Millicent is my dressform. I can't remember if I bought "her" late in 2009 when I finished stitching my last textile art piece or early in 2010 when the corresponding exhibit closed. Either way, a dressform was my retirement gift to myself and symbolized a shift away from wall art toward creative wearables.
My waist can go in and out an inch or more in a day depending on what I have had to eat as does my abdomen. My bust swells and shrinks monthly and is the first thing to disappear with weight loss. My hips - on the other hand - continuously collect weight in a first on, last off, cycle. My thighs and biceps vary depending on weight gain, weight loss, and exercise which also affects how jiggly the rest of me is. And then there's posture. What I'm trying to illustrate is that while some dressforms will come closer than others, none will every truly duplicate your body especially if your body is like mine and keeps shifting.
And even so, I've found that having a dressform is advantageous to developing clothing. While I need to fit the garment to myself to get the level of fit that I want, having a dressform lets me see how the garment hangs and it allows me to stand back and evaluate the creative aspects of the design in a three dimensional format which is MUCH better than flat on the table or in a mirror.
For the past week, I've been looking at Millicent (and myself) differently. Instead of seeing curves, I've been seeing straight lines shaped by darts and that's an interesting perspective. It's made me wish that I knew more about draping and drafting. Draping is folding, pinning, and ultimately stitching a flat piece of fabric over a three dimensional form - the body. Pattern drafting is transferring the information from the draped garment to a two-dimensional paper format.
I've watched so many of Peggy Sager's webcasts over the last few days that you'd think my head might be spinning EXCEPT... she managed to convey what I needed to know in a way I could understand that makes the issue doable. This is good. But here's the really important thing...
... there is no "normal". There is the way that my body is shaped combined with the way that I prefer to wear my clothing and then there is the way that everyone else's body is shaped and the way that they prefer to wear their clothing (uniquely individual) and there's also the way that "the experts" are shaped and the way that they prefer to wear their clothing (which influences their teaching). We have similarities but we are not identical, which is why we each have to find the right answer for our body. SO...
... if I think if my armhole as two mirrored Ls than there are two things I need to know to draft it to the correct size - armhole depth and armhole width. On the illustration above, the depth is the distance from the shoulder point to the underarm and the back armhole width is the distance from the side seam out even to the back dot and the front armhole width is the distance from the side seam out even to the front dot. If I know my armhole depth and my front and back armhole widths (which may not be equal) then I can draft my underarm shape including the degree of ease that I prefer to wear which in my case is a shorter armhole because I find it gives me a greater range of movement and is more flattering.
The armhole starts at the shoulder point. The position of the shoulder point is determined by the front and back shoulder width and the shoulder length which together form the angle of the shoulder. To understand what I mean by that imagine that you're holding measuring tape tautly with your fingers at 1" and 15". To reduce the distance between the ends of the measuring tape, you would need to bend each end downward. That's where the slope comes from. In the illustration above, the distance from shoulder point to shoulder point across the chest is less than the distance along one shoulder through the neck and along the other shoulder.
I wanted to know three things - the slope of my shoulder, the depth of my armhole, and the back and front width of my armhole so I had my husband use a ruler to trace the slope of my shoulder and measure the distance from my neck to my shoulder point - which was 5".
Using a pair of scissors dangled at the end of a thread, I created a plumb line down from the neck point and then drew a parallel line to use as center back and then...
... I lined up center back on this pattern piece with the line I'd drawn and matched the neck points and as you can see, my shoulder is less sloped than the pattern. My friend Lorraine had emailed that she thought I should try this exact alteration and I've emailed back asking how she knew that based on the wrinkles behind the armhole because I would have thought more armhole length would equal more wrinkles. I'll be interested to read her reply meanwhile...
... I also wanted to figure out my armhole depth and width so I wrapped an elastic around my upper bust and had my husband measure from my shoulder point to my underarm depth in the front and in the back. In the picture above, the measuring tape is coming too far forward at the underarm. Getting this measurement took a bit of finessing because the elastic was so tight and because the curve of the bust prevented it from being level. The measurements I have seem to make sense but I want to do more research before saying anything.
Howard also measured from the underarm forward and from the underarm backward. The standard for this measurement is 3" which is what my front measurement was. My back was 3 3/4" which is exactly the amount that I've been adjusting my armhole and is the amount that made the wrinkles disappear. Isn't that interesting?
I'll be curious to see what Lorraine says but right now - based on the information I've gathered - it looks like I'll adjust my shoulder slope to be squarer and then adjust the back armhole and back sleeve by 3/4" and when necessary make a narrow shoulder adjustment. With that information, I should end up with a usable shoulder and armhole template that I can compare pattern to pattern. That's an exciting idea and what I'll be exploring today.
Speaking of Lorraine. She's about to head off on a holiday and about the time she gets back, I'll be off to hug my grandbaby but sometime mid May we're going to get together and she'll fit me in a Vogue fitting shell and work out a classic blouse and I'll get all the information I want for a moulage which in my mind equals a great template for the two dozen challenge. YEAH - how amazing is that.
Speaking of the two dozen challenge, she also sent this email yesterday - 24 patterns... you have got to be kidding! Maybe 2 would be a start. That made me laugh. I am definitely not known for packing light - however - just consider - a darted T,
a princess T, a darted top, a princess top, a darted skirt, a princess skirt, an A-line
skirt, a sheath dress, a princess dress, a bra, a nightgown, tights, jeans, trousers,
princess trousers, a darted coat, and a princess coat - and that’s 17 already without even
trying too hard. Twenty-four sounds like not enough but I know it is. The time frame that I’m
thinking about is several years not just a few weeks. That's why I'm giving it so much thought.
Talk soon - Myrna
Grateful - perseverance pays off, Lorraine