#RoyalWeddingSewAlong Choosing a Size & Fit Adjustments FAQ (McCall's 7684)

Welcome to the first proper post in my McCall's 7684 sewalong! Today I'll be going over the important first steps in making any dress: determining your size and fitting a bodice muslin. I have a lot of ground to cover, so I'm going to start with a little FAQ and then later this week, I'll walk you through my process for this project in particular. I've been working on my muslin and it's looking good!

What are your measurements?
I am currently about 34" bust, 27-28" waist, 39" hip and 5'7". (Are we body twins? Let me know!)

How do you choose what size to start with? 
If I had to give new sewers one piece of advice, it would be: Ignore the body measurements on the back flap of the pattern and use the completed garment measurements! I love love love sewing with "Big 4" patterns--that's Butterick, McCalls, Vogue, Simplicity--but a lot of people complain that they never fit correctly. In fact, all of these patterns are based on a very strict industry standard block, and therefore, are a lot more consistent than sewing indie brands (especially if you sew from a bunch of different indies, all using different blocks). You just need to crack the code! Here is the trick: do not use the body measurements chart on the back of the envelope. Instead, use the completed garment measurements, located on the relevant pattern pieces. Using your body measurements, desired ease, and completed garment measurements, you can easily select a size that will give the look you are after. How much ease you want is up to you, but a good rule of thumb for a formal dress in a woven fabric (like this one!) is an inch or two of ease in the bust and 1/2"-1 1/2" in the waist (a bit more in larger sizes). This is all personal preference though; you may like your dresses to be skintight, or a bit looser. (Here's a craftsy article on ease.)

If, for example, your waist measures 28 inches:

According to the body measurement chart, you are a size 14 at the waist. The finished waist measurement for a size 14 garment is 32", or 4" of ease, much more than the 1" of ease preferred for a formal garment. Wow! Find the waist pattern piece and look for the finished garment measurements. If you know you want only 1" of ease, look for the size that has a finished garment measurement of 29". You may want to start with that size. Or, you may way to start with the bust, since the waist is usually easier to modify...

Another hypothetical, if, for example, your bust measures 34 inches:

According to the body measurement chart, you are a size 12 bust. The finished bust measurement for a size 12 garment is 36 1/2", meaning 2 1/2" of ease, slightly more than the 1-2" of wearing ease preferred for a fitted garment. The finished garment measurement at the bust of a size 10 is 35, however, which is right at 1" of design ease, so you might want to start with a size ten and modify from there. (The bust finished measurement is often located on the back of the envelope in addition to on the front bodice pattern piece, so that's a good place to start if you suspect you will be between pattern envelope ranges, FYI!)

Finally, McCall's patterns, unless stated otherwise are drafted for a B cup (I'm pretty sure). If you have a significantly larger or smaller bust than that, you'll likely have to do a small or large bust adjustment. (also, this is a b cup using the +5 method of bra sizing. if you don't know what I'm talking about, it's your regular victorias secret size and ignore this. if you are saying "thank you allie for this helpful clarification, i wish more people would clarify what type of bra sizing they meant" then I KNOW RIGHT?)

Additionally, if you have a significantly larger or smaller bust than a B cup, you  may run into problems selecting your pattern using bust size: imagine similarly sized women, one bustier than the other, both selecting a shirt based on bust measurement alone--the smaller chested woman's shirt will be too small and the larger chested woman's shirt will be too large, right? To counteract this, you can skip using your full bust measurement and instead use the "high bust measurement." This is not something I do for myself, but you can read how to do this measurement and how/why it works here.

Do you make a muslin for every project?
No, just for important projects like this. I generally only make a bodice muslin for a full-skirted project like this dress.

How do you know what fabric to use for your muslin?
Pick a fabric as similar in stretch and weight to your final fabric as possible. This can be tricky!

Any other muslin tips?
Use a contrasting thread (I like to use those weird bobbin colors I don't anticipate needing again soon) and a long stitch length to make unpicking easy!

Once you've chosen a size and made a preliminary muslin, how do you know what adjustments to make?
Look for pull/drag lines on your muslin--they often point to the locations you need to adjust. Also, anywhere uncomfortable, either physically (i.e. smushed chest, armpits digging in) or mentally (i.e. will be worried about bra straps showing all. night.).

How did you learn to make fit adjustments?
A lot of trial and error! Try checking out a book on fitting (for example, Fit for Real People) from your library, or purchasing a craftsy class on fit for a deep dive. Also, googling the issue you have will usually bring up a lot of blog posts on the topic--that's the great part about the sewing community online!

What are your common bodice adjustments?
After you have to make the same adjustments across multiple patterns, you can begin to anticipate them--or perhaps you already know you are very petite and will have to shorten everything, or have a large bust and will have to do an FBA (full bust adjustment) on everything. I am short-waisted so I often have to shorten bodices. I have a small bust so I sometimes make an SBA (small bust adjustment) on indie patterns, which are often drafted for larger bust sizes than Big 4 patterns. You'll see at least one of these alterations on my muslin--check back here later this week!

How do you know when you are done adjusting?
Listen, I'm all for perfection when it comes to spring afternoons or gin and tonics, but sewing? Nope. You are done adjusting whenever you feel comfortable in your muslin and you think it meets your standards for fit, whatever those might be. This is supposed to be a challenge, yes, but it's also supposed to be fun!

Any other FAQs you can think about? No question too big or small... I'm here to help! let me know in the comments and I'll try and respond and/or add them here :)


ps: phew!

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