Are you a victim of a hanger fix?

I’ve been threatening to write about a “hanger fix” since at least 2005 so I should have done this long before now. In this entry I’ll explain what a hanger fix is and why it’s sometimes done. In part two (tomorrow) I’ll explain how you should be managing your pattern design changes. If you are known to manage your pattern changes properly, it is unlikely anyone will ever hanger fix one of your styles. Even if you deserve it. Heh.

What is a hanger fix?
A hanger fix means your pattern maker hasn’t made the changes to a style that you requested. Among honest practitioners, it is done to avoid unnecessary iterations. The pattern undergoes what can be euphemistically described as a static correction. I learned about hanger fixes from a pattern maker named Felix (a cake mix pattern maker if there ever was one). When he was told to correct something that he thought didn’t need fixing, he’d hang the pattern behind his table (where we kept all of our work in progress) and wait. The next time he was asked if he’d corrected that style, he’d affirm and give them the pattern that he hadn’t done a thing to! I couldn’t believe he had the nerve but I watched him and I’ll be darned if he didn’t do it. After much trepidation, I actually did it once. I was shaking in my boots but I couldn’t believe how my previously “problem-ridden” style was approved in 5 minutes flat. It did prove his point (below) but he used it entirely too often. He was lazy.

Why is a hanger fix used?
You could surmise the most obvious reason is laziness or fraud but that’s too simplistic. In my experience, or at least when I’ve been witness to situations that could legitimize the need for one, a client or employer is fishing or is having a bad day and everything annoys them and they’re looking for a target. An object is better than a person and besides, it can help one to feel as though they’ve done some work and made progress. The reason is, in style meetings, there tends to be an inability to pass things the first go round. The designer (or whoever, I have no bone to pick) feels like they have to get corrections on everything that passes under their hand. There comes a point when someone has to apply the brakes or you’ll never move forward, stuck in endless iteration cycles. Now, I’m not saying crappy work should be approved but it is possible to get things right on the very first try but in some companies, it seems to be an unofficial rule that patterns have to be redone three times before they’re approved, whether they need it or not. Some developers have become accustomed to the idea that it is not possible to get things right the first time because it hasn’t happened for them very often. Don’t you expect your surgeon to get it right the first time? However, you can’t expect your pattern maker to always get things right the very first time due to a range of variables. If one is working off a known block and the only change is fabrication, it is entirely possible to get it right the first time. In summary, assuming a pattern change truly was not needed, applied judiciously and with great restraint, hanger fixes can save a company money because honesty would dictate you don’t charge for changes you have not wrought. Call it a no charge job. Actually charging for a hanger fix would amount to fraud.

Why a hanger fix is bad
In my opinion, it crosses a line. A pattern maker has decided their judgment -whether correct or not- supersedes the wishes of the client or employer. This may be okay if the pattern maker is really good and their judgment really should supersede yours but what if they aren’t skilled? What if they don’t know or are using the strategy to charge for services they haven’t rendered? Another downside is that if one uses a hanger fix and has a good outcome (meaning the unchanged pattern is re-sewn and then approved), it’s likely the incidence of its use will increase with a given practitioner. I think honesty is the best policy. Perhaps a way to defuse the situation and turn the situation around with some fit analysis is to tell the client you think a hanger fix would solve the problems and why. In general, I think someone who’d use a hanger fix frequently is either incompetent (at client management if nothing else), guilty of fraud or lazy. I also think it’s a sign of disrespect.

When hanger fixes are used
Typically, a hanger fix may be more common if it’s an issue the pattern maker has to correct at no charge to you (obviously). I’ll explain how you can control hanger fixes or how to tell if one’s been used on you in part two (tomorrow). Another reason could be incompetence, either yours or the pattern maker’s, resulting in paralysis from the pattern maker.

About paralysis; a pattern maker is supposed to do what the designer says. But what if the designer doesn’t really know what the problem is and is telling the pattern maker to do something counterproductive? One person wrote me saying:

Fitting is a real art and not many people know how to approach this. I recently sat in on a fitting where the armhole was pulling and the designer insisted that the armhole needed to be scooped out more which was the wrong thing to do. The sleeve cap width was too narrow, causing the armhole to pull out of shape and limit movement.

This person said a better strategy is to avoid an argument by sidestepping the cause, ignoring the prescription and to “say something like, ‘OK, I’ll fix that’, and go about correcting it a way you know will address the problem”. In other words, if your pattern maker is competent, they won’t willingly do what you say if you’re wrong; you need a buy in from the pattern maker for your proposed solution. You can’t be heavy handed about it unless you know you are the expert and the pattern maker is a novice. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had designers tell me how to correct the pattern in a way that would only make it worse.

In part two I’ll explain how you should be managing your pattern design changes. If you are known to follow these practices, it is unlikely anyone will ever hanger fix one of your styles -even if you really need it :).

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  1. dosfashionistas says:

    All my years as a patternmaker and it never even occurred to me to do that!!! And there were certainly times that it was exactly what was needed. I don’t know if I would have had the nerve…Yes, I would have, I just didn’t think of it. See, you learn something new about patternmaking every day. Now I learn this, now that I only make patterns for myself….


  2. Kiran Bindra says:

    As a product development manager, I can share the experiences working with designers and pattern makers. There are times when the designers want changes that are not feasible or are outright wrong, this is the point where the pattern maker brings in their expertise by helping visualize the results if the wrong changes were to be made. We don’t run into the ‘hanger fix’ issue mainly because every iteration that the pattern goes through changes, another prototype or a fit sample is created. The designer has a chance to review the different versions and decide on the final version that is locked down for the collection.

  3. colleen says:

    Agh, fittings! I once had a fit model who, very aggressively, pointed out the fit issues and insisted on telling us how to correct. When the return rates were very high on pants, she said, “It’s because your customer doesn’t KNOW how to buy pants”. A happy day for many when she was replaced.

  4. Karmen Flach says:

    I’m a custom clothier and have (carefully) done what called “psuedo alterations”, for years. I wouldn’t have thought of doing it for pattern drafting!

    I occasionally subcontracted to a designer who sometimes felt the need to justify his high prices by ordering me to make unneeded changes to a garment. (Remove 1/8″ excess fabric from this spot and let it out 1/16″ over here, etc….) He believed that it made him look like a very important part of the fitting process.

    I kept pins with two different head colors. The yellow ones are for the real changes and the white ones are for when he went off on a power trip. White pin heads are removed when I got back to the studio and I did the real changes.

    It was not unusual for me to be told, with a great deal of satisfaction, that the changes he’d ordered had made “all the difference!” I would smile and nod.

  5. Bethany says:

    When I was working in costumes in movies we called them ‘french alterations’. So if an actress was insisting we change something 1/8″ that didnt need to be changed we just smiled and said, ‘you are so right. It needs a french alteration’. Then we made a note of it and did nothing. When the actress would come back and fit the exact same garment, she would ALWAYS say ‘oh it fits so well now!’.

  6. Barb Taylorr says:

    In regards to opinionated fit models, I suggest using the same method suggested for actresses. Color coded pins work, or my favorite; secret code words to tell the person taking notes as to when to actually write down comments and when to just pretend. No need to waste time arguing with them when they are paid by the hour. Just decide later after they are gone if their suggestions are valid.Sometimes they do point out things I might not have considered myself, so I do not dismiss them outright. But never forget who has the patterning training, or under value your own instints.

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