18. Dear Gabby: Am I overfitting? Help!

Dear Gabby,

Can you share some of your biggest Fitting Faux Pas? I’m always worried about over-fitting, and I need help to figure out what are things that I definitely need to fix, and what I can let go and call good, to fix next time.

Sincerely, Fittingly Flustered


Dear Fittingly Flustered,

I’m so happy you ask! I have worked in ready-to-wear apparel manufacturing for years, and the whole industry is about fitting to the law of averages. We regularly ask ourselves in fittings, knowing we only have a few fit samples to get something right due to time and budget, what are the major issues — what is it most important to get right? Sometimes, working in a fashion category, we might only have one sample, because we are trying to get that all-elusive “speed-to-market”. If you’re working with a factory, you are sending information to people for whom English might be their second language, or even their third — so being able to communicate an issue clearly, and prioritize what is most important, is key. Sending a list of 100 points that need to be fixed is the easiest way to make sure that they won’t pay attention to any of it.

So how does this translate to sewing for yourself? It’s the same principle. If you are fitting a muslin, and make a list for yourself of 100 things that need to be fixed, you’ll probably soldier through some of it, but you may end up giving up in frustration. Patternmaking is one area where one tiny pattern change can affect several other things on your eventual garment — if you keep making changes, you may end up with a garment that isn’t what you had in mind at all, and the process can start to seem endless.

My advice? Make a list of the top 5 things. You can make a note of anything else, but for the sake of your sanity, keep it simple and achievable. You want to keep sewing and being productive — don’t let a troublesome style get the better of you!

So! What are my top list items that always need to be addressed?

  1. Anything that is on the top third of the garment. You’ll want to pay attention to what frames your face: when you speak to people, their attention will be focused on your eyes and face, so anything out of sorts on the upper part of the garment will grab their attention away. Remember, you want to wear the garment, and not the other way around.
  2. Anything that causes immobility. For example, if your armhole is too low and your sleeve cap is too long, you will have problems raising your arms. This is something that definitely will need to be addressed, unless you are planning on standing like a column for the entire time you’re wearing your garment 😉
  3. Balance. If you are wearing a dress that keeps falling backwards, and you keep having to tug it forward, that should be fixed. If you are wearing trousers that are too high at your waist and crash at your back thighs, that needs to be fixed. You want your garments to be comfortable, and you should be able to wear them without fussing at them the whole time.

And alternately, what do I think you can let go?

  1. Small draglines. It’s unreasonable to expect that you will be making perfection every time, and sometimes you’ll need room for movement and won’t be able to achieve a totally smooth visual. An example? A raglan sleeve when you have your arm down: you should expect to have folds coming from the underarm. When you raise your arm, however, if the sleeve and shoulder lay flat and smooth with minimal drags, you can move your arm, and it’s not too tight at the shoulder? Let it go!
  2. Flat front crotches. If you don’t have a CT (our RTW abbreviation for… well… rhymes with Schmamel Boe), and you can walk around without too much pulling at your front thighs, leave it alone. Crotch curves can be heinously tedious to perfect, and if you have something that looks passably good, even it it’s not perfect… Let it go!
  3. Swayback adjustments. Yes, they are good. But sometimes, the issue isn’t just that you have a shorter curved back — sometimes, the issue is that you need more width over your hips to help the garment relax. If you keep making the same adjustment, but it’s not solving the problem… Let it go!

As with all of the above, if what you’re doing isn’t working (“I did three full-bust adjustments and I’m still seeing XYZ problem!”) then try something else. Chances are very good that you’re overfitting a symptom, and not the disease. Evaluate the garment, ask a pro for advice, check a fitting book. If you still can’t get it, then it’s time to get down to brass tacks. You may be overfitting and it may just be time to… say it with me… Let It Go!

That said, what are the Fitting Faux Pas I see when I walk down the street that make me gnash my teeth?

  1. Gapping chest buttons — nooooooooo!
  2. Vents and welt pockets that are still tacked or basted closed — ackkkkk!!!! (I used to fantasize about carrying snips with me to catch people when I walked behind them…)
  3. Strap points on woven tank tops that are too tight and close together — the strap point and straps should begin and end at the same place a bra does. Otherwise this looks so awkward and uncomfortable!
  4. Jeans that are too tight! The leg has small tight rolls at the back thigh, there’s definitely mono-butt, and the jeans pull down when the wearer walks!!! Auughhhhhhh…

How to submit:

Email gabby@starislandxo.com.

Send an explanation of your problem with a short video or set of photos, and your contact information. Your submission will be edited into a blog post, so please note that by sending an email, you are granting permission for your video/photos and sewing problem to be shared online. You are helping the community see all-bodied individuals! There is no shame or judgment — the end goal is to help you *make* clothing that feels great and that helps you *feel* the same way while wearing it.

See more here.

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.


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