Topic: Re: Buttons — Immediate Practical Advice (327 of 561), Read 140 times
Conf: Dixon’s Vixen
From: Virginia DeMarce
Date: Saturday, March 16, 2002 09:34 AM

For the time being, until you learn fitting, for casual shirts, both Land’s End and Old Pueblo Traders have lines of cotton knit polo shirts (the one from Pueblo Traders is a polyester mix), in every imaginable solid color, with 3/4 length raglan sleeves, collars, three-button front plackets, and bound bottoms, so they look a level dressier than tee-shirts worn over jeans or slacks and really quite nice for dressy casual when combined with culottes and a blazer.

I own these in black, navy, hunter green, wine, garnet, royal blue, and jade, which gives you some idea of the degree to which I regard them as a wardrobe staple. Although I am short, like you, I buy the “regular” length rather than the “petite” length because I hate having a strip of flesh show up when I’m doing anything active.


Topic: Re: Buttons (Back fit to avoid button popping in front) (344 of 561), Read 57 times
Conf: Dixon’s Vixen
From: Virginia DeMarce
Date: Sunday, March 17, 2002 01:48 PM

Jessica, if you’re not ready to tackle sewing, here are a few things to keep in mind when buying clothes after you’ve done your exercises on fitting. These are all things for you to look at in the **back** of a garment you are thinking of buying that will give you a better fit in the **front**. In other words, they directly address the original button-popping question.

Take along a “shopping companion” to eyeball you unmercifully from the back view when you are trying things on. We will take the potential problem areas one at a time — check the fit of an item in the following order.

Problem 1:

The blouse or jacket rides up just under the collar, making one of those “unintended horizontal pleats.” If this occurs, the garment is too narrow for you across the shoulders. This “riding-up” will also pull the front of the blouse toward the back and contribute to the button-popping problem. If you are getting that effect at the back neck, you have some choices:

1) if it doesn’t make the jacket or blouse droop over the shoulders, go to the next larger size;

2) if it does makes a blouse droop over the shoulders, either (a) look for a blouse the same size and similar color/cut in a knit fabric that will give you a bit more ease, or (b) look for a blouse the same size and similar color/cut that has an box pleat in the back (either everted or inverted is fine) that goes all the way up to the collar seam (no yoke) — that gives you more room across the back — usually about two inches — without enlarging the shoulder area;

3) if trying a larger size makes a jacket or blazer droop over the shoulders, try a collarless, cardigan-style jacket in a knit fabric instead of a collared blazer.

Problem 2:

The blouse or a jacket develops diagonal wrinkles heading from the side back toward the underarm of the garment. If this occurs, the garment is too short for you from the underarm level to the shoulder and neck. This problem, also, will pull the front fabric out of cant, because it is pulling the underarm seam not only backwards, but also upwards. This will contribute to the button-popping problem. Once again, you have an option:

If you are trying the item in a petite length, see if a regular length in the same size solves it; if you’re trying on a regular length, try a tall. Yes, this will probably mean that the sleeves now hang to your knuckles but — you can easily shorten the sleeves; you can’t do anything at all about a too-short length between shoulder and armhole level.

Problem 3:

The blouse or jacket develops that “unintended horizontal pleat” in back between the armholes. This is a signal that even though it is roomy enough at the shoulders, it’s too tight across the rib cage at shoulder-blade level in back. This also contributes to the button-popping problem in front, because it places tension on the fabric of the back every time you lean over to pick something up, reach across a counter, or even shrug your shoulders. These pull the underarm seam backward out of cant and the point of least resistance, namely the front button, gives way.

1) for a jacket, about all you can do is try the next size larger; if that droops at the shoulders, the style just isn’t for you, so try to find something else;

2) for a blouse, look for one the same size, similar in cut and color to the one you are trying on, but made with a yoke in back that has the panel for the lower back either gathered into it or with a deep pleat box pleat (everted or inverted — either is fine) at the center back. That will keep the shoulder fit and still give you the extra room that you need across the rib cage.

Problem 4:

The jacket or blouse develops an “unintended horizontal pleat” at the waistline.

Examine the problem.

If it has darts and it’s simply too long-waisted for you, there is nothing to be done without a lot of expensive alterations — don’t buy it.

If it’s too narrow to fit easily over your hips and is therefore riding up, there are a couple of possibilities.

1) If it’s a jacket, is the bottom of the jacket designed in such a way that you could open the side seam from hem to waistline at each side and finish the openings to make little plackets? This often gives just enough ease to let the back fall properly over your upper hips;

2) If it’s a blouse that you intend to tuck inside your slacks or skirt, would opening the side seams and changing a straight-all-around hem into a “shirt-tail” hem that’s curved up from back and front to the side seams give enough ease over the hips?

If neither of the above, it doesn’t fit you: don’t buy it.


Topic: Re: Buttons (Making the most of ready-to-wear) (345 of 561), Read 59 times
Conf: Dixon’s Vixen
From: Virginia DeMarce
Date: Sunday, March 17, 2002 02:21 PM

I’m going to add a bit of unsolicited advice here. It’s my two pet peeves about most books that give advice for dressing. Shall we proceed alphabetically?


Make up your mind whether you are an “accessory type” person or not. If you are not, it won’t matter how many scarves and necklaces you purchase — you won’t wear them and they’ll just clutter up your drawers. Save the money and buy something you can use. I only, at any one time, own three purses: “the” purse, an evening purse, and a fanny pack for being a tourist with grandchildren. That’s it. I’ll never shift all my gear from one purse to another, so why buy more?

Sometimes accessories have a use. When I taught, I usually tried to have something bright at the neckline, if only because it helped keep the students eyes focused on me and prevent them from falling asleep.

Sometimes accessories are ridiculous. Since I have become a Federal Bureaucrat, I have realized that there is no necklace, brooch, or other item that really “goes with” a hologram id photo on a kelly green background that’s hanging around my neck on a length of electric-cord beaded chain. I have therefore given them up.

If you are an accessory-type person, that’s fine. My daughter-in-law is and she can make a black knit top and skirt look like a half-dozen different outfits. But decide!

Body Type:

The aim of most advice books appears to be to force all women into some kind of a procrustean bed — there’s an “ideal figure” and you have to try to match it — if your shoulders are broad, visually widen your hips; if your hips are broad, visually widen your shoulders. All of us would end up looking like oblong chunks.

When I design, I go in the other direction — I determine what the person’s body type is, and then I try to make the most of that. To give you a specific example, Josie graduated from high school the year that “the thing to wear” to the prom was a little black stretch velvet straight tunic with spaghetti straps from The Gap.

She and her best friend Cara shopped and shopped, ending up in tears. Josie has the family bosom and was wailing that the tunics all fell down from it like a shelf and made her look pregnant. Cara has narrow shoulders and a narrow rib cage, with wide lower hips and upper thighs (saddle bags, as sometimes called) and was wailing that if a dress was small enough on top that it didn’t fall off her shoulders, the lower half was so tight across her buttocks that it made her look like a slut (keep in mind that all of this was accompanied by the kind of dramatic effects that presaged Ophelia’s landing in the pool).

I told them to go buy some black stretch velvet and two sets of spaghetti straps and trust me. I measured. I sketched. It didn’t take a lot. Josie ended up with, basically, a Regency: that is, I fitted a separate bodice over the bosom and then let the rest of the tunic fall from the high waistline, shaping it just enough with back darts and at the side seam to avoid the “pregnant” effect. True — it was obvious that her bosom was significantly larger than her hips, but it looked just great.

For Cara, I made a lightly fitted princess sheath that went to a dropped waist about 3 inches below the natural waistline (before the big hip expansion started) and then made a three-layer flapper-style skirtlet fastened onto a taffeta lining. I cut the skirt lining as a four-gore a-line and also gored the layers, so each was slightly fuller than the one above it, but not ruffled. True — it was obvious that her bosom was significantly smaller than her hips, but it looked just great.

That’s the way to wear clothes, Jessica. Pick the ones that make you look best — even if they aren’t designed to make your proportions look “balanced.”


Topic: Re: Buttons (was: Casting call to be Tuckerized) (290 of 452), Read 88 times
Conf: Dixon’s Vixen
From: Virginia DeMarce
Date: Friday, March 15, 2002 08:43 PM

No, you don’t have to be able to sew. It helps if you can, but what you really need to do is train your eye to recognize whether or not the cut of a garment is compatible with the structure of your body. This takes conscious effort at first, but eventually it becomes automatic and you can do it without even thinking about it.

Maybe it will help if you think of your body in terms of solid geometry. If you can get a friend to help you, set aside a couple of hours. Put on a washable pair of leotards (long-sleeved) and tights. If they’re dark, use white chalk; if light-colored, use a dark colored chalk.

The first thing is to break yourself of the idea that you take body measurements all the way around (I know, all the charts tell you to, but just sniff haughtily and spurn them :)) Have your friend take the chalk and divide your body front and back — from the underarm down to ankle, in a line perpendicular to the floor.

This line is called the cant. In well-fitted clothes (unless there’s a deliberate bias drape or some other exception to the rule), the side seams of blouse, dress, skirt, slacks should follow the cant perfectly. If you are wearing a piece of clothing and your body pulls the side seams either to the back or to the front, crookedly or at an angle, then **that piece of clothing doesn’t fit you right.**

Now draw five sets of horizontal lines around: underarm level, bustline, waistline, upper hip, lower hip. Draw these **where they actually are** rather than where you think they should be (in my case, for example, the front center point of my waistline is 1 1/2 inches lower than the the back: this significantly affects the fit of skirts and slacks, which are cut on the presumption that they will be even).

Measure two sets of the horizontal lines: one across the back, from center line to center line; one across the front, from center line to center line. For a bosomy woman, the **difference** between her back measurement at the bustline and her front measure at the bustline is the main factor that her clothes will have to accommodate.

This is where you will see what is wrong with that “man-tailored” shirt for your body. Put the shirt down and measure it at bust-height: it measures the same, front and back (that’s what “man-tailored” means and that’s why no woman with a cup size larger than A looks good wearing one).

Now look at your front and back measurements at bust level — you are going to note, I do most sincerely believe, that your front measurement is distinctly larger than your back measurement.

Say the entire measurement is 36 inches. A man-tailored garment will have 18 inches available across the back and 18 inches available across the front (plus ease). You, however, have measurements of 16 inches across the back and 20 inches across the front (or something comparable).

What does it tell you? That a man-tailored shirt is going to be pulled out of cant to the front, and will therefore not fit properly on the shoulders. You need a garment with a narrower back and wider front (even if it doesn’t look as neat when it’s on the hanger).

So what should you do about it? I’ll save that for the next thrilling installment.

In the meantime, however, while you are still in the leotard, have your friend with the chalk join the various lines on your leotards to make geometric shapes: shape from upper hip to lower hip; shape from shoulders to side waist to collar bone. After you have outlined those shapes, sketch them onto the piece of paper where you are recording your measurements.

You will use these later for educating your eyes — by spending several hours looking at mail-order clothing catalogs and asking yourself: Does the shape of this item of clothing match, more or less, the shape of that section of my body? If you can’t do it by eye to start with, you will cut out these shapes (thank goodness for variable-size xerox machines) and physically put them on top of the photos in the catalogs.

To be continued.


DixonsVixen Listmanager wrote:
From: “Jessica Schlenker”

… Umm, I know I’m about to expose my total ignorance here, but… can you explain that in simpler, computer-english? 😉

Thank you for the offer… I might have to get Tia and BK to help me, if making anything is involved, though. I’m just a computer technician. When it comes to sewing I have ten perfectly good thumbs… and a strong distaste for needles. 😉


What you need to look for are shirts that have shallow yokes in front, with the rest of the front panel gathered to the yoke. That will let the shirt fit at the shoulders and still cope with the reality that your shape was never intended for “man-tailored” clothing.

I am prepared, at need, to share many lifetimes (my grandmother, my mother, and I, at a minimum) of accumulated wisdom for dressing the short and buxom shape.


DixonsVixen Listmanager wrote:
From: “Jessica Schlenker”

I round up to 5’2″, and I’m a DD cup. This tends to, uh, cause problems finding plain tshirts that I can breath in, and fit my shoulders…

Topic: Re: Buttons (was: Casting call to be Tuckerized) (291 of 452), Read 90 times
Conf: Dixon’s Vixen
From: Judith Lasker
Date: Friday, March 15, 2002 09:12 PM

Thank you, Virginia. That was most informative.

Note that Lands End uses this exact method (body shapes) to categorize their swim suits.

Lady Judith

Topic: Re: Buttons (was: Casting call to be Tuckerized) (295 of 452), Read 66 times
Conf: Dixon’s Vixen
From: Neil Frandsen
Date: Saturday, March 16, 2002 12:47 AM


Now I will be mentally drawing the Virginia Cant lines on every adult female I see. A 3-D imagination, in full colour, re-inforced by 30 years of surveying. Oh, Virginia, what a problem with curbs, parking meters, and light-poles I shall have.

I can multi-task well enough to walk, chew gum, avoid obstacle, and admire all ladies, but add in 3-D contouring and mapping, in wetware and real-time, plus Zipping results to permanent memory, there just is not enough band-width in here! Blink, blink, RESET, oh, optical channels now working OK.

Neil, the Bigfoot. This amateur at sewing really relished your explanation!

Topic: Re: Buttons (was: Casting call to be Tuckerized) (296 of 452), Read 39 times
Conf: Dixon’s Vixen
From: Virginia DeMarce
Date: Saturday, March 16, 2002 07:51 AM

Second installment on fitting.

You’re still in the leotards, OK?

We’re going to transfer you, realtime, to some pieces of flat paper — not with all the curves used to make paper patterns, but as the basic geometric shapes.

You one need to do one of each piece, because unless you have a major difference to deal with, you can just turn it over and have it serve for the other side. This can be become a tedious process, but only only have to do it once: paper keeps very well.

Back, Stage One:

Back: With chalk on the leotard, draw the following lines:
From high point of shoulder (where it joins the neck) to center neck;
From low point of shoulder (where it joins the arm) to center back;
Down from center neck to this point of the center back;
Down from high point of shoulder to the line that’s going across from low point to center back;
Draw another line line from high point of shoulder to low point of shoulder.

Measure all of these and transfer the measurements to a piece of paper. In the middle of the piece of paper, write your name, the date that the measurements were taken, and the body part that it represents, in this case, “back shoulder,” which will save a lot of confusion in the future.

You now have your shoulder slope. You can put this handy little piece of paper in your purse, take it along when you’re shopping, and place it on the back of any garment to see if it will fit you at the shoulder and neck (in the case of blazers with shoulder pads and such, turn the garment inside out in the fitting room and place this against the inside lining).

Although it may not be obvious at first, the purpose of this shoulder-fitting measurement is to make sure that the bottom hem of your jacket or blazer will fall parallel to the floor. Aside from the side cant being straight, the second element of a well-fitted garment is to have the jacket and skirt hems (**while they are on the straight grain of the fabric**) perfectly parallel to the floor, with no hiking up or drooping down.

It’s possible to get a hem on a skirt that superficially **looks** sort of parallel to the floor by just turning it up by having someone measure it from the floor, but if it isn’t on the fabric’s straight grain at center front and center back, it’s a pretty poor expedient.

Since you’re young, you probably won’t have a big problem with this issue of shoulder fit (you may if your shoulders are unusually straight or unusually sloped). However, for older women who are developing dowager’s hump, this can be the most critical body measurement of all as far as her ultimate appearance goes. Without a proper fit at the shoulder, what one gets with advanced dowager’s hump is the effect where the hem of the jacket is hunched up three inches higher than the side seam at mid-back and drooping three inches below the side seam at mid-front. Even a lesser amount, up an inch in back and down an inch in front, can ruin the visual effect of an expensive blazer.

Back, Stage Two:

Start where you left off, with the line from low point of shoulder to center back. With chalk on the leotard:

From low point of shoulder, drop a line straight down to 1 1/2″ below the underarm (do not take it to the actual underarm — if you do, it will mislead you into buying clothes that are uncomfortably tight at the armhole).

From the “low point of shoulder line” at the center back, drop a line straight down to the level of the “1 1/2″ below the armhole line.”

Connect the two dropped lines horizontally, on the top and on the bottom. You’re not done yet.

On the bottom, continue the horizontal line over to the cant line at the side of your body. Determine the point on the dropped line from the low point of shoulder to lower horizontal where your body starts a sharp slant from the straight toward the armhole.

Draw a diagonal line from the cant line to that point.

Transfer all these measurements to paper, as instructed above. Take it with you when you go shopping and compare it to anything you plan to buy, as above.

If the garment is smaller than the grid, don’t even bother to try it on, especially if you are shopping by yourself and can’t get a good back view. Always remember that the body is three-dimensional and that others see it from all directions. Just because something looks good to you from the front doesn’t mean that it’s going to look well-fitted in back.

The purpose of this set of measurements is to ensure that your garment does not strain at the back armhole or hike up at the underarm because it’s too narrow from center back to back shoulder seam. If you have a broad back (as I do), it’s an important measurement, particularly since my work involves a lot of reaching up and bending over to pull document boxes on and off shelves.

If you look at a woman’s back and her blouse has acquired an unintended horizontal pleat about an inch deep running across from underarm to underarm, it means that even it the garment fits at the shoulders, it’s too tight at the back underarm and the fabric is scrunching up to give her some ease in movement.

To be continued.


Topic: Re: Buttons (was: Casting call to be Tuckerized) (297 of 452), Read 28 times
Conf: Dixon’s Vixen
From: Virginia DeMarce
Date: Saturday, March 16, 2002 09:17 AM

Third installment on fitting, as we move down the back. This one will end back fitting.

You’re still in your leotards, OK.

Yes, yes, having given a lot of these instructional sessions, I know — you don’t ever see yourself from the back. Everyone **else** sees you from the back. Therefore, we learn back fitting first.

Back, Stage Three.

This stage probably won’t be necessary for you, since you are young and probably favor a straight cut in the back of your jackets (most girls seem to). However, we all get older as time goes on. It has an additional use in fitted blazers (with shaped center back seam and back darts) in making sure that the waistline indentation of the garment and the waistline indentation of the wearer are in congruence.

Start with the complete line that runs from 1 1/2″ below the underarm to center back.

At center back, draw a line down to the indentation line you have running around your waist.

At underarm, measure down the cant line to the waist indentation.

Measure across from the center back line to the cant line at the waist.

Transfer these measurements to paper, as previously instructed. Having this, for women who are “losing their waistline,” ensures that weight that has collected around the waistline in back will not pull the side seams of the garment out of cant toward the back.

For you, it will ensure that a fitted jacket doesn’t have darts on which the deepest part of the indentation falls a couple of inches above or below your natural waisline. You can usually get away with wearing darts that fall a bit above, if the garment is otherwise large enough to keep the cant, but if the indentation falls below your natural waistline and rides up on your hips, you’ll get another of those unintended horizontal pleats that ruin the back view of a blazer or shell.

Back, Stage Four:


For faster shopping for slacks, just write down two measurements:
the high hip line measurement from center back to cant line;
and the measurement along the cant line from low hip line to waist

When you shop, take along a measuring tape.

If your high hip line measurement is larger than the measurement of a pair of slacks at that distance below the waistline — the slacks don’t fit you: don’t buy them. The side seam will be pulled out of cant. For short people, this is particularly important measurement to take on slacks which have been fitted by means of sewn darts in the back.

If the length of the slacks at the side from low hip line to waist is shorter than your measurement, your body will make room for itself by hiking up the fabric and causing creases to develop in the fabric beneath your buttocks — the slacks don’t fit you: don’t buy them. With your tape measure, you can find where the garment’s low hip line will fall (on you) by measuring the rise from the center crotch (see instructions below).

Anyway, after that digression, let us proceed.

This stage will create two pieces of paper, one from waist to high hip, and one from high hip to low hip. It’s more efficient to draw all your chalk lines at once, but transfer the measurements separately.

You already have three horizontal lines on your leotards, at waistline, high hip (top of hipbone) and low hip (this is NOT the famous “widest part of your hips.” Your low hip line falls at the groin, where your leg swings out — good tailoring is a matter of “form follows function”).

Measure these three horizontal lines. On one piece of paper, place the overall waistline measurement at the top; on a second piece of paper, place the overall high hip measurement at the top.

Draw vertical chalk lines on your leotards at the following locations:

center back;
coming straight down from the high shoulder point;
coming straight down from the low shoulder point;
coming straight down from the point where your
diagonal line from the underarm met the “low-shoulder to underarm line”;
on the cant line at the side of your body.

Subsection 1, Waist to High Hip.

Transfer the waist measurement to paper, marking each of the above points. Leaving some extra paper to work with, slash your paper in a vertical line below each of the points (reinforce the top with a couple of strips of tape, so it doesn’t tear out).

At each point, measure the drop down from the waist line to the high hip line.

Measure across on the high hip line at each of the points, taping in little triangles of paper as you go for expansion purposes as you go.

A short distance from waist to high hip is 3″ or less. Most short women have a short distance from waist to high hip.

If you have a short measurement here, **and** the expansion from waistline to high hipline on this back piece is 3″ or more, the rule of thumb is that you should forget about trying to purchase slacks fitted with darts in back. Get slacks with elasticized back waists, even for dress wear, and disguise the elastic with a nice overblouse.

Subsection 2, High Hip to Low Hip.

This is where you determine whether your basic hip shape is “High Hip” or “Tapered Hip.”

One of Life’s Little Tailoring Truths is that there is nothing that either diet or exercise will do about the **shape** of this component of your body — it is determined by the underlying pelvis and even if you starve yourself to death, your bones will still be either high hip or tapered hip. Diet can affect the size of the block, but it won’t affect the shape of the block. Think of a trapezoid, with the wider part either at the top (“High Hip”) or bottom (“Tapered Hip”).

On the “High Hip” female body (mine, for example) the measurement at the high hip line is the same as (or even, in my case, a little larger than) the measurement at low hip — i.e., I go out from waistline to high hip and then actually taper in a bit toward the thighs).

On the “Tapered Hip” female body, the low hip measurement will be larger, usually significantly larger, than the high hip measurement.

So, put your high hip line on paper, measuring between all the points where the descending vertical lines intersect;

measure down to the low hip line along all the vertical lines;

if your low hip line is larger than your high hip line, slash and reinforce with tape as instructed for the “waistline to high hip” segment;

measure between each of the vertical lines at the low hip line’

transfer to paper, adjusting as necessary.

Measure your back rise from center crotch to low hip line and make a note of it on this piece of paper in addition to the other notations.


Topic: Re: Buttons (was: Casting call to be Tuckerized) (308 of 493), Read 44 times
Conf: Dixon’s Vixen
From: Virginia DeMarce
Date: Saturday, March 16, 2002 04:59 PM

Thank you, Misty, but ’tis not a wonder — ’tis a great grandfather and grandmother who were tailors.

Grossmama’s father left Germany in a snit because the guild wouldn’t let him apprentice his daughters in the trade. He trained them in Manhattan, to the raucous laughter of colleagues who said that no man would let himself be measured by a woman.

They were ready just as the Gibson Girl styles came along and the ladies of the 400 started wearing tailored suits.

The front is yet to come 🙂


DixonsVixen Listmanager wrote:
From: “Mercedes Lackey”

I’ve saved all of this in a text file for myself—this is the clearest set of instructions for making a “sloper” that I’ve ever seen. Lady Virginia, you are a wonder!

Topic: Re: Buttons (in which I finally answer Jessica’s question) (341 of 598), Read 158 times
Conf: Dixon’s Vixen
From: Virginia DeMarce
Date: Saturday, March 16, 2002 05:38 PM

I hope that you are still with me, Jessica. You and your chalk-wielding friend may now pause for a cup of tea, because we are about to more onwards toward the project of fitting the front.

Draw a vertical line from collarbone to low hip line down the center front of your body.

Front shoulder:

From the low point of your shoulder (where it joins the arm) draw a horizontal line over to the center front line.

Draw a vertical drop line from the high-point-of-shoulder down to the line you just drew.

From the high point of your shoulder (where it joins your neck) draw a straight line to the point of your collarbone; from the collarbone, angle it horizontally over to the center front line.

Measure each of the above (in the order given) and transfer to paper.

Finish by drawing a line, on the paper, from the high-shoulder-point to the low-shoulder-point.

This will give you your front shoulder shape. It may be a very small piece: for me, the low-shoulder-point and the collar bone even, but for some women, they are not.

It also brings us to the answer of your question below. A shallow front yoke is a piece of fabric in a blouse that is this shoulder shape plus, usually, about two more inches at the bottom.

I’m sure you have seen blouses made this way — you may not have known the official sewing jargon term for the piece of fabric.

The use of such a yoke permits your shoulders to be fitted neatly, while the making of a wider lower front panel, gathered to the yoke, accommodates the size of your bosom in front inconspicuously and gracefully.


Topic: Re: Buttons (was: Casting call to be Tuckerized) (316 of 493), Read 22 times
Conf: Dixon’s Vixen
From: Virginia DeMarce
Date: Saturday, March 16, 2002 06:46 PM

We now come to the ever-interesting topic of fitting the bosom. The thing to keep in mind here, geometrically, is that the bosom does not only take up space **around** as the people who have you measure yourself for sizes seem to think, but also takes up space **up and down** — and the larger the cup size, the larger the amount of space it occupies “up and down.”

From the fitter’s point of view, “around” is easy — just measure that horizontal line at the bust, from center front of body line to side cant line, and make sure that the front panel of your blouse or shirt is at least that long plus an inch or more of ease. This is the basic measurement that will permit you to breathe without popping your buttons, but it won’t guarantee you a good fit all by itself.

Ready-to-wear is manufactured on the assumption that collarbone-to-waistline and low-point-of-shoulder to waistline are the same distance. You will find that this is not necessarily true, which is why a lot of women end up with the center front of their dresses either hiked up at the waistline (if they are long-waisted) or scrunched at the waistline (if they are short-waisted).

Stage One: Determining “up and down” length over the bosom:

The “up and down” is the challenge from the perspective of getting a good fit on a tailored garment.

Start with the line you have drawn from the low point of shoulder to collarbone and work down.

Across the front of your body (in a different color of chalk, if you have it) draw a “yoke line” at the level I recommended in the last post, about 2″ to 3″ below the low point of your shoulder. It should fall just above the level at which the major swell of your bosom begins, which I why I can’t tell you exactly where to put it — it’s your judgment call and that of your assistant.

Measure down from yoke line to waistline at center front;

Continue the vertical line from the high-point-of-shoulder from the yoke line down to the waistline. Measure from yoke line to waistline.

If you are among the blessed-for-fitting, this line will go directly over the most prominent point on your bosom. If it doesn’t — measure over on the bustline from this line to the most prominent point on your bosom, draw another vertical line from there up to the the yoke line and down to the waistline, and measure this.

Continue the low-point-of-shoulder vertical line from the yoke line to the waistline (this will not go over your bosom, but rather down the side of it) and measure it.

Now, compare the two over-the-bosom measurements to the center-front and side measurement. For any woman who is not in an advanced stage of osteoporosis (or has not undergone a double mastectomy), I guarantee that **the over-the-most-prominent-point-of-the-bosom length is longer than the center-body length and down-from-the-low-point-of-the-shoulder length** — at a rate of about one inch per each cup size beyond an A. That is, for a woman who wears a C cup, the distance from yoke line to waist over the bosom is going to be about two inches longer than that from yoke line to waist at center front.

The function of the late, lamented, underarm dart was to allow the female of the species to have the necessary length of fabric over the front bosom while neatly fitting this piece of fabric to the back of the blouse or shirt. It needs to be restored to its proper place in clothing construction.

Stage Two: Locating the bosom on the chest:

The next issue is — where should the underarm dart go? The major fitting problem with ready-to-wear in the 1940s and 1950s was that, most of the time, the placement of the dart bore only the most approximate relationship to the placement of the bosom.

You already have a horizontal line drawn around your body at the bustline.

In back, you already have a horizontal line drawn at 1 1/2 inches below the armpit. Now bring that line around, across the front.

Stand back, take a critical look, and decide the relationship between the largest point of your bosom and 1 1/2 inches below your armpit. If they happen to be the **same** you may breathe a brief and thankful acknowledgment to the deity or abstract principle of your choice. You may also consider a career as a professional model, because this is the assumption that ready-to-wear makes.

For 90% of all women, however, they won’t match up. Some women have bosoms placed high on the chest; some women have bosoms placed low on the chest. Even in
the absence of darts, in both of these cases, the place where **you** need room and the place where the manufacturer decided to **put** the room will not be the same — which will mean that part of the front of your garment is likely to strain a bit, while another part of it sags a bit.

This is why, back in the 1950’s, women were always making little tugs and pulls at their fitted dresses, trying to make the space inside the garment arrive at the location where it was needed. It’s also why modern ready-to-wear has moved heavily in the direction of “unfitted” and “semi-fitted.”

In the absence of an underarm dart in ready-to-wear, you can have two choices: one is wear separates and hide the hiked-up front of your blouse inside the skirt or slacks while resigning yourself to the fact that the fabric will scrunch under your arm and there is **absolutely nothing that you can do about it**.

The other is to buy blouses that are too long for you, slit the side seam, insert an underarm dart of the depth that you need where you need it, sew the side seam back together, and make a new hem that is nicely horizontal and parallel with the floor all the way around.


Topic: Re: Buttons (was: Casting call to be Tuckerized) (348 of 598), Read 68 times
Conf: Dixon’s Vixen
From: Pam (Pogo) Poggiani
Date: Monday, March 18, 2002 02:14 PM

The underarm dart doesn’t have to be horizontal. The high-bosomed woman can point it up; the low-bosomed woman can aim it down. (Yes, the outer end of the dart should be about an inch and a half below the armpit.) When the center lines of the waistline dart and the underarm dart are extended, they should cross at the bustpoint. The darts themselves should end an inch or two or more from that point.

Virginia, is your “yoke line” what Dorothy Moore called “first line front”? When you put on a blouse with sleeves and let your arms hang, the point at which fabric wrinkles is the first line front. It’s the line which, if necklines go below it, serious fitting must be done or the neckline will not stay close and concealing.

Years ago, I wrote an article on altering commercial patterns to produce a dress with a much lower neckline than the pattern had. See, I’d gotten tired of seeing medievally dressed ladies showing everything they had when they bent forward. Shoulders-to-bosom is _not_ a flat plane.

For years, all my clothes — mundane first, SCA later — were made from the sloper I’d produced working with _Dorothy Moore’s Pattern Drafting and Dressmaking_. I got _so_ tired of it! Now, sometimes, Miss Petites actually fit. Which that sloper doesn’t, any more. ::sigh::

Virginia, one ready-made dress I tried on had the bosom fullness _under the arms_! Some women are wideset, but _that_ was ridiculous.


Topic: Re: Buttons (was: Casting call to be Tuckerized) (349 of 599), Read 48 times
Conf: Dixon’s Vixen
From: Virginia DeMarce
Date: Monday, March 18, 2002 05:35 PM

No, on most women, the yoke line will fall about two inches above the “first line front.” Taking a yoke that far down loses most of the advantages for gathering or pleating the front panel of the blouse into it, because you’re already into the top swell of the bosom.

A “yoke” doesn’t have to be an actual separate yoke, of course. For variety, one can make the whole front panel wider, all the way up to the shoulder line, and then put in a series of tucks or pleats in order to reduce the front shoulder line to match the size of the back shoulder. The pleats make a particularly nice effect for dress blouses.

At this time, I shall refrain from saying evil and uncomplimentary things about woven polyester. I will, however, remind all sewers that **polyester does not ease** and that therefore one can never make as nice a shoulder line and fitted sleeve with the stuff as with natural fiber fabric.


Topic: Re: Buttons (was: Casting call to be Tuckerized) (350 of 599), Read 30 times
Conf: Dixon’s Vixen
From: Mercedes Lackey
Date: Monday, March 18, 2002 08:12 PM

Great prices. Fast shipping. Satisfaction guaranteed. Quite a bit of natural fibre stuff, including reasonably priced duponi silk.

Public service announcement.

Topic: Re: Buttons (was: Casting call to be Tuckerized) (305 of 494), Read 22 times
Conf: Dixon’s Vixen
From: Tom E Arnold
Date: Saturday, March 16, 2002 06:59 PM

The knowledge came from family (I’ve seen the wonderful tale of the lady tailors and the Gibson Girl look before) but the clarity of thought and expression is still impressive. This is of course the _same_ clarity of thought and expression which serves her so well as a historian, and must no doubt be credited in part to education.

On 3/16/2002 5:12:00 PM, Jolie LaChance wrote:
Ma’am, are you a genius or just fearsomely well educated? I’ve copied this post and intend to use it.


triticale – the wheat/rye guy

Topic: Re: Buttons (was: Casting call to be Tuckerized) (306 of 521), Read 67 times
Conf: Dixon’s Vixen
From: Virginia DeMarce
Date: Saturday, March 16, 2002 08:16 PM

To be honest Tom, every trained tailor could do this explanation, and would do it pretty much the same way.

The problem is that there are very few trained tailors in the US any more. I’m getting that horrible Foxfire-Book frazzled sort of feeling that if I don’t teach this to someone right now, it will go to the grave with me. I have a friend in the same age range, Connie, also trained, and we talk to one another about sleeve darts and shaping collars and interlining.


Topic: Re: Buttons (was: Casting call to be Tuckerized) (307 of 521), Read 47 times
Conf: Dixon’s Vixen
From: Erik Kittlesen
Date: Saturday, March 16, 2002 09:48 PM

Umm, this may seem silly, BUT. I was wondering if anyone had thought of putting this together and putting it up as a FAQ??

I do NOT volunteer to do this.


Topic: Re: Buttons (in which I finally answer Jessica’s q (342 of 598), Read 146 times
Conf: Dixon’s Vixen
From: Lisa Satterlund
Date: Sunday, March 17, 2002 12:17 AM

Virginia, like Misty, Pat and Judith, I am saving these posts, and I thank you for them.

Regarding tailoring, however, I thought you would like the know that the skill lives on through the fanatical costumers—most of whom, to obtain historical accuracy, must learn tailoring and pattern drafting. I, personally, know at least three people who can tailor for you anything you’d like to wear.

Topic: Re: Buttons (was: Casting call to be Tuckerized) (338 of 549), Read 65 times
Conf: Dixon’s Vixen
From: Virginia DeMarce
Date: Sunday, March 17, 2002 06:52 AM

Good morning, Jessica. We have now reached your front waistline, and are ready to start fitting a tailored, straight-line, skirt.

You don’t need all these measurements for a dirndl skirt or one with unpressed pleats. On those, just make sure that your hemline is even.

This information is really for sewing, so you may not need it yet, since you don’t sew. When you get to the point that you either sew for yourself or can afford a tailor, it will be useful for you to know. Until that time, buy skirts with plenty of ease in them (as described above) — or trade skills with a friend who can sew: load her software in return for a skirt, or something. If she sews but does not tailor, bring these along for a present.

Here are a few general principles:

Flat-front skirts and slacks are for women who have flat fronts. Women who have rounded fronts need ease in their tailored skirts. A woman with a tapered hip can use darts. For a woman with a high hip, this is best achieved by unpressed pleats or minimal gathers.

The front darts, unpressed pleats, or gathers for ease should be placed between a point on the skirt waistline directly above the hip bone and a point on the skirt waistline directly below the most prominent point of the bosom.

If the placement on a commercial pattern falls elsewhere on your body, move them.

For the back of a tailored skirt, a woman with a tapered hip should use darts to shape it smoothly from buttock to waistline. A woman with a high hip should omit the darts (which will inevitably cause the skirt to ruck up over that part of the upper side hip that would be a ham if she were a pig) and just gather the fabric evenly to the back of the waistband.

I would also add here that skirts with sewn-down pleats fit and look much better on a woman with a high hip than on a woman with a tapered hip, just as an A-line skirt is great on the tapered-hip body but awkward on the high-hip shape.

Remember — the aim is to get a skirt on which the side seam follows the side cant of your body, without a prominent rear hiking up the back of the skirt and pulling the hem diagonally toward the back, or a prominent abdomen hiking up the front of the skirt and pulling the hem diagonally toward the front.

Either of these “hike-ups” also has an unfavorable fit on the skirt otherwise — the pull toward the back will cause a cutting crease at the groin in front when you sit, while a pull toward the front will cause the back of the skirt to indent under the buttocks when you stand.

Put on shoes with the kind of heel that you most frequently wear. With your chalk-wielding assistant holding a yardstick, turn sideways. Yardstick on the floor, have her take and record the following measurements in back, holding the yardstick so it just barely touches the most prominent point of your buttocks:

Floor to back of knee cap (just where the knee bends);
floor to waistline directly above kneecap;
back of kneecap to waistline.

Turn around, and with the yardstick just touching the most prominent point of your abdomen, take the following measurements (stand with your feet about four inches apart; turn the yardstick sideways and place it right against the inside of your foot):

Floor to center point of front kneecap;
floor to waistline directly above kneecap;
center point of front kneecap to waistline directly above it;
floor to navel (at the front center of your body).

Turn sideways and take the following measurements:

Floor to center point of kneecap at side, along the cant line;
floor to waistline at cant line;
center point of kneecap to waistline at cant line.

Put away the yardstick and get a tape measure. Take and record the following measurements, with the tape measure following the curves of your body:

Center of back kneecap directly up to waistline;
Center of side kneecap directly up to waistline;
Center of front kneecap directly up to waistline.

Compare these to the straight measurements that you took with the yardstick. They will be longer — but they will not all be the **same amount** longer. This is the amount of waistline ease that you need, all the way around, unevenly, to get a tailored skirt that will hang nice and straight at the hemline.

The tailoring point is that one should make these adjustments at the waistline, before sewing it onto the waistband — not at the hemline.

I mentioned before that my center waist in front is an inch and a half lower than my center waist at back. When I’m making a skirt from a standard pattern, I cut a scoop from the side seam to the center front, 1 1’2″ deep.

If I’m designing a skirt pattern for a woman with a high front center waistline, I go upward from the pattern line and add one or two inches. It looks funny on a hanger — yes, that’s true. But when she puts the skirt on, she occupies that extra space and the garment hangs properly.

Ready-to-wear manufacturers make clothes that look good on the hanger, to have enough eye appeal to entice the person to try it on. Hangers are flat. Professional models are as flat as a human being can be made.

Most of us are not flat. We are three-dimensional. Think of your clothes as fabric that should contain enough interior space, at the appropriate locations, to accommodate the three-dimensional shape of the body that will be wearing them.


Topic: Re: Buttons (was: Casting call to be Tuckerized) (340 of 551), Read 44 times
Conf: Dixon’s Vixen
From: Virginia DeMarce
Date: Sunday, March 17, 2002 12:21 PM

It’s quite easy to determine whether one should try “flat front.” Take that yardstick. Put a point of chalk at the top of your two hipbones. Place yardstick against the center of your stomach at that level.

If the yardstick touches not only your center stomach but also both chalk points, wear “flat front.” It if comes with an inch of them, try “flat front.” If the yardstick leaves more than an inch of air between itself and the chalkpoints on the hipbones, familiarize the wearer should familiarize herself with the concept of ease.


On 3/17/2002 12:04:00 PM, Judith Lasker wrote:
Oh, Virginia, tailors are so
tactful! LOL And good
morning to you, too.
This is Part 6.

Lady Judith

In a message dated 3/17/02 4:54:19 AM Pacific Standard Time, Virginia DeMarce writes:

Good morning, Jessica. *snip*

Flat-front skirts and slacks are for women who have flat fronts. Women who have rounded fronts need ease in their tailored skirts.

Topic: Re: Buttons (was: Casting call to be Tuckerized) (358 of 599), Read 70 times
Conf: Dixon’s Vixen
From: Pam (Pogo) Poggiani
Date: Monday, March 18, 2002 01:58 PM

My “hips” used to be flat both front and back, but had barely more than an inch between waist and iliac crest — and the all-the-way-around measurements differed by 11 inches. So I curved the top of the side seam. Worked great for both A-line and straight (fitted with darts) skirt.


Topic: Re: Buttons (was: Casting call to be Tuckerized) (341 of 551), Read 43 times
Conf: Dixon’s Vixen
From: Judith Lasker
Date: Sunday, March 17, 2002 12:42 PM

Some of us don’t need the yardstick. ;))

Lady Judith
Where are those hipbones again?