Sew You Want to Know How to Style With Ease?

In the context of fashion and sewing, ease is a pattern making factor used to allow extra fabric so that a garment will not be skin tight. If a pattern were drawn to your precise measurements, you would find simple movements difficult, if not impossible. This is why some simple wearing ease is allotted to every sewing pattern, unless intended for stretch fabric, which provides easy built right into the fabric by the stretch itself.

How much extra fabric should be enclosed and where should it appear? That will vary by the pattern making company and the slopes (combination of basic pattern making blocks) that they use. If the pattern making company features patterns by high profile designers, the designers would probably insist upon using their own slopes rather than the pattern company's. Styling from blocks which already include their specific cut helps to achieve the "look" that the designer presents.

Designers may use more (or less) ease from what is comfortable for you or what is preferred in a given demographic of time, location and culture. But,

  • How can you determine the amount of ease that a designer pattern has?
  • Does the pattern company use this designer's preferred amount of ease for other patterns?
  • How much ease do they add?
  • Where do they factor it in?

The question of how much and where ease is included can be more confusing each time you ask. A designer may zealously guard this information so that it is not easy to copy her or his distinct styles.

Does this mean that you should start with a skin tight pattern drawn to your exact measurements then decide how much ease you prefer at each measurement location and others?

That is one way to do it, but going to that extreme is tedious and discouraging. However, if you knew how much ease was allotted and where , you could be in more control of the shapes of your pattern pieces and your sewing projects. Imagine if you could easily change the amount of ease at any given location whenever you wanted. (Many computer generated patterns enable you to do just that!)

Now, picture yourself in a dirndl (gathered) skirt made with soft rayon fabric and a rectangular, stiffened waistband. A dirndl skirt could have been created using simply a rectangle of fabric that is gathered at one end. But, would not you prefer less extra fabric at your waist than at your hip?

That could present a problem in both comfort and appearance, but there is one solution that is actually quite simple. Use a fitted skirt sloper (aka block, seamless master pattern, or fitter), release the darts and then add extra space for crosswise ease (at waist and hip) and lengthwise ease (finished skirt length) according to your personal preference.

How do you determine your fullness preference? If you currently have a favorite dirndl skirt, you could measure it for length and at the waist, hip and hem and then compare these measurements with your fitted skirt sloper. The amount of difference between your skirt sloper and the skirt that you are measuring is the amount of ease that had been added.

But, what if you do not currently have a dirndl skirt to measure and compare with your skirt sloper? Perhaps you can try on a skirt that you see in a store and measure it to compare with your sloper later. This kind of observation can be very helpful for pattern making decisions. You might want to consider carrying a notepad and measuring tape when you go shopping, for taking notes about garments that you admire. Consider this as your fashion research.

Be sure to add finishing details to your new pattern as for any other pattern – eg seam allowances, hem, and opening / closure. You could add variety and more patterns in the same way by using different amounts of ease at different locations, starting with the same sloper each time.

To take this a step further, you might use similar amounts of ease in similar locations on other slopes. This strategy could have been quite effective in planning a coordinating outfit.

That is how you can style a variety of personal garments by simply varying the amount of ease in the patterns that you create from a personal sloper.