6. Gabby’s Fitting Series — The Pencil Skirt, Our First Muslin

Hi Sewcialists!

This week I’d like to share with you the start of our first Real Fitting (TM) Series! I had the joy of working with Amy, who is a mother of two and splits her office between work and home, and travels often to fundraise. She struggles to find business casual wear (blazers, sheath dresses, high waisted bottoms) because she wears an 8/10 on top and a 14/16 on bottom. She sews a lot of knits for herself, and mixes RTW into her wardrobe liberally when she can find things that work. She really wants to build out her closet with versatile pieces that fit well.

*Quick note — we fit and filmed over several days / locations, which will explain the background changes 🙂


We had met a week or two earlier to discuss the kinds of garments she felt like she was missing — a basic pencil skirt, a nice hip length blouse, a ponte ankle pant, and a simple A-line dress. Amy chose McCalls 3830 for us to start with. She’s using a lovely summer weight denim tencel. For our fitting, I asked her only to have the front & back sewn together, with darts and zippers in. I like to mark and cut muslins, so it doesn’t make sense to attach facings or finish the hem yet, unless it will affect the fit of the garment.

The pattern envelope sits on top of the of the pattern pieces and pattern instructions.
Amy chose View D

The first thing I did was measure Amy. Based on the measurements listed on the back of the pattern, she had made a size 22 — which makes sense, however the ease given in Big 4 patterns (Simplicity, Vogue, Butterick, & McCalls) is incredibly generous. After she tried her skirt on for me, we definitely felt like she could have sized down at least 1 size, if not another. I’m also really glad we took her measurements that day — the pattern calls for a “hip” circumference, but it doesn’t tell you where to take the measurement on you, nor where they took it on their model. We marked on her, with safety pins, all of our vertical placements, and then also marked on the muslin with chalk where her high and low hip was measured. Now, we can compare the muslin directly with the pattern to see where we need to make our adjustments.

Let’s measure!
Comparing the actual measurements from the fitting session with the measurement chart on the pattern
Finished measurements, to compare to the pattern

The next thing we did was try to figure out how on earth this skirt is supposed to be worn. At the natural waist? High Hip? ???

What is the fit intent here…
And now, we fit!
Then, we test to make sure we didn’t take out too much, and the skirt is still comfortable and functional. Don’t forget to do this!

We also checked what the skirt looks like with several different variations: tucked and untucked shirts, flat shoes, and a kitten heel.

Tucked in, with a flat.

I highly recommend forward thinking your garment! Where are you going? What are you doing? What will you wear it with? Are you happy with the length with different footwear / bottoms / ties / statement necklaces? I like styling the muslin — it definitely gives you a better idea of what changes are truly necessary, and if the garment functions the way you want it to. Roll the cuffs, push up the sleeves, unbutton the top two buttons, try on the hood, and use the drawcord!

For example: are you fitting outerwear? Make sure that you are wearing underneath whatever you would wear for real — a tee shirt + a thick sweater, for example. And then wear those same things if you make another muslin, so you can assess your fit changes correctly. Same callout for undergarments — if the underwear you plan to wear will affect the fit of the garment you’re making (shapers, anyone?), make sure you’re wearing them to check each muslin of that garment.

We did discuss making Amy’s real skirt after the pattern corrections, but since Amy plans on cutting this into a million fabrics and using this as her go-to skirt block, we thought we’d double check our work. I will also note, that I did like that this pattern has a bigger back hip width than front!

Measuring, evaluating, correcting.

*Stay tuned for our all-star cast reunion post, starring: Second Muslin, Fast & Furious!*

Questions? Let me know in the comments!

xo Gabby

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.