One of the things I think many beginner sewers have difficulty with is choosing patterns to sew with. For today’s article, I’m going to assume you’re working primarily with fabric for your costume.
Choosing a pattern can make your life easier or not, so today we’re going to talk about my 4 S’s of pattern selection.
It goes without saying that size is important. Pattern sizing is not the same as fashion sizing, and so at a basic level, you need to ensure you are using the correct size. If your pattern size is the same as what you bought in a store, you’re probably going to have problems.
But in a more abstract manner, size is important in different ways. Maybe you don’t want perfectly fitting clothing. Maybe you want oversized clothing.
Is your character a cartoon with blocky features? If so, maybe you want to ensure that your pattern is going to be oversized to give that less human, more pixelated look. Some designs may be created that are made to hang large on a frame. Looking at the fit of the design on the model can help you get an idea about whether it will really bring your character to life in the way you want to.
Shape goes to the basic shape of a pattern. If you were to represent your costume in 2 dimensions, what shapes would it take?
If you’re looking for a skirt, the first question to ask is does this give the right kind of skirt? Is it a-line? Is it mermaid? Does it go in where you want it to go out? For instance, a short school uniform-type of skirt has a very different shape than a pencil skirt worn by the school principle.
If you’re wondering whether a pattern would give similar shapes, you can easily try drawing them out to compare.
Silhouette takes shape to a step above. It is about the lines on the edge of the body and the curves or straight lines they make that that point. You want to check that the pattern you choose gives you the same silhouette as a character.
For retro and historical patterns, you may find that the correct silhouette is not achievable without proper undergarments. For instance, the 1890’s saw the use of spoon-busked corsets. These are very distinct silhouette and corsets that use any other type of busk will not give the S-curve of the 1890’s corsets. Further, any clothing not designed for a spoon-busk may need alterations to accommodate a different style of corset.
The Victorian silhouette
I think silhouette is best explained by Jessica Rabbit. Any pink sparkly dress with a red wig will evoke the comically drawn Jessica, but only a specialised corset and dress will depict her incredibly tight waist and buxom features for an accurate silhouette.
The last, but certainly not least, consideration is where to the seam lines lie on the pattern?
You can save yourself a lot of effort if you can find a pattern that has similar seam lines. It will be more easily alterable to gain the silhouette you want, as well as looking more like what the character uses.
I will caution that seam lines are not always a requirement for many costumes, but for some, they can make or break a costume. In some instances, seam lines can be the difference between a screen accurate costume and not.
For instance, while any black bodysuit could be used to represent Mara Jade, she is always depicted in the comics with very specific patterns. I had to adapt a bodysuit pattern to add these seams in and take extra seams out in order to get an accurate costume.
All four of these things may not exist in a single pattern. However, if you can find a pattern that has 3 of them, you’re going to have a lot less work to do to make it fit and look accurate than if you just pick the first jacket pattern you find in your size. You could choose the first jacket pattern you buy, but take some time, and you may find one that is not only 1940’s styled, but has princess seams.
There are thousands of patterns in existence, and combing through them can be time consuming. However, taking that time at the beginning of the process can significantly make the construction process later on easier.