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Mrs Bowden’s top tips – fitting systems

Mrs Bowden’s top tips – fitting systems

Mrs Bowden’s top tip – fitting advice
One of the reasons you may make your own clothes is because you want your garments to fit you.  Very few of us are a standard size which means that we can become a wee bit frustrated shopping for ready to wear (RTW) particularly if clothes are mean to fit closely and don’t!
There are three ways to tackle this dilema when using a commerical pattern or indeed a pattern you have created yourself but need to test.

1. Tissue Fitting

You can pin the tissue together using the standard seam allowance.  It isn’t necessary to pin on facings, linings and decorative features as this is purely to see if the outer shell fits you.  You can then mark the tissue where modifications need to be made.


*  quick and a good way of testing bust/waist/hip fitting.

*  tissue does not drape and so does not have the qualities of the fashion fabric being used for the garment – this can greatly affect the fit and look of the finished piece.

*  Unless it’s an asymmetrical garment you will only get half a garment to fit.  This makes it difficult to ascertain ‘stress’ areas which are typically over the bustline or abdomen.

*  tissue is very fragile and can tear easily.

2.  Toile fitting

You can also create a toile of the garment.   This is pronounced TWARLL.   A toile is a protoype made in a fabric with similar qualities but less expensive than the final fashion fabric.  However, there is also a fabric called Toile du Joy.  Toile comes from the French for a “linen cloth” or “canvas” for painting on, hence why toiles are often made in cheap calico to test.


*  Very accurate representation of the final garment which is easy to mark for modifications.
*  Allows the maker to ‘test run’ any constructions techniques or sample different finishing techniques.
*  Position of design features such as pockets can be placed, seen and checked.
*  You can decide if you actually like the garment before making it up in expensive fabric.


*  Can be time consuming to make and adds an additional cost.

3.  Tack fashion fabric

The third way is to tack the main pieces of the fashion fabric together and fit it before finishing.  I thought you would enjoy this little bit of advice taken from an early 1960s pattern.Advantages:
*  you can check the garment fits before finishing it.
*  you can see if you like it.
*  you can alter the position of some features.

*  it can be difficult to increase the size of a garment to achieve a good fit if the pattern pieces are already cut.
*  There are fundamental features of the garment that cannot be altered.  For example, if the shape of the front neckline is too big it cannot be made smaller, the front bodice would need to be re-cut to alter it at this stage unless you can raise the shoulder seams which can create a different fitting dilemma!!

Sometimes the choice of fabric of the final piece is enough to make you decide which fitting system you are going to use if at all.

My rule of thumb is that dressmaking is an investment of your time, patience and money.  It’s worth spending a few more pennies on a cheap fabric to produce a toile that will give you a satisfying end results and taking the time to fit the garment pays dividends in the end!

I’m very much looking forward to seeing you at the Festival of Fabric this Saturday.

Until then,

in stitches,

Mrs Bowden x

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