabric in place at the sides to hold everything together and see what happens. If the garment sighs and opens up then you will be able to assess how much fabric you need to add in as the gap created is the extra that you need.

If you need to add in extra volume for the bust then consider that the Princess seam (the seam from the Lower Hip to Hip bone through the Waist and Bust Point up to the shoulder) on the Centre Front pattern piece gives the seam placement for the Princess Seam. It is the Side Front pattern piece that gives you the space for the depth of the bust so if you are altering the space here make the changes in the side piece and that is true for both adding fabric or removing it. Otherwise you risk moving the seam placement, unless that is actually a requirement).

Retrospectively after an initial fitting I went back to this client as I just felt that the bust strain was not flattering after looking at the photos so decided to open up this seam, something I really should have done in the first fitting. During the fitting although I noticed that the bust looks a little pushed in there were no other obvious signs of strain showing, and a Base Template is meant to be snug. However I just felt that this looks a little too snug.

So I decided to open up the Princess Seam to see what would happen with the breast.

Here you can see the large gap created releasing the pressure a little once the seam is opened. I ended up opening the seam 6” or so before I felt it was enough.

Here is a side view of the open seam.

Remember you are not aiming to shift the position of the Princess seam you are simple adding in fabric to the Front Side panel. If you look at this photo it looks like I could have opened up the seam a little more to the Cross Chest line. Looking at an alteration from different angles can help you get the whole picture.

On this type of alteration it is even more important to do this on both sides, you want to ensure that you are adding in the correct amount which is usually even on both sides.

However one breast a different size to the other is common and will require a discussion with the client if it is a very obvious one, usually you would add in the same on both sides and accommodate the bra cup with a pad to even up the front of the body. But this is entirely the Clients decision.


There is certainly not enough fabric in the seam allowance in this case to work with here so strips of fabric are added into the bust on the Princess Seam and pinned in place.

Then place inside the other side and smoothing it out whilst smoothing out the other side of the seam onto the fabric and pinning it in place. ​​

Here is more of a side view.


It is a little tricky to pin this in without sticking the client but keep working on it until everything is smoothed out and each side looks like it has the correct amount of fabric inserted.

If you have made any changes here ensure that the position of the seam lines are drawn onto the new strip of fabric just in case pins drop off and that you have numbered your alterations.

If you have no or very little straining then move onto the next step to check the position of the Shoulder Seam and the Bust Points.

Step 4

We need to ensure that the Shoulder seam and Bust Points are in the correct position to make the rest of the fitting easier because everything hangs from the Shoulder and the Bust Points are a key position for everything on the front.

Make a judgement regarding the Bust Points and Shoulders and there are a few options available depending on the situation consider them all before you dive in to make changes;

1. If you have a really good fit then the bust Darts will be in line with the nipples with the shoulder seam pinned so you will not need to do anything to the Bust Line position.

2. If the Bust Dart/Point position looks too high then unpin the shoulder seams and drop the front of the garment down until the Bust Dart/Point look like they are in the correct position.

  • If this seems to work and everything looks like it is now in the correct position for the front on the waist, underarm etc. then re-pin the shoulder seams. With an approximate 1” seam allowance you should have enough fabric to do this but if you need to add in more fabric on the front shoulder seam cut a strip of waste fabric a little longer than the shoulder seam length and approximately an inch wider than the amount that you need to add and pin it underneath the Front Shoulder piece all the way across the seam from High Shoulder Point to Shoulder End. You can then pin the Back Shoulder seam into place by smoother both the Front and the Back pieces with your hands until they come together along the shoulder seam. Assess the position of the seam and the angle of the seam as you pin it. You may need to firm up the shoulder seam and draw a line on the Test Garment to show where the new shoulder seam should now be. You may also need to add in fabric on the Neckline Front/Back and redraw in a new curve to reposition it a little higher. You may need to check for any gaping in the Front Armhole after making this alteration.

  • If that didn’t work (sometimes this is the case if you are out be over ½”), and it made everything look out of alignment i.e. it changed the Waist and Hip Guidelines and the side seams out of position etc. then re-pin the initial shoulder position you will need to alter the Bust Dart/Point position on the draft by lowering it a little. With a red pen draw a line on the muslin for the correct position of the Bust Dart/Point. If this position has altered substantially then you will need to consider noting these changes back to the Base Template draft and creating new Front Bodice pieces and swapping them into the Test Garment to ensure that you are fitting the rest of the garment with the correct bust position.

3. If the Bust Dart/Point position looks too low (as in the photo above)

  • Unpin the shoulder seam and raise the front and or the back of the garment if there is too much fabric in the back smoothing the fabric over the body as you go. This will change the shoulder position and raise the Bust Dart/Point to the correct position. If this seems to work and everything looks like it is now in the correct position for the front on the waist, underarm etc. then re-pin the shoulder seam. You may need to redraw a new neckline and snip into it down to the new curve for comfort for the rest of the fitting. You may also need to firm up the shoulder seam and draw a line on Test Garment to show where the new sewing line should now be.

You may need to check for any gaping around the armhole, especially in the Back now you have raised the Front.

  • If that didn’t work and it made everything look out of alignment i.e. it changed the Waist and Hip Guidelines and the side seams out of position etc. then re-pin the initial shoulder position you will need to alter the Bust Dart/Point position on the draft and raise it up a little. With a red pen draw a line on the muslin for the correct position of the Bust Dart/Point. If this is a substantial change then consider that you may need to create a new Test Garment or at least new Front Bodice pieces and swapping them into the Test Garment to ensure that you are fitting the rest of the garment with the correct bust position.

If you have made any changes ensure that the correct sewing lines are identified and drawn onto the garment and number your alterations.

Step 5

Now the garment is sitting with the correct placement on the front have a double check to ensure there are no other points of strain or that you have not created any strain. For example check across the bust, is there enough fabric for a snug but not too tight fit. Stand back and look at the muslin, look for tight areas. As before if there is strain you will need to release it. Drag lines will usually point to the area that does not have enough fabric in it usually around the bust, waist or hips.

If you have strain refer to the Adding Fabric section for help with this.

If you make any alterations draw on the correct seam placement with the extra fabric added.

When working on releasing strain ensure that you work through the garment one alteration at a time and mark and number your alterations accordingly on the Test Garment.

You may need to experiment with this until you feel that you have the result you are aiming for.

Again retrospectively after an initial fitting I decided to open the side seam on this client as it was a little snug on the Lower Hip. By opening all the way up and over the little bubble on the Hip Bone line up to where the new Waist position is going to go it allows for the fabric to hang and settle where it needs to be and both situations can be handled together.

The excess fabric can be smoothed over the seam and pinned and you can see that a gap was created where there is extra fabric required.

By adding in a strip of fabric and pinning on both sides of the strip you can close the gap and do this on both sides of the body making sure the gap is as even as possible on both sides.


You can see on the side in this photo the gap needs closing in more as there is now too much fabric hanging below the belly so this would need a further assessment as it is a little too much ease for the Base Template.


A new seam position can be drawn in and the alteration numbered.

Step 6

Now the garment is unstrained and sitting with the correct placement on the front then we can establish the shoulder seam line placement a little more closely, as the garment really hangs from this point so it makes sense to ensure that the orientation is correct. Then we can work down from there.

The placement of the seam from High Shoulder point to Shoulder end is usually central between the front and the back and this is a judgement for the designer to make.

Stand in front of the client and look at the shoulder seam position, you should just be able to see the seam at the top of the shoulder all the way along the seam.

Now stand behind the client and look at the shoulder seam position, again you should just be able to see the seam at the top of the shoulder all the way along the seam.

Does the seam look like it needs to be moved further back or further forward or does the angle of the seam look like it needs to change in either direction.

  • Check to see if there is any excess fabric needed pinching out at the shoulder seam at any point along from High Shoulder point to Shoulder end. A good way to check this is to gently smooth your hand up to the shoulder on the front and back and see if you gather up any wrinkles along the way. If you do find some excess then pin out the excess all the way along or where required. You can remove any previous shoulder pins if you have to. Fold down the new Shoulder seam position and pin in place along where it needs to go on the Back Shoulder so that you can get a good look at what you have done on both sides.

  • If the seam looks central then nothing needs to be done.

  • If the seam looks too far forward either along the whole line or just for part of it then draw a line with the pen for the new position of the shoulder seam placement and indicate with an arrow on both front and back which direction that the seam will need to be moved just to highlight it.

  • Also do the same if the seam is too far back obviously the arrow will be in the opposite direction.

  • If the seam is at the wrong angle then draw a line for the new position indicating the direction you will need to shift the line on both the front and the back at the High Shoulder point or at the Shoulder End.

  • Also check that the Dart in the shoulder is central (it should be if you measured it).

  • Check that you have marked in pen where the new shoulder position is, you may have a few lines in this region at this point so make sure your final lines are identified.​

This photo shows a good position for the Shoulder Seam from the Back.

This photo shows the new position of a Shoulder Seam from the side after raising the front to reposition Bust Dart/Points and checking the position and angle of the Shoulder seam.

Step 7

Check to see if the neckline is gaping at the front or the back.

If it is then unpin the shoulder seam and smooth over the fabric from the centre Front and up to the shoulder whilst at the same time smoothing out the back piece, then re-pin and do this for both sides.

The shoulders seam will fall out of line with this alteration and the pattern will need to be altered for a new High Shoulder position – a decision will need to be made as to where the High shoulder point will be and the Shoulder end will be, you may decide to split the difference for this alteration between the Front and the Back pieces. Mark the new position for both ends of the Shoulder seam ready to transfer this detail back to the pattern.

Step 8

Check the Neckline positions starting with an assessment of the High shoulder point and follow the line around the neckline on both the Front and the Back Neckline.

If any of the points or lines need repositioning then redraw in the lines, note that the neckline on the Base Template Test Garment is high and goes up to the dip at the throat and the vertebra at the back of the neck when the head is bent forwards, follow the neck shape of the client to help to fine tune it. Necklines for other Test Garments may be different due to ease being added or design.

If you need extra seam allowance in order to do this then cut a strip of muslin and pin it to the back of the Test Garment fabric and use this as your extra fabric to draw on. Although on a first fitting you may have not trimmed off any seam allowance so you should have enough fabric to work on.

On a second or subsequent muslin fitting if you are happy with the position you can trim off any excess seam allowance to make fitting more comfortable.

Step 9

Looking at the armhole both Front and Back and for both sides check to see if the shoulder end point is at the correct position to start with i.e. in line with the armhole crease, you may need to fold back the armhole seam to check this.

Check the armhole position all the way around from Front Shoulder end to underarm and then from Back Shoulder End to underarm.

If there are folds in the fabric and the arm looks like it is squashing the fabric then the Back or Front may be too big or the armhole may need a little repositioning. In this case draw on the correct position for the armhole and snip the fabric back to this line, fold the seam allowance under to have another look (if it helps to cut off any excess then do this).

On the contrary if the back needs extending if it does not seem wide enough open draw on a new curve on the seam allowance you may need some additional fabric adding in to draw onto.

The positon of the armhole in the armpit on the Base template may seem quite high so don’t worry about this, this will be repositioned when adding ease in a Working Template or Flexible Pattern.

If you are happy with the position of the armhole and perhaps in second or subsequent fittings you could trim off the seam allowance on the armhole because this will make the whole thing a little more comfortable. On a Flexible Pattern Test Garment you must ensure that you have Stay Stitched the armhole seams to protect them during the fitting. ​

You can see in this photo that a decision has been made to extend the armhole line out for a better aesthetic result on the back and to align better with the crease at the Armhole. The outside dashed line marked in red.

Step 10 Horizontal Guidelines

Check that the other horizontal guidelines are parallel to the floor and also that they are in the correct positions.

In this photo the Guidelines are parallel to the floor but the waist seems a little high on the body when the client closes her eyes and places her hand on where she believes her waist is (also another good way to determine areas on the body) so the idea is to lower the Waist and the red line shows the new position in the Front, although looking at this in the photo shows that this could be a little low and may need revising again. Raising the Bust Dart/Point line by lifting the Front at the Shoulder by ½” will have raised the Waist slightly on the Front. As this person has a larger bust which naturally sits lower on the body the space between the bottom of the bust and the waist is proportionally shortened. By dropping the Waist line ever so slightly elongates the body a little and gives more area for extra bust shaping if it was ever needed. So this new waist line has been decided on through a number of factors and would be an experimental alteration to see how it would look.


The length of the Test Garment is appropriate, however moving the Waist would then affect the space between the Waist and the Hip Bone line which we can see by the indentation in the centre of this photo is sitting right on the belly button so we know that this has to be too high also. A decision is made then to shift the Hip Bone Line down as well.

Incidentally in this photo there seems to be a little strain around the belly that may benefit from some releasing in the side seams (which has been shown in a previous step).

Stepping back gives you a better view of what this Waist alteration would look like on the body proportionately.

On the Back drawing the new Waist line around to keep it parallel to the ground all the way around, looks like this.

But we can see that there is some extra fabric in the Back with the folds that are showing below the waist. It is always good to do a little tug on the bottom of the Garment to see how things settle before working on this area.

Here is a little overlap with the next step as this extra fabric in the back was pinched out and pinned to see what the new Waist position would look like.

With a little tug to straighten the garment out a little (another indication of it being a little tight somewhere in this area as it its riding up), here is the new position on the Back for the Low Hip.

You can see how much smoother the Back is below the Waist with this excess pinned out. In this photo you can see slight drag lines emanating from the Armhole on the side seam. This could indicate that the side seam needs letting out. But the side seam (not shown in this photo) looks quite straight and I think that it is in the correct position so I would move along and think about the Bust again at the Princess Seam, adding in a little extra fabric here may relax this area in the back a little.

Step 10

Have a look to see if you have any folds in the Test Garment or any other drag lines where you will need to pinch out any fabric. Consider where the fabric is going to go once you have pinched it out. Ideally it should be smoothed over as close to a Seam or a Dart as possible.

For example in these photos show a slightly different angle to the same bodice where the excess fabric in the Front Side Bust area and Armhole has been pinched out and placed into the area where there is a Dart in the draft, with the point in-line with the Bust Point ready to transfer this information as an adjustment back to the draft.

Check the Waist guideline is it level all the way around? If it goes down in the back this may indicate too much fabric in the back of the garment, usually if there is too much fabric in this area you can see the folds occurring anyway.

Experiment with smoothing out different areas to see if you can pinch out any fabric and pin out any strips or wedges. Refer back to the section on Removing Fabric for help with this.

Looking at this next photo (as shown in the step above) you can see this excess fabric pinned out.