April 2019 | Mismatched Buttons (A Monthly Journal)
Through April, I continued my 50 Days Till Me Made May challenge, but during this time I ended up focusing on a single project: the Luzerne Trench by Deer and Doe. The second I saw this pattern, I knew I needed one, but I put off making if until this year as I needed the skills and confidence to tackle such a complex and closely-fitted project.
So, the behemoth that was fitting my Luzerne Trench occupied all my April sewing energies. In this post, I’ll step you through my process of fitting the Luzerne. In Vespa the Luzerne Trench | A Self-Covered Button, I talk about the coat itself.
Oh, and I get sweary later in the post…
Fitting the Luzerne Trench
I don’t usually take the time to toile, but the close fit of this jacket required more care—and I’m so pleased with the time I took to achieve the fit I did! It’s not perfect, but I can unequivocally the best fitting garment I’ve made to date.
I used the Palmer/Pletsch Wrinkle Dictionary, plus drew on some experience from an in-person class I took about a year ago. My method, step by step, was:
1) Sew up a toile using a 5mm basting stitch at my indicated size. (When I use this method in future, I’ll probably cut the pattern pieces with a larger seam allowance to cater for where I need to let areas out, like for a broad-back adjustment.)
2) I drew on each side of each original seams in a blue pen, and also drew on important pattern marks such as lengthen/shorten lines.
3) Using a tripod, I took front, back and side photos of me wearing the toile, and from those photos started to make adjustments. A few people asked if I pinned the coat while I was wearing it: I didn’t. I used the photos to see where the garment was pooling or pulling, did some pinning or letting out at my ironing board, tried it on again, and took another sequence of front/side/back photos. Not quick, but it worked.
4) I used the Palmer/Pletsch sequence of adjustments, which is to start from the back and move around to the front. However, I did get so bogged down with adjustments through the back of the coat that I was a little burnt out by the time I got to the front, so largely left it as is.
5) After unpicking and pinning and restitching and unpicking and pinning and restitching, and once I’d achieved something closer to the fit, I then drew each side of my adjusted seam in red.
Drawing your original and adjusted seam-lines in different colours is very important, as these lines give you the markers you need to adjust your pattern pieces.
6) From there, I unpicked the parts of the toile that had significantly changed (through the back), while leaving unchanged parts largely in tact (through the skirt of the coat and the front).
7) I traced the original pattern pieces on some craft paper, then drew the adjustments off the toile pieces, using the differences between my blue original seams and my red adjusted seams.
8) I then cut out fresh toile pieces—just the ones that had changed—and stitched up the toile for a final check.
You can then repeat the above method as many times as you want to, but if you’re new to fitting, like I was (still am), don’t bog yourself down in it endlessly.
After 10 days of sessions working on the fit, I had to call it quits—I’d learnt an awful lot about my back (check out that before and after!), and learning about how to fit the sides or front of my bod could wait until another day.
Because, what I realised is fitting can be emotionally challenging. I am within the privileged band of weight-range, that is, I’ve not had the experience of being outside the ranges that sewing patterns cater for. I have broad shoulders, a sway back, and sloping shoulders. Compared to what is designed for I’m always much shorter, and my waist is correspondingly much shorter. I don’t expect pattern companies to have something that fits me out of the box! So this certainly isn’t a dig at them, and I totally acknowledge the privilege of being within the sizes designed for—I’m tweaking an existing pattern that already fits for a better fit, I’m not making changes just to first get a pattern to my size.
But the close, critical observation of your own body, coupled with the language of fit that places the ‘wrongness’ on you body instead of on the garment, makes for an at times challenging quest for fit. I understand the reasoning—Melissa Watson, daughter of one of the eponymous Palmer/Pletsch, described ’full bust’ as shorthand for saying, ‘bust fuller than what the pattern is drafted for’,* and so on, but the language of fit at times really made me feel like my body was wrong, not the garment.
Beyond this, though, I do have a rather big, huge, massive, insurmountable problem with that point that fit books turn judgemental—when they move outside their remit for how to get a good, comfortable fit, and into the space of deciding what is flattering. Case and point is this Illustration.
Skirt-length has nothing to do with a good, comfortable fit; it has everything to do with the judgemental ideals of ‘flattering’. And when I see diagrams like this, I’m less able to accept the supposed neutrality of phrases like ‘full bust’, ‘thick waist’, ‘broad shoulder’ and so on.
In summation, I found the Palmer/Pletsch Wrinkle Dictionary highly useful, if problematic, guide to figuring out the fit adjustments I needed to make for the Luzerne. I’m so pleased I took the time to work through this process of toiling and fitting this trench. But I’d encourage anyone who’s going to work through the process of fitting with this book to be aware that Palmer/Pletsch isn’t a bastion of neutrality: it has its moments of judgey-‘flattering’-fuckery that you might need to work through. So I recommend having a post-it note that you put beside every adjustment saying:
It is the garment that is wrong, NOT MY BODY!