Industry Insider: How the clothing gets to you pt 1

So you think fashion is glamorous?

I’d like to set the scene for you of the side of apparel that I know so you have a context for my content:

To those who aspire to be designers or are enthralled with the glamour, the glitz, the sophistication- let me tell you this: Fashion is not always fabulous.

Here is the first part in series of how the clothing gets to you ….

The vision: Designers develop their concepts based on current trends and successful styles and form them into a cohesive story based on silhouettes, fabrications and colors which are presented to buyers as samples.

1st Sample: The execution: original ideas are passed on to the patternmakers either from sketches, original sample inspiration or photos. The patternmaker will either drape or draft the concept, sometimes building a new style based on a successful pattern with a proven fit. If there is draping involved the designer will check in to approve the initial otherwise the pattern and fabric that are chosen are passed on to the cutter. The cutter does exactly that, cutting efficiently and with minimum waste. Cut pieces and trims are passed onto the samplemaker of choice: whoever needs something to do or specializes in a certain item. The samplemakers will start putting together the pieces. It is the responsibility of the patternmaker to ensure the integrity of the vision work with the samplemaker to check the process and make any necessary alterations along the way.

The first sample is trial and error. Sometimes an entire new piece will need to be re-cut if it is not exactly what it should be. As an example, a blouse can be finished and the collar does not look right so the collar needs to come off, the pattern fixed, new collar cut, new collar applied. It can be frustrating, but this is part of the process and one becomes very adept at working with changes on the fly.

The people involved in making the prototype sample can vary, especially since a lot of development work now happens overseas. It really depends on the company set-up, but this is the basic way clothing is sampled domestically.

Coming soon…Industry insider pt 2. Sealing the deal (the order placement and beginning of production)


One Pattern Fix Technique Does Not Fit All

Let’s face it. We all just want to fix our patterns to fit our body shape and make a garment that sews together easily and looks great. I see a lot of very valid pattern corrections suggested to hobbyists that help solve the problem, but oftentimes the follow-through details are overlooked and can create additional issues.

Here is one that I ran across recently for a commonly needed alteration:

The back of a skirt ends up shorter than the front

Why this happens: Generally the distance from waist to floor is shorter on the front than the back because the back waist to floor measurement must include the extra distance needed for the curve of the buttocks.

What to do: The suggestion was made to slash open the center back seam at hip level, to zero at side seam, and add the necessary length. True the CB seam. End of expanation.

The problem: This will get you the extra length but this also changes the angle of the hem (figure 1), or if you angle both cut pieces equally you still have to re-create a straight CB seam, if back is one piece, (figure 2) which means that you will have to cut off part of the hip width and then add it back to the side seam.


Here’s my suggestion: If you do not have a horizontal stripe or visible horizontal texture and only need a little extra length: just add the length to cb bottom hem, blending to zero at cf. (figure 3)


If you need to add more than 1″ and/or have a visible horizontal pattern:

Slash open the CB and pivot only the top cut half. Re-draft straight CB line based on skirt. Your waist is now longer. Take the amount that was added and make the dart deeper based on this (figure 4). Fold dart and true waist shape. Double check that the skirt waist will match to the waistband or waistband facing.

Please let it be known it is not my intention to disparage anyone’s techniques. This is just my suggestion. By no means is my way the only way that it can be done. Like many alterations, there are lots of variables that can change the procedure. My point in this exercise is that pattern corrections require a lot of fore-thought, meaning that you always have to be thinking two steps ahead of any correction as to what it will change and the best way to maintain the look.

Welcome to the Pattern Table!

Why a pattern table you ask? Well, in an industry setting it is a hub of activity. It is where designs come to life through manipulation of paper and fabric. It is the stage in which trial and error plays out as samplemakers and cutters gather round the patternmaker and troubleshoot together. It is a forum for discussions and debates. It can also serve as the perfect table to spread the workplace party fare for a celebration.

I have been master of my Pattern table for almost 10 years now, granted at different tables over the years in Chicago and NYC garment district, but enough to learn from all the work that has passed over it. I don’t claim to be an expert, but I’ve learned a lot through my mistakes. In fact, I would assume that 90% of my knowledge has come from learning things the hard way. I have a preoccupation with all technical minutiae and a slight fit obsession. My goal for Patterntable is to throw out some of my ideas and see what bounces back.