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How to Tailor a Shirt

May 17, 2011

Laura’s Blog Entry

Reality TV makes you smarter. I can prove it.

Neil and I have watched all eight seasons of Project Runway. We both really like it because it’s a down and dirty look at the creative process. OK the personal drama makes it more fun, but mostly we watch to see people create.

One thing I’ve learned from the show is that clothing construction is just sculpting, with fabric. It’s not all that scary. There are basic rules that apply. If you know those rules you can alter the fabric and make something that is flattering to the body. Knitting has reinforced this discovery as well.

Now that I’ve learned some of the rules it is much less scary to take the scissors to cloth and make some changes. While I don’t particularly enjoy clothing construction, I do now feel a bit more comfortable making my store-bought pieces fit better.

I am shopping differently. Before, if something didn’t fit well, I didn’t buy it. That sort of limited my choices. I am hardly the proportions of a fit model. I am one size on the bottom and at least two sizes larger on the top. This makes for problems in the fitting room.

The other day I was at Old Navy, stocking up on ribbed tank tops for the warm weather ahead. They are so reasonably priced there and don’t stretch and shrink into oblivion after a couple of washes. Anyway, I spied a cool looking linen top. It was actually a shade of green I felt comfortable wearing, so I took it to try on.

No surprise, the medium, while oversize, was not as long as I would have liked. Unfortunately, the large was… well… very large. Luckily I had the forethought to gather the back a bit and see if that improved the drape. I wanted it to be long, but not look like a tent. It actually looked pretty good. Right then and there I decided that, darn it, I was going to make this shirt better.

Here are a few photos documenting the process. I thought maybe it would be helpful for anyone considering trying this at home.

Here’s the top in its original rather dumpy state. Shapeless, bulky, and not flattering.

I turned the shirt inside out, held it up to me and with a white colored pencil marked a few key points needed to make some darts. I marked the uppermost point where a dart would start, the point where the dart should be the deepest, and then the bottom spot it should taper down to. Pretty easy.

Next I took safety pins and pinned all the way down the darts along what would be the seam lines. Then tried it on. It looked like the dart should start even higher so I made that alteration and tried it on again. It was tedious, but the best way to get the proper fit.

Once the fit was right I clearly marked the important points with the pencil and removed the pins. I drew lines to show where the seam should be and pinned with straight pins to prepare it for sewing. I sewed the darts, and only felt mildly nervous. I could always take them out and start over.

Here’s the finished product:

There was no action with the seam ripper needed! While it is still a relaxed, drapey top,  the excess fabric has been removed. There is still plenty of room, but the shaping keeps it from being overwhelming.

Here’s what the darts look like from the back. It looks better on a real person, but you get the idea. I’ve already worn it out to dinner with skinny jeans and think it will also look good with my black stretch jean leggings. Hey, I made darts in the waist of those as well. I’m no Project Runway designer, but I’m happy to take a few nips and tucks to make myself look a few pounds lighter.

That way I still get to eat cupcakes. Awesome.

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