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Determining the Right Amount of Ease

Put space where you need—and want—it most
Threads #182, December 2015/January 2016

Find your fit preferences

Determining the right amount of ease is straightforward. Take a good look at garments you own (or try some on in a store), and assess how they look on you. Consider the length, width, and overall silhouette and proportion. Pay attention to the drape and hand of the fabric. Narrow down your selection to a few garments that you love. These pieces can tell you what you need to know about your preferences for ease. The example dresses are derived from the same base pattern, with different amounts of ease.

One of the best ways to create clothing that looks and feels good is to manage the amount of ease, not just in the garment as a whole, but in particular areas. This aspect of fitting is often overlooked, in part because there is no general formula for it. Learn how to incorporate ease mindfully when planning garments. Once you start seeing ease as a customizable design feature, you’re on easy street.

Elements of ease

The simplest definition of ease is the additional space in a garment beyond the actual body measurements. In terms of pattern and garment design, this ease is typically broken into two separate types. Wearing, or fitting, ease is the minimal extra space needed to get into and wear a garment. It is sufficient for breathing, walking, sitting, and moving your arms. Design, or style, ease is intended to create a particular silhouette, and produces anything from a closely sculpted sheath dress to a voluminous ballgown. Note that comfort isn’t essential to the definition of either type of ease, though it is important to you. 

Ease in a garment is chiefly, though not entirely, a quantity based on circumference. We give extra space around our bodies so we have room…

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