I Don’t Get It

….which is the name of a pretty funny blog, but in this case, I don’t get why there hasn’t been a solution.  As trend, need and searching-out-the-latest-niche heavy our marketing apparatuses are, why we can’t find or haven’t found an adequate solution to this ongoing problem.

As a matter of fact, I think it’s gotten worse in RTW than anything better.

Ms. Bixler runs a pattern-making studio and for uses this same form from 1976 that is a size 8…however today it’s called a size 2….maybe?

That’s just one of the problems with buying RTW. This isn’t just your normal Claire rail against RTW fitting.  Aside from the facts that today’s RTW fabric selection and garment construction are something that would have never even been considered to be offered back in 1976 (it would have been far substandard and below acceptable retail quality), there’s this size issue.

And think about it.  When you go to shop – what size are you?  First thing you consider is where you are:  Neiman Marcus?….Macy’s?….GAP?…Vera Wang’s Boutique (on Madison Ave NYC)?  Believe it or not, and most of you shoppers out there already know this – each one of those stores has a different idea about what size a 1976 version of size 8 is. There’s no talking or thinking about shape yet.

Talk about confusing.  And let’s not even talk about what this does or doesn’t do to your ego.  We all know that the reason the designers do this is so that we won’t think we are actually the size we are.  Size, schmize – who cares.  It’s the fit….as was once quoted and works here perfectly:

If the glove (garment) don’t fit…….
(and I would finish it like)
then I do not get….it!!!

OK bad rhythm and warped humor, but this is really frustrating to watch article after article, complaint after complain about this and nothing is done, only the situation gets worse.  Clothing is more and more poorly made;  garment fabrics are worse and worse (I even notice it in fabric my clients bring to me);  and although the pricing may seem cheap, it is really the most expensive way of dressing (that’s a whole other blog and soapbox for another time!)

We’re not even addressing any sort of shape issues: smaller waist, or larger bust or shoulder shapes or high or lower hip variations from body to body, we’re just talking about the basic size and RTW has made this so confusing that  a doctorate from FIT couldn’t figure this out.

OK, let's pause for a moment and let our eyes recover after viewing this visual pollution!!!

Skirts are probably the least problematic to fit (although you wouldn’t know it from above), usually there’s a hem, waist maybe hip if it’s fitted through the hips, but that’s about it.  Tops are next, not shirts or blouses, but tops where there is less to fit, then blouses, then shirts, jackets and finally pants are the hardest and most difficult to fit – not to sew amazingly enough (I can sew a pair of pants with lining up in about 1 hour, but I have a TNT [tried ‘n true] pattern that is for my shape and body).  So imagine the mess RTW can get into with pants the most difficult to fit.  Or let’s imagine this:  what is a good fit?  Who knows, because the whole idea of a fit in a pair of pants is so lost anymore, it’s hardly a wisp of a concept even left.

This gets to be a problem when you start fitting yourself or others and you have a whole choice of things to fit.  It’s not that you can’t be fitted (because believe me, I’ve fit just about any and all shapes and so that the client looks good!), it’s because we no longer know how a good pair of pants is suppose to fit!  It’s that basic.  And that’s just the pants – haven’t even started with any of the other garments.

This is one of my biggest issues in my classes.  When I ask my students, how do you want them to fit, they look at me as if I’ve asked them how to solve the national debt!  There’s a blank stare at first, and then they look at me and think:  Gee, I’m supposed to know that!

It makes a person wonder if this isn’t part of the problem with sewing.

Yes, we have a “general” idea about something we want, but because RTW has so trained us not to have exactly what we want, that has long ago been bred out of us, that we no longer even think to even ask for it!  So students come to the class thinking, I want something that works, but hardly know where to ask after that.

So how to go about solving this.  This is how I do this with my clients, cause they also have to be trained to think differently about their clothes (my latest MOB is amazed the dress is so comfy and yet she looks so nice – yes, that’s what I do!!!!)  So here’s just some of my steps I use to get my clients and students to be more acquainted with what they want:

  • First I think about the style or need – if there is no occasion go to your closet (and yes, be honest and a little cruel with yourself) and look and see what you need…pants?….jacket?…dress?
  • Then lay out the shape – you have to do this to help you pick out the pattern
  • Then lay out the size (don’t pay any attention to what is in the store…look at the pattern measurements and buy size that way)
  • Now – while you’re doing fittings, think about ease, and how you want to move in the garment – if it’s very formal, there will be less ease;  if it’s more casual there will be more ease.  This is the comfort factor and the hardest part.  You want to make it comfortable for you but not baggy, and that may be a bargain where you have to give up some here and some there to get the right balance between fit and comfort.
  • The garment should hang correctly – not tilt forward/backward or from side to side.  It should hang from your shoulders or bustline or hipline or stomach line straight or at the very least at a very slightly tapered angle in.
  • The garment should be in proportion – that means if you have fullness in your bust, don’t make more fabric or design going on there..  If you have fullness in your hips, don’t make a full flouncy skirt.  Keep it simple around the full part of your bod.  Watch your lengths:  jacket, top, shirt, skirt, dress, coat, etc.

See, that isn’t all that difficult.  This really makes it so much simpler, and we can just by-pass all those RTW folks who are programming us into thinking that we really don’t have to fit in our clothes (which after I wrote that sounds really illogical, but think about it!)

Most of all, as sewists and artists, this is something that we can create on our own that will really not only look good, but feel good.  Imagine, having a closet full of clothes that you can’t make up your mind what you want because it all looks so good on you and feels so good.  Believe it or not, that’s what my closet does for me every day and yours can too.





  1. You are so right, Claire. It is maddening! When I was in college and a young married woman, I always wore a size 10. Today, after 3 children and some decades, I wear a 2. BUT I couldn’t get my arm in those old clothes if my life depended on it! Patterns seem to offer sizes that are more standard and realistic — and now that I’m sewing for myself, I am back in a size 10! Who cares what the size is as long as it fits properly and feels good!?

  2. Claire,

    I am a big fan of yours! I have a difficult time finding slacks that fit. I have a smaller size waist and a sway back. I have been afraid to try and make any slacks for myself and a True-Fit pattern class is being offered at our local fabric store. I believe that Lutteroh is another name for the True-Fit patterns. I’m signed up and am looking forward to any garmet construction class that is offered locally.

    What are your thoughts are this? Thanks for all the inspiration and encouragement you give all of us sewists!

    • I started to make a long response here, but I’m just going to do a blog post on this, cause it’s too long here. This week.

  3. I think that it’s so true that your students don’t know how their clothes should fit or actually how they like them to fit. You think those skirts were bad, try women in pants. Even young women can’t get a good fit. They accept bad fit because they don’t know any better.

  4. About 10 years ago, I used to work part time at a high end fabric store. At least once a month, I would have a newbie customer/sewist who had fallen in love with a fabric and was going to Make Something. So she would look through our patterns and pick something out and then discover that her RTW size isn’t listed on the envelope back. I would then measure her and tell her that she should purchase yardage to make a size 12 (or whatever size she was) and see the absolutely shocked look on her face and know that the next thing I would hear was: “But that can’t be right! I ALWAYS wear a size 2!”

    The flip side to this was the woman with the 50″ bust who wanted to try on the size 6 sample jacket (that’s pattern size 6, not RTW), because that’s apparently the size she wore in RTW. I don’t think she could get her HAND into the sleeve.

  5. Thanks for the post. The steps you’ve outlined are very helpful and I look forward to reading your response to Eileen’s question.

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