Over several decades of making custom clothing, I’ve learned a lot about garment fitting. Many of my favorite techniques were taught by Roberta Carr and published in her book, Couture: The Art of Fine Sewing (Palmer/Pletsch, 1993). From her, I learned to make some small changes that better accommodate a body’s curves and help a garment hang smoothly over the figure.
These refinements don’t appear substantial on the pattern, but I have found that they make a difference in how a garment looks when worn. They’re easy to accomplish, even for a beginner, and I encourage you to try them. They can take your sewing up a level and give you more to be proud of when you wear your garments.
Add a curve to straight seams
Commercial patterns often default to straight seams, even where the body has a natural curve. You can change these lines into extremely subtle curves to better conform to your shape.
Back shoulder seam
The back of your shoulder is curved and can benefit from shaping there. Garments that don’t have a shoulder dart often fit awkwardly over the shoulder and back armhole.
To add ease, curve the back shoulder seam slightly. Raise the center by 1⁄8 inch, and curve it back to the original cutting line at each end. This lengthens the seamline; ease the excess to the front shoulder seamline.
A low-cut V-neckline may not lie smoothly over a full-busted figure. By reshaping the front neckline to add a shallow curve, you can add fabric over the fullest area of the bust. This new neckline shape reads as a straight line on the body.
At the level of the bust point, mark a point 1⁄8 inch out from the V-neckline edge. Redraw the neckline edge, blending from this point to the shoulder seam and down to the point of the V. The line should be convex at the marked point, but slightly concave above and below.
Finesse waist darts
Darts are the most commonly used shaping device in garment patterns but, often, they aren’t ideal in shape or placement. Straight darts may take the correct amount of width out at the waist, but if they’re not shaped correctly, they may pull or bubble. Customize the contour of the darts so they mold smoothly over your curves.
If the back waist curves in, you need to remove more fabric along the dart legs than is taken up with a straight dart. Mark a point 1⁄8 inch outside each dart leg, halfway between the dart point and the waistline. With a curved ruler as a guide,
redraw the dart legs with a gentle curve that passes through these points.
FULLNESS AT HIGH-HIP LEVEL
For a body that curves outward substantially just below the waist, you need more fabric higher in the dart. Mark a point 1⁄8 inch within the dart value, halfway down each dart leg. With a curved ruler as a guide, redraw the legs with a curve that passes through these points.