Being able to spot fitting issues when sewing a garment is a must-have skill for any aspiring sewists. Unfortunately, any seasoned seamstress will tell you that acquiring this skill comes with years of observation and experience.

In this post, we will show you how to train your eye to see fitment issues, show you three methods to use for fitment and show you a quick fitting process to help you on your way to greatness.

Fitting Goals:

  • Measuring tape: to measure seams and ensure equal length.
  • Yardstick: to check fitting axis (more about axes to follow).
  • Pencils: when making pattern adjustment to your test garment.
  • Coloured tape: to mark the yardstick.
  • Elastic tape: to hold up bottoms during fitting.
  • Mirror: allows you to see the back and sides without having to turn the manikin or
    person who wears the garment.


Be observant of the clothes around you in order to train the eye to see fitting issues.
From your coworkers to friends, spot how the clothing they wear fits them. Being able to
spot ‘fault’ like a skirt hemline that is shorter in the front than in the back will help you
grow as you practice this skill.

Types of fitting issues:

  1. Draglines: are horizontal lines that pull across the garment when worn. This
    shows that it is not fitted correctly or that there is not enough three-dimensional
    space. There are three main areas where you can see draglines; diagonal pull
    which indicates there is an issue with the bust. A pull line around the hip area
    which indicates there is an issue with space around the bottom and also
    draglines from the bust to the shoulders.
  2. Folds: arise when there is too much fabric used. They can arise parallel or
    vertical. For example, if the fold is seen parallel to the middle section, this shows
    too much fabric has been used in the upper torso.
  3. Fabric flaring: unintentionally around the arms or neck can be a sign that the
    horizontal line of the garment is not in balance.
    To see solutions for the above-mentioned issues see here.

When does something fit someone well:

    • When the fabric falls smoothly over the body.
    • The clothing piece is proportioned to the person’s body type.
    • The fit is flattering to the body type.

Fitting Methods

Using the following framework during fitment will help eliminate any guessing when looking for issues. In this section, we cover 3 different types of measuring methods that you can use perfectly in conjunction with one another.

Fitting axes method: According to Sarah Veblen a fitting axe is “established lines around which the fabric is manipulated”. Using these guidelines will help to ensure that you do not struggle by fixing one fold and simply creating another. When looking at a skirt for example you need to be able to run a horizontal balance line from one side to the other. This line should be parallel to the floor from the front and the side angle. If the front is shorter or longer it means your garment is not in balance. You can apply the same theory to any type of garment.

Measurement method: this method is suggested by Alexa Morgan, to ensure a great fit by comparing your pattern measurement to your personal body measurements. This system can be used for easy measurement points such as; the centre back length, the shoulder to shoulder, the across back and front, the sleeve length as well as the bust and waist curve.

Tissue fitting: is a method used where the pattern paper is fitted directly onto the body. This will help you assess shape easily and determine size easily. See the full guide on this system here.

The process of fitting (using a test garment method):

  1. Make sure you first sew a test garment. See our guide to pattern making here
  2. Fit the test garment and make adjustments that you can mark on the pattern.
  3. Sew a new test garment once the adjustments have been added to the pattern.
  4. Test your seams, make sure the seams that are in conjunction are the same
    length on the pattern.
  5. Repeat the above process until the test garment fits perfectly.

# Reminders for fitting

Remember that fitting and pattern drafting go hand in hand. Therefore if you understand the principles of pattern drafting it will make the fitting process easier and also enhance your sewing skills.

Getting the fit right is a tedious and sometimes frustrating process. Be patient with yourself and remember not to try and take any shortcuts. Rather sew a few extra test garments so that you can get your pattern down perfectly. Some designs and body types are easier to work with than others, so with practice, you will be able to teach your eye what to look for.

Last Updated: April 16, 2020