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Jenna Dress Sewalong - Grading in or out at the hips

This week we're all about nailing the fit of our Jenna dresses! Just as shop bought clothes have been drafted and produced to a "standard" chart of proportions, so too are sewing patterns. Very few people will fit a pattern perfectly right out of the box, so we find it helpful to think of sewing patterns as a foundation for limitless possibilities - not only in terms of the design, but crucially in terms of the fit.

*To be taken to all the posts in the Jenna Dress sewalong, please click here*

In today's post, and the one after this, we're focussing on hips and butts! The skirt on the Jenna dress is a beautifully fluid bias cut, which is designed to skim right over our tummies and hips for a comfortable fit that feels floaty and sexy. However, if your hip measurement falls into a larger size category than your waist, an un-altered Jenna skirt that is cut to your smaller waist size will feel clingy and uncomfortable around your hips and bottom and will ride up - not the look or feel we're going for! Similarly, if your hips fall into a smaller size than your waist, the curves of the Jenna skirt may feel too roomy and result in a more "fit & flare" look than the "skim & caress" effect we're after!

Diagnosis - Unlike some fit issues that can only be detected on a toile, this is one that can be spotted on body measurements. In a nutshell, if your hip measurement falls into a higher or lower size category than that of your waist measurement, then you'll most likely benefit from grading between sizes at the hip.

For example, if your waist measures 30" (or within half an inch or so), putting you at a size UK14, but your hip measurement is closer to 45", you'll need to grade out from a size UK14 to a size UK18. It is important also to identify where the extra inches are happening; if you have wider hips but a flat (ish) bottom, you'll need to be increasing your pattern pieces at the side seams only. If your hips don't seem to be particularly wide in "proportion" to your waist, but you have a prominent butt, you will probably benefit more from a full butt adjustment (coming soon!). Or, if it's a combo of both full hips and full butt, you can follow today's tutorial and grade out at the hips and then do a full butt adjustment, sharing the extra inches you need between the two alteration techniques. Keep in mind, pattern alteration is a constant and ongoing investigation as we discover what methods work best for our bodies, so we recommend that you try out the various options, make your toiles and see which outcome you prefer on yourself.

Please note: In order to make a printed pattern legible, we often have to spread out the graded sizes ever so slightly to avoid a tangle of lineweights and indistinguishable darts. This makes grading between sizes directly on the pattern paper a potentially inaccurate undertaking! In this case, the skirt front and back pieces have a common baseline in the centre front and centre back, so you can confidently grade between the sizes. The correct way to go about this technique is to trace off both sizes before overlaying them so they are flush at the hem, before grading between the two side seams.

Step 1

Please note that we are using itty bitty replicas of our pattern to demonstrate - it's not full scale!

Lay out your skirt back or front piece and begin highlighting your size at the under-bust and waist at the side seam.

As the side seam begins to curve out from the waist to the hip, gradually and smoothly grade from your waist measurement line to your hip measurement line. You could use a French curve to help you achieve a smooth line if it helps.

In this case, we have graded from a size UK14 out to a UK18.

As you get to the hem, make sure that you rejoin the original size that you started with at the waist in order to keep the side seams the original length.

When you're done, cut your pattern piece out. You can see that having graded out at the side seam, we've kept the top half of the pattern (the under-bust and waist) to the smaller size, but increased the amount of space at the hip meaning that this dress should now fit and fall well without clinging at the hips as it would have done before the alteration.

This process will need to be applied to both front and back dress pieces.

And there you have it! With all alterations, we highly recommend that you make another toile to check that you're happy with the alterations that you made before cutting into your delicious fashion fabric! 

Comments on this post (2)

  • Jun 18, 2019

    Hi! As the pattern starts curving out for the hip, that’s where you gradually start increasing or decreasing. You want to have reached your desired hip size line by the time the pattern is at its fullest. Hope this helps!

    — Elisalex - By Hand London

  • Jun 18, 2019

    How do you know where to start and end the change?

    — Martha Reed

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