Common Fit Issues in Ready To Wear Clothing

Common Fit Issues in Ready To Wear Clothing

Even if you never plan to sew clothing for yourself, this post can help you identify some common fit issues in ready to wear clothing. Knowing fit and construction quality can help you make better shopping choices and look fabulous.

Common Fit Issues In Ready To Wear Clothing

Many of you sew because of unique body shapes or simply to get the perfect fit. Ready to wear clothing is designed for a specific body type, which varies by brand. Most garments are designed for a B or C cup woman who stands about 5″4. RTW patterns are typically drafted for a size 8 and graded up and down from there. It’s the law of averages in action. Everyone has fit issues with at least some brands; and some of us have fit issues with most brands.

Selfish sewing is a different beast for me. My body needs all kinds of adjustments to get a proper fit, and I’m practicing the different techniques. I can’t say I love sewing for me; but wearing properly fitting clothing feels amazing. The first step is being able to identify fit issues.

Common Fit Issues in Ready To Wear Clothing

I bought this dress for $10. I’m realizing how expensive “fast fashion” is. If I had been paying attention to construction and fit…I’d still have my $10. Not saying the dress isnt pretty; just that it’s about what you’d expect for the price tag.

Fast Fashion: Woes of the $10 Dress. Common Fit issues and construction shortcuts in ready to wear clothing

Here’s it is a little closer. You probably don’t notice anything totally absurd yet, but let’s start with the hem. Below you will see its a serged hem, which is acceptable I suppose…French hems would’ve been beautiful though.

Cheap, 3 thread serging on a ready to wear dress. Construction issues to look for when shopping for RTW

RTW often uses 3 threads instead of 4 in the serger, which is a huge money save for a factory spitting out thousands of garments. But it does weaken the finish. Cheap clothing is designed to be worn a couple times and thrown away.

The side seams of this dress and slip are sewn together and serged which creates bulk at the hip and disrupts the drape. I could write an entire post about cheap construction methods…I’ll save it for another day. You really do get what you pay for most of the time. It’s cheaper in the long run to own a few, nicely made garments that you’ll wear for a decade than dozens of pieces you’ll only wear for a couple years.

Common Fit Issues In Ready To Wear Clothing: Full Bust Adjustment

Above you see gaping buttons at the bust. This is how almost every single button up shirt or dress fits me. Fairly often, I buy a larger size and take the side seams in. The buttons are gaping because I need a full bust adjustment, this dress is designed for a C cup. I can’t show you from the side because it’s obscene. If you’ve ever worn a blouse or dress and a button pops open, chances are you need a FBA too. The sad thing is I didn’t know it was a thing until I started sewing. I thought I was just prone to wardrobe malfunction.


See the fabric bunching up round my lower back? The fix for that is called a swayback adjustmemt. It removes extra fabric from a lower back that curves inward. You know how great celebrities look great on the red carpet? Well that’s mostly because they work out…but it also helps that their clothing is custom made for their bodies. A swayback adjustment knocks 10 imaginary pounds off when your back is curvy.  It’s practically the same thing as dieting; so I say adjust your clothing & eat cake.

Note the fabric pulling upward toward the bust at the side seams. That’s another symptom of needing a full bust adjustment. And, if you look close at the binding near my shoulder blade; you’ll see the fabric is already starting to fray. Shoddy construction!

Common Fit Issues In Ready To Wear Clothing

There’s a back to school capsule wardrobe series going on a Rebel & Malice that I  think is neat. The idea of a capsule is own fewer clothing items that are made to last and coordinate together. You don’t have to sew to plan a capsule wardrobe. Just shop smart:)

BTW- If you make clothing, you will find some useful articles about pattern adjustments and fitting on my Pattern Drafting/Tailoring Pinterest board.

Here’s a chart from Practical Dress Design. It shows various fit issues and symptoms you can look for when sewing or shopping. I found it at The Perfect Nose, where several excerpts from the book are shared. (It is no longer copywrittten.) It’s a great post to read, I’d love a copy of the book!

Common Fit Issues in Ready To Wear Clothing

Poor fitting, cheaply made garments are just one of the many costs of fast fashion. I’m not ready to sew my complete wardrobe or never buy clothes again, but I do want to be more conscience of my purchases and try to sew for myself a little more. It’s becoming a movement to simplify in this age of consumerism. Yay for more closet space!

About The Author

Amy Mayen

Hello. I'm Amy and I'm addicted to sewing. I borderline-hoard fabric, buttons, & patterns. Sometimes I wish I could pile my fabric up on the floor and just roll in it!


  1. Katys Boutique

    Ready made clothing have these issues. And this is very frustrating. Even when I made clothes from a tailor store they commit some similar mistakes. Only reputed and expensive brand clothing line don’t have such issues, or if have they do the alter absolutely free.

  2. Julie

    This dress is a beautiful colour on you, maybe once it ends it’s life as your dress, you’ll be able to chop it up and make something (with better construction) from it.
    And us less full busty girls have the same problem with the button gape – I have no idea what size person these clothes are actually made for, I usually use a safety pin on the inside layers just to keep things decent at work!
    Julie recently posted…2nd BlogiversaryMy Profile

  3. Charlotte

    Thank you for a great post! I think we need awareness around those issues. There’s nothing wrong with our bodies, but with the measures of the clothes we buy. I had quite a revelation when a friend who is a dress designer, made a dress for me. It fitted perfectly and I looked great in it :-)

  4. Gina

    I thought your dress was so pretty and a great color for you until you educated me. Well, it’s still a great color for you!!!

  5. Annie

    This post opened my eyes! I never really paid attentions to those fitting issues, and have always thought RTW fits me fine… I would try size up or down if something does not work, and did not think of adjustments needed for particular parts. But sewing to get the perfect fit is not easy! I just tried SBA on a dress I am working on, and I failed :(
    Annie recently posted…Peacock Sally Dress for Little MomoMy Profile

  6. Angela

    Great info Amy! I still have so much to learn about sewing for myself. I am working on capsules for myself and my littlest. I’m with you on less but better in fit and construction. You look great in royal blue by the way.
    Angela recently posted…Josephine Blouse and PAB Skinny CordsMy Profile


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