5. Gabby’s Fitting Series — What’s the deal with RTW?

Hi Sewcialists!

I’m comin’ at ya real casual this week! By this time, I’ve given you tons of homework, so this week we’ll take a break and I’ll rant a little bit about ready-to-wear and mass production. Don’t get me wrong — I don’t want to bite the hand that feeds, but as I mentioned in my very first intro video, RTW is incredibly exclusionary in terms of fit. There are not enough sizes, or too many that have been graded off the wrong shape, fit issues that happen for a myriad of reasons, quality compromises, and I haven’t even got to how it exploits people and the environment. There are so many problems! Ugh.

Mass Production! So many factors…

Reasons RTW doesn’t fit:

  1. Poor Initial Fit
  2. Tolerance
  3. Cutting Stacks
  4. Human Error
  5. Bad Grading
  6. Poor quality
  7. Multi-Sourcing
Looks dry and boring- but is actually hardcore and metal! Electric razors! Chain mail! Measurements! 😉

If you strip all that away, though, there is a lot to be learned from RTW — I can vouch for technical designers as a whole: if there’s ever been a group of people who obsess about details and research and problem-solving, that would be us. We conduct focus groups, size set fittings, work with fit models of all sizes, wear test, stretch test, and wash test. We put our hands in pockets, button and unbutton, tie, pull, zip, crack and count stitches. We look at armholes, peer at armpits, move models’ arms back and forth, cut garments while on a live person with real scissors, and create visual cheat sheets for on body standards. We communicate with master pattern makers and production managers around the globe to make the best possible product we can, with the tools we have to work with.

If you think about it, any garment you pick up in a store has had *at least* 20 – 60 people think about it, talk about it, sketch it, meet about it, fight about it, price it, cut it, sew it, pack it, and ship it. That can be off-putting. But, it can also tell you that in better quality stores with higher price points, those garments have been handled with as much love and frustration as any make you have labored over, by *at least* 1 of those 20 – 60 people, whether or not it fits.

So, I’m not telling you to go to a store and try things on and figure out what silhouettes you like. And I’m definitely not telling you to buy the things you like and take them home and measure them and take pictures of their shapes. And I’m wholeheartedly telling you to absolutely not return the garments the next day. 😉

Have you had issues with RTW? Rant in the comments! I want to learn what kind of experiences you’ve had, why you sew, and what you actually do like to spend money on and why. (Personally, I spend money on RTW outerwear, because I can’t replicate the kind of performance aspects at home the way some specialty retailers are able to.)

Can’t wait to hear from you 🙂

xo Gabby

*Please note that I am speaking from the position of a person who has been a corporate employee in the U.S., purely about mass produced apparel and its production. If you’d like to learn more about apparel manufacturing from a global standpoint, and some of the life-affecting issues at hand, I highly recommend researching the Rana Plaza disaster of 2013 in Bangladesh. There’s also an excellent documentary that is currently streaming on Netflix called “The True Cost” that is incredibly enlightening- just to get you started.

Gabby is a technical fashion designer, fit specialist, and prolific googler.  She lives in Denver, raises tiny littles, reads, embroiders, makes, experiments, fails, learns, tries again.  See her on instagram @ladygrift.


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