20. Dear Gabby: I’ve been given bad fit advice — help!

Dear Gabby,

I’ve been struggling with fitting a muslin, and I asked for some help in a Facebook group. I made a second muslin following someone’s advice and it looks a hot mess! I thought what they said was kind of weird, but I did it anyway because they sounded so confident and they had a cute video that seemed pretty clear to follow. I graded between so many sizes my pattern looked like my grade school teacher had exploded their red pen on it! Now, the muslin is twisting and I can’t figure out how to get rid of these heinous draglines, and to top it all off, the ‘helper’ wants to know how it turned out! The muslin has so many problems I can’t even count, and I can’t post these pictures anywhere. What should I do??

Grading School Dropout

Dear Dropout,

Oh no! My first piece of advice is to always Trust Your Gut. If something doesn’t sound right, ask another sewist you trust, or check a fitting book. Just because someone has glitzy graphics or a cutesy video doesn’t mean they know what they’re doing all the time. Luckily its only a muslin — you can always start over, and go back to what you had before, as frustrating as that is. I’m very sorry you had this experience, I know it can be so dispiriting. Don’t drop out!

In my years working in ready-to-wear, whenever I get stressed about work, or a particularly troublesome style, I always remember at the end of the day, IT’S JUST CLOTHES. We can always work through it and use a little levity while doing so 😉

Now that that’s settled, let’s talk about the Mal-Advisor. It’s certainly appropriate to say something like “Thank you so much! I did try out your suggestions, and I’m still working through my fitting journey with this garment. I’ll show you the finished product when it’s good to go.” Of course, you’re under no obligation to do any of that, and, in fact, depending on how Dorothy Parker you’re feeling, you can certainly say something like “Actually, none of your suggestions worked, but here’s a great fitting book — perhaps you should read it.”

Image Description: Dorothy Parker sitting, looking off into the distance.  Quote on top of image states, "The first thing I do in the morning is brush my teeth and sharpen my tongue." - Dorothy Parker
Image designed by Sarah Baugh / Getty Images

So, the beauty of sewing for yourself is that you get to play around, and make interesting things, and maybe not always follow the rules. Rules are made to be broken, right? Especially in sewing and patternmaking, there are multiple ways to achieve an end result. There’s also an infinite number of factors that can affect your fit, so while one recommendation might work like gangbusters on one project, it may not work at all on another.

That said, be wary of anyone advising you to make corrections that don’t take into account things like trueing your pattern, matching seam lengths, making the adjustments for all the pieces, and shortcuts that seem too good to be true. Especially when you’re doing things like grading between sizes — yes, this can be done, between one or two sizes, but if it’s not done carefully you’ll end up with wayward draglines, ease in the wrong places, and seams that shift forwards/backwards on your body. In that kind of scenario, if you need to go +/- more than three sizes, you’ll save yourself many headaches in the long-run by just doing the proper pattern adjustment instead. (Cashmerette has an excellently exhaustive resource here for all your in-betweening needs).

And a final piece of advice: take the internet with a grain of salt! Unless you are asking for feedback from someone who you know has a good skill set, be prepared to receive some (well-meaning) but potentially incorrect advice. I’m a big proponent of asking for and giving constructive criticism, but it can be hard to weed out nonsense voices online and on Instagram, especially in this particular time of Sunshiney-Everything-Is-Great-All-That-Matters-Is-Making-Optimism. Not saying that’s necessarily bad, but it really opens up places to get poor advice that will set you back, and also make it hard to give feedback if something doesn’t work. This excellent and timely piece by The Sewmelier on Sewing Like Mad just popped up in my feed, you may find it interesting.

How about you, Dear Readers? Have you ever received bad fit advice, or unwarranted criticism? How did you handle it?

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. This can be purely for fit advice, sewing and technique questions, or really, any kind of sewing etiquette! 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.