The Perfect Fit begins with a basic yet essential premise in sewing: patterns are designed to suit a set of industry-defined “average” figures, ones that very few of us actually match. This has been a problem for me ever since I first learned to sew. I loved working through a pretty new Vogue or Butterick pattern, but nine times out of ten the result looked funny on me and ended up in the nostalgia drawer, a grim purgatory for weird dresses that I couldn’t quite bring myself to take to Goodwill.
This book allowed me to feel like I finally have a handle on fit and can turn a mass-produced design into a dress that’s just for me. Which perhaps makes it sound too much like a magic bullet, so allow me to expand a little: much of the work is devoted to details, with careful illustrations and instructions for dealing with fit issues in specific sections of various women’s garments. But before you get there, the editors take you through a careful analysis of your own figure and a description of several basic topics in fit, such as how to choose a design that’s naturally flattering.
At times, these sections on understanding your figure seemed to conflate the average figure with an ideal one. References to hiding flaws tend to raise my hackles a bit; I don’t like the idea that the goal in fit is simply to make your body appear as close to average as possible. However, I think this defensiveness is best put aside while working through the book. The idea of “average” should be viewed as at worst a necessary evil and at best a pragmatic baseline from which we can tackle a myriad of bumps and wrinkles in our sewing.
The Perfect Fit is more tool than book. You can’t really sit down, read through it, and absorb a great deal of information about sewing. But it’s excellent to have close by as you begin a new project. Thin as it is, it provides an encyclopedic guide to the little problems you may encounter, the small details that can bring a dress from passable to fantastic.