shermarama: (Default)
[personal profile] shermarama
Don't say it too loud, but I think I might be getting better. I've done two (short) days of work already this week, and while I've got today off, I'm planning, and weirdly looking forward to, two more days of work for the rest of the week. Blimey.

Now, something that may or may not be related to my recovery is the progress of my overcoat. This might sound ridiculous, but let's face it, if you've ever read this LJ, you're aware that I've got Clothes Issues. All the 'November is for posting about clothes' posts at the minute are great for seeing and appreciating other people's choices, but it's making me want to join in, and at the same time reminding me that I can't. (Unless someone out there is amazingly interested in the rotation of my grand total of two currently functional pairs of trousers? No, I thought not.) I wish this was something I could put down, live in a football shirt and jeans or something and be happy, but I would actually like to be able to wear interesting clothes. It's why I'm interested in other people's, but I'm just not very good at acquiring them for myself, for a list of reasons that possibly have as much to do with my stubbornness as anything else, but that I currently have the urge to explain all over again. So, and probably mainly for my own amusement I realise, here is how my clothing experience goes:

- I refuse to pay significant amounts of money for clothes that don't fit me. I'm not saying I never wear clothes that are sort-of-get-away-able-with but not really right; I do it all the time, but only when it's things like underlayery basics, or things from charity shops. Clothes that don't fit look cheap anyway, so why pay a lot of money to look like you didn't?
- I can sometimes find things in high street shops that fit acceptably, but it requires thinking the right way about what might work, a lot of trying things on, and a good dollop of luck.
- The only things that are in this category are by their nature loose or unstructured; if they weren't, they wouldn't fit me. Fortunately I'm not averse to a batwing sleeve.
- However, don't get me started on specialist tall departments. The clothes in them seem to somehow be even more likely to be the wrong shape for me, and as a special bonus, are usually also over-priced and poor quality. The speed with which it's possible to determine that the tiny selections are all rubbish is not actually a bonus.
- (Apart from Top Shop's jeans in the era 2005-2008; them was the good times, man. But all the pairs I had wore out.)
- Putting more time into shopping does not guarantee better results. The longer I spend looking, the less optimistic I become, and having gone deliberately shopping and coming home with nothing is just depressing. These days I pretty much only ever go shopping by accident.
- Things I have gradually (but still perhaps not completely) learnt that I should never go shopping for because I can never buy ones that fit anywhere ever: shirts, jackets, and dresses.

I sew, right? Sewing must help. Sewing goes like this:
- Putting time and effort into sewing patterns I know work results directly in me owning clothes that fit me. Hooray!
- The list of patterns I have that I know I can make work include: trousers, jeans, fleeces and other loose / jersey / studentlike tops.
- Putting time into patterns I'm not sure work, and then not having them work after all, is really depressing. See the rant about the Vogue sack a few weeks ago.
- Things I have tried and know I can't make: shirts and dresses. I have never even gathered the nerve to try a jacket.

Thus I remain, at the age of 36, mostly dressed like a student. The things I can't make are the same as the things I can't buy, and it's no co-incidence. These are things where accurate fitting and shaping are most essential, and where my shape deviates most from the standard. Sewing patterns don't fit me in the way that pre-made clothes don't, and while it's entirely possible to alter patterns to fit, it's a task I have not found easy. I've tried it with shirts in the past and have made something that's part of the way there, but still not right. My most recent plans to alter a man's shirt pattern have stalled because of a problem with the grain in the back; I suspect the single thing that would help me most is looking at something existing that fits me for comparison, but... there aren't any. Anywhere.

So. I bought the pattern for an overcoat in 2009, not long before leaving London, and have been working on it in gradual fits and starts ever since. The process of altering the pattern, or rather becoming confident that the alterations were at all correct, is what's taken most of the time. After being able to check it on the paper-tape dummy at the end of this summer, and make a few more modifications, I reached the point where it was worth making up a muslin. The muslin revealed some more issues to do with the arms and armscye, but it also enabled the fixing of them.

And now I'm sewing the real thing, and so far, it hasn't all gone disastrously wrong. I have made the fronts and the back, successfully added pockets, and I'm part-way through the collar. I'm having issues now to do with making the collar and lapels but that's a sewing problem, a problem everyone making a coat has, not something to do with fit. It might all be going to work. And if I can make an overcoat, if all the fit issues I've had to solve for that are solvable, it's possible I can make something else in the fitted-upper-body-garment category. That would be pretty awesome.

There is one more element, which is making this a bit of a race. The one other way of getting clothes that fit me would be to get them custom-made, but it's never been an affordable option before. I'm still not certain I'd want to spend that much on an item of clothing myself, but, Chris has offered to get me a jacket made for Christmas, by the same people that have made him a couple of things recently. So last Saturday I went and got measured up, chose fabric and styles and all that sort of stuff. I have never tried to make a jacket, I can't buy a pre-made jacket, but by Christmas I might have one anyway. (I'm looking forward, with perhaps just a small amount of skepticism, to the first fitting, in another three weeks or so.) By Christmas, I might have two correctly-fitting items of upper-body clothing. Their existence would generally signal a greatly increased possibility of making more of them. All in all, it's no wonder I'm feeling better.

Date: 2012-11-08 06:14 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yay for feeling better! And I wish my grandmother was still around to squeese for tips... she made pretty much all our dress clothes till I was in my twenties... bought never quite fits me either, shoulders too wide for womens, chest too wide for mens... *sigh*

Date: 2012-11-09 08:20 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
The fitting was quite entertaining, in that they had a man's jacket to hand, whose owner hadn't collected it yet, that was forming the basis of debate about what I was looking for. It was a little small in the shoulders and a little short, but more or less fitted. Apart from the way the lapels angled outwards rather than inwards...

Date: 2012-11-08 11:36 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Clearly it would have been more helpful if it had occurred to me to say this before you moved to a different country, but I know more than one talented person who could build you patterns made to measure that you could then make yourself. Cheaper than made to measure clothing and re-usable forever. Would you consider that? Trying to engineer it yourself is pretty damn difficult and most talented clothes making types seem to struggle with making patterns from scratch or major alterations.

Date: 2012-11-09 08:29 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I certainly would consider that, yeah. Is being in the same country necessary? I suppose it depends on their methods but if it's on the basis of drafting a pattern from measurements, I can take any measurements necessary.

I was involved in a project a while ago to test out pattern drafting methods which didn't really properly get going, but recently I got back in touch with someone from it who's a very experienced pattern-drafter. From the measurements that happened during the project, she sent me an A0 printable patttern for a basic bodice, which can then technically be altered or used as a basis for any other pattern. This has happened since being ill, though, so I haven't arranged printing it out and trying it yet. (Also she did say she'd changed a few measurements where they didn't seem right, which tends to make me nervous that it won't fit after all.)

Date: 2012-11-09 08:56 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I will ask. I know one of the people I have in mind prefers to take measurements herself and will make pattern partly on the person to adjust it and make perfect, hence the difficulty. I'll see what they say as I have another person in mind who I think might do it too).

Date: 2012-11-11 09:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Hooray for this!

This might seem a bit egg-sucky but as you already sew fairly well, have you thought about doing a short course in tailoring so you could learn with supervision how to do the trickier bits which are preventing you from making the very carefully fitted items you'd like? Just a thought.

Date: 2012-11-11 05:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I'd like to, if I could find one. Recent research found a place that seemed like a good idea,, but it's in Leicestershire, and I'm... not. I've got one book about fit, and another about tailoring, and through experimentation I am gradually getting to grips with what they're on about.

Date: 2012-11-12 09:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Agree geography is tricky. More places are putting classes & tutorials online now though, I don't have any recommendations but perhaps other sewing people could recommend some good videos to go with the book? Good luck!

Date: 2012-11-12 10:37 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I don't usually find videos much more enlightening than books. I can already see what they're doing; I want to know why the thing I'm</> doing doesn't look like that. Without someone to look at what I've done and correct it, I mostly find the instructions only make complete sense once I've done enough trial-and-error to find the way that works.


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