Drafting Individual Sizes and Shapes

This post on Chiral Craft strikes a chord. Especially as I’m in the process of drafting the dress I just finished for someone a different size and shape.

Laura writes

“What I guess I’ve learned is that it’s true that grading isn’t as easy as “just making something bigger,” because everyone’s got a different build and proportions, and gains and loses weight in different places. So offering a pattern in a very wide range of sizes is challenging, especially when it’s quite fitted. Not impossible, clearly, but challenging, so thanks to those pattern lines that give it a go.”

Its where the size difference is (sometimes equating with where the weight gain or loss is), its shape changes, and its what will be flattering.

I’m one of the most vociferous of the slaggers-off- of -the -Big4, but have a nagging feeling that this is slightly hypocritical of me. A small inner voice is carping on the question “How would you cater for all these variations and still turn a profit to stay in business”

Design development can take a lot of time. I’m not talking about churning out an A-line skirt with just a slightly different yoke style or a couple of pockets, but a completely fresh looking fashion can involve weeks of trial and error. There’s a reason why design development is almost always done in a small, small cup, sizes. Its just that much easier to make anything work on what is the nearest thing to a blank canvas.

Back to the pattern in hand. The size I’m working on now is five inches bigger on the bust measurement than the one I just did, and most of that is in the front block. That translates as starting with a bust dart twice the size.

The easiest way to get a flattering fit on larger cup sizes is without a doubt a shoulder dart or a shoulder dart translated into a from the shoulder princess seam. Only, I hear ya plus people, getting pretty bored with that whole concept. Everyone else gets at least six dart positions to play around with, getting stuck with one feels like discrimination.

When a drafter branches out, trying to grade up something that’s working well in a small size, there’s a lot of fabric to move somewhere. Its not the actual measurement itself, its the relationship to all the other measurements.

The best answer to this is, I think, to attempt subtle adaptations of the style. For example, one huge dart becoming three smaller ones,or a simple dart shapes becoming  boat shaped darts to get over the baggy midriff problem, or using extra dart positions not in the original smaller style. Or hiding seams under drapes and putting some of the dart in the seam.

All of this takes a lot of extra time. How commercially viable would a pattern company find it?




About jay

I design and draft patterns
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9 Responses to Drafting Individual Sizes and Shapes

  1. Pella says:

    Oh, many thanks!


  2. Sew2pro says:

    That’s why skeletons are so easy to accommodate. And children; flat as planks!

    Great post, btw!


  3. Gjeometry says:

    We learned about pattern-drafting in Pattern making class, and I really loved it, all the math and drawing. But, did not learn fitting or alterations. I think this is honestly more difficult than drafting a pattern in a straight size 10. I would love to learn how to alter and fit / tailor items, since I am beginning now to move on to more advanced projects. If you see any resources about this that are really good, lemme know! 🙂


  4. mrsmole says:

    In this age of computers you would think that sizes from a 6-24 could be more customized within a certain style but then the envelope would have to reflect that in the drawings and photos. The size 24 girl would have to take a hard look at her particular version and decide if it was still flattering while gazing at the size 6 with no extra darts. I guess we can consider ourselves lucky they actually draw a horizontal line across the bodice to shorten or lengthen although so many women only need a shorter back and not a shorter front and there are no directions for that transition…enter the muslin…all singing all dancing tool of the weary seamstress….pin it, draw on it, cut it open and rearrange it’s parts…and by magic…it fits the client like no drawn out piece of paper ever could or computer generated personalized pattern…curves people…we all have them but in all different places!


    • Pella says:

      All true, and another thing is that if you add in different darts or seams, a pattern company would have to factor in a second set of instructions and diagrams.


  5. I hadn’t considered any of the problems you highlight until I started pattern cutting myself – and then realised the difficulties. It is much further round a big curve than a shallow one – not something you think about too often in relation to bodies.
    Good post.


  6. seweverythingblog says:

    Great post!


  7. Brooke says:

    Yes, what you wrote about grading being complicated is very true! Frustrating yet true – for anyone on either end of the fitting scale.

    I’ve been experimenting with ratios and proportion on patterns (something I started doing years ago but only recently started trying to understand why it worked for me) because I get a better fit using ratios than than I do with standard grading.

    I hope the dress drafting goes well! =)


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