Sunday, May 16, 2010

Report - Center for Pattern Design Workshop

Yesterday, I took an all-day class, offered through the Santa Rosa branch of the American Sewing Guild. (I'm not a member, but I'm thinking maybe I should join. :) )

This class, taught by Sandra Ericson, of the Center for Pattern Design, was called Your Proportion, and examined clothing from the perspective of a body's proportions.

We started with a slide show/lecture explaining the importance of proportion, the Golden Mean, and the ideally proportioned body. She gave us instructions on how to capture your own silhouette, then we broke into teams and taped huge pieces of paper to walls, windows, doorways, and proceeded to gather the necessary points to create a personal croquis. After connecting the points with straight lines, we drew an "ideal proportion" grid over the life size silhouette and transferred it to a graph on an 8x11 piece of paper. On the small croquis, it was now possible to see where our bodies differed from the "ideally" proportioned body.

What a fascinating exercise, and one I'd wanted to do for a long time.

Especially recently, I have been trying to figure out what sorts of clothing most suits me. When I first returned to sewing, I was focusing on tops and skirts. I tend to like longer skirts, but I also like longer tops and, of course, these don't generally work together. So I'd made a few shorter, more close-fitting, tops that I could wear with skirts or fuller pants. Because I have thin legs and hips, I also tended to wear pants that skimmed my legs, but one or two friends had mentioned that I needed pants with more fabric at the hem to create a more balanced look. From the photos taken for this blog, I could see that this is true – in narrow pants I had the silhouette of an ice cream cone in danger of toppling over. I have been thinking a lot about this lately, trying to figure out which path I should follow with my wardrobe.

So, what did I learn from creating a personal croquis? I learned that my shoulders, which I always thought so narrow, are actually fairly ideal, for my height. (Note, they are narrower than my bust, but for my height, they are only a shade narrow.) My hips are also a shade narrow for my height, but only a tiny amount. So, basically, my shoulders and hips are fairly "ideal", in terms of proportions. Not surprisingly, my waist is much larger than the "ideal" and is the same width as my shoulders and hips. (The ideal waist is half the width of the shoulders. HA! Not one of the 30 women there had the "ideal" waist.) That describes my proportions, horizontally.

Vertically, my bustline is far lower than the ideal. Even with my really good, really expensive, really supportive bra. My waist is also lower than the ideal – I am quite short-waisted. (No surprise there.) My hips are just a tad lower than the ideal, and my knees are higher than the ideal, so I guess I have short thighs and long calves. I knew my legs were short, but I didn't realize the shortness was in my thighs, but my calves are actually quite long. :)

At lunchtime, Sandra offered some personal suggestions for my body. She suggested that I get a shorter haircut, with more height to it, to help balance my body. She also said she couldn't overstress how important it was for me to focus on my shoulder line. That I should bring my shoulder line "up and out" and use it as a focal point. She said it would greatly help to balance my bust. She also said the hips would be a good focal point for me, and that an asymmetrical line is very good for me – especially tops/jackets that button off center. It's handy that I love asymmetric looks. :)

In the afternoon, we came back together for a lecture on the aspects of proportion. We started by looking at the ideal silhouette for our personal proportions, but then we talked about the impact of interior design lines, and creating a focal point. We learned about the proportion of texture, color, rhythm. It was a semester's course shortened to a few hours, so my head was spinning afterward. She talked about necklines, fabric choice, shoes, hairstyle. Thank goodness I took notes to go back over and study. :)

We had been asked to bring 8 or 10 pages torn from a magazine, to show looks we though would be good for us. Unfortunately, we ran out of time before we could really do much with them, but I guess that is left as homework. :)

All in all, a great workshop, giving me much to chew on. I know of sewists who travel far and wide to take of Sandra's workshops – for example, her Vionnet classes. I just might have to keep closer tabs as her Center for Pattern Design is located in St. Helena, which is only an hour or so away from me. :)

8 comments:

  1. I'd have to agree with Sandra. Proportion is everything and in seeing your garment posts over the last few months my impression is that you try and hide your bust, but you don't play up your good features, ie, your hips. I'm interested in seeing how you change your clothing silhouette now that you've taken this class, which by the way, sounds worth the time.

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  2. What a totally fun and informative workshop. I am sooo jealous! I guess I had better soothe myself now with more House of Elliot!

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  3. Wow, that sounds fascinating, lucky you!

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  4. Sounds like a wonderful workshop. When you say that your waist is "lower than the ideal" and then describe that as "short-waisted," I was a bit surprised. I have a shorter-than-normal back-waist length, which has always been described as "short-waisted." It sounds as if your back-waist length is longer than the ideal. Sounds like we'll both need to be careful about what is meant when someone says that a suggestion is for the "short-waisted!"

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  5. Yes, what I wrote does sound rather contradictory, Lisa. And I might be saying it incorrectly. But my bust is much much lower than the ideal, so, even though my waist is a bit lower than the ideal, I still called it short waisted because the distance from bust to waist is much shorter than it should be. By a great deal. And when I sew for myself, it is quite obvious that the distance from bust to waist is short indeed, even with my expensive, supportive bra.

    (When I tried, in vain. to use a baby sling, there was precious little room for baby because my bust hogged the space. I had to give up on that particular invention. I have many similar tales to tell. :) )

    If there's a more correct way to state this, I would love to know it. :) For this one-day workshop with 30 women, we only studied our proportions from the front. We didn't study our proportions from the side or the back. That would certainly be very interesting!!!

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  6. So interesting! Thank you for reporting back on this. I'm sure it will help you.

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  7. It sounds like a fascinating day, Sharon. I'd love to do something like that sometime myself.

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