They're Making Patterns For Clothes, But Not For Me: Another Tiny Rant

A few months ago, I got this patternmaking book that allegedly walks you through the process of drafting a sloper, or a master pattern. When I got home, I went immediately to my drafting table and started working through it -- I was so excited to walk through the process as laid out by fashion masters! For I am a pattern-making padawan with much to learn!

As I looked through the steps, though, I started to get confused. Why is the book giving me a list of measurements to use, rather than telling me which measurements I need to gather from my subject? And why does it tell me to draw the dart 2" wide and the bust point 10.5" from the shoulder seam when I know darn well my dart needs to be much wider and my bust point needs to be much lower?

Vexed, I looked for another patternmaking book, one that described how to draft a sloper using actual measurements rather than assumptions … but I couldn't find one. I asked Google, my patternmaking coach, and some sewing-oriented friends -- none of them knew of such a book either. If such a book exists, I know not where. (If you do, please speak up!)

And I saw, again, that what seems like simple common sense to me -- using actual measurements to build a pattern that will work for a particular human body -- is not what fashion processes are built for. In fact, the entire design and manufacturing process of clothing is built on a set of assumptions that apply to almost no one.

This is a subtle distinction, but kind of an important one, I think. Because, if each and every fashion-school-trained patternmaker learns to build patterns with a 2" dart and 10.5" shoulder-to-bust-point measurement, then that is what's "normal." And those of us who need 1" or 4" darts, or have 9" or 15" shoulder-to-bust point measurements, or somesuch, are anomalies, outside the standard workflow and in need of adjustments to make the clothes fit our imperfect bodies.

Training designers to design specifically for one narrow range of body types leads to an inherent bias against everything that falls outside of that range. Kind of like when you work at McDonald's and someone wants a Big Mac with no special sauce -- it's far enough outside the normal procedure that it's annoying to deal with.

This bias shows up on the hanger, where plus size women's choices are so limited, so poorly-made, and so heinously ugly that sometimes in my more paranoid moments it seems they must actually be motivated by unconscious malice on the part of fashion industry professionals.

You see the bias on TV, too, like every season on Project Runway when they have to do a "real woman" challenge and everyone loses their shit. (None of them hate fat chicks of course, it's just against their design aesthetic to create clothes for girls who don't look like models.)

Or on All On The Line when Joe Zee asks Kara Janx to use a plus size model (a size 8 "plus size" model!) to show one of her kimono dresses and she gets shirty about it.

I guess I get that designers want to communicate their artistic vision via fashion, and it's not as interesting to them to work on engineering problems like how to accommodate a DDDD bustline, or how to change the rise of a pair of pants to be comfy on a big belly and/or bodacious booty.

But maybe if they were trained to build clothes for ACTUAL bodies, instead of NON-EXISTENT PLATONIC IDEAL bodies, that would change ...

image courtesy of kennedyrox