Ever since I began seriously sewing, I have been struggling to attain the perfect button down ivory shirt. It never ceases to amaze me how difficult this is. Almost every pattern I have tried has been too tight for my man shoulders and large rib cage or fit me like a burlap sack. I just tried another (McCalls 4922) and as soon as I finished the set in sleeves found the fit is, once again, awful.
I am so picky some of my woes are self-inflicted. I don’t like the shapelessness of jersey or the places it clings unflatteringly to the body (looking at you, lower belly pooch), so I lose out on the simple fitting joys of stretchy material. I also don’t like the way the seams look in anything but a straight stitch, which is silliness, I know. I want the crisp look of woven materials but I also want to be able to streetfight with no range of motion loss in my tailored blouse. My wardrobe desires are truly ridiculous. This is what happens when you watch too many comic book movies with women who are basically doing acrobatics in a corseted skin tight suit while they fluently speak seven languages hurling perfect one liners at bad guys. SUPERWOMAN COMPLEX INDEED.
But where was I? Oh, fitting issues. I have sewn probably 20 shirts, and I still haven’t found the pattern I want to settle down with as a tried and true reliable basis for further modifications. I have tried draping a sloper on my poor duct tape dress form but that just hasn’t ended well. What looks good on the form does not translate into a flattering shape on my moving body and I don’t know exactly what I’m doing wrong, but it is seriously pissing me off. My sewing skills have come so far in the last year, and yet, virtually none of my sewing projects are making me happy because the fit just isn’t as good as my favorite ready to wear shirts. Even tried dissection of one of these, and somehow the block I drafted from those pieces still didn’t work.
So here’s the problem(s):
1. wide rib cage + nonexistent bust combination is not something most patterns fit well
2. short torso + nonexistent waistline is not something most vintage patterns work for
3. forward shoulders make sleeve fitting suck ass
4. broad shoulders + forward shoulders + hatred of the poofy sleeve cap means you will never be happy in your sewing life ever.
5. I don’t even know if there’s a name for my broad-at-the-bust-line man back but it makes me sad that the princess lines of my back pieces are easily confused for the front pieces bc there’s almost the same amount of muscle mass there as in my itty bitty titty committee case study goin’ on up front here. Shirts always, always, always pull at the back underarm when I try to move because of said mass. On the plus side in the zombie apocalypse I have serious farmer/ax swinger muscle genetics going on.
All of this is a long way of saying I am giving up on set in sleeves for awhile. The cumulative effect of all of this sewing failure is that I’m not even excited at trying new patterns because I know how it’s going to end up: 1980s shapeless boxy shit that only David Bowie could make look sexy (see below), or another thing that makes me unable to move my arms. It’s time for the gusset/kimono sleeve to come into my life in a big way.
Wanna know who else makes everything better? Esther Kaplan Pivnick, that’s who. Sewing guru extraordinaire whose vintage pattern drafting book Fundamentals of Patternmaking can be found at the delightful blog of the awesome TJ at A Perfect Nose (here). After some kimono sleeve sewing therapy I may, once again, under the masterful tutelage of Esther Pivnick, try redrafting a blouse from my own measurements because, let’s face it, the set in sleeve is a part of virtually every awesome garment I see on tv and lust after for my own.