Everybody's Favorite Claire McCardell has taken me on a roller coaster of emotions this week. Last week I made my first muslin with hopeful excitement. Then it did not fit quite right and I become a bit despondent. I pulled out my Fit for Real People and started perusing the alterations, wondering what I needed to do to reach a flattering silhouette. But it all seemed so daunting. The muslin looked like an oversize straight jacket. Granted, the muslin still needed a full bust adjustment to even out the proportions, but even with a longer bodice and deeper darts, I still had this issue of an odd armpit fit and too much fabric across the upper chest (see images below for proof). I almost gave up. Almost.
Luckily Threads Magazine and my weekly sewing class restored my faith. Threads is offering a fitting DVD preview with the current issue, and you can find the preview online as well. My "ah-ha" moment came in watching the "Fitting the Torso" section specifically on "Fitting the Shoulders." It turns out that an incorrect fit in the shoulder "rise" can cause many problems in the chest and upper back that look like bust fit issues, but are really shoulder fit issues. Simply increasing or decreasing the slope of the shoulder patter can correct the fit.
Inspired, my sewing instructor Lovita traced my shoulder silhouette on some butcher paper on the wall and we created a shoulder map. In laying the pattern against my shoulder map as instructed in the video, we indeed found disparity between the two. In turns out that my shoulders have a more severe downward slope than the pattern, and there is a good couple of inches of excess fabric between the pattern's should slope and mine. This accounts for the pouches of fabric gathering over my bust line!
We did some other measuring, and we think that my back is a smaller pattern size than my front by a size or two. Also, we already know the pattern will require a full bust adjustment AND a full waist adjustment.
So, I went to Kinkos yesterday and for $12 I had the front and back pattern pieces copied twice, to give me the freedom to slash, spread, move and modify without fear. I am taking today off from work and plan to do some alterations (just as soon as I get back from the gym, which is yet another way to try and make patterns fit. Wink.). The next step will be to trace the altered pattern piece onto a soft fabric tracing material to construct a lightweight muslin. This will give me something form fitting to allow for final alterations. Next, I will sew a full blown fabric muslin from this altered fabric pattern, make any final changes, and FINALLY move onto my well fitting final garment.
I am invigorated and again hopeful that I can make this dress work. Claire McCardell was after all a genius of simple and flattering design, and I would be honored to wear her dress. I have two versions of it planned in my mind already. One will become my little black dress and include the full 3/4 sleeves and the fitted straight skirt with the pleats in the back. I will make this in a high quality raw silk dupioni. Second, I would like to make the cap sleeved version with a fuller circle or semi-circle skirt in a seersucker, maybe a purple and white or blue and white. And if I get this really well fitted, I also envision making the bodice only a few times over in different shirting materials for work tops. Oh Claire McCardell, you are destine to become not just everyone's favorite, but also MY favorite too!