Garment Construction

I was talking with a friend on the phone the other day about making her own clothing. I called it, “Garment Construction.” She didn’t know what I meant by “Garment Construction.” I laughed and explained how creating your own clothes is broken down into different parts and actions that come together to create the perfect fitting garment for your specific body. It isn’t just “sewing.”


When I first followed a pattern, I did it blindly and followed the directions to a T. (Shirt shown here) The shirt pulled across my shoulders, the sleeves were too short, the back was tight against my shoulders, etc. I thought that was how you did it. It wasn’t till I got more comfortable with the whole sewing process that I ventured out of what the pattern told me and how I could change things to make them fit perfectly. Lets say that it has taken me years to perfect and learn from each project. That is what I love about sewing though.

I love how you can alter a pattern to fit you and then reuse it to create another project. Alterations can be made to add a new element or style. You can change the color or print and it is really up to you! You are the one deciding what to wear. It is an incredibly liberating feeling! To also tell someone that you sewed something yourself is awesome. Also, the more times you create something, the easier and faster you get.

When beginning your projects it is important to think about what you want to wear. Do you want a nice jacket that you wear all of the time? Do you want a cute dress to wear to a party? How much effort is worth the time you put into a project. I loooove jackets and so I tend to make a lot of these.

dscn5713-225x300A little about my own adjustments that I make with each project.

Forward Shoulder Adjustment: I slope my shoulders forward and this effects my posture. This means that my shoulders are not in a straight line but more bent. This means that a straight shoulder seam doesn’t work. I have to angle out my seam to make up for this. This really helps the jacket to fall properly.

Pointy Shoulder Blades: I have protruding shoulder blades in my back and this means that shirts can pull across tightly. When fitting my muslin, I create a slit at this point and allow the fabric to get more ease.

Sway Back: Lets just say that I have a rounded lower back and a rounded but. This means that after making the shoulder and upper back adjustments I do this. There is usually a gather of fabric that happens in my lower back. I can gather this together for the adjustment.

I wait to do the front till the back is finished. I then cut and alter based off of what looks like it falls best. I may make adjustments around my belly. At this point, I probably have to adjust my side seams as well. You just draw out what would be your new side seam.

Sleeves: I will measure the sleeve against my own length. I sometimes may add length. I usually will change the placement of the sleeve since I adjust the seam for the shoulder.

How I create a garment using a pattern: 

Measure Body: Chest, Waist, Hip (Arm or Leg if there are sleeves or pants)

Copy Pattern that best fits chest measurement and adjust to were the pattern matches your size. Copy the original pattern onto banner paper that can be cut up.
Cut out Muslin pieces that are needed for fit (At this point I don’t cut cuffs or neckline, pockets or Facings) I just cut the basic shapes: Front, Back and sleeves. Basically I just cut what will be needed for fitting. Do Stay Stich the seam around the neckline though. This will keep the shape better.

img_0478I sew together these pieces using a basting stitch. I know that now I am sewing, ripping, sewing, pinning, taping, marking, cutting, moving, etc. It can be a laborious process but worth it! If you are taking the time to make something from scratch, you will feel even more excited about it when it fits you just right! If I am sewing a jacket, I will sew the front and back together first and fit this. I will wait to add the sleeves once this is set.

Once I get the fabric to the point of fitting (I created a dress form of my own body shape to help with this), I take out a marker. I make notes of where seams are sewn. I then take apart each seam. If there are a lot of pins, I will bring the section over to my sewing machine and stitch it into place.

I then take each piece and iron it. this flattens it into a piece that I can use. This isn’t necessarily the way that I have learned, but over the years this has really worked for me. (So far this does not work for jeans. I am still working on getting this right!) If there are a few adjustments I just go back to the original pattern and work with that. It is best to keep things simple whenever possible. I tend to really want something to fit perfectly though and this means working it till it is just right.

Now I bring the fabric back to the banner paper and create dscn0539-300x226a new pattern piece. Each piece needs to fall flat or it will not work. If I am not sure about it, I will create another muslin and then adjust slightly if needed. I create the facings patterns to match these shapes now. The photo to the left shows the difference in the pattern compared to the original. I like to keep the original pattern in case I go way to far into the fitting tweaking. (Sometimes you have to start again)

Now, I have the pattern. I use this to cut out my final fabric. I now sew the garment in the order that the pattern says. At this point the sewing is the fastest part!


Once you wear garments that fit you right, you see how nice being able to do this yourself is! Being able to adjust a fitted garment for body type is flattering and incredibly satisfying.

Favorite Books:

Vogue Sewing: This is the newer version of my book. Mine is older yet has had so many helpful pages about fitting.

Fit For Real People: One of my favorite books about fitting! Get this one for sure!

Built By Wendy Dresses: This was the first book that made me think about how I can change a pattern to fit what I wanted.

The Colette Sewing Handbook: I lived in Portland, Oregon at the time of this book being released and attended the book launch! Love her style with the patterns!

I am going to be creating some more garments and sharing my process on here. If you have any questions about my process, feel free to comment or send me an email. I love to see what other people are working on as well!