Sunday, March 10, 2013

Fitting a lining, continued

It took a bit longer to get back to fitting my lining than I expected, so by the time I got to it, the linen fibers had gone back almost to their original size. So I had to wear it around for a while again.

Dresses made with natural materials will always have the tendency to feel too small when you first put them on because the fibers are susceptible to expanding and contracting, just like most thing in the natural world. As our bodies warm up the cloth, the fibers will ease back into the shape you cut them in, and the dress will fit correctly again. I usually wear my fitted dress to the event, so that the fibers do their stretching while I'm en route.

Since I am not limber enough to fit my own dresses right now, my mom is my second pair of hands. We work as a team- I identify where problems might be occurring, and she makes the adjustments. It's important to work with a partner that understands at least a little bit about dress fitting- they don't have to be a sewer themselves, but they should be capable of seeing where pins should go to achieve the desired results. On very patient days, I can direct my husband, but the burden is on me to give him very precise directions. My mom has helped me with my fitted dresses right from the beginning, so she and I have learned the process together.

So, at the start of the fitting, here's how the lining looked:

Pretty bad, right?

I should point out that this time around, I laced the front from the top down to try to eliminate the bunching that happens with tight upward pulling in just under the bust. In the long run, I don't think it would have mattered one way or the other for the fitting, but it was worth trying.

I identified two major issues to address first. The front and back center seams were slightly off, resulting in odd twisting. The second was the complete lack of bust support. Since the misplaced seams are a major problem in terms of the foundational construction of the dress, this was the first thing to address.

Holding the front center where it should be, we discovered that the left side seam was the culprit. Once pins were in place to take away the offending slack, my seams looked much better.

Since the support on the top was gone, we had to work basically from scratch to correct it. Since my bust is so large, and gravity is always against me, the best option to regain the support was for me to lay down on my back. Once I was comfortable, I shifted my breasts up as high as I could so that we could achieve the greatest amount of lift.

Working from the point just under my bust down toward my waist, mom pulled the panels tight and pinned them into place. As she did this, she maintained a watchful eye on the front center seam, to make sure she was dealing only with the extra on the sides, not robbing the other side by pulling it toward her.

We focused on the first 4 inches below the breast to create a supportive band, similar to the support the lower portion of a bustier gives. After doing both sides, I had a much better shape.

At this point, I wasn't able to make any more decisions about what may or may not be wrong until I replaced the pins with a basting stitch. I was getting terribly poked for starters, but also, since the pins allow ripples to occur (since pins are straight, but the body isn't), I wasn't able to determine if the fit was even. So I took it off and marked the new positions of the side seams on all 4 panels.

This particular step is a pretty important one to pay attention to. You can see above that my new line and the existing line from my pattern are very different. That's about a 1" difference at the deepest point in the new curve. Added up on all four panels, about 4" were removed around my ribs. With heavy, malleable breasts like mine, that 4" were pretty much inviting gravity over for dinner then allowing it to hang out for an extended stay.

After taking everything apart, re-sewing along the new lines, and shifting the lacing strips in 1/8" on both sides, I had this:

Looking pretty good in the front, but there are still some problems. The gaping, of course, didn't get fully corrected. Then in the back, I still had some unflattering wrinkling:

It also looked as though my centered back seam was still off, but when I moved a bit, it seemed to correct itself.

It was the side view, however, that really caught my attention.

Do you care to take a guess as to how much of the dress had shifted upward, creating that deep crease between my bust and belly? Well, I didn't measure it, but the grain of the fabric kind of gives it away.

I decided to take a break to relax for a bit. The longer I fussed and looked in the mirror, the more strain I could feel in my back. Whether consciously or not, I was standing straighter and "sucking in" an unnatural amount. Without being relaxed and wearing the dress comfortably at this point, I couldn't ever really hope for an accurate fit.

Time got away from me, but I think it was about an hour. After a quick look in the mirror, and some playing around with the position around my belly, I decided to open the bottom of the seams up to where I thought the gores should be placed. I went much higher than I have in the past, and I discovered an interesting snag.

I'm shaped in such a way that without the dress "catching" on my waist (remember that line I pointed out in the first post?) it rides up something fierce. The looser fit at the waist, however, is much more flattering. I had to make a choice.

I decided to let the dress work itself into a position that felt comfortable, then, with my mom's assistance, we made an adjustment to the support of the bust by pulling the front upward into the shoulder. This took about 1.25" off of the front at the shoulders, and pretty much brought the linen to it's maximum strain. Any more and the grain would have started to warp away from the points of most stress.

Lifting the bust slightly in this manner was a very minor adjustment, but the difference it made is important to the long-term-wear look of the dress. Since I know I'll have the tendency to pull the dress down as I wear it, I'm willing to accept the bunching that happens under the bust as the dress shifts around my curves. Having to make the choice between dealing with the bunch and losing some of the more flattering shape around my waist, I feel better about the bunching.

So here's the final fit as a comparison the to original fit, before adjustments.


I think what's wonderfully surprising to see in the photo is the minimizing that occurred through the re-fit. I realize that there is still gaping right at the widest point on my bust. In that area, I will adjust the front center seam to have a very slight curve to compensate. I haven't been doing curved front seams, but everything we tried, while keeping it straight, was not correcting that gap. At this particular point, with my body being what it is, introducing a curve is really the best option I see.


I think that the side shot is a great comparison. The shape of my breast has completely changed. This indicates that, not only do I have a good amount of lift, but I also have a lot of shaping. The subtle definition between the curve of my bust and the curve of my belly is enough to shift the look from dumpy to feminine, even if still plus-sized.


I know the back looks like that seam is curved, but that's just the way the seam allowance makes it look. It is a little off-center, though. The back fit is not perfect, but I'm not going to kid myself into believing that the fat rolls are a side effect of the fitting. They really are there. They do, however, look much smoother. We did not alter the back seam, and it's possible that the curve needs some minor adjustments, but I'm really happy with the way the rest of it looks, so I'm trepidatious to make any additional changes here. The look can also change a bit when it's the finished dress and two layers of linen are working together to give me the correct shape.

Alright. So what's next? Now I'll trim off the extra seam allowances, and finish the skirt by adding panels and gores. I'll adjust that center front seam, then I'll do one last fit check. If everything looks good, I'll take the panels apart and use them as the pattern pieces on the orange linen I have waiting. I won't be doing anything with the armscye and neckline until much later in the dress making process.

And good news- I believe we are now past the embarrassing photos part!


  1. I am really loving these posts with the photos and your details about the process. Very brave of you to post the before photos, but to make any sort of informed post, they are needed.

    The shape you're at now is very lovely, and flattering for your body.

    Thanks, and I'm sure the dress you make from this will be awesome - looking forward to seeing it :)

    /Lia de Thornegge (Drachenwald)

  2. I know you said you already are placing the gore in the back higher than you usually do.. but I would actually go another inch or two higher. I don't believe that would interfere with the bust support but I do think it would eliminate some of the back wrinkles.


  3. Thank you so much for posting these tutorials. I've been in a funk of "nothing will EVER make me look like a lovely Lady. I'll just be a dumpy frumpy!" but these pictures of how a really PROPER fitting can make a body look lovely have been a great spirit boost and inspiration! Thanks so much <3

  4. Well done - you've definitely improved it drastically between the first fitting and the final photo here.

    I was going to suggest lifting the shoulder seams, but you've already done that. I almost always end up doing that adjustment and find it helps lift the bust and smooth out unsightly wrinkles around the armscye and underbust. Often it is the only thing that will help.

    (Also, I have the same 'waist riding up' problem as you encountered. I'm still not sure how to fix it...)

    I agree with Sylvie - I think you should place the gores higher still - at least to the point of the lowest back wrinkle. See if that helps smooth things in the back. I would place the gore's tip at the point where your back 'kicks out' to your bottom.

    However, I'd also not fuss too much with it. I always forget how much better things look once they are made in the proper fabric (particularly wool). Everything ends up a lot smoother. Then, things always look even better when you put the appropriate layer over the first dress (be it a surcoat, tippeted dress, longsleeved dress, whatever). The extra layers of fabric, though adding bulk, create a much smoother profile and gloss over wrinkles, etc.

    But all in all - bravo! I look forward to the next step.

  5. The before/after comparisons are very encouraging to all of us who have soft squidge; thank you for helping us to see that we can improve our fit/look, and for giving us a few clues on where to start!