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The Goldilocks of Garment Fit: How to Handle a Sample That's Too Big or Too Small

Ever received a clothing sample that looked more like a sack of potatoes than your dream design? You're not alone. Achieving a perfect fit from the get-go is rare, but this guide will help you navigate those early stages of prototyping for apparel development.

What are the “Goldilocks” Stages of Apparel Development?

Just like Goldilocks searching for the "just right" porridge, getting to a perfect fitting sample takes time. And until you reach that phase, you’re going to receive garments that are either too big or too small. In apparel development, the likelihood of a first prototype fitting flawlessly is slim. But as you progress through fit and development rounds, the fit should get closer to ideal.

Facing a Sample That's Too Big? That's a Good Thing!

Here's a surprising fact: When it comes to fit samples, a garment that's slightly too big is actually preferable. Why? Because it's easier to take in a larger piece. By pinning and marking the excess fabric, technical designers and pattern engineers can see exactly how much needs to be removed to achieve the desired fit. This translates to precise adjustments in the flat pattern, which is the blueprint for the garment.

But What About a Sample That's Too Small?

Alternatively, a sample that’s too small has no fabric to pin out! So we end up slashing and cutting our garments to try and measure the additional ease we’ll need to add for a better proto next time. But if you’re working with stretchy fabric, this can be extremely difficult to gauge correctly.

On top of that, squeezing a tiny sample onto your mannequin can be a struggle and might prevent you from accurately assessing the fit. Because of all these factors, we suggest that you "fit down" a size, instead.

Here's how best to handle a too-small sample:

Fit on a Smaller Size Model:

  • If you have a smaller size fit model available, fit the sample on them instead.

Fit Down and Grade Up:

  • Take note of how the garment fits the smaller model. When writing your feedback, treat the garment measurements as if they belonged to that smaller size and then use your grade rule to request the correct size at the next stage. You'll also need to grade up your measurements, which means proportionally increasing the size of the pattern pieces to create the desired correct size at the next round.

Bonus Tip: When in Doubt, Leave Ease In

Especially during early stages, it's better to err on the side of ease. This refers to the extra space built into a garment to allow for movement and comfort. If you're unsure about removing too much fabric,  leave a little extra. This gives you wiggle room for adjustments in later prototypes.

By following these tips, you'll be well on your way to achieving the perfect fit for your garment, and it will quickly diffuse frustration when you receive a sample that doesn’t fit.

Want to see a demo of how hard it can be to get that "too small" garment on the body, and why we suggest running your fitting this way? Head over to our YouTube channel to check out this week's full video:

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