On of my favorite books from my vintage sewing collection is from 1971, called “The Perfect Fit”.
It purports to be the last word you will ever need on pattern making and personal clothing design for the home sewer.
It offers an “exclusive” “Over Lay System” with “Trans-Dart” device, and between those two simple (and revolutionary) offerings, one can produce beautifully fitting fashions for every body, “while saving hundreds of dollars.”
You’ve probably never heard of this sewing revolution, but before I tell you more, let me show you one of my favorite details:
“Meat, $1.00”. Nothing says “DIY greatness” as much as an oddly repurposed grocery store price tag.
Anyway, the “Perfect Fit” system is essentially one by which a home seamstress has a series of small pattern pieces representing a variety of essential “block” or “sloper” pieces, which she will be able to enlarge into full-sized patterns using punch-out cardboard tools, conveniently provided at the end of the book.
Here are a few of the basic pattern pieces:
You see here how there are carefully angled lines at the key points of each pattern shape, and multiple radiating lines for each curved pattern line. The idea is to lay your cardboard punch-out rulers (from the back page of the book) along each line, extending out to a determined point on that ruler (guided by your body’s own measurement), make a dot on your pattern paper, and continue around until you’ve transferred all the points, one at a time, to your pattern paper. At which point you simply connect the dots, and have your own, custom, perfectly fitting pattern piece for the corresponding little drawing.
Simple, right? Deadly accurate, too, I presume. (I note that no designer uses the “Perfect Fit” system today, at least that I’ve ever heard of.) But my copy has its punch-out rulers all intact, and I admit the process intrigues me:
I’ve always wanted to try it, but I like my tools all neatly held together with their paper tabs.
In spite of its failure to deliver on “easy to understand sewing techniques”, the book does offer a good number of basic pattern drafting techniques, and does lay out some good basic design fundamentals, providing simple shapes and then good advice on things like how to move darts, or convert a bodice to princess seams. The best part, though, is that it provides good templates of basic clothing (dress, blouse, pants, skirt) and then neat line drawings of many ways those shapes can be customized by adding different sleeves, collars, pockets, belts, lengthening and shortening hems, and choosing different weights and styles of fabrics.
(It even has a section on using these basic pattern pieces as guides for designing knitted or crocheted garments.)
While the “Over-Lay system” may not be the most practical way to get basic block pattern pieces to perfectly fit your body, the fundamental idea is still true: with a library of block patterns for proper-fitting basics, a home sewer could, indeed, create an endless wardrobe of choices, “as beautiful and fashionable as the latest Paris, London and Rome originals you see in the leading fashion magazines.”