Designer Joi’s truth about Pattern Ease: CONCLUSION


More on where to add horizontal ease

Width needs to be added in the correct area, not just at the side seam to make a pattern mathematically match the body. You always want patterns to match the body in scale. Chances are you need more ease across the front of a torso garment and less in the back, and on the lower body the opposite.  You want to start by evaluating a design to determine where you need the excess. You might ask “how do I know where to add excess?”  Think of this example:


Does a shirt or dress for a pregnant woman need the same amount of excess on the back as the front? Of course not! The front needs to be much larger in measurements. You cannot evenly add excess on the front and back and expect it to fit. You would measure the front of a garment pattern and decide how much bigger you need to make the front of the pattern to fit the front of the pregnant belly. And that is the best example of why you can’t evenly distribute fullness and why you can’t just add to the side seams either. Our bodies are different front to back. When you evaluate a pattern you want to compare it to your body. Where are your larger areas, what areas need excess to allow for movement i.e. elbows for bending, hipline for sitting and anything else.


I am not a big fan of formulas or measurement tables only because everyone is different and I change it up all the time for each individual garment and client I am working for. However, when I teach there does need to be some sort of answer for my students to use as a guide. My rule of thumb is to make sure patterns match your body measurements and then add a good 2 inch side seam on the front and back patterns. Then you can baste or pin fit, and you can let out as you are fitting your muslin fitting sample to add in more wiggle room and excess ease. If you let it all out you would have almost 4 inches and on most garments that is sufficient. If you have an area like a pregnant belly, a full abdomen, full hips or whatever you can add additional to that.


I make a fit sample for every garment I create and through the years I have determined most people need much less ease than the standards charts prescribe because the excess is just that- working excess so they go around lots of bodies. My best fitting tip is to make a muslin fit sample and pin fit the ease so you have a beautiful tailored look every time.  Tailored does not mean tight it just means polished, and remember just because it goes around the body does not mean it’s a good fit. Mastering fit takes a few practice garments to work though this. I usually find after 3-4 garments my students start to treat ease as second nature. It is one of those things you have to get in there and experiment with.


Ease and fitting is all about scale and proportion of a pattern relative to the individual body not the standard printed pattern or standard size or ease chart.


It is direct and simple to address areas of fit first on a pattern and after doing this a few times it comes naturally and quickly. I spend about 5 minutes doing this when I go to create a design for a client to whatever pattern I am using either hand draped or commercial. I measure smaller areas of the body and then the same areas on the pattern. I then make the pattern match the body if necessary by either decreasing or increasing vertical area. From there I I determine how much wiggle room ease I need and add extra if I want more knowing my fit sample will allow time to tweak, refine, blend and polish- voila perfect fit when I get to the sewing phase.


Enjoy the fitting process it is so rewarding. You know it is one of my favorite parts of sewing and might be my favorite.


–  Joi

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