Succeed in fitting garments: books overview

Learn about fitting garments. Fix pulls, drags and excess fabric on your sewing patterns and garments.

When I first started to explore pattern design, some of the books briefly touched on garment fitting problems one may run into. As a clothing fitting is really important for quality results, I decided I needed to learn more about this issue. Although I am convinced that anything can be found online, when it comes to studying, I prefer books. So I gradually bought four books on the topic of fitting garments and in this blog post, you will find short reviews of my small yet valuable collection of publications on fitting.

The Complete Photo Guide To Perfect Fitting by Sarah Veblen

This was my first fitting book, and I bought it because of its numerous positive ratings on Amazon. Sarah Veblen starts by explaining simple fitting issues. Gradually, more and more complicated ones are tackled such as how to solve multiple fitting issues occurring on one garment. The Complete Photo Guide To Perfect Fitting mostly deals with bodice and sleeve fitting issues like princess seams, set in and raglan sleeves. The book offers little about fitting skirts and very little about pants.

I appreciate that the photos are consistent across the whole book that is the same background, and the same fabric in all fitting examples. The only issue I encountered while studying was the visibility of the seams in a few pictures. As I had a problem to find them, I was struggling with the comprehension of the instructions.

Key takeaways:

  • Drawing a horizontal line on the bodice, sleeve or skirt will help you while addressing fitting issues. This horizontal line should be parallel to the floor while making all the adjustments.
  • If multiple fitting problems occur, you should solve them in a specific order.

The Palmer Pletsch Complete Guide to Fitting by Pati Palmer and Marta Alto

On the opening of this publication, I was really taken aback. Since it is packed with people ‘dressed’ in individual parts of sewing patterns, cut out of tissue paper and pinned together, I was not sure what to think. I had expected reading about garments and fabrics, not paper. Nonetheless, I have to admit that in the end I felt the book really inspired me and now I consider tissue paper fitting very useful.

Tissue fitting is meant to help you with fixing main fitting issues without cutting the fabric first. All the necessary alterations are made on the tissue paper. These can be cutting away excess parts of the pattern, slashing the pattern piece or adding more paper to increase the volume of a specific area; the bust, hip, or waist for example. You can fix a specific amount of extra tissue paper also to prolong the pattern.

I usually tissue fit after creating a new sewing pattern or when planning to apply a pattern I haven’t used before. I cut my design fabric only after I’m sure there are no major fitting issues. This method has also many other advantages. To learn more, read this blog post.

Once the pattern is modified to fit, no significant fitting issues should occur after you cut the pattern pieces out of the fabric. Even if some small imperfections appear, you should be able to fix them with a few adjusting details.

In addition to many simple sketches of pattern modifications, this book also contains some sewing and pinning tips.

My favourite part of the book is its wrinkle dictionary. In all images, there is a summary of all individual fitting issues regarding bodices and skirts you may run into including suggestions how to solve them.

Key takeaway:

  • Tissue paper much is cheaper than fabric and is not forgiving. The paper has no bias or give and cannot stretch. A lack of space at the bust, back or under the arm for example will show immediately.
  • Pants For Real People by Pati Palmer and Marta Alto

    As the title states, this book is solely about fitting pants; no skirts, no bodices, no sleeves. I ordered this book because no other publications I had come across before provided sufficient information about fitting pants.

    This volume is by the same author as The Plamer/Pletsch Complete Guide to Fitting and utilises the same methods. It deals with tissue fitting, fabric fitting and offers a lot of sketches with pattern modifications, sewing, and ironing tips. Apart from these, it provides information about sewing different waistbands, closures, pockets and such like.

    Key takeaway:

    • The most problematic part of fitting pants is the crotch where the legs meet the torso. This area usually needs a thorough examination to decide how to make it fit nicely.

    Pattern Fitting With Confidence by Nancy Zieman

    I added this volume to my collection just because I wanted to be sure I am not missing anything on the topic of fitting. This is the only book that evenly covers bodices, sleeves, skirts and trousers.
    At first, I was not extremely impressed, but as I continued reading, I kind of started to like it.

    Its content is very well organised. For each problematic body part/measurement, there is a description of how to fix it. For example, adding or removing fullness at the waist, adding or removing fullness at hips and so on. There are no complicated patterns and pattern alterations. This publication sticks to the basics.
    The only thing I am missing in this book is some real photos, which would add much more value to this otherwise useful publication.

    Key takeaway

    • Nancy’s approach to adjusting patterns lies in pivoting the pattern around one point and sliding into a specific direction.


    I like all these fitting books. I cannot say that some of them are better or worse than others. They are just different. I would say some of them are for beginners, some for more advanced sewers (from my point of view). I have picked some aspects that are comparable and summarised them in the table below. Have a look if you consider buying a book about fitting.

    The Complete Photo Guide To Perfect FittingThe Palmer Pletsch Complete Guide to FittingPattern Fitting With ConfidencePants For Real People
    Bodice type– basic with darts
    – with princess seams at front
    – with princess seams at back
    – basic with darts,
    – with princess seams at front,
    – with princess seams at back
    – basic with darts———
    Sleeve type– set-in
    – raglan
    – set-in
    – raglan
    – set-in———
    Skirt type– pencil– pencil– pencil———
    Trouser type– slacks———– pants– trousers
    – pants
    – jeans
    Image type– photos– photos
    – sketches
    – sketches– photos
    – sketches
    Wrinkle overview———– summary at the end of the book
    – throughout the book
    – summary at the end of the book
    – throughout the book
    – throughout the book
    Level (my personal opinion)proficient (or advanced?)intermediatebeginnerintermediate

    Wrinkle overview – an overview of individual fitting issues like horizontal, diagonal, vertical wrinkles, pulls, gaping, etc. An accurate image or photo with a description why a specific issue occurs.

    Bodice type – any type of the upper garment. The modifications of the upper garment are worked out without the sleeves.

    Raglan sleeve –  a sleeve which is sewn to the bodice starting at the neckline and ending under the arm.

    Set-in sleeve – a sleeve that is attached to the bodice at the armhole. 

    Pencil Skirt – slim-fitting skirt, closest to the body.

    Pants – the crotch does not touch the body, the pants hang straight down from the derrière.

    Slacks – the crotch slightly touches the body, the slacks get narrow all the way down, but are not touching the legs.

    Jeans – the crotch touches the body and the jeans wrap the legs close to the body all the way down to the ankles.

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