Some dress fitting…

I finished my new blazer and was hoping to get some photos today… alas there is no sun and it’s rained all day… blerg. In the meantime, I’m working on a dress and am having some fitting issues, and thought I’d share. Kennis from the new pattern company Itch to Stitch contacted me to see if I would be interested in sewing and reviewing her first pattern, the Marbella Dress*. To be honest, I was reluctant to sew up a pattern from a company completely unknown to me. Aside from from a handful of indie pattern lines, I’ve been drawn more and more back to Big 4 patterns. The thing is, once you sort out your standard fitting issues you can broadly apply them to a vast number of patterns. With indie patterns, you don’t always know what type of figure they draft for. I don’t like re-inventing the wheel every time I sit down to make something.

However, I was intrigued by this dress because she offers different bodice pieces based on bra cup size. YES. Now Mccalls and Simplicity do have a handful of cup size based patterns, but they only go down to a B (which is their normal draft) so I still have to make bust alterations when using those.  I also happened to have some black cotton sateen on hand that was a bargain buy, so if the dress worked out great! If not, I wasn’t really out much.


I’m happy to report that the bodice front has a very nice fit, and the bust is perfect—did you catch that?—perfect on me. That is an absolute first. The back bodice has some neckline gape (I had to remove a full inch from center back at the top of the zip), and the overall bodice length is too long (I’ll need to take up the waist seam by 1/2″). These are fairly common issues for me, so nothing shocking there.

Unfortunately, the skirt portion of the dress is problematic for me. The skirt has a tulip shape with pleats on the front, and the back is fitted with darts. Going by my measurements, I cut a 4 at the waist and graded out two sizes at the hip. The finished skirt width seemed perfectly adequate, however the distribution of the skirt width is completely wrong for me. My backside is dramatically throwing off the fit of the skirt, to the point that it’s completely unwearable as is.

I know I have a curvier backside, so I went back and took my hip measurement (40″) and determined that my front hip measure is 18″, and my back 22″. That’s a 4″ difference. So here’s my question: What is a normal backside measurement? Would an 18″ front and 20″ back be more “standard”? Should I select size based on a 38″ hip then add 2″ to the back (increasing through the dart intake)? I just haven’t made many fitted skirts (for a reason!) so I’m pretty inexperienced here. Looking at the back dart, it is comically small… about 1/2″. That seems tiny even for someone with less booty than myself.

Now, I do have more fabric, so I’d like to sort out the skirt problems because frankly—I like this dress. I’ll go back and take some pattern measurements, re-cut the back piece, and trim down the front side seams. However, I’m not sure if I really want the back fitted (as designed), or if I want to go tulip shaped all around (think a more subtle version of the BHL Elisalex). I’m open to thoughts on this one, but at the moment I’m inclined to alter the front skirt piece to use as the back. Looking past the current fit issues, I think this would end up being a fairly useful wardrobe addition, so I’m hoping to end up with something wearable! When I do re-work the skirt, I’ll be sure to give a more comprehensive review of the pattern.

—lisa g.

*this pattern was a freebie, given for me to review.

20 thoughts on “Some dress fitting…

  1. gilliancrafts says:

    My truely lazy brains says maybe you could just move the side seams of the skirt back ann inch to change where the ease is? Or rotate the whole skirt around, front to back, if the front happens to have more ease? Otherwise, for recutting, I’d think that flat pattern measurements would be the answer. Choose your front based on your measurements, but flat pattern measure the back of the skirt to choose the right size?
    (I’m sure someone else will give you a much better answer, but those are my first thoughts! 😉

    • lisa g says:

      The SA’s are 1/2″, so I can play with them a little and gain maybe an inch. I suspect that just won’t be enough though. I’ll definitely flip the dress around to see how the front skirt fits the back… the all around tulip shape just seems a little more fun than the straight skirt!

  2. Katherine says:

    So, I have dug out my copy of “The European Cut”. On pg 19 it has a formula for establishing the side for proportional women. The difference between the front measurements and the back measurements is constant at 1/2″ (with the front being bigger than the back). On pg 15, it says that this formula will not work on figures with a very large bust, protruding abdomen and very large buttocks.

    When I filled out my measurement chart in the book, my back width, at the low hip, was 2″ bigger than the front.

    I guess the other thing to check is that you have established the side correctly (to split front and back). The author does this visually, with a vertical line from the middle of the underarm down (maybe use a plumb weight?).

    It you want to make a custom sloper for a skirt, I can highly recommend this book. It shows you how to draft for all shapes, adjusting the number and placement of darts, and length of side seams as required. I am very pear shaped, so curve out a lot from waist to hip, and have to add quite a bit of length to the side seams without adding to the front or back length, and it has shown me how to do this.
    (no kickbacks to me, just happy with my purchase)

    I hope this helps, as the bodice of the dress looks lovely.

  3. Katie says:

    So I have nothing researched or professional to add but I did just take my own measurements. I would consider my body to be pretty standard — I very very rarely have to make fitting adjustments. I have a 37.5″ hip with 17.5-18″ in front and 20″ in back. So based on that alone, I think you might have luck cutting the 38″ size and then adding a couple inches in the back for the booty. Maybe do a quick muslin to check. Looks like a cute, useful pattern if you can make it work. Good luck!

    • lisa g says:

      Thanks for sharing your measurements with me! That is very helpful. I’ve figured out pretty much every other fitting quirk for my body type, I guess it’s time I figure out how to fit my rump!

  4. Heather says:

    I’m not really sure I am much help in the fitting department, but there are some good tips in your comments already. I really love the shape of this dress. The bodice fit looks great, so worst case scenario you could always add a pleated/gathered/circle skirt to it. Can’t wait to see what you come up with.

    • lisa g says:

      I really am impressed with the bodice fit—that alone is motivating me to figure out the skirt! I only have enough fabric to re-cut the back piece, so hopefully I can get it to work!

  5. thequirkypeach says:

    This is very interesting! Thanks for posting – I will definitely be revisiting the comments b/c I hae the same lower body fitting issues. However, I have never even thought to measure front vs back! Off to do that now… 😉

  6. crab&bee says:

    Oh man, this is my problem exactly, except everywhere on my body. The back of me is easily 2+ sizes bigger than the front. I’m just now trying to figure out how to work with this, so I’ll be reading with interest as you figure this out! The bodice is lovely.

  7. gingermakes says:

    I’m interested to see what you learn! There is something funny about the way the fulness is distributed in my hips… the darts on fitted skirts are never placed right on me, so I’m wondering if I have something similar going on. The bodice fit looks amazing!

  8. CraftedbyCarrie says:

    I don’t really have anything productive to offer for the skirt fitting issues unfortunately, though I typically have the opposite problem (my front >> back). I’m just finishing my version as well and I LOVE the way the bodice fits!! I too had to remove a wedge from the back neckline but that was my only alteration. I plan to use this bodice again, possibly changing out the skirt for something more fitted.

  9. playfulstitching says:

    I suggest that you rip the side seams to just below the waist seam. Then try on the dress and see what happens. As it appears in your pictures, the front pleats are opening more than they should. With the side seam open, the front should fall back into the correct alignment. You should be able to tell if the front is the right size or needs more at the side seam. The back might fall in line, but I suspect you will need a wider dart. At the least, you will be able to see how much to add at the back side seam. Ripping out part of the back waist seam might allow you to adjust the dart size. Or a muslin fitting of just the skirt would also let you fine tune the dart size.

    • lisa g says:

      I believe the bodice overall is just too long. When I put on a belt, the belt settles 1/2″ above the waist seam all the way around. I’m pretty convinced that I don’t need a swayback adjustment, though my fit issues can give the impression of needing one… so complicated! I really need to suck it up and make a whole body sloper to avoid these issues altogether!

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