Perhaps the most underappreciated aspect of dressing well is the concept of fit. Garments that fit well convey the message that the wearer is self-assured, confident, and aware of life’s important details. Ill-fitting garments convey the message that the wearer is slovenly, unreliable, and lacking in self-esteem. Unfortunately, in the world of relaxed dress codes, proper fitting has become a lost art.
Fit refers to how well the clothing conforms to the wearer’s body. Though there are varying opinions on what constitutes “good” fit, the garment must not only cover the wearer’s 3-dimensional body, but it must also flatter and enhance the body to make the appropriate fashion statement. Fit is so crucial that the effects of a stunning design, combined with exquisite fabric and excellent workmanship will often be destroyed if the garment does not fit properly. Ultimately, garments that are not sized properly or fit well wind up on retailers’ mark-down racks or left hanging in consumers’ closets where they are seldom worn.
Most fit problems are caused by a mismatch of the garment’s construction and the individual characteristics of the wearer. Though personal preferences regarding fit are shaped by current fashion trends, cultural influences, and the garment’s intended use, more closely related to the concept of being “well-dressed” is the appropriateness of the garment for the wearer’s figure type and occasion. We all have figure flaws, but a great garment design that is fit properly will create optical illusions that make our flaws less noticeable.
When trying on garments, your main focus should be on evaluating the garment’s fit. Develop a keen eye for these five (5) elements:
- Grain. For a good fit, the garment must be cut on the fabric’s grain. If the garment is off-grain, it will not hang straight. The seam lines will twist or hang crooked because the fabric on each half of the garment will behave differently.
- Set, refers to the presence or absence of wrinkles. This occurs because the garment is too large or too small and the fabric pulls or sags in the areas where it doesn’t fit. Horizontal wrinkles indicate that the garment is too narrow or too long, while vertical wrinkles indicate the garment is too wide or too short.
- Line, refers to the structural alignment of the garment with the natural lines of the body. Side seams should hang straight down the side of the body, perpendicular to the floor. Likewise, front and back seams should fall straight down the front and center of the body.
- Balance, occurs when the right and left halves of the garment appear symmetrical, when viewed from the front, back, or sides. Balance relates to the garment’s grain and line. If they are off, the garment will hang unevenly, or out of balance.
- Ease, or fitting ease, refers to the difference between the garment’s dimensions and the wearer’s measurements. The garment must contain adequate ease beyond the wearer’s actual measurements to allow for movement and comfort. For example, a skirt measuring 36” at the hip line, does not fit a person with 36” hips. The skirt must contain an amount of ease to allow for sitting, walking, or standing comfortably.
Careful consideration of these five elements will ensure that your garments fit and you’ll be on your way to becoming “well-dressed.”