Fairfield Sew-Along: Choose your size and make a mock-up
Welcome to Day 2 of the Fairfield Button-up Sew-along! Today we are going to go into great detail about selecting a size based on our Body and Garment measurement charts. I’ve photographed each measurement using Matt and his favorite shirt as models.
A note for newer sewists:
Within the instruction booklet I explain which measurements are the most important to take. If you are fairly new to sewing and fitting garments, you might like to skim over the information in this post but don’t stress about it! If you find that the information overwhelms you, don’t worry! Just ignore all of this!
Just take the main measurements that I mention in the instructions (Chest, Shoulder Width, Waist Circumference and Neck Size). If you pick the closest size and make no adjustments (or just some very basic adjustments, such as lengthening the sleeves), you will still end up with a shirt that fits just as nicely as a store bought shirt. You only need to immerse yourself in the nitty gritty of measuring if you want to create a tailored fit.
A note for sewists planning to create a tailored fit:
During this sew-along I am going to create a tailored fit by making a mock-up of the pattern and then basing my pattern adjustments on the fit issues that I see when Matt wears the mock-up. The sample that Matt is wearing in the photo above was sewn with no adjustments to the pattern so you can see it fits him fairly well straight out of the envelope. I think there is room for a few small improvements (I may adjust the slope of the shoulders) but most of my discussion of fit will be about fit issues you might have instead.
Ok, let’s get measuring!
Measure the Wearer (and compare measurements to the Body Measurements chart:
Chest: Measure the circumference of the chest by circling the tape measure around the widest point. Keep the tape measure horizontal (I was running back and forth between the camera on timer and Matt so I apologize if my tape measure isn’t nicely horizontal in any of these photos!).
It is usually suggested that you raise the tape measure slightly at the back so that it is sitting on top of the shoulder blades – this way you are accounting for the widest point at center front and widest point at center back. In the photo above I am moving the tape measure up and down to find the point where the shoulder points protrude the most.
Waist: It can be a bit difficult to find a man’s waist since there is usually little difference between the waist and hip measurements when compared to female proportions. I like to measure at approximately navel level. If the man you are measuring has a bit of a belly, measure at the widest point of the belly.
Hips: Don’t worry too much about this measurement – it is only for reference to make sure that the shirt will be able to button-up to the lowest button if it were to be worn un-tucked. Circle the tape measure around the widest point of the hips/seat.
Shoulder Width: Measure across the back over the shoulder blades – place the tape measure where the shoulder blades protrude most. If the man being measured is wearing a well fitting t-shirt I like to use the sleeve seams as an end point. Make sure to ignore the seams if the shirt is too tight or too loose. Measure from where you think the sleeve seams should sit.
Height: This is a nice measurement to have for reference but isn’t especially necessary. The length of the torso and arms are generally proportionate to height but are certainly not always so. It is most accurate to sew a mock-up or measure a shirt (as explained below) to determine whether you will need to lengthen or shorten the arms and body of the shirt.
Measure their Shirt (and compare measurements to the Finished Garment chart):
Neck Size: Keep the shirt buttoned up and circle your tape measure around the inside of the collar stand. If the neck size does not match our measurement chart, don’t worry! We will be discussing how to fix this in the next sew-along post. Neck circumference can really vary from man to man.
For the rest of the measurements, lay the shirt flat on the ground with the back pleat spread gently open (if the shirt has a pleat). Depending on the style of the shirt, the side seams may sit at the widest point or they may sit slightly towards the front. If the side seams sit towards the front, measure from the natural fold at the widest point instead of the seam.
Chest Width: Measure from side seam to side seam (or from natural fold to natural fold) at the widest point of the shirt.
Waist Width: Measure from side seam to side seam (or from natural fold to natural fold) at the narrowest point of the shirt. If the shirt is rectangular and does not have shaped side seams that curve at the waist, measure at approximately half way between the chest and hem.
Center Front Length: Measure from the neckline seam (where the collar stand is sewn to the shirt body) down the button placket to the hem. This measurement will indicate if you need to adjust the length of the shirt body.
Shoulder Width: Flip the shirt over so the back is facing you. Measure from shoulder point to shoulder point. It is handy to examine how the sample shirt, our pattern, the wearer, and our body measurement chart correspond. If our body measurement matches the wearer’s body measurement but the sample does not match our garment measurement chart, it is likely the wearer prefers less or more ease across the shoulders than our pattern includes.
Center Back Length: Measure from the neckline seam down the center back of the garment to the hem. This measurement will indicate if you need to adjust the length of the shirt body.
Sleeve Seam: Measure from the armpit, along the seam to the end of the cuff. This measurement will help you to determine whether you need to lengthen or shorten the sleeve.
Select a Size:
I always recommend that you sew a mock-up without any adjustments to the pattern. Here are two examples to explain why:
- A body measurement does not take into account where mass is distributed. For example, your chest circumference may be the exact same measurement as the size Medium in the Body Measurement chart but this does not necessarily mean that the shirt will fit perfectly at the chest. If your wearer has a rounded back, shoulder blades that protrude considerably or perhaps a barrel chest, the shirt will fit him differently than it does our fit model. You will likely want to make adjustments to the pattern. As soon as you try the size Medium muslin on you will see exactly where you need to adjust the pattern.
- The wearer might have individual preferences about fit. When you sew up the mock-up and try it on your wearer, ask for their feedback! For example, my dad always prefers a relaxed fit across the shoulders both for comfort (loads of arm movement) and aesthetic (he prefers the shoulder seam to extend to where the shoulder curves towards the arm). We draft our patterns and create our measurement charts assuming that the shoulder seam will extend to the end of the clavicle. When you sew the mock up you will discover any areas that don’t fit the wearer as he prefers. That way you are adjusting the pattern based on his fit preference rather than our fit preferences!
Sew a Mock-Up:
Fitting based on a mock-up is a very visual procedure that I find to be lots of fun – way more fun than adjusting based on math and drafting prior to making your mock-up! I look forward to doing this with you on Friday.
I’ve used an old bed sheet from the thrift store for my mock-up. It was the cheapest one available ($2) and it contained plenty enough fabric for this project. I much prefer using bed sheets to buying muslin for shirt mock ups because I am giving something a second life rather than requiring fabric to be produced just for the purpose of creating a mock up. After I’m done with the mock up I cut it up into rag-sized squares to give it a third life!
When sewing a mock-up, don’t spend lots of time on perfect topstitching or design details unless you want the practice before sewing your actual garment. It is unnecessary to add interfacing unless you would like to test out the interfacing options on a few mock-up collars.
Since I am familiar with sewing the sleeve placket, I didn’t even bother to sew this! I just left the slit raw.
If you would like to save time and fabric, only cut one yoke, collar and collar stand. I used two of each item here as the pattern instructs but this isn’t necessary for a mock-up!
Once you finish your mock-up, join me on Friday to try them on the wearer and discuss fit!