Where is ease permissible? pt.2

This is a follow up post to Where is ease permissible in which I asserted that most ease is unnecessary and invited readers to submit specific questions regarding their garments and products. As it was, I only got two responses which strikes me as odd; for as common as easing seems to be, interest in the topic was inversely proportional. Both people leaving comments are interested in suit making so their questions should be interpreted within that context. If you have questions about ease, it’s not to late to add your comments for a future post.

J C Sprowls writes:

So, when you say ‘overfitting’, do you mean that one runs the risk of making the garment too specific (height/weight, posture, attitude, etc)? Am I following the wavelength?

I’d say that “making the garment too specific” is a nice definition. Any other definitions out there? JC Sprowls continues:

I would be interested to see the tutorial on how you handle the turn of cloth on the pattern. Should I presume this means the upper- and under- collars are separate pattern pieces?

Yes, upper and under collars -especially on suits!- are two if not three separate pattern pieces. I have written about these allowances before describing it as “bend allowance” but I can’t seem to find that information (maybe it was in the forum). I remember it because Jinjer commented providing a mathematical descriptor that I thought was very appropriate. Perhaps she’ll see this and provide a link. Bend allowance or turn of cloth will always vary according to the weight and stiffness/fluidity of the fabric; it’s never static.

What is your opinion on inlays/outlays? Are these too confusing to present to a sewing contractor? I typically only see inlay added to the seat seam of trousers – every once in a great while I see 1/4″ added to the back trouser panel inseam. But, I have yet to see inlays in RTW jackets. Is there a practical reason to not add inlay to production patterns?

In response to this comment, I had to get clarification because I didn’t know what inlays/outlays were in the context that JC was using the term. Inlays -as I know them- can be seen on page 181-182 of my book but that’s not what he meant. He sent me a jpg of a suit pattern with these areas marked. Hence, I can describe these terms as arcane/archaic descriptions used in bespoke tailoring. Succinctly, inlays/outlays are seam allowances over and above the usual allowances; the intent of which are to permit alterations.

I’d encourage everyone to use terminology that is appropriate to the given audience (JC Sprowls was information gathering in bespoke forums) because sewing contractors won’t have a clue what inlays/outlays are. Rather, these are most commonly described as seam allowances. It is entirely appropriate in given product lines (better RTW) to have varying allowances -of both jackets and trousers- and most if not all pattern making books make these distinctions. In the latter, it is very common to have 1″ side seam allowances and what not. To manage atypical allowances, one will simply need to itemize them. There’s a form on page 139 of my book which you should use to specify the allowance of the affected seams.

As for my opinion, I’d say to use them appropriately. If the garment is bridge to designer level apparel, larger allowances would be appropriate. However, this practice shouldn’t be followed numbly. An example of this was the Ungaro I reviewed. This dress has 1″ seam allowances that were utterly useless. Owing to the styling of the skirt, it would have been impossible to make the skirt any larger (see the photos). Similarly, the torso portion of the dress was a blouson, very loose and unfitted. The need to have altered this dress in the bodice would have been highly unlikely. Therefore the extra large allowances were akin to following convention rather than any applied logic or necessity.

Then Thomas asked:

What is the correct amount of ease in the facing for a men’s coat to allow for the roll of the lapel? I’m making up the jackets in a 280 gram worsted -a relatively “tight”, hard fabric. Also, is it typical that the facing is cut with ease *below* the break point? For example I have a 2 button sport coat pattern that was made for me and matching the facing and front at the break point notch, there is a *generous* 1/4 inch of ease in the facing below the notches. Meanwhile, there is a scant 1/8 of ease in the facing above the break point. It seems to me that, if anything, the facing should be a tiny bit smaller than the coat front to ensure that the bottom of the jacket doesn’t curl out away from the body.

Okay, this is really two separate questions, or at least two separate answers. The first question is: “what is the correct amount of ease in the facing…to allow for the roll of the lapel”? That question I’m not answering in detail because it’s more complicated and I don’t know how many would follow it. Briefly, ease is not the solution for that roll. Rather, there is a dart taken up -and closed- so you won’t see it “proof” it’s there unless you examine and compare the front on what I’d describe as a forensic level. That’s a tricky maneuver :). If you care to attempt it (I don’t know that your pattern has it), you’ll find the closed dart at the shoulder line, close to the neckline juncture. It’d be a very complicated tutorial and I just don’t think there’s enough interest in the topic as to be worth developing it. There are more people who claim they’re doing “designer” or “couture” level quality than there really are :). It is a more complex task than most are willing to undertake once they discern the degree of difficulty at the pattern level.

Returning to your second question regarding the ease in that facing, there’s no nice way to say this but I don’t think the facing was made properly. I can see no justification for the facing being larger than the body so your instincts are correct. It is absurd. I have made up some sketches showing the correct way to generate the facing.

Using the body as the basis of the facing, your facing should be both larger and smaller than the body depending where it hits. An overview is below

As illustrated above, the facing should extend 1/8″ beyond the body of the coat after the collar notch and above the break point. This line is highlighted in pink. Below the break point, the facing is cut back 1/8″ smaller than the body of the coat (outlined in yellow).

In the sketch below, I’ve done a mini rendition of how to graduate the upper and lower shaping. Note that the break point forms the zero point and should match the coat exactly at that point.

In this sketch below, I’ve detailed the notch of the lapel. The notch that indicates the collar end is the zero point. From there out (until the midsection break point), the facing should be 1/8″ larger. By the way, none of these would be described technically as “ease”.

Thomas also states:

Some of the jackets made up with this pattern had a bubble on the front of the coat that emerged near the break point — but this doesn’t make sense to me either, because if there was too much ease in the facing, wouldn’t the bubble occur on the facing side of the coat?

Actually, I’ve seen both happen. If the underside is too large -and the fabric is tight and hard- the excess bunching on the underside can cause a bubble on the topside because often, the shell portion has been stretched to fit the too large facing. Once stretched, the excess from the underside can fill out the distortion on the top, creating a bubble. In fabrics that are softer, I’d expect to see what you said; that the underside would be more inclined to bubble or gather, if for no other reason than that the top side would be more easily stretched without “obvious” distortion (to the untrained eye).

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  1. La BellaDonna says:

    Kathleen, in an earlier post on your blog (which I cannot track down at the moment, or I’d link it), you said that homesewers had a tendency to overfit. I can see where making a block too specific (for certain builds, etc.) would create a problem for manufacturing, but I’m having some difficulty with correlating “making the garment too specific” with homesewing. Mostly I’m just trying to figure out what overfitting is so I don’t do it. My aim when producing a garment, whether for myself or someone else, is a garment which permits freedom of movement within the parameters of that particular garment, and which fits without wrinkles, creases, or bagging, but which also does not emphasis body anomolies (not so snug that a large belly is emphasized, making sure shoulders appear balanced in a garment, etc.). For myself, I’m used to a very closely-fitted torso, and I just want to make sure that I’m not digging pitfalls for myself that I could avoid.


  2. Christina says:

    Hi All,
    I am reading with interest the notes on ‘ease’. I retrieved my old pattern-making notes from college to check what they had to say. We were taught to make the upper collar 3mm larger so it would roll and so this IS ease, I just never thought of it that way! I previously posted a message about the princess line and ease, to say that I had never heard of putting any ease in. I guess if one panel is slightly longer than the other it does require ease, but where it is so minimal, as it should be with a princess line, do we still call it ease? With the princess line should one panel be longer than the other anyway? Or should the longer one be shortened somehow? I would have thought that ease should only be used if it is necessary, such as to roll a collar or allow for movement in the top of a sleeve.
    I hope I have not missed something!
    What else would it be called, I guess it’s just semantics.

  3. on turn of cloth/ bend allowance: the first time (I think) you mentioned it was in your welt pocket tutorial:

    I’m re-posting my mathematical description of turn of cloth in the discussion forum under “discuss blog topics”

    Kathleen says:”As it was, I only got two responses which strikes me as odd; for as common as easing seems to be, interest in the topic was inversely proportional.”

    Give us some time! You could take a month off, and I’d still be struggling to catch up with all the great information that I’ve skipped or glossed over on this blog for lack of time!

    Is ease permissable:
    I’ve seen several pattern making instructions telling me to ease the back to the front at the shoulder seam. What about that? And in princess seams that go to the shoulder, I’ve been instructed to each the CF panel to the side panel above bust level.

    On the whole, I’m finally understanding that ease is an expensive thing in the garment industry, and should be used wisely for that reason.

  4. Patricia Smith says:

    While it may have seemed like few were interested in the topic of ease, the fact is, some of us got bogged down with the princess seam discussion! I am in total agreement with you that ease in one of the princess seams is unnecessary. In addition to the reasons you aptly pinpointed, the visible ease almost like gathering or puckering on one side of the seam line bothers me!

    But what really got me thinking was the way you demonstrated creating the princess line pattern. Your preferred method (as I understand) is the first one you posted, here //fashion-incubator.com/archive/lazy_pattern_making
    where the side dart is rotated closed at the side seam, which results in a tiny dart being opened at the princess seamline. This new dart is just ignored, left unsewn…and the front piece is then lengthened to accommodate this extra seam length.

    Ok, this theory bothers me. And here is why: If the basic bodice fit well before, with the side dart, how can it possibly fit as well after this princess pattern is created? The princess style would now have:
    1. more front length (which may cause it to hang open like at CF if left unbuttoned, or buttoned or pinned only at bust level) and
    2. the dart angle is now larger than before, forcing more fabric to stay in the bust area.

    In my mind, this method has basically increased the bust cup size of the garment! Am I wrong?

    In basic patternmaking, the side bust dart is rotated to the shoulder or waist or center front where ever but the dart size remains constant, because the point of rotation is always the bust point. So, likewise, when the dart tip is extended to the bust point BEFORE rotating the dart closed, the dart uptake remains unchanged when a princess style is created. But if the dart tip is NOT moved (as in your example) to the bust point, the size of the dart WILL change, changing the fit. The princess seam is just like a bodice with a shoulder dart connected to the waist dart and hem. And we all learned that we can rotate darts without changing the FIT of the garment, so why is this one treated any differently?

    You mentioned that if this second way is done, one might have a problem with the hem hiking up in the center…the opposite problem to the one I anticipate happening with the first method!

    Confused but listening,
    Patricia Smith

  5. Janyce Engan says:

    The discussion of princess seams is topical for me – as my 13 yr old daughter is starting her first sewing project – her 8th grade graduation dress from a commerical pattern.

    The princess seams in this pattern indicate (of course!) easing between notches over the bust line in order to fit.

    My question – is there a fix for a commerical pattern like this to eliminate the ease and to get a smoother fit and seam?

  6. Karmen Flach says:

    Not lack of interest, Kathleen!

    Just that most of us can’t begin to keep up with your rapid-fire brain! There is SO much info on your site (that’s a good thing!) that it takes time to absorb. We just can’t keep up with you!

    Incidentally, I, for one, would LOVE to see a tutorial on the closed neckline dart that you described above. I’ve seen this on higher end jackets, but have not seen any pattern making directions that made any sense.

  7. Todd says:

    In reference to Thomas’s 1/4″ of ease in the facing below the break point, Roberto Cabrera in his book Classic Tailoring Techniques (page 107) suggests you baste in 1/4″ of ease into the facing below the break point in order to “accomodate the roll of the lapel”. This may be what the patternmaker expected you do when they made you that pattern.

  8. Thomas Cunningham says:


    You know I’m not a pattern-maker, but I don’t think I’m stupid. And the reason I keep reading your Web site and the reason I loved your book is that what you say to do makes logical sense to me — which is not always true of some of the “information” I get in this business.

    So thank you again for your advice and guidance — when I get a moment I will look for that neckline ‘dart” and maybe sometime you can explain how that dart helps with the roll of the lapel.

    It seems to me that when you roll one fabric over the other, the top fabric (in this case the facing) will have to be “longer” to meet the edge of the under-fabric (coat front) evenly. With a hand-made suit, this is no problem because the facing is cut with extra length, basted while the lapel is held in the “rolled” position, stitched, then trimmed.

    But how do you do that with a machine-made jacket? Is that 1/8″ extra in your example to account for that “roll-over.” Or is that extra so that the seam can be pressed to the underside of the lapel? Or is it both?

    Please don’t feel you have to answer these questions — I don’t want to bore you — but it’s what’s on my mind.


  9. Julie Knox says:

    I’m interested in the ease question too.

    I understand what ease is for, in terms of closing a small dart, but not as sure how to get rid of the dart if you don’t want to ease, without compromising the fit somehow.

    I would like to hear more about the ‘overfitting’ concept.

    As far as what I can remember being taught about where to ease, the most common example would be converting the back shoulder dart to ease. I also remember something about ease in the inseam of pants. I can’t remember where I learned it, and I never do it, but I remember being told that the back should be eased to the front on one section and the front eased to the back on another section (of the inseam). I was taught from the Armstrong book too so I was taught to ease the bust on a princess seam. I was also taught to add 1/2″ ease to skirts where they join the waistband, which I always thought was a pain and I don’t get the point.

    I’m also interested in an explanation on ‘turn of the cloth’ allowance. It makes sense why you need it (and I was taught to make separate collar pieces), but you’ve mentioned the way most people are taught to do it is wrong, and I’m wondering how you get everything to sew together neatly when the pattern pieces don’t actually match because of that extra added (especially at corners).

    While I’m begging for clarification, I’ve also noticed a lot of discussion about ‘couture’ and I admit I’m lost. What do you mean when you use the word, and what are the differences in objective between couture, and ‘not-couture’ (which would be ready-to-wear I guess? Or other levels of custom work?). I’ve noticed in the last year or two a lot of the bridal manufacturers are doing either ‘couture’ or even ‘haute couture’ lines now, and their use of the words (for a mass-produced garment that will never be fitted to the customer unless through alterations) seems to mean mostly ‘expensive’, sometimes silk, and often more extreme styles (eg. when ruffles are in, a ‘couture’ line might have the whole dress made of ruffles). Anyway the word has been discussed here and there, but I haven’t seen it addressed directly. If I’ve missed a post just point me in the right direction!


  10. ken simmons says:

    In regards to ease: I am working on a project for the fun of it and remembered another 2 places where ease is could be used instead of darting in the same way it often is used on back shoulder darts where the back shoulder length is eased into the front shoulder seam. I am making a chiffon dress in the 1920´s style and remember that often in this period sleeve elbow darts as well as bust darting was often turned into ease so as not to disfigure the thin delicate fabrics with stitched darts but to provide additional length accross the back sleeve for elbow room and to keep the grain from dragging in the side front at the dart level. Having been a theatre costume designer for years and having lots of original 20´s clothing to use as inspiration from the costume storage area I have seen this treatment on many dresses, especially in light weight fabrics. Not that it would be used in modern factory patternmaking, but to illustrate the idea that ease is acceptable where ever it performs a needed function for a particular style and a particular fabric.

  11. Alison Cummins says:

    (I’ve been away on holiday for a couple of weeks — in fact, I’m still away.)

    Easing the skirt into the waistband is done because most real women’s bodies don’t curve gently out from the bottom of the waistband in a gradual slope. Good fit is best obtained by combining a little ease all around the waistband — which lets the skirt move away from the waist right away — with darts that fit the major curves.

    This becomes truer the more short-waisted the woman is (imagine the shape of a balloon with a rubber band around the middle for an example of an extremely short waist). Long-waisted women may only need darts. In a waistbandless skirt the top of the skirt is not in fact as tight around the waist as a waistband would have been. It stands slightly away from the waistline because it is not eased into a waistband.

    In synthetic fabrics this ease may provide fit at the expense of displaying ugly wrinkles. In natural fabrics the wrinkles can be shrunk out with a steam iron.

  12. J C Sprowls says:

    Thomas said: But how do you do that with a machine-made jacket? Is that 1/8″ extra in your example to account for that “roll-over.” Or is that extra so that the seam can be pressed to the underside of the lapel? Or is it both?

    Thomas, I can only speak to my process. But, I generally determine the final measurements when building the technical sample to prove the “first” pattern. By this, I mean that I partially baste the fronts and produce the rolled back section on a fitting mannequin. Then, I mark the amount of the turn of cloth on the facing and shell, note it on the first pattern, and trim the muslin sample to remove the turn of cloth adjustment before sewing it up.

    Cutting just a hair (i.e. 1/32″, or the width of the shear) inside the chalk line is typically enough to account for the space that will be occupied by the thread, allowing the edge of the seam to be made “non-public”.

    When sewing for custom clients, I typically only make up a muslin if the style is complex or the flat pattern doesn’t feel right to me. Instead, I prefer to work in the final fabric. I just cut wide seam allowances (i.e. inlays) so I can make adjustments as I go. Any adjustments I make to achieve final fit are transferred back to the original paper pattern (it’s usually laid out when the client comes for fitting). Through the process of creating the first garment for the client, I arrive at a final pattern.

    The process I describe, earlier, is how I’ve adapted my current process into a more “industrial” mindset. I don’t know that it’s necessarily very efficient at this point; but, it’s a starting point.

    FYI: I am in process of combing through some old pattern cutting manuals to find evidence of a shoulder dart (or, one that’s been folded out) to share with the group.

  13. dosfashionistas says:

    I find it interesting that there are two comments about the inseam in pants, and they are both opposite from my practice. The front of a pant leg needs to grow to be comfortable in a sitting posture. Fortunately the front inseam is always considerably straighter than the back inseam. If the front inseam is made 1/4 to 1/2 inch longer than the back inseam between the knee notch and the crotch, it will still sew into the seam with no problem for the operator. This also raises the front crotch, keeping that area nice and neat.

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