Friday, February 3, 2012

Making it better than Ready-To-Wear

Here is a cute little RTW cardigan I owned for years before finally wearing it a couple weeks ago on a GPOY Wednesday.  After only one wearing, I knew I could make my own and make it better.

It was flattering with the nipped-in waist and slim sleeves.  The main problem was the gap between the RTW back nape-to-waist length and my longer nape-to-waist length.  The ruffle flopped awkwardly, not sure whether to lay down or stand up, thus the cardigan languished in the closet.

exposure levels adjusted to show the lines of the RTW cardigan.
Since I had leftover stretch wool crepe (from the black flippy skirt), I decided to make a black cardi.  The original RTW cardi is boiled wool, but stretch wool crepe is close enough.
The RTW black cardigan has been dissassembled and marked for fitting adjustments.

I like un-sewing a garment to learn RTW construction techniques for seam stabilization and finishing. Then I can make a pattern from it.  With my fit alterations incorporated, my success rate is pretty good with these home-made patterns.  I love taking apart RTW garments!! It feels so rebellious!  I am good friends with my seam ripper and I have a very bright light next to my Lazy-Boy chair, so this is one of my favorite guilty pleasures.

In the photo above, the muslin represents the places where additional fabric was required (height at the shoulders and more at center front), new seamlines for armscye and princess seam, and side seam under the arm.  These are the same adjustments I make over and over and over.  Surprise!  My body does not change.

I find it interesting that fitting adjustments on RTW garments are not as drastic as the adjustments I make to the Big 4 pattern companies (Vogue, McCalls, Butterick, Simplicity).  Pattern companies that fit me more like RTW are Sandra Betzina's "Today's Fit " for Vogue and Burda. As I have mentioned in the past, Bernina My Label patterns fits me perfectly straight off the printer.  I know it doesn't work that well for everyone, that's just my experience.  I am a little tired of the same Bernina patterns, but I still use them when I am making flat pattern alterations, as opposed to draping on my beloved Wolf dress form as I am showing today.  I wonder how many garments I need to sew before my dress form has paid for itself?  More....MANY more, I am sure.  ha!

You will recognize a slight full bust adjustment (FBA)

And what do we call this addition to the center front?  A full belly adjustment? ha! 
When I attended a Sit and Sew workshop with Kenneth King and watched him work,
I think every woman there had this adjustment to her muslin.
I changed up the neckline, too.  I like a shallower V-neck on me.

In addition to the changes I show above, I added 2 inches where the bodice attaches to the peplum to be more in line with my waist.  That silhouette worked well for me on the the Vogue jacket I sewed last February.  The jacket is assembled and now I'm considering seam finishes.  This is where I am glad to say I don't have time to sew everyday.  I was stumped as to how I would trim the edges and felt certain a trip to New York City would be required.  Why not, right?
While commuting to work, I had a "Eureka!" moment when I realized I could recycle the neckline ruffles from the original jacket on this one.  I'll play with that this weekend. 

May you have a "Eureka!" moment when you need one,  and,
Happy Sewing!


  1. Great post! I love taking apart RTW, too! And I've found that I have to do huge alterations on the big 4, but Burda fits with minimal fuss.

    I can't wait to see your finished jacket - I hope you have a eureka-filled weekend!

  2. Thanks for sharing the refitting, reconstructing of this super cute cardigan. You are so right about the Burda patterns having minimal fuss. I tried to fit them the same as the big 4 and found that I only needed minimal changes.

    I love your wolf dress form. Maybe one day I'll be brave enough to purchase a professional form.

  3. What a fun and gratifying project! I love the cardigan and look forward to seeing your version--with much better fit!

  4. You are such a rebel! I'm sure this is going to be awesome when you get through with it. BTW, I often have Eureka! moments in the shower, or in the morning after the problem has rambled around my subconscious all night. There's something to be said about taking your time and really thinking about problem solutions.

  5. Love your persistence. I think adding the collar back in is brilliant. That is a very pretty feature of the original and should look lovely.

  6. Yay! I have ziploc bags of rtw take-aparts in my "favorite favorite" patterns box. I keep half of the garment intact, for reminders of construction details. And some of my Sandra Betzina patterns say right on the pattern instructions that they are cut with extra room for bellies -- presumably you can fold it out if you don't need it. Are women's bodies now narrower across the back and wider across the front than they used to be? Same diameter, just proportioned differently? Maybe it's just me.

  7. I'm a peplum lover, so I'm going to love this jacket on you!

  8. This is such a valuable post , I always learn so much from them. I often look at RTW now to see they are constructed.

  9. I enjoy taking apart RTW items. I pick them up at the thrift store on the three for a dollar rack. My husband just doesn't understand!



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