Have you ever thought about how your favorite shirt evolved into its current state? I promise you that it didn’t originally start as perfectly fitted as it is today. It probably arrived at an apparel company’s office as a prototype needing some love. In the apparel industry, we have to run a fitting, or a series of fittings, for every single garment. Unlike many other products in the world, each garment is unique due to its extremely specific fabrication, its end use, and its intended customer. Working with fabrics, there is an understanding that every roll of material has some level of variance.
Now, imagine that you just purchased a new shirt and it has quickly become your favorite. You want to copy it so you can fill your closet with your favorite shirt in different colors, but you have no idea where the fabric itself came from or where it was made. So you cut a swatch of the shirt and start sourcing your own fabric to come as closely as possible to a match. At the same time, you cut apart the garment to create a “like” pattern for yourself. This is how a lot of apparel ideas and designs will start.
In a perfect world, using your inspiration garment as a template for fabric and pattern might yield you an identical shirt. Voila! But I guarantee you that the fabric you find will have some form of differentiation from the original, and your pattern will also vary, at least slightly.
These are just a couple of the reasons why every garment made and sold has to go through a rigorous process of development and fitting. Each prototype garment is sewn and then tried onto a fit model to check for circumferences around the body, puckering, gaping, balance and length. And each company might want that garment to fit differently. Company A might think that the circumferences on the prototype are much too tight, and you have to let the shirt out a bit. Company B might want the shirt to fit even tighter, and then you’re involving creative pattern techniques to make that shirt look painted onto the body.
Understanding what the garments are “saying to you” in a fitting is extremely tricky. Not only because some problems look and feel unsolvable at first, but also because a truly gifted fit technician will understand exactly how their pins and markings during that fitting will then relate back to the flat pattern file. Putting a pin in a shirt to make it fit closer to a body will make that prototype look better, but it’s a completely different skill to know how to translate that into words and pattern revisions for the factory to improve on the next prototype.
Apparel Developers, Pattern Engineers and Fit Technicians are hiding behind every single garment that has ever been made. From the shirt you’re wearing, to the extravagant garments that walk down runways all over the world. We are privileged to be a part of your lives every day, even though you may not know much about us or how we’ve contributed to your daily comfort or discomfort. I must say that I love what I do, especially in how it can improve others’ days or even lives by wearing a garment that fits them just perfectly. Bringing that knowing smile to someone’s face when they try on a new, amazing dress in the store or when they put their favorite shirt on in the morning is such a lovely and rewarding career. I hope one of us was able to put that smile on your face today.