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Dressmaking tips: how to ensure a perfect fit

Guest blogger Angela Foster explains the pitfalls of sizing in sewing patterns, and how to make a dress that fits you perfectly.

How many times have you bought a sewing pattern, made it up and found it did not fit? How did you choose the size? Did you buy your normal dress size and hope it would fit?

Clothes you buy in shops have changed in size and shape over the years and today's size 12 dress would bear no resemblance to a size 12 in 1960, for example. Unfortunately, while ready-made fashion sizing has changed, commercial patterns mostly have not.

So you need to cut out a pattern to your actual measurements as printed on the pattern envelope, and ignore your normal dress size. Don't forget there are no size labels in your own makes!

People get a bit uppity when you suggest that they should make a toile or muslin whenever they try out a new pattern. I cannot think why: if it is good enough for a couture house why would you not want to do it too?

This is what I do.

When I get a new pattern I make it up first in a cheap fabric, especially when I want to make it up in an expensive fabric later.  This wearable toile or muslin is made up exactly as you would make up the "real" thing, except you leave out any embellishments and trims so that it is as simple as possible.

Make all your adjustments to the toile and then make sure that you transfer them to the paper pattern. Every time you make this pattern again, you can whizz through it as you know it will fit.

There is a post on my blog showing you how to do this in more detail.

This is the trial dress. As you can see, even though it was made up in a cheap piece of cotton found in a charity shop it is very wearable and is actually one of my favourite dresses.

Dress on a mannequin.

The pattern was then made up in an expensive silk satin. Do you see now why it is important to try the pattern first before cutting into your precious satin?

Green silk dress on a mannequin.

Angela blogs at Sew Angelic Threads, where she provides hints and tips to help you produce a beautiful garment even if you have never sewn before.