19 June 2019

Fitting the Romy top and dress

Romy top and dress sewing pattern - Tilly and the Buttons

Making the Romy top or dress and want a friendly, extra helping hand with fitting and choosing your size? It's Nikki here, Product Manager at Tilly and the Buttons, and I'm here to talk through the main things you need to know about fitting one of our newest sewing patterns.

Romy is relatively simple to fit, as it has a modern, loose silhouette - hooray! It's designed for low stretch knit fabrics such as jersey or interlock but, unlike many knit garments, it has "positive ease", meaning the top or dress is bigger than the body. It's designed to skim rather than be close-fitting - so don't be tempted to over-fit it ;)

As with all garments, the fabric that you choose is going to have an impact on how the finished garment hangs and feels on your body. To reiterate the fabric suggestions listed on the pattern envelope, look for a knit fabric that isn't too drapey or lightweight so the envelope neckline doesn't sag, avoid anything clingy if you're making the dress, and avoid bulky fabrics if you're making the back ties. A medium weight jersey or interlock with little stretch or drape should be perfect.

Romy dress - sewing pattern by Tilly and the Buttons
Romy dress - sewing pattern by Tilly and the Buttons

If you're making the back tie version, the other thing to bear in mind with fitting is to check the upper back bodice is sitting nicely against your back. This is going to be different for everyone depending on your shape and the amount of stretch and recovery in the fabric, so we recommend in the instructions to tack (baste) your top or dress together and try it on before stitching for real.

We're going to cover this in more detail in this post, as well as some other simple adjustments you can make to get a great fit:
  • Choosing your size
  • Combining pattern sizes
  • Lengthening the bodice, sleeve or hem
  • Shortening the bodice, sleeve or hem
  • Adjusting the shoulders and back
  • Making a toile
Romy top and dress sewing pattern - Tilly and the Buttons

Choosing your size 

Using a flexible tape measure, find the circumference of your:
- bust - take the measurement at the fullest point i.e. around your nipples
- waist - where you bend at the side
- hips - fullest part

Check the tape measure is sitting level with the floor - it can help to turn to the side and look in a mirror to check. Circle your measurements on the 'Body Measurements' chart in the pattern instructions.
Romy top and dress sewing pattern - Tilly and the Buttons
If your measurement falls between sizes (for example, if your bust is 35in rather than 34in or 36in), it’s generally safer to go for the larger size. If it’s too big - or if you want a more fitted silhouette - it’s easy to take the side seams in as you're sewing.
If your bust, waist and hip measurements fall into the same size, refer to the key on the pattern sheets that shows the solid or dashed line for your size – that’s the one to follow when you cut out your pattern. If your body measurements fall across a few different sizes then don't worry that's totally normal! Check out the 'combining sizes' section below for more info :)
Combining pattern sizes

Romy top and dress sewing pattern - Tilly and the Buttons

Most people that I meet in the world of sewing tell me their bust, waist or hip measurements fall into two or more sizes on the body measurements chart. The wonderful thing about sewing is that we can alter our patterns to accommodate our unique body shapes. How cool is that?
If your proportions don't match one size exactly - for example if your bust is a size 5 and your hips are a size 7 - you can re-draw the side seams to a different size to make sure your pattern fits you in all the right places.

For this pattern, choose the size that best matches your bust measurement and re-draw the side seams to join up with your waist and hip measurements. Draw a line from your bust to your waist measurement, and another line from your waist to your hip measurement, making sure to curve it a little with a french curve, or by eye, to avoid any hard edges.

As Romy is designed to be a slightly looser fit, this makes the job of combining sizes a little easier, as the shape is quite forgiving. So for example, if you are a 5 at the bust and waist and a 4 at the hip, you might want to cut a straight size 5 and take it in at the side seams around the hip whilst you're sewing if you feel that's it's necessary.

Lengthening the bodice, sleeve or hem

If you know your arms or torso are particularly long, you can lengthen the sleeve or bodice to fit you better.

Get a piece of paper, a little longer than the width of the pattern piece you are lengthening. Draw two parallel lines, the distance between them being the amount you want to lengthen the bodice or sleeve by. Cut along one of the "lengthen or shorten here" lines marked on the pattern piece.

Place the paper strip with the set of lines on underneath the top pattern piece, aligning the newly cut edge with the upper horizontal line, and stick it down with tape or a glue stick.

Romy top and dress sewing pattern - Tilly and the Buttons

With a ruler, extend the grainline arrow from the top pattern piece right down through the paper you just attached. Now align the lengthen/shorten line on the bottom piece with the lower horizontal line, and match up the grainline arrows. Repeat these steps for both the front and back bodices if those are the pieces you are lengthening.

Join the side seam lines and the centre front/centre back lines through the new extension and cut away the excess paper.

Romy top and dress sewing pattern - Tilly and the Buttons

If you're making the top version and want to make the hem a bit longer, decide the new length you want and draw a new horizontal line from the centre to the side seams. Do this on both the front and back bodice pieces and make sure they match.

Romy top and dress sewing pattern - Tilly and the Buttons

As the dress is almost straight at the sides, it is relatively simple to lengthen if you wish to do so. Get a piece of paper, a little longer than the width of your pattern piece, and stick it to the bottom of the dress hem. Extend the centre front or back bodice line to your desired new length. Draw a horizontal line - making sure it's at right angles to the centre front/centre back line - until it's a bit longer than the side seams.  Finally, extend the side seam until it reaches the horizontal line, and hey presto - you've lengthened your dress! Again, make sure you do this to both the front and back bodices to avoid having a wonky dress.

Shortening the bodice, sleeve or hem

Romy top and dress sewing pattern - Tilly and the Buttons

On the other hand, if you often find clothes and sleeves a smidge too long, you might want to shorten the bodice, sleeve or dress to make it fit you a bit better.

To shorten a pattern piece, draw a parallel line below the lower of the "lengthen or shorten here" lines on the sleeve or front and back bodice pieces - the distance between the two lines should be how much you want to shorten it by.

Romy top and dress sewing pattern - Tilly and the Buttons

Cut along the lower of the "lengthen or shorten here" lines and move the lower pattern piece straight up until it meets the line you drew in the previous step. Align the grainlines on each to make sure the pieces don’t shift to either side. Tape or glue the pieces together and redraw the side seams so they're smooth.

If you want to shorten the hem length of the bodice or dress, it's pretty much straight towards the bottom so you can simply sew the garment as normal and hem it to your desired length once it is finished.

Adjusting the shoulders and back

If you usually adjust the shoulders or back on a pattern piece, we advise for Romy that you stick to one size for the sleeve, armhole, back ties and neckline bindings, as the construction and notches are a little complex in this area and it's important that they match.

For example, if you know you have narrow shoulders, cut a smaller size in the armhole on the front and back bodices, and grade out at the side seams to your bust size. Pick the same size you choose for your armhole for the back tie (if applicable), neckline binding(s) and sleeve head (the top of the sleeve), and widen the sleeve is you feel you'll need to.

When it comes to sewing the shoulders and sleeves, we recommend that you tack these together and check the fit of the garment on your body.

Romy top and dress sewing pattern - Tilly and the Buttons

If you’re making the back tie version and the fabric at the top of the back bodice is gaping, first things first, check you haven't stretched it out when attaching the binding. If the binding looks good, unpick the tacking, pull the top corners of the back bodice in tighter, and restitch.

Alternatively, if you feel that's it's too tight across the back you can unpick the tacking stitches and sew with a smaller seam allowance to get the desired fit.

Making a toile

As Romy is made from knit fabric, it's not totally necessary to make a toile or muslin (hooray!). If you tack (baste) the armholes, shoulders and back ties, if you're adding them - as discussed in the above section - then you'll be able to get a good fit across back and shoulders.

If you do want to make a toile, make sure your practice fabric is a similar weight and stretchiness to your real fabric, as this will affect the final fit of your garment. You'll need to sew the front and back bodices, sleeves, and back ties (if applicable) together to get a good idea of the fit. Don't forget the sleeve hem will be 20mm (3/4in) shorter, the top hem 30mm (1 1/8in) shorter and the dress hem 35mm (1 3/8in) shorter once it's hemmed.

Check out Tilly's very helpful blog post for more info on making a toile or muslin if you fancy.

Romy dress - sewing pattern by Tilly and the Buttons

I hope this post, has been useful and has inspired you to get started on making your Romy tops and dresses! We absolutely love seeing your makes and progress photos so don't forget to tag us on Instagram @tillybuttons with the hashtag #SewingRomy.