Author Topic: Fit, ironing & padding  (Read 613 times)


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Fit, ironing & padding
« on: January 04, 2020, 02:07:59 AM »
Fit is important to good tailoring. Tailors use both padding (ie shoulder pads) and ironwork to sculpt the fabric into a pleasing shape.

How do these two factors interact?

Wall of text, followed by concrete questions, and also by some personal context in case you have insight into what specifically I'm doing.


My assumption is that patterns for tailors are deliberately "wrong", because the work of the iron will "correct" them into shape. If I made a muslin of a tailor's pattern out of, say, cotton - it wouldn't fit me. And if I used a home-sewer's jacket pattern, and attempted it to stretch/shrink it, it would come out wrong. Is this correct?

Or is shaping which distorts the pattern bad shaping?

I'm imagining the stretch which you put into the front shoulder. My instinct is that this will move where the shoulder point is, changing the curve of the armscye. But maybe the goal is thst the shoulder point and neck point stay unchanged, and the stretching of the fabric merely adds more length between them without distorting the shape? You could lie the fabric front on top of the pattern, and neatly sit the neck point and shoulder point correctly oriented, with the armscye and collar line sat flat, with a new ripple of fabric between the two points. 

But what about the stretching in the side seams? Does this imply the paper pattern ought to draft those a little short, so they can be stretched into their correct shape? Or is this stretching primarily in the seam allowance/inlay, to allow the seam to lie more elegantly: the length on the finished suit would still match the paper pattern?

And what about shoulder pads? If I put pads into any old garment in progress, that presumably makes the underarm tighter, maybe causes wrinkles down towards the navel because the whole fronts have moved up. So - am I to assume that jacket patterns with shoulder pads are drafted with that extra in mind? In the videos I watched, adding shoulder pads seemed to be more of a "sketched" addition, the tailor trying a couple of different sizes before settling on the right one for his client. That would imply that after he sets that shoulder pad, he would adjust the scye to fit again?

I think my idea that a pattern is drafted with its construction in mind came from Hulme.


Ok, summary of questions:

1. Are patterns designed for ironwork drafted differently from others?

a) if so, does anyone have any kind of resource explaining the principles of this? I expect one hasn't been written, but asking on the off chance.

2. To what extent is ironwork part of fit? If I do a fitting trial in cheap fabric, and then use the iron on my real garment will it:
a) no longer fit
b) fit key body landmarks the same way it did in the trial, but with a bit more elegance, shaping & finess

3. Does ironwork change the underlying outline of a pattern piece, or just add more fullness to the middle of the fabric?


I'm a fairly experienced sewer, this is my first time tailoring. I'm using Cabrera, plus the Victorian Tailor, Couture Sewing Secrets, a video series, and odds and sods saved from this & the other forum. 

The suit is for me, but the complication is that I am a transgender man (female to male). Hence the interest in learning to do my own fitting and tailoring. What this means in practical terms is, my bone structure is very similar to that of women, but my muscle/fat distribution closer to that of men. Also that it isn't consistent: some bits of the body masculinise faster than others, some bits never do.

I've generally found that starting with a woman's pattern, and then using fitting skills to adapt it to my shape, is the most effective strategy. But im also interested in working some stuff out from first principles, as my body is actively changing & what works now might not always be true; and im also interested in writing & sharing information for other trans sewers in future. Knowing why & how a thing is done the way it is done, makes it a lot easier to apply things to my situation in a way which achieves the same outcome.

I'm a little concerned that, unlike a shirt where it's quite easy to combine feminine fit with masculine fabrics and design features, an actual suit jacket has a lot of noodly construction stuff going on; and where there are considerable differences between the male and female garment.

I'm worried that my usual trick of drafting, and then fitting it, won't work: ill accidentally remove or add "inaccuracies" which are supposed to be there, because they are adjusted at the ironing stage. 

So an additional question might be:

Do you have any resources for a woman's tailored suit draft, which is designed to be shaped and manipulated similar to mens tailoring? Or for adolescent/teenage men, or even younger? So long as they are designed to be constructed like a traditional suit, either of those will get me to a closer starting point for study.

(Preemptive disclaimer that I know tackling fit, drafting, jackets, and construction ironing are all advanced skills & I do not anticipate my first (or fourth) bash at this will come out well; but it's only through practice that i can hope to improve at it)


Cheers for any pointers!


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Re: Fit, ironing & padding
« Reply #1 on: January 04, 2020, 03:22:21 AM »
Well, many questions. A ladies jacket is shaped with the iron too. I have a little book from Mülller, Title: "Die Verarbeitung der Kostümjacke" where they explain explicit.  Iron work is done on all parts. But it is old. Maybe printed 1950-60.
Then there is a new one very nice to read  Vintage Couture tailoring from v. Nordheim
The difference between male and female in pattern is besides the different proportions: The female pattern has darts and the pattern for men have no darts. So you must use (more) the iron to shape as with females. And Female styles are mostly softer.
Now the content of the old books where this is described is to take with a grain of salt: the fabrics have change a lot, the interfacing too.
In pants where both have darts there is no difference in shaping with the iron.
If you look after the swiss Patternmaker who invented the system UNICUT,  maybe that can help you. Some drafts must be on this side (if not on the cutter and tailor) and there was an address where you can load it down for free.
Unicut is a system which has the same basis be it for woman  or man. Robert Rähle that's the name google it


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Re: Fit, ironing & padding
« Reply #2 on: January 04, 2020, 08:24:49 AM »
The purpose of Ironwork is to create convex and concave areas in a flat fabric. In men´s tailoring especially in loung coats, the seams and darts are reduced to a minimum and therefore the iron must help to create the form. The ironwork in the front shoulder/chest area  for example helps to avoid  a chest dart by creating a convex area for the chest. The hollow areas of a body on the other hand need concave areas in the fabric to be covered accordingly. So the  back sides seams get stretched to give the fabric enough length to follow the inward curve of the body. Without stretching they would fall dead straight and the lacking length would create a bulging area in the center back.

But don´t get intimidated by all this. Best way is learning by doing and you will master the issues step by step.

My approach to make a suit for a f to m transgender body would be to work with patterndrafts for men. Especially a lounge coat is all about the ideal male proportion and not so much about fitting individual  measurements like in a female costume jacket. The proportion of the Shoulder-chest-waist-hip ratio is incorporated in the draft, and so it´s easier to reach the desired effect.  The secret purpose of a lounge coat pattern is to make each body look like the ideal male figure and give it the right proportions, no matter how the body underneath looks like. So I think you should take advantage of it like all the other men do.

For the construction there is a time life book from the seventies about classical tailoring (a men´s and women´s suit). It is very detailed and translated to different languages (at least english and german) and usually cheap to acquire.


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Re: Fit, ironing & padding
« Reply #3 on: January 04, 2020, 08:34:12 AM »
This is the web address to download the intermode series.

Be sure that you link to the 'gross' and not 'klein' in order to get high resolution images.

It's not secure but has no malware that I have ever experienced.