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Sizing Up the Fit of Your Garments

Unless you’ve had a fashion design education, fit and pattern grading may be an unknown aspect of your apparel line.

Most of our clients can convey general concepts such as, “I like a fitted t-shirt” or “I want my crop top to end at the waist,” but we need to back up and look at your entire line to understand the overall look and fit to ensure cohesive products that make sense for the audience you are targeting.

Let’s start at the beginning:

  • Who is your audience?

  • How do they dress?

  • What is their lifestyle?

  • How much do they spend on clothes?

  • What other brands do they purchase?

Let’s say you’ve decided that your audience is moms aged 30-59. They are always on the go driving their kids to sports and school events, and they prefer to dress comfortably. They like classic brands like Ralph Lauren, and will spend up to $80 for a garment they love.

That’s a pretty good amount of information that allows us to “see” your customer. (It’s also way more information than most people who meet with us know. )

In fact, most people who come to us to have garments produced, know what they want from the garments. How they want the garments to fit them.

It's okay if you want to be your own fit model. Most of our clients are. It is the minority that actually bring in fit models and go through proper fittings with them. It’s an extra expense and it adds time to the process. (It’s totally worth it, but I’ll digress for now. )

A fit model acts as a live mannequin allowing you to see how a garment fits, moves and drapes on the body. Professional fit models must fall within a certain range of measurements, depending on the type of clothing they are modeling (standard, petite, plus size, etc.). They are not the same models you see on the runway. These are the folks who represent your customers in your clothing.

If you are your own fit model and you consider your body to be an average representation of your target audience, then by all means move forward with confidence.

However, we have had clients - women in the following examples - act as their own fit models who are extremely tall or have large breasts or are built like a rail, who expect their samples to fit them. Let’s say they decide the sample they are wearing is going to be called a medium. For the tall client, her shorter medium size shoppers are going to have fit issues. For the large-breasted client, her medium size designs will be too big on top for her smaller-busted shoppers. And there’s no way the size medium curvy girls are going to like the fit from the straight up and down client.

We’re not done. We still have to grade that medium pattern to all the other sizes you want to sell. How do you think they will fit?

Grading increases or decreases the size of the original pattern while maintaining the same same look and fit. You can choose to have that grading follow standard grade rules, or you can customize them. Grade rules are the difference in measurement of each point of measure on the garment.

At Detroit Sewn, we follow a two inch grade rule. While that does mean the chest of a shirt will increase or decrease two inches per size, it does not mean all of the garment’s measurements will increase or decrease two inches. In fact, the length only increases a half inch with a two inch grade rule. It’s important for you to understand how your garment will grow or reduce so you can determine if you want to make changes. Some people prefer the length of the garment to grow more as it gets larger. We can do that. What’s important is that you know to ask.

Before we wrap up, let’s go back to the fit model clients whose bodies do not fall into the range of standard measurements. It’s important for you to know that if you want the best fit for your audience, you have to be okay with the garment not fitting you like second skin. It shouldn’t. You are better off having us put the garment on one of our adjustable dress forms so you can get a true understanding of what your design will look like on a variety of measurements.

Always keep in mind on whose body your clothing must look best, and make your fit decisions accordingly.


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