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January 17

Best Sewing/Fitting Book: How to Make Clothes that Fit and Flatter

One of the gifts I received for Christmas (from Mr. Felix) was a sewing book by Adele Margolis called How to Make Clothes that Fit and Flatter.

I read this book cover to cover over the last 2 weeks as I was commuting to and from work.  As my stop neared, it took a lot of effort to pull myself out of this book so I could get off the train.

I have to say first and foremost, I have at least 15 sewing books, but this book is hand’s down, the best sewing book I have read to date.  It’s not as much as a sewing book as a sewing guide for before you even begin stitching a garment together.  It encompasses how to fit patterns to your own shape, how to pick the right patterns for yourself, and where you can alter patterns and where you can not, and much more.

I wish I had this book 6-9 months ago when I was at the height of my fitting frustrations, with no books to really turn towards.  And I can’t recommend it enough to anyone who is looking to read up on the subject.

Even though this book was published in January 1969, most (if not all) of the writing still seems current.  Even the introduction is timeless.  Here’s a paragraph from the introduction I wanted to share:

There is not a one of us who sews who does not long for some gimmick, some gadget, some sure-fire formula for successful fitting.  Alas, there is none!

Fitting is an art and part of an art-that of creating beautiful clothes.  As with other arts, it takes time, thought and practice.  Any complex subject becomes understandable through study.  That’s about the best one can offer by way of an “easy” solution of fitting problems.  If you know hoe and where a garment should fit, that’s half the battle.  If you know what to do about it when it doesn’t, that’s the other half.  Armed with this information, every sewer can learn to be a good fitter.

Adele Pollock Margolis; November 1967

This book is very comprehensive; the first topic she writes about is foundation, learning your size and measurements, and really understanding your own specific figure (and coloring) to learn what you want to emphasize/downplay.

After this section she goes into great depth on shaping lines of a pattern versus style lines.  I have been completely oblivious to this the whole time I’ve been sewing.  I’m sure I ‘knew’ about it, I just think I’ve taken darts for granted in the past.

I think this book (ie Adele) does an excellent job at empowering the home-sewer.  Check out this page:

There’s NO one way…  This is excellent advice, don’t you think?!

Here’s a few more snippets on several ways to fix the same problem area on a bodice:

For each of these fitting issues, she gives not one but three ways to solve the same problem.  I doubt these are even all of the ways to go about changing one’s patterns.

Here’s another page:

Adele really challenges one to think about fit in a new light; not just to eliminate bulges or wrinkles, but to learn to assess and be bold, to take charge of one’s patterns and style and to make it perfectly, while being uniquely your own style.

I should state that there is one section that seems a bit ‘dated’.  At the end of the book there are illustrations of garments where one can and cannot make alterations that are decidedly 60’s/70’s designs.  Besides that, I felt like this book still addresses the needs of modern sewers who find ‘fit’ a challenge.  It really pumped me up to want to learn how to fit my clothes better and has empowered me to want to take some risks and to be a more confident sewer/fitter/pattern-alter-er.  :)

I’ll leave you guys with some of Adele’s thoughts in the conclusion, since her words summarize this book better than I ever could:

Fitting is not just a question of measurements or even of shaping.  It is how all the elements in combination make for a dress, a  gown, a suit, a coat that look good, feels comfortable on, and is lovely in motion as in standing still.  The preliminaries bring us within sight of excellent fit.  It is the garment itself that is the final trial”.

  1. gail / Jan 17 2012

    Thanks for that review, Liz! I’ve been looking for just this sort of book to add to my library as I’m trying to learn fit as well.

  2. Ginger / Jan 17 2012

    Thanks so much for the recommendation! Just snapped up a used copy online!

  3. Clare S / Jan 17 2012

    Thanks a lot for this review – I’ve been trying to work out what fitting book to get and it sounds like this is the one to go for! I love her book on altering basic blocks to make your own designs, so I know what you mean about her style and clarity.

  4. Qui / Jan 17 2012

    Thanks Liz, fit is definitely the main area I want to progress in right now. Learning more advanced construction techniques doesn’t really matter if I can’t get a garment to fit right. I think I’ll have to check this book out in more detail!

  5. Kerry / Jan 17 2012

    Interesting to read what you think of this book – have heard of it but never seen it. AS for dated – I have the ‘Real Fit for Real People’ book which looks HORRENDOUSLY dated from being made in the 1990s. I have to admit I find it hard to get past the dated styling.

  6. Faye Lewis / Jan 17 2012

    Looks like a real treasure. I’ve added that one to my list.

  7. LLBB / Jan 17 2012

    ‘what works is right, what doesn’t is wrong’ = yes!!
    my mom sewed almost all her clothes for a few decades and did not fuss around too much with neat finishings on the insides of her garments. sometimes she laughs when she sees me fussing with such things :) i think this passage gets at what’s important: if it’s working – you’re doing it right. for her, that meant whipping the item up and wearing it. for me, it is fun to do the little things since most of my projects are done at a pretty leisurely pace. (and that I don’t need to get so hung up on trying to do something exactly the way i read about it somewhere.)
    i agree – it is nice to see how timeless and universal this is!

  8. Tina / Jan 19 2012

    I’ve been eyeballing this book for a long time now. Just ordered it based on your rec.

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