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The Merits of a Basic Fitting Pattern

Slopers help simplify the fitting process.
Slopers help simplify the fitting process.

Slopers help simplify the fitting process.

by Karen Howland
from Threads #79, pp. 48-52

When I started out as a custom dressmaker, I needed a way to simplify the fitting process. So I turned to patternmaking, where I learned how to draft basic fitting patterns, called slopers, and create different styles of garments from them. I was excited about using slopers to make my own patterns, as designers do. But since my students work with commercial patterns, I wondered if I could use what I'd learned from making slopers to speed up the alteration process. The clear connection I finally saw between a sloper and any existing garment pattern surprised me with the speed and elegance it offered as an alteration technique (whether your garment or figure is simple or complex), and with how much it clarified the entire fitting process. But to make sense of it, you need to know more about slopers.

Sloper: a "second skin"

Fitting with a sloper

A sloper fits the figure it was drafted for with only the minimum room needed to breathe and move (called wearing ease), but without design, or style, ease—or seam allowances. It's the most snugly fitted garment you'll ever wear, and as such, is almost like a pattern for your skin. In fact, the skintight cloth covers of commercial dress forms are made from slopers, drafted from the measurements of the so-called "ideal" figure the garment industry aims to fit.

If you've ever fitted a pattern company's basic bodice and skirt to yourself, you've taken another route to getting a sloper: remove the seam allowances from the altered pattern and there's your sloper. (You've also discovered exactly how you differ from the company's "ideal" figure, represented by their basic.) A complete sloper, from which a patternmaker can draft almost any style of garment, includes a darted bodice front and back, a straight skirt, and a set-in sleeve.

Of course, many garments don't resemble slopers at all, once design ease and fashion details are added to them. But virtually all garments that hang from the shoulders (as do most "tops") will match the sloper they were drafted from more or less exactly in the shoulder area (allowing for current trends in shoulder width and pads). Likewise, most well-fitted "bottoms" match their "parent" skirt sloper in the waist and high hip.

It's important to understand that no matter how you get a custom-fitted sloper (whether you alter a company's basic fitting pattern, drape or draft your own, or have a computer generate a fitted pattern from your measurements), once you try it on and perfect it, your sloper is a record of what fits you. Any path to this destination should result in the same basic outline and amount of dart shaping.

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Comments (11)

gricozys gricozys writes: nice
Posted: 8:53 am on October 3rd

catstexas catstexas writes: I wish Threads would encourage THE BIG 4 to do just this:

'ideal world in which every pattern comes with an outline of the sloper it evolved from drawn right on the pattern, aligned at center back and shoulders as described in the "2-D dress-form" example above"

Thanks for an enlightening article; I learned a lot.

Posted: 4:07 pm on November 18th

MollieJ MollieJ writes: Since it is described pretty well I got the idea, but I think a video would be extremely useful to beginners.
Posted: 6:04 am on August 10th

user-3220369 user-3220369 writes: I don't always appreciate all the help my computer gives me.....I meant sloper not slower!
Posted: 5:06 pm on December 30th

user-3220369 user-3220369 writes: Great article . I am copying it so I can have it handy all the time. I understand the concept and feel like I had an epiphany and really finally realize how to use my slower. Thank you
Posted: 5:04 pm on December 30th

tzipi tzipi writes: This is one of the most excellent articles I have ever read. I knew the concept of using a sloper but never knew how to do it. Excellent. Thank you
Posted: 9:22 pm on October 1st

KathySews KathySews writes: This is interesting and needed. I have been shown how to make a sloper but never how to use it. I do agree with Seraphim, I did not follow the part where the sloper was being manipulated. I need a video of someone adjusting a pattern to her sloper.
Posted: 9:59 am on April 20th

hvnlyhost hvnlyhost writes: I love all of the people that know more than I do about sewing and pattern making, you truly help to stretch me even further in the sewing field. Loving it...THANKS BUNCHES!!

Posted: 12:51 pm on November 7th

Seraphim Seraphim writes: I found this article very helpful. My daughter sews a lot of custom work and she measured and created a sloper for me. I was on my own to figure how to use it to fit other patterns.
I did get confused by the middle section when I was seeing the sloper being manipulated to fit the pattern, it didn't seem to make sense.

Posted: 12:07 pm on January 28th

prodileida prodileida writes: hola gracias por este espacio tan bello donde podemos ayudarnos necesito hacer un vestido imperio de novia y quiero ver algunos patrones gracias

Posted: 11:13 am on November 20th

celticstitcher celticstitcher writes: thanks for this, its really helpful, and just what I was looking for
Posted: 4:54 am on July 19th

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