November 21, 2019

Ill-fitting pencil skirt on a mannequin

Help, my side seam is tilting!

Today's tip is about fit. Does this look familiar? I deliberately set this mannequin up with the skirt fitting badly to illustrate a common problem - a tilting skirt. Not only does the side seam sit on an angle, the whole skirt looks like it's tilting off balance! The first clue to whether your skirt fits well is whether it is hanging straight. So, let’s say your fit looks like this poor mannequin. What’s happening, and how do we fix it? Take a look at the image below and you'll see the difference between a balanced fit and an unbalanced fit. Doesn't that look so much more relaxed, and hang so much more elegantly than the example above?

Well-fitting skirt on a mannequin

Everyone is different

Now, just because a skirt tilts on your body does NOT mean it is a poorly-made pattern. Everyone's body is different and has curves in different places. It just means that your curves are in a different spot to what the pattern's curves are. For example, if you have a flatter front and a curvier backside than the pattern is made for, this tilting scenario (shown below) is what will happen. And conversely, if you have a flatter backside and fuller front, your skirt will tilt in the opposite direction.

Fitting tips for pencil skirt on a mannequin with calico toile

Why it tilts

As explained in the graphic, seams are naturally pulled toward areas of strain. You may have noticed a similar effect on tops if you have a full bust; the hem swings towards the full bust. Here the hem swings upwards at the back, pointing at the area which is in need of more curvature. Even though the waist circumference is correct, the shaping of the pattern is not in the same place as the shaping of the body. 

How to fix it!

In short, we need to shift and re-balance the volume of the darts to get that perfect fit! The darts need to be adjusted on the front and the back to distribute volume where it is needed. I like to think of it this way: in this example, the butt is hungry for more fit and you can see that it is dragging the fabric towards it, hence the side seam tilting towards the back. The first thing to do is release the darts in front, diminishing their intake until the side seam starts relaxing (enlarging the waist temporarily). Watch that side seam and keep adjusting until it starts hanging straight! You will find you will have to hold the skirt in place, as the waistline is now loosened and would fall down. Then, take that extra waist circumference you created by reducing the front darts, and deepen the back darts. Keep playing with the location of the dart fullness until that side seam sits correctly 😄! It’s an intuitive process but I will say, much easier when done with a 2nd person. It’s hard to do on yourself, so if you can snag a helper, do it!

Especially when reducing the dart intake, it may entail shortening darts too. Remember, darts point toward fullness, and end just before the fullest point. And you may even find you can delete darts, if shaping is not required in that area! A note on the Sabrina skirt (this will apply to many other patterns too): Keep in mind that most seams also contain shaping. In the case of Sabrina, the curved seams swoop inwards towards the waist, containing dart shaping too! That's what helps give Sabrina such a great fit, after all. 

The Sabrina pencil skirt line drawings

The Sabrina skirt features darts on front and back as well as curved seams. You can buy it here.

Final thoughts

Most important of all is to trust your instincts, and let the fabric tell you what it wants. It always talks, we just have to listen!

As you may have noticed, I’m VERY passionate about fit (hmm, what gave it away, the fact that I designed a skirt with 3 fit styles??). I’d love to know if you found this helpful and what your questions on fit might be! I’ll be following up soon with some advice on how to go about altering your pattern all the way through to the facings and lining.

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