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Fitting a High Hip vs. Sway Back

Threads #85, Oct/Nov 1999

Fabric rolls up on my skirts and pants just below the waistband across the back. I was told this means I have a swayback, but I altered for the swayback, and the fabric still rolls up. What’s going on?

—Ellen Branwynn, Roxbury, Conn.

A high-hip curve and sway back are commonly confused figure variations, says fitting expert Judith Rasband, because they can exhibit similar symptoms, particularly the one you mention: excess fabric at the back waist. I suspect that you’re dealing with a high-hip curve because you say that your fitting problem is the same on pants and skirts; whereas, a swayback causes different problems on pants and skirts. The drawings below should help you see for yourself the difference between these two variations. I’ll describe how I’d alter for each variation, starting with the high-hip curve.

Most patterns are designed to accommodate the full hip circumference about 7 to 8 in. below the waist. In reality, the full hip circumference may be as little as 1 in. or as much as 10 in. below the waist. A high-hip curve is generally positioned within 2 to 4 in. below the waist, with obvious weight deposited just in the back of where a garment side seam would be. A high-hip curve often comes in combination with a large abdomen and a flat bottom. A low-hip curve is generally positioned 8 to 10 in. below the waist, with obvious weight deposited just opposite crotch level on the side thighs, where a garment side seam would lie, and slightly behind. Some figure types feature a combination of high- and low-hip curves, sometimes smoothly curved between, sometimes with a slight indentation between the two curves. Each of these variations can coexist with a swayback.

In any case, a high-hip curve generally requires both added length and added width:…

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