The Power of Layers!

Fitting for Scoliosis & Special Needs

QUESTION:  My 29 year old daughter has scoliosis (her spine is curved).  Because of this, she looks as though she has a hump over her left shoulder blade. 

She is young, has a great job, and looking good in clothes is very important to her.  However, as you can imagine, with a pull to the left side upwards on her back, it is very difficult if almost impossible to find clothes that fit well.

The clothes pull, twist, and look terrible.  We like to sew her clothes, but we have a difficult time adjusting the pattern to fit her.  Is there a better way to help people like my daughter sew clothes to fit?




Two our of every one hundred people have scoliosis.  Sometimes it goes unnoticed.  If any of you have ever wondered why one pant leg is shorter, one shoulder is slightly higher, or you new belt slants down on one side, your spine might be curved.  When the fabric hits the curve, (especially since the curve is not in the position that planned by the patternmaker), the grainline is thrown off.  The twisting and pulling with any body curve or shape is about straighteneing the grain lines.  Once the grain line is straight, the basic blouse becomes the "basic blouse block", without ever guessing about ease again.  You basic blouse or jacket block can then be changed over and over in design.

From here, the magician's trick is style.  What works best is working with your body's curvature (just as it is), and then building with LAYERS: floppy collars, tunics over flip skirts, unlined jackets over a t-shirts and blouse, or layers under an unlined coat or jacket.


Testimonial.  Thank you, Gayle!

Scoliosis Testimonial


I have been reading everything I can for years about how to fit clothes for scoliosis.  I have a severe “S” curve, .and the most important lesson that I’ve learned is not to draw attention to the waistline.  Finally, I invested in a Fabulous Fit Dress Form and ebook, and came up with an idea.  I can see right on the dress form where my curve is, so I can make a dress to just skim over the curve and make it unnoticeable.  The pads that come with the dress form make it easier to create one higher side and curve. After using the form for a while, I’ve come up with some advice that will make pants fit better…this alteration is what I do to all my pants now to make the “hang” better, sinceone of my hips is protruding and higher than the other hip.  This alteration creates room for my “larger” hip so that the pants hang straighter and are the same length around my feet.

This is the alteration I make:  When I cut out the pants, to make room for the “larger hip”, I cut the waist line higher, and I cut the side seam larger.  Along the waistline, I gradually taper the cutting up; starting at the center front or center back to help me plan this larger hip area until it is about ¾ inches, or a full inch higher at the side.  And to enlarge the side seam, I draw a line on the pattern before I cut out the fabric to help me plan this larger hip area.  I start at the top (waist area) near the normal side seam for my size, and then gradually enlarge the curve in the hip area until it is at least one full size larger (about ½ inch wider).  Keep your lines smooth at the curves and gradually bring the line in to blend with the pattern’s side seam for your size.  The curve is somewhere around 10 inches below the waist area.   

When I cut the pants (or skirt), I cut both right and the left pieces with his same alteration.  Then when I have the pants on the dress form, I can pin one side straight and perfect the curve on my “larger hip”. Then I compare the pieces to the pattern and cut off the flat side, and add to the curved side.

The most important thing I learned from the Fit Made Easy Book is that as long as you keep the grainlines straight, your clothes will “fall” over the curves of your body, not showing [parts that don’t need to be seen.  Just make sure that the vertical grain line is straighten the cross grain, and you will see the difference.  It really works. Gayle  Syracuse, NY


Keeping every style simple is the key. 

You can see how the pattern slants with the curve of the body, yet extra fabric is needed for the high shoulder on the left.  Building on the body's curve will give you the comfort without fabric twisting or pulling.  Check the lines of the body movement under the straight grainlines of the altered blouse.  Be sure that none of these areas are pulling.  When the grainline is straight and there is no stress at the actual movement point, there will be nor twisting nor pulling.

my experience with curves...

At 18, I very quickly developed a benign tumor on my back just the below my left shoulder.  What seemed like almost overnight, it became the size of half a golf ball, and therefore, changing my life.  My small frame made this tumor super obvious, as it sat on my back shoulder bone. Since it was benign, my parents thought this was not an issue (neither did the insurance company), and lovingly told me that I had “Angel wings”! 

People!  Are you kidding me?  What does one do with this at 18?  Well… I dealt with it like a dog with a bone.  I learned to ease and fuss with my clothes around this curve until no photograph could find it.  Strange… because as I was trying to disguise it, I realized that my clothes felt fabulous.  I was so comfortable that I stopped thinking about my shoulder when I wore my clothes. (I even stopped checking it with the hand mirror 20 to 30 times a day!).  I stopped seeing people with extended necks trying to see the thing on my back. 

People stopped seeing it.  It was a revelation.  After that, I realized the same adjustment could fit busts, and upper hips and under arm pulls (please, some newscasters, stop!), and every curve from shoulder to thigh (unbelievable pants), just by using the ease!  At 26, I had the tumor removed (cosmetically, and financed by me) and it grew back again, but smaller.  It was a bother, but not because of the clothes…the patterns were set, and I loved my style. 

Years later, the upper back issue became really non-epic because:  a.) I couldn’t see this thing on my back and b.) it was superseded by the fitting issues of breast cancer.  First things first.

My advice, PATIENCE.   Work on the area that seems to be collapsing.  Even if your spine is not straight, comfortable clothes and style will supersede the issue...and your style will take it from there.