The Savvy Sage of Sewing Stimulation

September Newsletter

In a couple of days my 9th newsletter for this year is coming out, and I feel this needs some preface.  It’s so long and large, that I really didn’t have room to put this in there.

The first part of this is about how I fit, and really how I get to the point where I can fit a client or a student in one of my classes.  I’m sure you think, well, you start with the pattern and the measuring tape and maybe pin the pattern together or whip up a muslin real quick.

Nope, that’s not where I start.  And not only that, but in the September Newsletter, I tell you why I don’t start there.  But for here I wanted to start with why I have to do this.

I’ve been reading Jennifer Scott’s book: Lessons from Madame Chic: 200 Stylsh Secrets Learned While Living in Paris.


As well as Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion:


Both books have one major fact in common (Although Madame Chic is an underlying theme), and that is that the way we buy today’s clothing has so warped our perspective on buying garments.  We hardly know  1.) what we want, 2.) what looks good on us and 3.) lasts, that when we get ready to sew, and especially fit ourselves, we are woefully prepared to be able to know what we want, much less start the physical process of fitting.

And that’s not only for we sewists, but it’s for my clients.  I have to constantly educate them on what a good fit is and most of all to speak up.  Most folks think that if they speak up, that the clerk will become rude and will just walk off and any service is gone – or else there’s no one around to help and you’re left to your own devices to find something and can’t find anything close to what you want.

I mean this almost borders on the absurd.  Think about it.  You go into a store to purchase (pay YOUR money) to buy something that you want.  If the store doesn’t have what you want, you go to another store – that’s the capitalist way.  That’s what we’ve all been taught is the best way to market.  And although we succumb (or at least the proferers of Madison Avenue would so desire), to this or that marketed item here and there, basically we really do buy what we want.  Take the grocery market – we have a list: meat, fruit, veggies, cupcakes, juice, yogurt, bread and the like (OK, maybe the cupcakes is a little wishful thinking – what can I say, I gotta sweet tooth!!!), and we go through the rows looking for our items we need.  If we don’t find them, we may go to another store and pick it up there.  But we basically come home with what we want.  And yes, we may buy some cupcakes, but we do also come home with the other items as well.  So basically we’ve bought the bulk, if not all (and some extra) of what we want.

This isn’t so when we go shopping for clothes.  From the minute we walk into the stores, we are not our own boss.  We are managed, cajoled, convinced and otherwise manipulated into believing that what we want is not only not good for us, but it really isn’t what we want.  We are maneuvered and deceived into believing that we not only don’t know what we want, but what is in the store is really what we want.  And the over-riding factor in buying anything, above all else, the bottom line is  – – PRICE!!!  Everything is judged by the price we pay.  According to the mantra in the store:  we should be willing to sacrifice, color, style, fit and most of all quality for price.

And so this is done every single day of every single week of every single month we are shopping.  There are very few places where we can purchase garments that are of good quality – construction, assembly and content.

I know this is a typical beef, and that it sounds all too familiar.  But here’s the real question we should ALL be asking ourselves as we are on this odyssey (and believe me, sometimes the search for the perfect dress goes beyond odyssey and into a rite of passage almost!),  is what do I want; what do I need; what will work well for MY body, what will work well in MY wardrobe.

And I know and realize it is the marketer’s job to sell what is in the store, but this has gotten to the point where it is so out of hand.  It’s gotten so out of hand that I think of most marketers as selling The Emperor’s New Clothes.

Do you remember that famous Hans Christian Andersen tale – – The Emperor’s New Clothes?  It may have been a while since you’ve read it, so click on the picture above (or the link above) and re-read it fresh.  It’s really worth it.  You probably remember it’s about an emperor who gets duped into having clothes made for him that really aren’t clothes.  But there’s all sorts of wonderful, charming tentacles the tale tells that make it that much richer, and a very common favorite.  The main point of the story is that through the tale, everyone gets duped into believing that there’s this wonderful fabric that will not only exemplify the wearer, but also those who see the fabric, for it will immediately discern who’s smart and who’s not.

Think about it – isn’t this what happens when we go shop?  Not only that, but Andersen’s tale is just exactly in the same vein as we are talking about here – – primarily clothes!

Although we may not be walking through the streets of the capital of the kingdom in  no clothes, it’s pretty close to that when you consider the quality of workmanship and content of the garments we are wearing.

So why rail on and on about this?

In my daily work with my clients, I have to constantly remind them that this is not like shopping.  But I also have to do this with my students.  And why?  Because we are not creating “the emperor’s new clothes”, we are creating quality garments, that will not only last this year, and next year and the year after that, but last for 5 or 10 years down the road.

Now I know we’re taught to think that anything from last year is antiquated, outdated, obsolete and even outré (that’s French for: way-out, outlandish).  It’s like buying a tube TV or a computer with a tube monitor (that’s those ancient thingies that we used to watch TV on).


So what does this have to do with our fit?

Well, it gives us corrupted view of what a good fit is.  And if you had a file on your computer that was corrupted, you would fix it, cause it would mess up your whole computer, if it hasn’t already.  If you had a corruped vision of your company, you’d get rid of it, cause it will destroy your whole company.

A corrupted vision of what a good fit is, warps and corrupts not only the fit, but how the garment works in your wardrobe and how it services you, which BTW, has also been lost in this whole process – SOMETHING THAT WORKS FOR YOU, instead of you having to diet or change your body shape, or your coloring or your height or your breath or how you move or anything else to make the garment work for you.

That’s why I set out clearly in the first part of this fitting journey, to clarify what a good fit is, and what that good fit for you is.  I don’t tell my clients what feels good on them.  I get them to tell me what feels good on them and then I go from there.  That’s my job.

The same thing happens when you sew.  You really have to know what you want before you can even think of pulling the tape around your body for measurements.

  1. You gotta know what you want
  2. You gotta know what a good fit is
  3. You gotta know what a good fit for you is
  4. You gotta know what you like and don’t like about your body, and be OK with it
  5. You gotta know what you need in your closet

That may sound like it has nothing to do with a good fit.

Believe me – it has EVERYTHING to do with a good fit.

Here’s some specifics of what I mean…if you don’t know what you want how in the world are you going to know how to make that vision (of which you don’t have) into a form or reality?

See the process here?  This isn’t all that hard.  It’s like a carpenter trying to make something to sit in, but the chair hasn’t been invented yet.  He doesn’t know what it will look like and he’s not sure how it will be when he’s finished.  If he’s thinking that it will be a long flat thing that will stand straight up and that it will support the back but there’s nothing for the fanny, that ain’t gerna work!!!


See how comfy this is?


It AIN’T comfy and not only that, there’s no way you can possibly stay like this (without thighs the size of Atlas), for very long.


When inventing a chair, you gotta have the bottom of the chair.  The carpenter has to visualize this first before he/she can make it.


You’ve got to do the same thing with your fitting.  You have to know what you want before you can visualize what you want to make.

How do you figure out what you want?  There are some steps to take, like figuring out your size (2, 42 whatever), then your shape  – apple, pear, banana, kumquat, persimmon, — OK I get a little goofy here, but you know all the usual suspects – triangle, inverted triangle, rectangle, and all that stuff – in the newsletter I list it all for you;  and finally your style – and by this I mean the style of life you lead – – are you casual, semi-formal, love to dress up, hate to dress up, but whatever you dress, you want to look nice.  Then there’s the business about fabric shaped around your body – things like ease;  how do you deal with stretch fabrics and fit;  how to deal with woven fabrics and fit.  You have to know all this.

[private] Here’s a preview place for all you members to start!!!  I’m taking you by the hand now, and each one of you listen carefully.  Go to your closet and we’re going to take a serious look at it.

Divide it into three parts:

  1. Clothes that make you look spectacular – and I mean S-P-E-C-T-A-C-U-L-A-R!!!
  2. Clothes that don’t fit any more – be HONEST here
  3. Clothes that don’t fit your style (they were great when you were working, but you’re retired now, or great when you were dating your sweet honey, but now that you have kids and are running carpool, they aren’t working for you)
  4. Clothes that are just meh!  You know what I mean – you bought them on a whim, or your friends were buying the same thing and it looked good on them, or the price was so killer low that you couldn’t resist….all that stuff
  5. Clothes that you are not wearing – – If # 1- #4 don’t get rid of the clothes you are not wearing, this this #5 should.

Now make three stacks to put these in:

  1. Things that will go back into the closet
  2. Things that will be given away or trashed (take all your buttons off and check for other parts you might recycle – lace parts, trims, that sort of thing.
  3. Things that will go on hold (this is the place where I would really like you to get it out of your closet permanently, but 1.) you had such a good time in it, 2.) it brings back wonderful memories of your past, 3.) I loved it so much in the store {come on, please get this out, but if you can’t, put it in this pile} and all those things that you just can’t let go of for one reason or another.)  This stack will be kept in your attic, garage, basement or someplace that is NOT your closet and where you don’t go very often, so that if you remember it, and go back to this place and dig it out, then that says that you really have a need for it.

OK – now then take a look at your closet again, and you can start to really look at what you’re wearing and what you need.

This is going to get one big question on your fitting schedule knocked off – – WHAT YOU NEED….your lifestyle will help here too, as will your color palette (you did do that didn’t you – in April – here’s a great bonus for you if you didn’t get it and want to download it again.  So you have a head start here. [/private]


How do you do this – well you lucky members get to see this in the September issue of the newsletter.  This is information that I gained from years of working with my clients. I approached my clients the way I did when I sewed for myself.  I was very picky – no not that color, no not that style, but yes this color, yes this style, yes this length, yes this width and on and on.  I didn’t know how to do anything half way or just sorta.  The only thing I knew to do was make it as well and perfect as I could.  This is the rep I got in my area for formal wear.

When I started teaching I did the same.  I didn’t know how to fit just sorta or kinda or maybe a little here or there.  My problem is that if I do just half way, well where is that half-way line?  Where do I stop helping/teaching and just leave it hang?  The trouble with me is that takes a lot of effort to think of that half way line, so I just save time and teach it all the way – do the fitting all the way.

Now, I will tell you there’s a caveat in this – as an artists I’ve been criticized by my teacher(s) that I need to learn when to let it go.  I’m not good at that.  And the same thing can be said of a garment.  You can always fiddle with it on and on. The point at which you let go becomes very blurred after you start doing this fitting thing.  So it’s important to realize that you can’t fit every nook and cranny of the body, and you don’t wanna.  And that’s something else I’ve learned in 30 years of designing for my clients.  So where do you stop and where do you start.

That’s more of what we’ll explore this month in the member downloads, mini-newsletters as well as the newsletter.

You can see why I get a little of the Anna Wintour September Issue Syndrome (which is a very long way of saying that’s I’m long-winded) when dealing with this subject.  It’s a favorite and one I couldn’t just make abbreviated or short!!!


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