Sunday, March 26, 2017

Shams' Emails


It's the middle of the night, and I've been answering some emails. I don't always have time to respond to emails, or I might respond after many months. I ignore some of my blog emails, mostly those from folks who want me to hawk their wares. Seriously, I get some ridiculous requests that show they've never ever read my blog. For example, I once received a request to advertise prom tuxedos! Most recently I was asked to post my 2017 bucket list experiences for an event website.

I recently received a few emails that I want to share. I'm sharing these now because they contain useful information, and it's been awhile since I talked about fitting. Because I didn't ask permission, I won't include the original emails or names, but I'll summarize them. My responses have also been edited, 'cause that's how I roll. ;)

But first, I want your opinion on two tops.

Contents:


Which Looks Better?

I was recently shopping in one of my favorite San Francisco boutiques, Simply Bella. Bella, the owner, knows me quite well and we had a friendly argument on my last visit. I purchased an Alembika top from her—an Israeli designer that I like very much. Bella noticed how flattering this top was on my figure and, in particular, how it minimizes my bust. This top is similar to the Presto, which I've made many times. Her opinion is that the Alembika is more flattering, because it's more fitted through the bust and more roomy through the hips. It has more of a swing shape, though the Presto has hip flare. The Alembika also has a curved hem and 3/4-length sleeves. It would be easy to alter the Presto to fit more like the Alembika, but I don't really want a top that is so fitted through the bust, and I think a swing shape can overwhelm my much-smaller hips.

I don't usually ask your opinion (because I typically trust my instincts), but I am today! When I visited her store, I was wearing one of my printed Prestos but, to make the comparison more fair, I'm wearing a dark solid teal Presto in this photo. (Sorry it's a bit wrinkled, but I wore it Friday and pulled it from the hamper.)

Which do you think fits better?

Left: Presto, right: Alembika

If you are in San Francisco, consider visiting Bella's store! It is small, but she has a great eye, and shops carefully. I bought four items when I visited recently, including a white mesh jacket by Alembika that I will probably take to Florence, and a pair of Spring Step shoes. The store is open 7 days a week, but Bella is usually there in person from Monday through Saturday, unless she's traveling.

Edited to add (4/2/2017 @ 11:40pm):

Wow, I appreciate your opinions! I have read each comment and am glad to see that I wasn't totally off base. I can make the black Alembika work when properly accessorized and layered. ;) Thanks again!


Email from N from Chicago: Having Trouble with a Full Bust Adjustment (FBA)

N, who lives in Chicago, had some questions about FBAs. She followed the Palmer Pletsch directions for an FBA and still ended up with a tent. She also asked how it's possible to ease 1-1/2" into the side seam, which I've described in this post. What might she be doing wrong? Finally, she asked which pattern I used for my green, Tried 'n True (TnT) sheath dress.

My edited response:

Hi N!

I'm sorry to hear you've been having trouble adjusting for your bust! It can be tricky until you learn what you need to do, then you can just do the same thing on most of your patterns.

The easing that you describe is only used for knit fabrics when I do a vertical-only FBA. It's quite easy to ease 1-1/2" in a knit fabric. It would not work for wovens.

I'm pretty sure that the green TnT dress shown in this post started from the Style Arc Adele, modified to a tee-shirt dress. It's a great pattern—I like how the neckline uses facings, rather than binding. Note that Style Arc patterns tend to fit in the chest/shoulder area more naturally than American patterns, so consult their chart when choosing patterns, but expect less ease.

Are you familiar with the "best patterns of 20xx" articles on Pattern Review? Written by Diane E (a friend of mine) each year, this year's article includes a McCalls pattern that people are loving. McCalls 6886, a sheath dress very similar to my TnT pattern, currently has 150 reviews on PR.

While I'm thinking about it, I also love the Sewaholic Renfrew, also mentioned in that article, and another TnT for me.

On my blog you said:

I purchased Palmer/Pletsch Bust Fitting DVD and other classes you recommended, studied your post, but still made a tent like tunic.

I'm not sure what is going wrong, but I suspect that you are starting with a too-large pattern. American patterns are known to be overly large in the upper chest/shoulder area, even though they are designed for a B-cup bust. So you need to measure above the bust to find your size. My upper bust is 40", so I start with a size 18. My full bust is 47" so I add approximately 7" at the bustline in my FBA, though I might add less if the pattern includes more finished ease than I need through the bust.

For most patterns, I do the FBA after cutting the bottom of the pattern off, because I don't want to widen the pattern at the waist or hip. After the FBA, I add the bottom back, and then merge the side seams together. In the classic approach, you leave the pattern intact, perform the FBA, and then remove the extra fabric below the bust using fisheye darts. I am not a huge fan of the front fisheye dart because I have a belly, but it might work well for you. (I do like fisheye darts in the back of some garments!)

If you continue to have problems with pattern alterations, do you live near a community college that offers Fashion or Home Ec classes? You can learn a lot about fitting that way and you don't have to get an AA degree. You mention living in Chicago. Are you aware of the Haute Couture Club? I know several women in that club who are amazing sewers! There is Cennetta and Rhonda, for example, but I know of others, too. I bet if you join you can find help, or at least pointers to help.

Finally, the Selfish Seamstress (who no longer blogs) highly recommends Tchad, a Chicago-based sewing teacher. She credits much of her skill to Tchad's classes. He seems to teach drafting patterns from scratch, rather than pattern alterations, but this is a wonderful skill to learn.

Good luck! I have no doubt you can figure this out, but my suspicion is that you are starting with the wrong size pattern.

-s-


Email from T: Do You Have a Custom Dressform?

T sent me a recent email, asking if I have a custom dressform. She has a challenging figure (she describes having a large bust and a bootie) and wonders how I fit my clothes as well as I do. I actually sent her several replies, mushed together here.

My edited response:

Hi T!

No, I don't have a custom dressform. It would be handy, but I have never had any interest. For one thing, my figure changes too frequently. For another, it would be too unsettling. I inherited my mother's dressform after she passed, and I sometimes use it as a 3D hangar, but never for fitting as it's much too small and features a high, perky bust.

I often sew in my underwear because it's easier to try a garment on over and over, as I tweak the fit. I apologize if that's TMI. :)

I learned sewing from a very young age (my mother was an amazing seamstress), so I made lovely clothes that rarely fit me. I learned fitting when I took classes at Cañada College in Redwood City, CA. I highly recommend taking Fashion or Home Ec classes at a local community college, if you have one nearby. I don't think you'll learn as much if you take, say, a Craftsy class, or a quick class from someone, because fitting can require iteration under expert guidance. The semester long classes I took really gave me a chance to learn how to fit my body. For example, I was shocked back in 1985 to learn that I need to narrow the shoulders on my garments.almost.every.time.

Since you read my blog, you know that I am busty, but I have a flat butt and don't need to alter for a small waist or sway back (many women with a bootie need both of those alterations). These are my normal alterations:

  • Forward shoulder (common on older women)
  • Widen back (I don't yet alter for a round back, but that may be coming)
  • FBA (I do my own version of an FBA where I don't widen the garment from bust to hem
  • Narrow shoulder
  • Narrow hip/remove hip curve (when appropriate)
  • Shorten sleeves (my mother had to always lengthen sleeves, but she was also an A cup with a long torso and small waist)

I do get tired of all the alterations I must do, but I often use a pattern over and over, just changing the details. This makes it much easier to sew if I don't have to do all those alterations over and over. It lets me get right to the fun part.

I was just shopping for patterns on the BMV site (they are having a pattern and shipping sale that ends at the end of Sunday) and I just bought this pant, Vogue 9155.

I think it would be good for someone with a bootie because of all the back seams. You could use those seams to take larger darts at the back waist. Most women with a bootie need more darting at the back waist. At least I think so—it's never been a body type I've sewn for. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if sewing for a bootie might be similar to sewing for a big bust. Not the same, but it seems like a similar issue. You need more fabric to go over and around the butt, but not more fabric at the back waist. Many women with a bootie have a small waist which increases the need for a back yoke or extra darting.

Good luck! Once you learn to fit yourself, sewing is SO much fun!

-s-

By the way, T actually described herself as "very petite and curvy (big boobs and big butt) :)", but I found that it was hard for me to say "big butt" in my response, as it felt so judgmental! Clearly, that's my issue! I don't mind saying "big boobs", since I have them, too. In fact, I usually describe mine as "uber boobs". ;) )

Email from The Doctor's Show: Want to be on our show?

This email arrived in December, 2016. Normally I ignore this sort of thing, but I checked it out and it was legit.

Hi!

My name is <redacted> and I work with The Doctors TV Show. I stumbled across your blog, http://communingwithfabric.blogspot.com/, and thought you might be perfect for an upcoming beauty segment I’m working on! Are you located in the LA area? I’d love to schedule a call or meeting with you.

If you’re not familiar with our show, please feel free to browse our website and get to know us!

http://www.thedoctorstv.com/

Best,

My response:

Hey, <redacted>!

Thanks for your interest, and you actually look legit (I get lots of spam requests), but I politely decline. :)

All the best!

-s-

Not gonna happen. No way. No how.

75 comments:

  1. Definitely the Presto is more flattering. Maybe the other one would be good in a dress length, but I think even a tunic might be overwhelming on you. :)

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  2. Presto top wins that comparison. I think you look taller and leaner in that photo. Speaking for myself - those are qualities I am usually trying to achieve in sewing my own clothes (not always successfully).
    and I get some really weird emails also. But that tv show takes the cake!

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  3. Definitely the presto......too much fabric in the other.....adds visual weight

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  4. Definitely the presto......too much fabric in the other.....adds visual weight

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  5. Most definitely, you look better in the Presto top. You look smaller. There is too much fullness around the middle in my opinion of the store bought top. The store bought might be okay if it was longer but as is, it makes you look like you have a large tummy.

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  6. Agree on the Presto as it makes you look slimmer. The other blouse has too much fabric around the middle and adds the look of pounds.
    Theresa in Tucson

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  7. Another vote for the Presto. (Which is evocative of another of your highly successful TNTs, the Tea Garden T.)

    Also, to add to the good advice you gave the FBA emailer, here's my aha! regarding fitting the above-the-bust-area. Like you, I totally believe in starting with the above the bust measurement when sizing, and I add a step of taking the front and back measurements separately. For example, my upper bust measurement is 41", so about a size 18...but that size would leave my back swimming in fabric because it is actually size 12/14. On the other hand, my front waist measurement equals about a size 24, but my back waist is about a size 16. Really affects pants fitting! For myself and for all the folks (men and women) that I sew for, I now take all half measurements, i.e., front and back, these days.

    Love your blog; thanks for taking the time and effort! (MISS the Selfish Seamstress.)

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    1. Thanks, SilverMom! Yes, you have a good point. This is why I do an FBA on the front and widen the back, but not in the same measure. When I make pants, I often go down a size or two for the back, since my backside is small. It sounds like your body shape is similar to mine. Last time I looked, I was also a size 24 waist. :)

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  8. My vote is the Presto also. No contest.

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  9. Presto, hands down. Thanks for the FBA answer too. I have the same "tent" problem and your solution gives me hope I can do better.

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  10. I reckon the first one. They both fit fairly similarly through the shoulders and bust (and both fit you very well). The second, I feel, draws attention to your lower bust (& in a less flattering way) compared with the first top. So your instincts were right (at least as far as I'm concerned :) ).

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  11. I like the smooth collar and the longer hemline in the back of the Alembika, but the Presto fits better everywhere else.

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  12. Timely blog post, as I just bought the Presto pattern. I think the Presto looks much better on you.
    Barb

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  13. I'm with the others - I like the Presto better on you. For me, the color may be a factor since I adore teal, but I think the fit is better. My current working theory is that patterns that follow our body silhouettes are often most pleasing to my eye.

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  14. Presto is the winner for me . Love the FBA tips !!! Alsways a challenge for me

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  15. Snap judgment without even *looking* to see your request: the Presto.

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  16. I prefer the Presto, like everyone else. And from your initial description I expected to prefer the Alembika, because I usually like the look of a minimized bust. But the Alembika actually seems to emphasize your bust (as far as a plain black top can) with the tightness and the flowiness of the bottom, whereas the Presto glides over your curves.

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  17. TWO posts in one weekend? WOW! Sorry you're not sleeping...the Presto is definitely more flattering IMHO...you know your own body well!

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  18. I vote for the Presto for sure.

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  19. I vote for the Presto for sure.

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  20. Definitely the Presto. The Alembika looks overly tight across the bust to me.

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  21. I prefer the Presto as well. And that request from The Doctors! I wonder just what the segment would have involved?

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  22. A vote for the Presto here! You have slim hips, why camouflage that slimness with excess fabric? I think that the second top actually accentuates your bust to some degree since it's flowing from just below the bust point. You have a lot of Prestos for a reason, it looks great on you.

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  23. The Presto, the center seam is more flattering, the fit is better.

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  24. Presto gets my vote.....side note...you appear far bustier....uber boobalicious...in your photos than in person....tell that to the LA folks

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  25. The Presto is definitely better looking for sure!

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  26. I read with interest you comments about the FBA - I do a 3 1/4 inch FBA which typically puts far too much fabric through the waist and hip which I then remove with fish eye darts and some side seam shaping. It works OK in tops but in shift dresses it's a disaster! There is way too much extra fabric for the bust to suddenly shrink down into my considerably smaller waist and hips. Now I only sew dresses that have a waist seam so that I can do separate sized darts for the top and bottom. I hadn't thought about the method you describe (chopping it off and grading through the side seams - and I wonder just how that will work with all the extra I have to redraw - still if you can do it then I can do it! One other comment about FBA's now I find that I have to find some way of removing all the extra fabric that is added to the centre front of the garment - my tops don't hang straight because of "valley between the mountains" so I have to add some kind of dart of ruching or put in a yoke so that I can pull up the centre front line to make the garment add straight. One other comment about fitting a very full bust - I find with princess seam garments that the Palmer/Pletsch sytle adjustment adds too much length so I have to put a kind of "Dior dart" - a horizontal dart at bust point to remove the extra length - I find I need more width than length in FBA's .

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    Replies
    1. I’m Natalya from Chicago who asked Shams about FBA. I have the same issues with FBA as you described, especially extra fabric in the center of the front.
      I made my last top using different FBA method, it seemsto be working better. This method can be found at http://www.mariadenmark.com/2014/06/easy-full-bust-adjustment-fba.

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  27. A lot of thought on this Shams. The Presto is the better fit. It is hard to tell which top will flatter more because I had to imagine your lower body under the 2 pics. And that is critical with your shape since the top and the bottom are so different. The amount of fabric under the bust on the store bought top causes your uber boobs to be visually pulled down. However a bit more snug under the boobs and then flaring out a bit might look nice. I also want to note that I like the 3/4 sleeves on the bought top. They just make your top look better. Somehow to my eye it slims you down and gives a more balanced look. I also tried to envision the bought top in teal. You look so amazing in teal (and purple) that I did not want to be biased because of color.

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  28. I prefer the 3/4 sleeves of the Alembika, and the smoother collar area, but the slimmer overall body of the Presto is more flattering through the torso. Just looking at the photos I would never have said the Alembika minimizes your bust... maybe it's a trick of the photo, but in the side by sided comparison your bust looks lower and larger to my eye. It really could be the photo though...

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  29. The body fit is definitely better on the presto. I suppose to be strictly scientific, you might have omitted which one was by you and which one from the store, and just have called them right and left...but I trust my eyes, and any of the modifications (e.g. 3/4 length sleeves, slightly different collar) you can do on your own. Yay making your own!

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  30. I think the top on the left fits better Shams!

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  31. I think the teal top looks/ fits better

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  32. Another vote for Presto here. I like where the armscye hits at the shoulder on the other one though. Maybe I'm stuck in the 80s (very likely) but I really like to see that seam at the very end of the shoulder.

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  33. Haven't read the whole post yet, but had to jump in to comment. The presto is far better to my eye. It fits beautifully, whereas the other is squashing your breasts (which I suppose in a way to "minimize" (!) but why?), and the fluff around the middle seems pointless and not particularly attractive.

    Oh yes, we're an opinionated lot!

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  34. Presto chango for sure! I think your boobs look less perky in the other one, even though I'm guessing you're wearing the same bra under both shirts, and it's almost like a skater skirt is "attached" to the bust part of that other shirt. Like a built-in peplum flouncy thing.

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  35. The Presto, no contest. We missed you today and had fun talking about your wonderful new jewelry.

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    1. I'm sorry I had to miss, Glenda! I did bring my jewelry to the last meeting at Jillian's, but you were away.

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  36. The Presto for sure but the sleeves look too tight and they visibly detract from the whole look.

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  37. The Presto of top is much more flattering. No need to flounce your trim mid-section and tiny hips. Thx for sharing info on fit. You are so very generous with your knowledge and experiences. Mich appreciated.

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  38. Without question, the Presto.

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  39. Presto.

    PS We missed you, today.

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  40. I think the Presto for sure. abbey

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  41. The one on the left please Shams!

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  42. My vote is Presto. The swingy business at tummy level is not your friend. I think the Presto makes your girls appear perkier, and the other one droopier somehow. I also like that little collar detail on the Presto.

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  43. Vote for Presto. Would love to see that with 3/4 sleeves!

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  44. Gosh that was a marathon of Presto loving to read through hehe. I opt for it also. The other top is nice, but just not as smart. And I can see you wearing it under that fab new chiffon duster!
    Awesome advice too on the other issues. I am a big fan of finding a pattern you love and making it over and over! Especially for those if us who face a major overhaul of any bought pattern and can't find RTW that fits nicely. And dressforms are all very well, but give no assistance with ease amounts, and comfort which of course varies from fabric to fabric.

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  45. The Presto .. it's way more flattering on you. I'm going to read your FBA details in greater detail when I'm not tired. Hope you get more sleep:)

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  46. I believe the Presto looks better on you.

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  47. Presto all the way! The other just looks plain bad, gives you a box-like appearance.

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  48. Hands down the Presto top is better. You've worked hard tweeking the pattern and is shows. And personally, it's much more satisfying to sew TnTs which guarantee fitting success. I've used your FBA info on knits with great success. I'm forever grateful! Karen

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  49. Shams, I think the swingy at the bottom top looks better. It balances you better. Wow I am the only one who thinks that.

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  50. Yep, Presto. Though I would also vote for 3/4 sleeves.



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  51. The Presto is much better, in my opinion.

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  52. The Presto top fits better overall. If the flare of the Alembika top started below your bust, it may have a more flattering fit.

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  53. As to dress forms, I'd like to put in a plug for Dittoform, made of foam from a full body scan. I love mine and it has made fitting so much easier, once I got over the shock of how I really look.

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  54. Hi... I think you actually look younger in the blue than in the black blouse. 'The black one is a bit tight, and seems to displace your upper breast downward. Although this creates a smooth garnment, a younger breast has more fullness at the top.

    I think the wrinkles on the blue are a bit distracting.

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  55. The Presto looks much better on you in my opinion. The other almost looks like a short maternity top. Love your blog! Thank you for sharing your adventures and sewing skills and they are awesome skills!

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  56. Presto is the better top -- it visually lengthens you and the overall fit is better. I want to give a hearty thanks to you for your thoughtful, detailed responses to sewists who write. It's very kind of you to share your expertise, which I find most helpful. You are proof of the generosity of the sewing community. Thank you so much!

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  57. Okay - top opinion - I have a very full bust also, and, contrary to popular opinion, I favor the black one because of the flare below the bust. To be absolutely fair, a full body shot is needed. I have slender hips, thighs and legs, too - so the full silhouette is better with the flare. Looks better in motion, too. Nothing wrong with the Presto - just a "bigger picture" observation from someone with the same fitting challenge. Side note: (opinion you did not ask for) - if I didn't have other people in my house to consider, I would absolutely sew in my underwear ALL THE TIME. Frankly, I'd probably never put real clothes on at home at all!

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  58. When I step back and blink, the Presto flatters more giving you a longer, leaner look.

    The other top isn't bad. The Presto is better. I'm ordering it right now. No FBA and a top that looks that sharp? Sign me up!

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  59. The teal presto by a mile! And with 3/4 sleeves rather than long!

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  60. Thanks for your insight on not using a dress form. I've thought about getting one. Where do I find room for it? Also, I can't imagine what a pain to make one match my shape, which is going to change.
    My sewing area is in a room with large windows facing the street, so I wear a loose blouse or t-shirt when I sew That way I can quickly try on and adjust fit.

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  61. Love the Presto - it fits better! But, where can I get presto patterns?? I love the fit on this and would also like to see about their other patterns as well. I'm with you on the dress form, yikes - I sure wouldn't like it for the same reasons you talk about, I seem to change sometimes almost daily! While I'm sure it's not that much - I have one that I also use as a visual help to see the proportions and get that 3D view.

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    1. You can get it here, Kathleen! http://savagecocopatterns.blogspot.com/2015/07/presto-popover-top.html

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  62. I like Alembika better. Make your body look more balanced.

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  63. 1. Presto.
    2. Sleeve length: both look good, but the shorter one gets the nod for year-round use.
    3. FBA: I wish I could comment knowledgeably. *sob* *grin*

    Cindy (Creative Hormone Rush)

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  64. I like the Presto. To my eye the A looks too small in the area above the bust, although I do like the smooth line off it. Not sure about the hemline--I'd have to see down to your knees to judge that. Both sleeve lengths look fine to me.

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  65. Definitely the Presto! Although, perhaps it could swing out a little more at the hips, but not as much as the RTW. Thanks for allowing us to give our input! Love your blog!!

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