Thursday, February 11, 2010

Body Proportions - It's Complicated

Gretchen wrote a great post about body types  in her blog "Gertie's New Blog for Better Sewing."  My response is way too long  fit into a comment on her blog, so here goes:

Being taller than average and having size 10 shoulders on a size 14 ~ 18 body (depends where you are measuring)  makes it pretty much impossible to wear many styles.   If you can't go into a store and try on different styles- just to see how they look - you don't have much information.  My dimensions are outside the norm for fitted jackets or dresses, so I had no experience wearing them.

How did I learn what proportions work for my body?
It took persistence to unravel the mysteries of my own body proportions.  Getting a good fit is hard enough, but it's only half of the puzzle.  The garments also need flattering silhouettes.

I've been to fitting workshops, taken some lessons and read online, but the breakthrough came when I discovered Bernina My Label pattern-making software.  Finally I had basic styles that FIT me.  I proceeded to sew all kinds of things that I had never bought in stores.
I had some hits and some misses.  I realized that I had no clue as to what really looked good on me until I sewed it up and wore it for a while.  And I was tired of putting forth all that effort to learn that half of my ideas were not flattering at all.  I needed to understand which silhouettes would work and which ones to skip.  I am talking about where to hem the skirt - where to add the ruffles - that sort of thing.

This realization led me to have an image consulation with Imogen Lamport of Inside Out Style.  (Search through her labels to find her many informative posts about body proportions)

I sent photos, measurements and answers to a thoughtful questionnaire.  Imogen provided me with a detailed, personalized style analysis.  To say that one is a pear or an apple is just too simplistic to help most people.  She gave me way more insights than just body proportions.   She talked about textures, colors, prints, and types of fabrics.

Here is some of what I learned from a personalized consultation with a pro:

My style consultation was in October 2009 and I have been very happy with Imogen's advice, new haircut included.  There are lots of styles that will never work for me, but who cares?  I won't be sewing any more hip-length tunics, for example.  They end at my widest point, creating an unbalanced effect.

Now I know what I should focus on.
I have a top and some pants sewn over the last few days, so I'll get posts up with examples of how I used her advice in my choices.
*happy seeking!  We all want to know what works, don't we?!*


  1. Like you, I am tall for my size. Rarely do dresses fit me! The darts are way, way off!!!! A few brands do better for me than others. Most of my RTW clothing is from Talbots, LLBean, or Land's End. Those are the brands that seem to fit me best. Talbots pants are fairly good and LLBean offers a medium/tall length that is actually long enough.
    I am finally remembering to add in the length to patterns! Burda seems to fit me the best without having to make alterations, hence my love of their patterns.
    I absolutely hate hair - I would shave my head if I thought I could get away with it. I like to change my hairstyle often as a result, so I sometimes have styles that are not as becoming. It grows quickly, though!!!!!!

  2. I am intrigued by the image does it work???

  3. Hi Brooke, I just sent an email to Imogen (through her blog) and asked if she could do a long-distance consultation. She was lovely to work with. The price was $150 and I had to provide clear full length photos of my front, back and sides. I had a friend take the photos at the gym while I was dressed in skimpy, form-fitting exercise clothing. Also I had to provide measurements and answer a detailed questionaire. I was interested in proportions, but she gave me a long report including the info I wanted and much more. She said it's hard to do colors from photographs, but that's OK- I already know what colors I like. But there was unexpectedly helpful information, too. For example, I have straight hair and a smooth complexion, so she recommended that I stick with similar textures in fabrics. A busy, highly textured tweed would look great on a curly-haired person, but I am better with smoother fabrics. Turns out, I always feel good in the clothing I made based on her advice.
    Some people don't need all this. They have great instincts and they can experiment with RTW to see what they like.
    I needed the help!

  4. That's so cool! Thanks for sharing.

  5. Let's face it, none of us are made from the same mould. My short body as D cups, narrower hips, large but slim waist and shoulders too narrow for the bust size of most patterns. My solution has been to learn pattern drafting based on a block for my body size and the new patterns with separate patterns for different cup sizes. Hallelujah for them!

  6. You certainly received excellent advice, I find that all the garments you make always look perfect on you, so you are definitely doing it right ~ for you :)

  7. This is definitely going on my "someday" list! Sounds like this will probably cut down on your wader list, just because you know what not to wear. I don't have the time to mess around with disposable garments - I want to know what's going to look good before I sew it. I think it's such a great idea. Thanks for posting the price, now I know how many pennies to save!

  8. Sounds like lots of good info. I had something similar done a few years ago by someone else but maybe it is time for an update :)

  9. I have been reading all your post on proportions with great interest. They have a lot of good information and make a lot of sense based on what I have found works well for my proportions. For example, I had never heard or read about matching fabric textures to skin and hair texture, other than shiny fabric was not kind when juxtaposed near a wrinkled face. But the comment about highly textured tweeds on people with curly hair. It so true for me. Thanks for sharing.

  10. I love all your posts on proportion, fit and style. I am thinking of getting a consultation too, when I have reached my personal reconfiguration (read weight-loss/fitness) goals, although I am learning a lot as I go.

  11. This was really interesting. I've known for a long time that the basic body shapes were too simplistic, but had no idea if there were people who could analyze the whole picture for a reasonable price.

    I may contact Imogen at some point.


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