What Patterns Are and What Patterns Are Not

Recent happenings have led me to take today off from blogging about the Katherine of Aragon outfit and talk about pattern production.

When you buy a pattern to make a garment, you are not buying something that pops out of the packaging and assembles itself.  It is also not like IKEA furniture — everything for everyone, you just have to put it together.

A pattern is a starting point for any project.  Making a garment from a pattern is rarely a case of simple assembly of the pieces.  The same pattern in the same size made from the same fabric by two different seamstresses will produce two different garments based on the skill and technical prowess of those seamstresses.  Additionally, choice of fabric will also affect the outcome of the garment-making process.

But the thing that affects the process of making a garment from a pattern the most is fit.

Why do the clothes you buy from Walmart not fit perfectly?  It’s because they were not made for you, specifically.  They were made for your “size”.  This size is generally dependent on Bust, Waist, and Hip measurements.  However, you could take twenty women with identical Bust, Waist, and Hip measurements and not find two of them who looked the same in the garment.

Store (and pattern) sizes don’t take into account many other measurements — chest size (as opposed to bust size), shoulder width, chest depth, arm length, et cetera. 

Why don’t sizes take these measurements into consideration?  Because you have to stop somewhere.  If a pattern (or clothing) company took into account all these size differences, they would have to have 50, 60 or seventy sizes instead of 10.  This is a logistic nightmare.  Not even a multi-million dollar company can afford to produce garments (or patterns) in that many sizes.

And even if they did, someone would be left out.  And how do you decide if you want to forget about your short-waisted customers or your long-armed customers?

Pattern companies based their patterns on a base set of sizes.  When they test their patterns, they search for models with these exact measurements.  These measurements aren’t just bust, waist, and hip, but a wide variety of measurements that the model must have to get the job.  The model must be precisely the size for whom the pattern was made in order to test it.  If one of her measurements is off, the test is invalid.

So what can you do?  You say you’re not a “perfect size”.  Well, very, very few people are. 

The assumption of the pattern company is that you will choose the size closest to your measurements and fit the garment to your size.  If you buy a dress that is too long, you hem it, right?  Same thing with patterns.

This is why every Reconstructing History pattern comes with instructions that teach you how to fit the pattern to your size and body type at every step of the garment-making process. 

Please don’t ignore the instructions.  We write them for YOU!

Tomorrow:  We start draping the KofA gown…