Transform Your Basic Style...

Into a Million Dollar Pattern!

Fit is about balance and movement in your clothes.   Many designers seriously create the design,  but, so sadly, miss on the balance...costing tens of thousands in returns.  The balance of each area must be planned to match a target customer; creating a "go to" pattern library for clients, markets, or your personal lifestyle.  The basic pattern can be easily modified for the changing seasons, year in & year out, while simultaneously keeping the fit in balance.  Basic styles can be adjusted a hundred + times...or to infinity.

Create it SIMPLE, until you see this... Hands and eyes connect magically, with practice.  I promise!

We'll start with Front, Back and Sleeves.

The simplicity, in following the Fitting Sequence,  in creating and re-creating patterns, will allow you to easily translate the fit of every bodice you create hereafter.  If the shoulder is curved or uneven, ease the shoulder line, and adjust the armhole to match the crease. Play with the shoulder slant until the fabric flows comfortably over the curve.  Grainlines must fall straight.  Check the vertical and horizontal measurements at each pressure point area; for silhouette and movement.

The taped examples are marked with household electrical tape.  In fittings, other than a waist tape, you may not need nor want the tapes on your dress form.  If you need a marking after the first lesson, then a tiny basting stitch at the front and back seam on the Princess Cover will give you the visual.  

start and mark...

#1 Mark the movement points on the dress form, matching vertical and  horizontal measurements.  If I am working with an athletic body, for example, the markings would be considerably higher on the form than if I were creating something for myself.

Front & Back shoulders: Measure the front and back shoulders to the shoulder bone.  This will be the beginning of your arm and sleeve movement; whether it be a crisp square shoulder or a dropped and relaxed sleeve.

Across Chest The middle of the high chest to the arm crease.  The thin white line marks the highest chest, which is the measurement for movement at the arm crease.

If this measurement of the front pattern is too wide, or too narrow, (sleeve seam does not match crease of arm), the fabric will certainly pull.  Following the arm crease along the line of the body and carefully place the sleeve over the arm on the dress form.  This will allow you to identify, not only the pitch of the sleeve, but straight grainlines for all pieces.

Chest:  Above the bust,  under the arms and around the back.   Upper body movement.  Measure with arms down.

Bust:  This marking across the fullest part of the bust shows placement for ease or dart position to shape extra fabric across the curves.  Place pads higher or lower to match vertical measurements.

Waist:  I sometimes mark two waists.  One actual waist and one at my most comfortable low-waist position. 

Upper Hip:  Upper hip is marked right across the stomach. 

Low Hip:  Low hip is marked at the widest part of the bottom. 

Thigh:  About 1 1/2 inches from top of leg at wide upper leg/ thigh

fitting sequence...

Pattern   The top of every pattern is your fitting anchor.  This is your start point.  Pants or skirts have a waist, or upper hip anchor, and that is the fitting start point.  The top start point is the shoulders. The first basic pattern should look like the loved dailies in your closet…ready to be replaced.  We’ll start with a blouse or shirt. I'm using a chiffon blouse so you can see how vertical measurements relate to the horizontal markers, and the importance of the cut at the shoulder slant and armhole. The pin tucks are a gauge for the vertical grainline.  As we make our adjustments, watch the the vertical lines in front. The grainlines must fall straight.


Follow the Grainlines: The markings in red will best show you how to fit this blouse, but try it different ways.  For example; the shoulders in this picture are wide and slightly too large; not intentionally. 

If your blouse is slightly too large all over: follow  a straight center front and center back line, and start pinching.

To test the blouse design, play with the size of the wide shoulder width by pinching the fabric in the front and back at the vertical center line until it matches the shoulder crease. Notice that the shoulder seams are placed slightly forward, from back to front. This will allow for movement across the shoulders on most bodies.  That being said; if your body curve is a wider front and smaller back, the reverse rule would apply.  The shape of the neckline follows the curve of the neck and rises higher in the back, at the first vertebrae.

This all makes a difference in how your clothes feel; whether                                                                                                                they are loose fitting, off-the-shoulder, or tailored with a collar.  

If the blouse is too small in the bodice only,  release (slice vertically) the front and back center lines evenly from collar to waist and then add the needed  width to your pattern.  Re-position the grainline on the pattern, and check the fall of the grainline over the curves of the body on your dress form.

starting with the shoulder slant...

The shoulder slant is the first and most important part in anchoring.  If sleeves or a collar are an issue during fitting, it's likely because the fit of the the bodice relating to the slant of the shoulder is not balanced.  Notice the armhole opening, shoulder slant, and how the fabric falls over the bust.  Take a look, re-trace and start over. 

If a collar slips back…it’s the bodice. (Add 1/4 inch to 3/8 inch to back, horizontally, at the shoulder seam.)

If the back seems is the bodice.  (Add to the back (vertical or horizontal strips) at the stress area.  Can't move?  It is the bodice.  Check the armhole.  A higher armhole with ample room in the sleeve cap (with ease at the elbow movement area) will give your clothes...dress, blouses, jackets, coats...a stance of their own.  You can see a great piece from the hanger.

If the sleeve pulls... Check the arm crease and how it relates to the elbow.  Measure the underarm seam to the elbow for length.

The measure the top shoulder seam to the outside elbow for length.  

adjusting the bodice...

Check your pattern markings against the markings on the dress form then compare them to your sample.


Cutting the pattern in muslin, is the easiest way to test the fit on the dress form. The test piece will save a ton of time and fabric, and by spending the time now to find the best balance for the entire shoulder, upper chest and bust areas, you will save hours.

Begin by observing the shoulder slant and how it relates to the natural shoulder of the body.  If you were to draw a rectangle where the sides line up with the ends of your shoulders, and the top crosses the back of your neck, you can measure the shoulder slant by determining how much lower it is than the nape of your neck.  For example, this will be an especially good guide if you have scoliosis with uneven shoulders.  Once we know how much lower one shoulder is, every pattern and style can have the same adjustment…effortlessly. 

As you compare the shoulder slant on the pattern against the  shoulder of a favorite piece, check the width of the shoulder seam on the sample.  When you try it on the dress form, you’ll see where you want to go with the design; whether it's changing the shoulder to match the crease of your arm, or following the exact measurement of the drop-shoulder sample.  Position the shoulder seams, to match the curve of your shoulder on the dress form.  If one side needs to be shaped with a shoulder pad to even out an uneven shoulder line caused by scoliosis or osteoporosis, then add a shoulder pad for the test as well. 

If the blouse is too big all over, pinch the front and back center lines evenly from collar to waist and pin.  Otherwise, you can pinch in the extra fabric at just one area, and re-position the grainline on the pattern. 

Compare the shoulder slant on the pattern against the shoulder of a favorite piece.   How wide is the shoulder seam on the sample?  When you try it on the dress form you’ll see if changing the shoulder to match the crease of your arm, or following the exact measurement of the sample is where you want to go with the design. Position the shoulder seams, matching the curve of your shoulder as you would want it to look when it’s finished.  If one side needs shaping with a shoulder pad to even out an uneven shoulder line due to scoliosis or osteoporosis, then add the shoulder pad for the test as well. 

The back pattern at the shoulder will not only be longer and slightly forward, but wider than the front pattern piece.  The extra ease in the back allows for movement in the fabric where you need it at the shoulder area. 

The bust, waist, and hips should be eased or darted to fall softly over the curves of the body, so that the sides flatter the silhouette. 

If the bust line causes the fabric to poke out in front:   Go to Lesson 3 "The Power of Play" and we'll show you how to slice the pattern for the curvy bust.  



Line up your hems according to your notes on proportion, stand back from the dress form, and begin to observe this one simple comfortable piece  to re-create over and over. Try it on!   If you still need slight adjustments, adapt the pads on the form to match the fit of the muslin on your body, and then mark the changes right on your muslin.  


"How to edit and organize your wardrobe to Jane Suttel.  Fashion Designer, Writer......special person.

"I have always worked with clothes.  Working in costume and fashion design, clothes so easily accumulate.  And I love beautiful things!  But on several occasions, over the years, I have purged my closets, and I have never regretted the time or the results. Now I take time on a regular basis to let go.  I take notes in my planner about what seems to be missing, or needs replacing. When I buy one thing that seems perfect after a few outings, I zoom back to procure a few more.  

My closet and I have a relationship.  I take time to keep it current with my life (after all, I have to get dressed every day), and it rewards me with positive feedback through the assurance that everything it has to offer will fit and flatter me. Who would want it otherwise? 

Who am I?  What do I need? How is my life set up?  And how can my clothes support that?  Would "less stuff" simplify, or make me feel deprived?

Taking control of your wardrobe is a thoughtful and organic process:  you make choices based on your life as it is; giving up clothes that don't fit usually clears a lot out; even if it also means admitting you are not a size smaller.

Letting go of things you used to wear may mean admitting your life is not as exciting as it was before you got married and had a few kids...things change.  Our wardrobe requirements change.

I am a bit innovative about this process, but if you don't respond to the idea of lining up all your blue jackets, try this.

Pull out all the stuff you love, and if you wear it, or would wear it if you had the right shoes or skirt to go with it, these are keeps. Then, all the stuff you wear; day in and day out.  Then the stuff you wear for the events and milestones.  All these are keeps;  this process will generate a lot of notes to "self"...  "Hmmm, more of this; my, I don't need any more black pants i this century, wish I had a pair of brown boots to go with those things, I'm really missing this, I just don't have the right thing for that part of my life...needs repairing...needs replacing."

Let go of everything else.  Give things to friends.  Dress for Success or the Salvation Army.  You will not regret this.

My wardrobe breaks down to black (I live in New York!) and three color palettes; olive, periwinkle and orange.  I've chosen to leave it at that to simplify my life.  I don't go outside this border, because each new color range means accessories, shoes, and socks to match, and I have no interest in "changing bags" every day.  I'm too busy!  It will be different for each of us.  But once you start sorting, you will be amazed at how many things begin to organize themselves.  It really becomes clear what doesn't belong!

I can almost guarantee that opening a closet filled with wearable clothes that you love, and they fit, and are in good repair, is its own reward.  What a positive gift to give yourself...a closet that reflects who you are "now" on your journey through life."

Thank you!

 When Less Is Really More...

"Catherine has a very simple closet strategy; when she finds an item of clothing she likes, she immediately creates it in several different colors. It is a principle that she applies equally to tops, pants, skirts, and even jackets." "It just makes life so much easier" says the 36 year-old Philadelphia media executive and mother of two. Why should I go running all over, trying things on in different stores?  Half the time, I am never sure what size I am, because the fit varies so much from brand to brand. This way, if something fits me well and it looks good, that's it---I just buy several of them and I am done."

“People are really looking to simplify their lives, to the extent that when they find an item that serves them well, buying more than one makes the process easier" says Barbara Ashley, of Retail Ventures, Inc.

"And it ultimately simplifies the process of what to wear each day.  Women can really relate to that. I mean, what do you want to spend your energy on---trying on seven pair of pants in the morning to match a certain top, or knowing that any of the pants you put on will work with that piece?"

Cotton Incorporated... Lifestyle Monitor®

OR JUST...FIND THAT PATTERN AND CREATE! ...Thank you, Catherine & Cotton. Inc. "The Fabric of Our Lives®!" 

Thank You!

Jill Ralston

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