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Fitting or alterations? What's the difference?

Christine Jonson Patterns

Christine Jonson Patterns Swing Shirt and A-Line Skirt

Simple Fitting

by Christine Jonson

What is the difference between fitting and alterations? It seems to be an important time to make the distinction. To me, fitting means making simple adjustments to a garment so it conforms correctly to the bodies shape. And, by correctly, I mean it provides a flattering silhouette. One of Websters definitions of alteration is that “the result of alteration is a modification” and modification means to make fundamental changes to serve a new end." Often the alterations we do change the garments initial intent. I consider using simple fitting techniques as I design and construct my patterns, not alterations, to be used for achieving the proper fit.

By simple fitting I mean shaping seams, narrowing sleeves, tapering skirts, shaping center back seams, using shoulder pads, shortening or lengthening hems etc. This fitting can only be done to the garment not to the pattern. The bottom line is that we want the garment to look great on us and the fact that you can alter the tissue to fit your body does not mean it is going to look good on you. I don’t want you to feel that you have to redo my pattern making to make one of my patterns fit you. I expect it to fit you without alterations but it may need some simple fitting to look its best. 

Stand in the mirror using your critical eye with the garment on (before the finish work has been done) and visualizing “the look” you want. Pin and fit until you achieve it. Training you eye to know what looks good only comes from experience. Making garments fit you by flat pattern alterations does not train your eye to see a flattering silhouette. And the kind of fitting that gets done this way is impossible to anticipate.

Sleeves that are too wide just below the armhole and elbow can make a jacket look too big when it really isn’t. It can also make the bustline look wider than it is. You would never know where or how much to alter without having the garment on your body. By pinning and taking the excess fabric out you open up the area between your arm and side.

Making alterations to a pattern sometimes changes it so much that the design doesn’t work any more and sometimes the tiniest shape fitting can make all the difference. You will never be able to choose a good pattern for your body type unless you can visualize it on you.

Choosing a pattern that is simple and has the right design for your body type is the beginning. You know what designs are most flattering on you. If you have not done a lot of sewing for yourself, just look at your own ready to wear garments. Find the common thread in seaming, sleeve shapes, skirt silhouettes, jacket lengths etc and use that to help choose a pattern that may need some simple fitting but not major alterations.