The Savvy Sage of Sewing Stimulation

Artists Have Always Morphed the Female Body

And what we have to realize is that the photos that we see on the runway and particularly in the fashion magazines are all altered.  They aren’t even close to reality which can cause a lot of problems with the people looking at these photos.

There are so many problems here – the obvious ones that the photo on the right looks like a plastic doll, and doesn’t look like a real person, and that doesn’t include the unrealistic proportions that are inflicted on the buying public as being normal.  For the marketer, the main purpose is to make you feel wanting so that you will buy the product.  And believe me – if I looked like the above left picture and using a product would make me look like the above right, I would seriously consider it.  But of course it doesn’t and it won’t make me look better than I already do.  My cheek bones won’t protrude (just the right amount) and they won’t rise; my eyes won’t change location or size;  my face won’t get wider in the right spots and smaller in the right spots (whatever that is); and it won’t make my hair thicker and fuller.  So the bottom line is that there’s no product like this no matter how beautiful they make the model and no matter what my eyes see.  Sorta like: Are you going to believe the picture or your lying eyes?!!!!

And this isn’t just endemic to the current times.  Since artists could duplicate the female figure, it’s been going on, but the difference is that it’s all been in the name of proper perspective or to have the figure reflected properly within the constraints of the painting.  For example, in the Sandra Botticelli, Birth of Venus, above, the overlay of a regular body shows the warped body.  Venus’s left shoulder is way out of whack and her torso is equally out of reality proportions.  This may not make you feel any better, that it’s been going on for a long time, bu at least it should make us feel like the current trend is not new.

What is new is the perception that we have to look like these unrealistic pictures, and that if we don’t something’s wrong with us if we don’t look this way.

And now it’s gotten so bad, that the morphed version is now fixed to look fatter, because the model’s true size and style is so thin that she doesn’t look healthy or normal – get that:  SO THIN IT’S NOT NORMAL.  And this is from the folks that have morphed unrealistic pictures for decades!!!

That’s the body part of all this.  What’s even worse is that we’re told that the fit of a garment should be in this perfection zone which is equally as unrealistic as the body shape itself.  Here’s a typical example:

pantsThe photo on the left is the original photo from a catalog.  This is the proper way these pants are supposed to fit even though the pant (that’s properly fitting on the right) has more fabric.  NOTE:  more fabric here is a better fit.  If you were to make these out of a woven fabric, you couldn’t sit down without busting out of the seams on the left version.  It’s an impossibility – believe me, I sew for a living!!!! (not funny, I know, but couldn’t resist).  But I do get lots of clients who believe that I can make them look 20 pounds thinner just by making the dress or pants tighter until I have them sit down and act like they are getting in and out of a car, and then they see the light.

Tighter is not a better fit.

So back to fitting – here’s a perfect example of this

vogue1389This is a Vogue pattern, and although the jacket is poorly fit too, the skirt is atrocious.  Why?  Because this is just the sort of thing you do NOT want when you are sewing your clothes – this is not and should not be a goal for this skirt – the skirt on the right should be the goal.  Again, tighter is not a better fit.  And the skirt on the left (the original photo from the Vogue site) is tighter and that’s all that’s wrong with it.

No wonder we have trouble fitting.  We’ve got all the techniques to learn, and then on top of that we’ve got to learn what a good fit is.  That means we have to find out what a good fit is and we have to learn why it’s a good fit.

Imagine having to learn how to cook, and all the cooks out there are cooking things that don’t make sense, like adding paper to a recipe or using ingredients that you’ve never heard of before.  So you have to go out and search for cooking instructions for cooking that doesn’t exist!  That’s what it’s like to learn fitting in today’s environment.


It may help a little to know that even Botticelli was misshaping figures back in the 15th century.  But the really confounding problem is not the unrealistic shapes we are supposed to attain, but the totally wrong guidelines of what a good fit really is.

A good fit is a very personal thing.  It always has been and always will be.  It is a constant battle between comfort and bagginess… much bagginess are you willing to have for the comfort that you want.  Or the reverse how much uncomfortable tightness you are willing to put up with to keep from looking too loose.

Being personal means I can’t give you a drop-dead formula or exact measurement on what is correct or not.  But what I can help you with is the fact that a major part of why fitting is so hard is that there’s not too many great examples out there -hardly any for women, because the RTW, fashion editors/magazines, manufacturers and even designers all set up skin tight clothes as the proper fit.  It’s not.  It’s not only not the correct fit, it’s a fit that is mostly unattainable (and still have any comfort – yes, you can have skin tight clothes but you can’t sit, get in and out of a car, much less an SUV, bend, turn and can hardly shift weight from one hip to the other).

So, remember that when you are fitting:

  1. You are fitting your personal body
  2. You are fitting your personal preferences – this means you might like it tight in certain places and loose in others, which may or may not be like what you see in magazines, but don’t mind that – remember they don’t know about your preferences – you do!
  3. The fitting you see in media (almost 95% of it) is not well fit – it is stretch that is usually smaller sizes stretched over body showing every flaw – this is not a fit.  Stretching over a body is not fit – even your knits will fit differently if you FIT them to you and don’t stretch the fabric thinking this is a fit.  Know this is heads up that this isn’t a model to follow.
  4. Part of what you get to do when you sew is fit that is a personal thing. This is a process. By that I mean it may change from day to day from week to week. You may make up a top and then decide just a little tweak here and there and suddenly it’s a home run.
  5. Remember the first place you will want to fit is the most glaring error, after that is fixed, then the second most glaring will show.  This is not a result of fixing the first and if you didn’t see it at first, that’s OK, cause you were more concerned about the most glaring error first.  Fix these in order from most noticeable to least noticeable, and admit that all won’t be fixed, because some will be so minor and small that no one will notice unless you point it out to them.

Hopefully this helps you think of fitting errors/problems in different ways than what you think of them now.  What I want you to consider is that what you see in stores and in the media is NOT law, and I want you to develop your own style and fitting parameters, and that means that there’s really not a good guide.  But what I can tell you is what it isn’t – that means it’s NOT stretched tight across your body – unless that’s what you want, but most people will admit that stretching a piece of fabric to show every ripple and indentation (and extension) is not flattering – never has been and never will be – unless your Cat Woman!



  1. Great post! I bought that Vogue pattern (and thought the skirt fit was all wrong, too). I’m still working on the muslin to get the fit right. In addition the flat pattern measurements do not match the ease printed on the pattern, which isn’t enough.

    • Suz, don’t over think that skirt. All you have to do is make the line from the thickest part of your hip straight to the hem. What’s messed it up (in the original picture) is that it curves

        in under

      the hip – that’s what makes it look so bad. If that line was straight, then it would look swimmingly. I’ve heard the jacket is not a good fit, so it would be worth your time to measure out the pattern and compare to your shoulder measurement. You have to be really careful about this, cause if you get the shoulder wrong, it’s hell to alter – so it’s just easier to make the shoulder the measurement to choose the pattern size by and then alter the rest. I also noticed on this picture how much higher they made the back darts than what the original shows. I’m not sure what conclusion to draw (1. did they have trouble fitting the model, 2. who made this up a 1st-grader?, or 3. just lack of attention to detail or wanting to reflect the pattern correctly). In the “olden days” Vogue designer patterns were pictures of the original design from the designer. If this is from the designer,I would be surprised.

  2. Wonderful post! I am so tired of seeing darts go way past the apex in patterns lately. Who is letting this happen? I’ve seen the garments made up on PR and the makers have the darts past the apex as well. The unfortunate thing is that a few these and a newbie sewist thinks that’s the way it’s supposed to be when it could look so much better. It’s like no one is checking out the drafts.

    • Yeah – it’s a simple little thing, but once you know how to do this, you begin to see how often it’s done incorrectly!

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