crafts · outfits · Sewing

Thoughts on fit vs comfort: Me-made June Days 8 and 7

Dress: Vogue  8380, blogged here

Cardigan: Thrifted

Shoes: MIA

I think this is the first time I’ve worn this dress since making it.  I have a few overall comments on the make, then I’ll move onto my topic.

The good: I love the print, and I think the overall shape is flattering on me.  I like the drawstring neck, though I’ve covered it up today.

The bad: Poor fabric choice.  This dress really calls for lightweight cottons with some drape.  I used a cotton sateen which, while lovely, is really too heavy.  The bow doesn’t hang well at all, and could be longer,  so I just tucked it into the sweater.

Styling: The sweater wouldn’t be my first choice.  I know what I want – something in a light color, cropped, with the ability to look good worn open.  I just don’t own such a garment!  It’s definitely going on my knitting list.

Anyway, there is a reason that I don’t wear this dress much.  I fit the empire band pretty tightly, in an attempt to avoid the maternity look (always a fear with an empire waist!)  I pretty much feel like I can’t take deep breaths.  I read in a sewing book once that athletes require more ease in the ribcage area, due to the more developed diaphragm muscles.  I’ve trained my entire life as a classical singer, and I almost always breathe low.  I measured once, and my ribcage expands 2-3 inches with a normal breath.  I see a lot of sewers sewing vintage, and fitting the bodices tightly, wearing the correct vintage undergarments etc – and I can only imagine the strangling feeling of not being able to take a proper breath all day.

It’s the old style vs. comfort conundrum.  When I first started sewing, I would sew any style.  I soon learned that it didn’t matter if it looked good or not, if it wasn’t comfortable it wouldn’t get worn!  You notice I no longer make straight or pencil skirts.  The reason?  I realized that I hate the feeling of something tight around my hips and waist, so I never wore them.  I will wear a full skirt, but how tight to make the top and waist?  I try to solve this problem in a few different ways:

I use a lot of knits, because knits stretch.  I can make something fit tightly, but still be able to breathe – amazing!  I try stretch wovens, which can sometimes work, depending on the level of stretch.  If I use a stretch woven, I make sure to sew the horizontal seams with a tiny zig-zag, so the seams will have a little give.  I learned from the dress above that I should watch the direction of the stretch – the waistband was cut the wrong way to have any, else it would have fit better!  I make things a bit loose and wear a belt (those belts with elastic in the back are wonderful!)

I make waists with 1.5″ of ease, but I require 4-5 inches of ease in the ribcage.  I’m forever cutting between sizes on patterns.

I’m also a big fan of the current trend towards loose tunics over skinny bottoms.  I do own jeggings and leggings, both of which I wear often in the fall and winter.  I don’t like regular skinny pants, because it is again the constricting feeling, but lycra is wonderful! The more I sew, the more I realize that I need to narrow my focus to the silhouettes and fabrics that get worn the most.  I will leave the wiggle dresses to someone else, someone without my fear of passing out!

Speaking of comfort, here is yesterday’s outfit:

Dress: Vogue 8469 (blogged here)

Cardigan: Simplicity 2417


This dress, it grows on me.  Here you see one of my strategies for comfort: the tie waist.  A waist tie not only gives you some fit wiggle room, it makes it so I can change how tightly I tie the waist based on my activities of the day.  The dress itself is made of a stretchy cotton blend.  It fits in the shoulders, which isn’t always the case – it took me a long time to figure out I needed a larger size in the shoulders!  So while I initially thought “I made this dress too big,” what I should have thought was “This dress, I will actually wear it.”

Does anyone else have this fit vs. style issue?  Or perhaps my weird issues with needing extra room for breathing?  Or my general clothing claustrophobia?











15 thoughts on “Thoughts on fit vs comfort: Me-made June Days 8 and 7

  1. I agree 100%. If it’s not comfy, it doesn’t get worn. Although, I do find many slim skirts to be comfy. I’m wearing a favorite skirt right now, it’s a super-simple black slim skirt made of black, stretchy ITY-like material. It looks like a pencil/wiggle skirt, but it’s amazingly comfortable. Perhaps this type of skirt would work for you too.

  2. Well, comfort wins every time for me, which is why I have a pile of patterns for dresses and skirts and haven’t actually sewed anything for myself in a long, long time! For me, it’s all about t-shirts and jeans or shorts or whatever is most comfortable for the weather. If I have to dress up, I choose nicer jeans and throw on a scarf or a pair of earrings (i’m not very dressy, clearly…) I love the idea of dressing up, though. I think looking nice does improve one’s self-image.
    I’m not really a singer, but as a pianist my issue with comfort vs. style is big bell sleeves. I can’t STAND them!! I need sleeves that stay out of the way when I’m playing piano and anything flapping around just won’t do.

  3. I always dress for comfort, and hopefully, with a small amount of style. I have this philosophy that, unless I’m worried about soiling my clothes with whatever I’m doing at home after work, I should be able to wear my day clothes all day in comfort. In other words, I should never have to go home and immediately want to change into something more comfortable.

  4. I actually don’t mind restrictive clothing – not as in bad fitting, but things that “hold you in”. I love my garter and stockings and a tight belt. Maybe I’m weird! I do change into trackies when I get home though. But that’s more to do with trying to avoid getting cat hair all over my ‘good’ clothes.
    I find that restrictive clothing makes you more aware of your movements and how you carry yourself. I like to be conscious of that – it’s my attempt at appearing graceful when I’m not really! Hahaa. 😀

  5. My rehearsal dinner dress was very tight around the ribcage. I felt so restricted that I had an asthma attack! I had the same problem with prom and my wedding dress. Mostly I wear knit dresses and tops to avoid that problem.

  6. I sang in choirs all through school and find that I have a larger ribcage than most. I haven’t made a lot of fitted woven shirts yet, but I do occasionally find shirts and dresses from the store that are too snug in the lower ribcage. I’m not surprised that you have the ribcage problem yourself since you are a professional singer. It always seems to be a compromise between comfort and looks for me – I like knits but they don’t always look the most tailored/formal. I actually prefer something thicker on the bottom half, and I like the feel of a well-fitting snug pair of jeans.

  7. I’m forever removing ease from patterns. I prefer things to be really quite fitted. I find it works ok for me, even though I have a job that’s sometimes quite physical. The thing I make and then don’t wear is skirts that are too short to bend down in safely. I really must learn to make trousers.

  8. I also like to be comfortable and love to wear knits. Sewing knits is a little less fun, but wearing them is soooo comfortable.

  9. Fascinating reviews from a personal comfort perspective. You look lovely in dresses, and it’s a very feminine look with the type of styles you choose. I sometimes feel too trussed up in tighter smarter clothes, but interesting that comfort is not just physical but how comfortable you feel in how it looks to- I can think of the odd thing I’ve made that doesn’t get worn much because there’s something about it that isn’t me. It’s very comfy though!

  10. Regarding the V8380: I know exactly the dilemma with the band. It fits very snugly, but if you make it larger for comfort then the band starts to wrinkle and pull, looking a bit messy. It’s a sweet aspect of the pattern but is quite tricky to make work as a wearable item.

  11. I am with you on the strangling feeling of tight clothes–bands around my ribcage make me feel like I’m going to suffocate (I also breathe deeply). Tight clothes anywhere else I can deal with, but not around the ribs!

  12. This is such a great post – one of those ‘oh I get it!’ reads 🙂 I agree with you completely – I have a couple of home-made dresses which look as though they fit beautifully but I spend the whole day feeling as though I’m about to start hyperventilating. So thanks for making me feel as though this is ok! Also – great points about grading down at the waist or up at the ribcage to avoid this – will definitely try that next time.
    (PS I’m not sure if I’ve left a comment before but have been reading for a while and love your project write-ups!)

  13. Jessica-love your blog. I found it while searching for ideas related to Cynthia Rowley patterns. Since then I have spent quite a lot of time reading your posts. We have similar sewing interests and issues. I will continue to stop in and see what you are up to in the future! Renae

  14. Form follows function. I seem to always have my hands in the sink or doing other messy housework, so I almost never wear long sleeves, even in winter. I have searched for warm tops that have short sleeves mainly to no avail. Three-quarter doesn’t work because I can’t stand the feel of them. For years, I couldn’t stand long-sleeved shirts with buttoned cuffs, but lately I have begun to wear them more often, as long as they are long and loose enough, or can be rolled up. Anything tight anywhere feels like a strait jacket to me–I don’t know that first hand, but you know what I mean! Tight and stretchy is okay, though, and I believe stretch wovens are one of the top inventions in history! Along with long sleeves, I have also acquired a taste for pencil skirts after wearing only full and aline for years. I think this is also attributable to modern science and stretch wovens! (No, I don’t have stock in stretch wovens, but maybe I should….)

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