Fitting Rectangular Patterns to the Modern Body

Relevant facts:

  1. I still am a very novice seamstress.
  2. I had never attempted to sew a garment before the SCA.
  3. I have the abundant hips of a modern woman who enjoys a well fed lifestyle.
  4. So much trial and error!

Several months into my SCA journey I was given a handout on rectangular tunic construction by Hanim Gulenay, OL and HE Suvia filia Heriberti.  This handout was a game changer for me.  It was clearly written and explained tunic construction and alternatives in ways that made sense to a complete novice.

With permission from Mistress Hanim, here is the handout:

RectangularConstructionforTunics

It has fantastic suggestions for fabric, the history of the pattern, as well as two patterns for rectangular tunics, a fuller one and a more fitted version.  I use the more fitted version, and most of these notes will apply to that.

 

Referring back to that novice seamstress part, a half dozen dresses later I’ve finally learned a good bit about how to measure, cut, and assemble squares to fit a very not-square body.  Here are a few notes that I hope will help:

 

Measurements

The handout gives the following graphic for measurements:

pattern

A:  I prefer a higher shoulder seam, so use a measurement that is just a little past my bra straps.  I use favorite tank tops that aren’t tight but fit well for most of my measurements.

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Measurement across the chest

B:  Because A is higher up on my shoulder, it’s important to start B from the same spot and measure all the way down to my wrist.

C:  This is the measurement that took me the longest to work out.  I was told to use my full shoulder circle, and then later to use half of that.  What I’ve learned is that “it depends”.  Generally, individuals with larger biceps and upper arms will want a larger armhole for more movement.  For me, about ¾ of the total circle works well.  I use a shirt with comfortable armholes as a starting point, and measure this way:

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Over the shoulder measurement

D:  This measurement works with C, and it’s important that they stay together.  The top of D must start where the bottom of C ends.

NOTES: This is probably the measurement I’ve played with the most to get the pattern to fit.  I’m very pear shaped, and in order to have a fitted torso but enough ease to comfortably flare over my hips, I’ve shortened this measurement to about 5.5 – 6″.  This means the flare starts higher on the sides, and affords me plenty of wiggle room, while still giving a nice silhouette.

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Measuring for the top gore

 

Page 7:  This page is where you’ll calculate the measurements for the side gores.  Do add the 4″ of ease, and don’t forget seam allowances on both sides of pieces.  Make a note of the top measurement of your top gores, you’ll need that in the next step!

Shaping the Pieces

Sleeves:  The sleeve shape is not a flat top triangle, but actually has some shaping at the widest part as well.  Like this:

sleeve shape

Begin with the arm measurement plus seam allowance and draw that line.  Add straight lines at a 90 degree angle that are the same length as the top of your upper gores.  Then angle the sleeve inward until you reach the length and width of your sleeve and wrist measurements.

Uses

I’ve used this pattern a LOT now.  For Viking underdresses, Rus over and underdresses, and even just cut the front all the way down for a perfectly fitted Ottoman coat.

Please feel free to ask questions if I can be of any help!