Drafting to measure pattern book recommendations

A question from my mail, I apologize my response is very lengthy:

I really like The Practical Guide to Patternmaking for Fashion Designers because it has comprehensive theory explanations. So many texts don’t give you those tidbits that you learn when you learn directly from an instructor but this one does a good job of providing more information than most. Unfortunately, it does not provide measurements that enable someone to draft a standard size using the book’s instructions. It has a very detailed measurement guide which would allow someone to draft a pattern if they had a fit model of some sort but I am getting emails from students and indie designers who want to sell clothes on Etsy and they do not fall into this category. They don’t know how to grade patterns and can not afford professional grading for clothes they will sell just on Etsy so they can only use themselves or their dressform for measurements which means they can only make clothing in one size.

I was wondering if you would be able to recommend a patternmaking book that teaches how to draft slopers in the standard sizes?

The quick and dirty answer is I don’t know of any that are likely to meet the needs of people you describe. The gamut of historical protests to the contrary, accurate drafting to measure eliminating the possibility of iteration remains the elusive holy grail.

My question is this, they can draft but they cannot grade? Pattern making is a higher level skill than grading. Learning to grade is easier than learning to make patterns. The more important point is that it is less work to grade a pattern than it is to create an entirely new draft for another size. They’re looking for a book to draft in all the various sizes when their time is better spent in learning how to grade. Put more to the point, drafting takes much longer, grading is 1/10th the time (estimated).

Put it this way. Assuming this miracle book were available, they’d have to start by drafting a block pattern. Then they’d have to make another pattern to produce the variety of styling features. Then they’d have to sew it up to test it and hope the thing came out the way they imagined. Testing the fit would be a problem if they didn’t have a body available so they’d be flying in the dark. They’d have to do this for every single size. I can’t even begin to link to every article I’ve written about sizing but this category might be helpful as will this one.

Do they know they can’t afford grading? Grading is very inexpensive, I’m guessing they’re looking in the wrong place. There are enterprising individuals who target DIY producers and charge a premium because the customer doesn’t know where to look. Perhaps those grading services are their point of comparison.

I am trying to find a textbook which will provide not only instructions but also the measurements needed to draft their beginning sloper so that they can develop their blocks and patterns in multiple sizes.

There is another problem here. There remains a huge misunderstanding about the function of pattern drafting and grading books.

  • Pattern and grading books teach concepts. They largely do not provide sizing.
  • Sizing specifications do not teach concepts of drafting or grading; they only provide data.

A grading or drafting book is not a book about sizing specifications. They’re about how to draft or grade patterns -a concept. The concepts of grading and drafting do not change and will be useful at any point in history. On the other hand, sizing specifications will need to change frequently. If you were to select a pattern book for anything other than concepts, you’d select one based on garment styling (or fabrication), features that are currently popular. I am frequently annoyed to read reviews about patterns (store-bought) or books that the reviewer claims are not any good because the patterns or drafts do not fit them personally. Look around you. Everyone is shaped differently. The day we are all sized and shaped identically is the day it is reasonable to have this expectation.

The reason you should not select a book based on sizing charts is because sizes are not static, sizes evolve just like people do. However, the process of grading (moving up or down in set increments) does not change. This is static. Grading books should not give “standard” grading charts. If you want sizing standards aka size specifications (what you expect from a book), you have to buy those separately, usually from ASTM although many people reverse engineer grades by comparing other products. A specifications book (were there such a thing, there are only charts) won’t teach you how to grade so why would one expect a grading book to give you specs?

Another reason why books cannot give sizing specifications is that there is no such thing as a standard size. The measures that constitute a given size depend on demography. Contrary to popular belief, high end apparel is sized smaller than mass market clothes. The reason is, richer people are thinner. If their clothes were sized larger, there wouldn’t be anything for them to buy. You cannot compare a Ralph Lauren purple label product to a lowest price point Ralph Lauren label sold in outlet stores because it’s intended for entirely different customers. Lifestyles matter. The average western wear size is larger than say, ballerina leotards. Even sizing within the eco apparel market is different depending on the customer’s age and profile.

In other words, for a drafting book to meet the expectations of the indie and DIY producers you describe, there would need to be …oh, I don’t know, at least ten different kinds of pattern drafting books and they’d have to be updated to reflect sizing changes. There would have to be one written for fit petite misses, tall juniors, tall (or short) middle-aged women, older women (and men), young tall athletic types, women who are bottom heavy, those who are bustier …in other words, specialized books to match the given fitting profile -and it’s just not going to happen. It’s a good thing there’s no such thing as a standard size because people don’t come in a standard size. The only way you can do this is to develop one base size that mirrors the sizing characteristics of the ideal customer and to make it comparatively smaller or larger. Anything else is custom -and another story entirely (see at close).

A side jaunt, a just suppose situation about drafting to measure. The pre-1960’s sizing numbers were not arbitrarily drawn out of thin air. These numbers were a drafting reference for the pattern maker and actually meant something. A size 18 meant that the 18 on the reverse side of both the long and short arms of a tailor’s L-square, could be used as the standard derivative that was anthropometrically appropriate as a draft to fit that person. The number 18 did not represent size as much as it represented what was called “scale“. Scale was a historical standard developed by tailors and cutters over many years. Much of this information is empirical but still, one cannot deny the rough pattern that emerges considering how certain number patterns correlate expressed in terms of one given human being versus any other. These table of aliquot parts are still used in many parts of the world and form the basis of what are largely known to the rest of us as grade rules.

The numbering system evolved. It used to be based on data and was a static reminder, silk screened on every tailor’s L-square in a table of aliquot parts. Consumer and/or buyer activism changed the numbering system into something more manageable for them because “18” meant nothing to them. It’s not as though they could multiply this by two and arrive at their full bust measure. The change in sizing designation posed a number of conflicts among manufacturers. For one thing, sizing numbers had represented scale which was printed on every tailor’s square. Now, the sizing numbers were ambiguous, representing a profile of a consumer for which there was no data (hence the growth of dress form companies!). It’s pretty dramatic if you think about it. Before, using scale, one could draft for any person given the most basic of information such as height, weight and chest measure -if that’s all the information available- and still get within a respectable spitting distance of fitting that person. Now all of the sudden, sizing numbers are not based on scale at all, the method is no longer taught and the system is in wide disarray.

It is possible that one could learn to draft to scale for custom purposes by poring over dense verbiage in archaic pattern books but this is not certain, fast or easy. My caveat remains; it would still mean drafting each style anew which is much more laborious than grading to a set profile. This would only be appropriate for producing custom garments.

If anyone is interested, here are only a few texts online that mention drafting to scale.
Ladies’ Garment Cutting and Making
T.W.Byrnes New and Improved System
Clute’s Actual Measurement System

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