On Assignment…

I realize that today I was supposed to give you some decorative seam finishes, and don’t worry, I will – come Monday. I’m interrupting my regularly scheduled program because I’ve been working on my very first sloper. The basic one-dart skirt sloper to be exact. I’ve always wanted to try my hand at pattern drafting and now is as good a time as any to get with it. I had promised myself at the beginning of this year that I would make some basic slopers and from them a few of my own creations. Why? Because I’m on a quest for the perfectly fitted garment – a garment that was intended just for me. And because its always something that I’ve really wanted to learn and become proficient at.

tape measure in hand, armed and ready to go!

Alright, enough about that. I’ve caught pencil skirt fever again. And I’m mean serious pencil skirt fever. I want the perfect pencil skirt. I also have to admit that I sew my own clothing, not just because of fit, because I get some pretty good fit from a few stores that I used to frequent. I also sew because I can’t afford the clothing I want. So I’ve been internet browsing trying to get better looks at pencil skirts and how they fit. Then I decided that I needed to go and try some on and take notes from the ones that fit really well.

in Banana Republic. the skirt that I liked best

Yesterday, I set out undercover, armed with notebook and pen, cruddy point & click camera (yes, please excuse these photos – I look like death warmed over!) and a tape measure. I went to a host of stores it seemed like, but only two had pencil skirts out. I realize it’s not exactly pencil skirt season, but judging from the websites that I looked at there seemed like there would be more to choose from than what I found. Sigh… Still, I was able to find a couple that fit fairly well – one at Banana Republic that was perfect – and I wrote down some notes.

in J.Crew. Not the most flattering for my body shape, but I learned that J.Crew likes to taper in their pencil skirts ever so slightly

I wanted to compare a few things. Dart length in the front and back, placement of the darts – like how far from the center front and center back they were placed, length of total skirt, where the kick pleat started, and the fit after the hip – whether or not this tapered in toward the legs or hung straight from the hip. I made some interesting findings – what’s more I actually took my own advice, which I haven’t done in awhile, and went and tried on clothing and took notes (and photos) so I could remember what I liked and didn’t like. It was fun. Something I suggest everyone do when they are about to embark on a new garment, or if you just need ideas as to what looks good on you.

Ever done this? What was your conclusion? Does RTW fit you or do you sew because it doesn’t (and/or never has)? Or do you sew because you can’t afford the garments you want to buy?

Have a lovely weekend!




27 thoughts on “On Assignment…

  1. Can’t wait to hear your conclusions!

    It’s funny, I would’ve said RTW fit me not bad except for length (I have monkey arms and most of my height in my legs), but the more I sew, the more I think I was wrong. With a few more tweaks (petite bodice, swayback, and I’m thinking a square-shoulder adjustment is going to enter the mix shortly) as well as the added length, I get a fit that’s so much more amazing…

  2. Plus size folks in small towns don’t have many brick and mortar RTW options. I am lucky if 3 stores out of 20 in my shopping centers or malls carry clothing in my size, and the choices are usually dowdy, old lady-ish, or total circus tents.

    However! If I’m trying to make a new sort of garment that I don’t have any experience with, I will go to those old lady stores with bunch of alligator clips in my purse and see if I can find something in the general shape I’m going for. I try stuff on, even if they only come in those weird giant geometric prints, and try to look just at the shape. With the more tentlike tops and dresses, I clip out excess fabric to adjust the shape and see what I like. It can be pretty educational. πŸ˜€

  3. RTW almost never fits me, unless there’s some stretch to the fabric. Even petite sizes aren’t always drafted right for my shape, so I either end up re-tailoring RTW or making things from scratch.

  4. I have done this in my own closet, but never thought about heading out to the mall to give it a try! Great idea, especially about paying attention to the placement of darts. I never go by the pattern measurements when selecting a size, I just choose a well-fitting similar garment from my closet and lay that over the pattern pieces to see which size to cut out. I wonder how Banana Republic would feel about me taking pattern pieces into the store….. ha!

  5. RTW only fits me if i make some minor adjustments- length on bottoms, waist on tops (due to, er, “assets.”). unless it’s a knit. knits love everyone! i mostly sew because i find RTW terribly expensive but sooo cheaply made. if i’m going to spend $50 on a skirt, i’d rather spend $50 on the fabric & have something that won’t pill or fall apart after a couple of months. not to mention, everyone in stores these days is a poly-blend – yeech!

  6. Great idea! I’m just starting to enter the realm of garment sewing (which is why I started following your blog a few months back). I think this is a great project for me before I actually start making things!

  7. Fun! Earlier this year I took about a million photos of me in trousers at the mall. They were terribly embarrassing, but I posted ’em anyway. It was super educational! Going from buying RTW, where for the most part I was willing to buy stuff that was ‘good enough’ to tailoring for myself was quite eye-opening. I didn’t even know what my end goal was!

    I still go in to try out new styles if I’m considering making something that’s not already in my closet to get a sense for length and other details.

    I feel like I’m stealing with the camera, though!

  8. I often go on expeditions to the mall in order to try on styles that are similar to patterns I’d like to make – this way I can see if a certain style will actually be flattering on me before I make it. My sewing skills are not top-notch but more and more I’m favoring sewing over buying RTW, especially for skirts and dresses, because RTW garments rarely fit well my pear shaped figure, and what’s the point of paying a fortune to have to make alterations anyway when you can make the whole thing exactly as you want it? Now, if only I had more time to sew…!

    Newbie question: what’s a “sloper”?

    1. The time to sew is the hard part there! I’m a HUGE thrifter now, in addition to sewer, and I find that I love searching for golden items that are a steal. I haven’t bought a RTW item from a mall or regular store in years! It is THE way to go.

      As far as a sloper – A sloper is the most basic pattern used in patternmaking to design other patterns from. For example, the one dart skirt sloper I’m making is a basic straight skirt and has only one dart in the front and one dart in the back. From this basic pattern I can choose to do several things like add in a waistband, instead of using darts I can put in princess seams, pockets, add a flounce at the bottom, pleats, etc. The idea is that you’ll create a basic pattern from which to fashion other patterns that incorporate your own ideas and that fit you perfectly. It’s actually really really fun! Its something I’ve wanted to do for a long time and just didn’t have the energy or time to try. Now I do and its really fun!

  9. Woohooo! congrats on starting to look at pattern drafting. I started a night course a few weeks ago, on drafting, it’s great fun! Our first was a skirt block. This last week we started on a bodice block! Todays mission is to finish drafting it, and make it up *gulp* it’s scary! LOL But it’s so much fun when you put the block on and go hey, wow, I did it!
    Metric Pattern Cutting is a good book for learning to draft too. Good luck! I can’t wait to see what you come up with.

  10. The fit of RTW has never been an issue with me. The only thing I have problems with are blouses (either too big at the waist, or good at the waist but then I’m not able to button it up around the boob-area) – which was fine by me, since I never actually wore them (maybe because of that reason?).

    My main reason was having a creative outlet, but apart from that, I’d say money was the biggest contributing factor. It’s kind of ironic that in one month I can spend much more money on fabric and notions than I would’ve done on buying clothes (I never bought all that much clothes), though. I’ve been buying lots and lots fabric and patterns and stuff, and in the end, not-sewing was probably more economic πŸ™‚ I usually make one new garment a week, while I never bought one garment a week before I started sewing.

    Another reason is that, like Lauren, I’m not too fond of all the polyester blends in RTW clothing.

  11. Not only is it great for how the fit looks when you sew for yourself, but it makes me feel better about myself. I drafted my own jeans this year (which did take a long time but was so worth it). They are wonderful! RTW jeans always rode up in back on me making me feel like my derrier was too big, or if it fit in the seat it was falling off my hips and not looking good at all. Now I have jeans that fit perfect everywhere and whenever I put them on I am reminded that my body is great how it is. They are comfortable and look good. The time it takes to make custom slopers is SOOOOOOOOO worth it πŸ™‚

  12. I’ve been drafting my own patterns for years and LOVE it! I have a “stock” set of slopers that I spent a lot of time working through (skit, dress, blouse, for knits and wovens) that I keep on hand in paper form and in muslin then when inspiration hits, I grab my slopers and got to town. It was the best investment in time I ever made in myself and my wardrobe. Good for you! You won’t be sorry πŸ™‚

  13. Oh, I remember doing this in 8th grade with my best friend! We found a dress in the hippest store we both wanted, and hid in the changing room forever, taking note of every tuck before going back to school and sewing it up. Wonder what became of that dress, I remember wearing it and loving it, should have saved it!
    Anyway, the more I sew, the more I realize most RTW just doesn’t fit my inverted triangle shape with ginormous boobs at all, and I’m getting more and more into the fit thing. It’s a challenge, though, and I’m really grateful for finding your blog!

  14. It’s a little bit of both for me, I think. I do have trouble finding RTW that fits well, particularly on my lower half. And one of my favorite places to window shop is Anthropologie (and we all know how overpriced their stuff is.) A lot of it has to do with color and print for me too–I find a style I like in a color that doesn’t work for me, or I see a funky print in a fabric that I simply have to have.

  15. RTW never never never fits me. I have a waist smaller than hips situation and even RTW’s best attempt at putting elastic (ugh) in the waist doesn’t do it for me. I’m so happy you have pencil skirt fever as I’ve been more seriously thinking about getting back to the pencil skirt from last Fall πŸ˜‰ I’m one step closer to creating a wardrobe that is ME this fall/winter.Thanks!

  16. RTW doesn’t fit me without tailoring and even then it’s difficult to find something that fits well enough to be worth the tailoring expense. Also, ready made clothing doesn’t have the features I want, such as crotch gussets on dress trousers and copious pockets on skirts/dresses. I don’t yet know how to sew all the details I want, but I’m learning. Patterns don’t fit me, either, and I don’t know how to fit them. Anything I’ve tried has just created other problems. Now I’m learning to draft patterns. It’s slow going as I’m teaching myself from books, but I’ve learned much and even good-enough pieces from a pattern I drafted myself are more satisfying than good-enough pieces from commercial patterns.

  17. One of my favorite “field trips” is to high end retailers to try on and study. I like to look at construction details and finishing styles. I make notes, sometimes photograph but always learn a lot.

  18. Yay for skirt slopers! I drafted one to custom-fit me a couple years ago, and reading your post reminds me I need to add redoing it to my sewing to-do list (my weight has shifted the past year, so it doesn’t fit quite as perfectly as it used to!). Love your idea of doing a little retail sleuthing too; I do that a lot at Anthro when I’m contemplating a new project. lol. Every time I do something like that though, I am reminded that I do sew not only because it’s a bit more affordable for me, but also because I can perfect the fit. My waist to hip ratio is waaay off the fit model for most retailers, so what fits in the hips (my largest measurement) usually is far too large in the waist. At least with sewing (especially skirts and shorts) I can get the garment to fit *everything*–not just one area!

  19. I confess I have done the same, e.g. taking pictures in a shop…, but never thought of taking the tape measure along. I am a fan of slopers and drafting my own patterns. I only do that these days. I am also planning to make a pencil skirt with back vent…thanks to your tutorial!
    I sew because I enjoy doing it. When it comes to pants, it’s because they don’t fit well. When it comes to price, because clothing is way too expensive for what you get!

  20. I sew for both reasons. I started sewing for fitting reasons and when I realised how much money I was saving I loved this hobby. Of course being creative played a big role, because I can’t stand still! RTW clothes fit me if they have a defined waist. I am a curved girl and I need feminine figures. Most European brands look ridiculous on me, but I love the chalenge of it and I may buy garments and alter them to my liking. I do that a lot. It’s kind of a trap actually. I take pictures from shop windows for inspiration, but I should try your way too!

  21. I sew for both reasons. I started sewing for fitting reasons and when I realised how much money I was saving I loved this hobby. Of course being creative played a big role, because I can’t stand still! RTW clothes fit me if they have a defined waist. I am a curved girl and I need feminine figures. Most European brands look ridiculous on me, but I love the chalenge of it and I may buy garments and alter them to my liking. I do that a lot. It’s kind of a trap actually. I take pictures from shop windows for inspiration, but I should try your way too!

  22. I also sew for economic reasons. When I got married 16 years ago (where has the time gone). I went to a lot of bridal shops and tried on dresses. I found one especially that was a good style on me. I almost would have bought that dress, but the people in the shop were really rude to me, so I went and found a simillar pattern, did a few changes and made my own dress. It was the most fun part about planning my wedding and the dress was significantly cheaper than ready made.

  23. I hate trying on RTW! Now that I can make clothes that fit me, I protect my fragile ego by never setting foot in a fitting room. Snoop shopping, however, is tons of fun! And it’s only just now occurred to me that if I took clothes into the fitting room, I could get lots of great pix–and I don’t HAVE to try them on!

  24. I’m learning how to sew because RTW is just a nightmare for me…I’m too tall for “petite” but regular is normally too big (5’4…), I’m very short-waisted and have longer legs than expected for my height (but still not long enough to fit into most regulars), and my measurements are 37-28-38, which is so hourglassy I haven’t a hope of getting anything fitted and things which *aren’t* fitted make me look like a sack of potatoes.

    I live in a-line skirts and stretchy tops at the moment, so I at least have a chance of something fitted at the waist (which is what I desperately need – 1950s patterns please!) But I really want to wear other things which flatter. I have a good, toned figure otherwise without many bulges or flabby bits so I know I could really rock most clothes if only they would fit!

    So yes. Sewing for me. Besides which, I find a lot of modern fashions irritating. I can never find what I want, since what I want stays fairly constant, and I’m baffled by the notion that I ought to buy a new wardrobe every 6 months.

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