Join The Fitting Club and Ask Us!

Looking through my all-time favorite patterns, I couldn’t resist sharing some pieces that have proven successful for me in every size, over and over.


The fitting techniques behind each of the pieces that we'll go over are the base of everything I create. The pieces are surprisingly simple to construct. The balance of each area is carefully planned to match a target customer, creating a "go to" library. The basic pattern can be easily modified for the changing seasons or even the changing years, while simultaneously keeping the fit in balance.  These basic styles have each been adjusted a hundred times, and they still keep going.

The blouse, as seen in the first example, might seem too simple in a glance; front, back and sleeves. However, this simplicity, in following the fitting steps, will allow you to adjust 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.


I always mark the movement points on the dress form matching vertical measurements in horizontal positions. 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 ... (ahem).

ARMS CREASE:  The first red line crosses the middle of the high chest to the arm crease.  Following the arm crease on a sleeve provides greater freedom of movement. 

CHEST:  Above the bust, a second line, circles under the arms and across the back. 

BUST:  This marking across the fullest part of the bust shows placement for ease or dart position to shape extra fabric across the curves. 

WAIST:  I always 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. 


PATTERN:   Our first basic pattern should look like clothes 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 cut at the shoulder slant and armhole.  The pin tucks are a gauge for the vertical grainline, so as we make our adjustments watch the the vertical lines in front.  The grainline must fall straight.


FOLLOW THE LINES: The markings in red will best show you how to fit this blouse, but try it many ways.  For example, the shoulders here are very wide and slightly too large.

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.  The shape of the neckline follows the curve of the neck and rises higher in the back. 

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 large in all areas, pinch the front and back center lines evenly from collar to waist and then pin. Otherwise, pinch in the extra fabric in the problem area, and re-position the grainline on the pattern.


The bodice is the first and most important part in anchoring.  If sleeves or a collar are an issue during fitting, it's likely because of the fit of the the bodice, and you'll need to go backward and start over. 

If a collar slips back…it’s the bodice. (Add to the back shoulder.)

If the back seems is the bodice.  (Add to the back width at the stress area.)  Can't move?  It is the bodice.  (Check the armhole.)  Fitting the bodice is where it starts.

If the sleeve pulls, it's starts with the bodice...(Check the arm crease and how it relates to the elbow.)


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


Now that the pattern is cut in muslin it’s easiest to test it 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 can use the pattern as a guide for years to come. 

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. 

At the shoulder, the back pattern should not only be longer and slightly forward, but also wider than the front shoulder piece.  The extra ease in the back allows for the necessary movement for the shoulder area. 

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:

1.) Slice open the pressure point of the pull.

2.) Ease the side seam, just at the full bust area in the front to give the bust more fabric for movement.


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 you can 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 test piece.


Thought you would like this!  by Jane Suttel, fashion designer NYC


"How to edit and organize your wardrobe to Zen...


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 for your thoughts and comments!