Operation Xmas Dress Part 3 - Fitting Adjustments


At long last another post in the Christmas dress series. In the last segment I'd futzed around with grading until the pattern fit my general dimensions. Today I'm going to talk about the fitting adjustments that were made to fit the pattern to my figure.

After trying on muslin #2 I had the following concerns - the dart had been dropped too low, the front neckline still felt a bit big, and there seemed to be too much extra length in the shoulder area. I also had figure out what skirt length to use.

In the end I made a ton of bodice muslins and quit at the point were my patience ran out.  You'll only see the final muslin since people under deadlines can't wait to favorable photo days. (There wasn't much difference between them anyway.)

Break down of all the final fitting adjustments. 
1. Raised the bust dart 1/2".
I'd previously dropped it 1.5 inches from the original position, so final dart location is 1" lower than the original.

2. Put a 3/4" hollow chest adjustment in front neckline.
In muslin #2 I felt neckline was still exposing a lot of my shoulder.  I'd picked a dress with sleeves so that I didn't have to mess around with special undergarments, but the neckline was exposing the whole bra strap.  Adding a hollow chest adjustment helped bring the neckline closer into the neck, giving me more bra coverage.  I didn't need to adjust the back neckline in anyway, probably because my forward shoulders need extra length in that area.

3. Removed 3/8" of grading in the shoulder area only. This change was made to both the front and back bodice.
McCall's 9572 has an elbow dart and it wasn't in the correct position. With the added grading the shoulder area felt a bit too big, even though the waist was perfect.  This makes sense because my shoulder/bust area is a size smaller than my waist/hip area.  Lucky for me a solution wasn't hard to figure out.
I'd put one of the grading lines right next to the side seam and decided it to use the underarm notch as a separation point.  I cut the notch deeper so that it connected with the grading line, breaking it into two parts. Then I removed 3/8" by moving upper part of the graded area back together. This operation left a small bump out under the notch area. To "true" the area I redrew the underarm curve.  Here's a picture of that adjustment before add the sloping shoulder adjustment mentioned in step 5.

4. Raised the kimono sleeve curve 1/2".
The ease in the upper part of the kimono sleeve was a bit too much for my modern tastes.  I decided to reduce that area by raising the curve of the kimono sleeve and narrowing the upper part of the arm. To do this I redrew the curve 1/2" higher than the original position and blended the underarm seam into the elbow area. (Didn't take a picture of this before cutting off the excess. Oops.)

5. Made a 1/2" sloping shoulder adjustment to sleeves.
After mocking up some of these changes I was still getting a horizontal fold across the back at the sleeve area.  (Super crappy photo below so you can get a general idea what I'm talking about.)
 Instagram was polled about this problem since I had no idea what was up. The general consensus was that it was excess fabric from my sloping shoulders.  I made a 1/2" adjustment for this using the "Fit for Real People" technique pictured below.
I'm only half convinced it made a real difference to the fit. Seems I need to work on more kimono sleeve fitting.

6. Shortened bodice by 1/4".
Took a scant quarter inch off that the bottom of the bodice. This length probably could have been left on because I ended up lining the bodice.

7. Shortened skirt by ????
OK I do know how much I shortened the skirt, it's just different in this muslin than it is in the final dress.  The muslin was shortened by 6" which turned out to be too short with the bias sucking back up.  On the final dress I shortened the skirt by 2".

Here's what all those adjustments look made up in the final muslin.



There's still some wrinkling going on under the arm on the back. I may need a larger sloping shoulder adjustment then a 1/2".  On the other hand kimono sleeves without gussets are going to have more ease which equal wrinkles.  It's something I could have worked on some more, but decided that it wasn't worth the effort. Girl can't wear a muslin to her in-laws house on Christmas day.

Part 4 "The final dress" post will arrive when ever I get a photo opportunity. So far non rainy days have been few and far between and usually happen when I'm the sole parent around. Let's hope the next one collides with some toddler free time and maybe semi-warm temps.


  1. Ooooo looking good! I can't wait to see the finished product. You are so glamourous even in muslin. ;)

  2. How many work when grading a pattern! I think you didg a great job, this muslin looks good so the final dress sure it's great.

  3. Aww thanks Heather. Helps I was all made up from going to pick up Desmond. :)

  4. Thank you Mayumi. It was a lot of work but thankfully I was really pleased with the final dress.

  5. Thanks Sara. I'm giving the pattern credit for just being elegant looking. :)

  6. How do you organize all your pattern adjustments? I have finally been won over to muslin-making but am losing track of which adjustments I made to which versions of the pattern. In terms of the tracings, what do you keep, what do you toss and how to you keep track of it all so you can replicate the correct one in the future?

  7. I'm not going to be too helpful here because I do it all in my head.

    That being said, I do have a set amount of regular adjustments that need to be made on every pattern. Things like forward shoulder adjustments, grading out the waist, etc.

    When I was first fitting things I had a printed out list of this regular adjustments so they could be done and checked off before the first muslin.

    At the beginning I also had a notebook for things that needed multiple muslins. I'd make a note about what I'd changed before making the muslin. Then I'd usually make notes about what didn't fit after trying on the muslin.

    I hope that gives you some ideas on how to keep track of your fitting changes.


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