Zeroing In On Zero Ease

The biggest challenges I faced making the Gertie Bombshell Dress proved to be emotional and psychological. I really, really struggled to come to terms with the zero ease required for the bodice.

What’s zero ease? Usually an item will have a certain amount of ease in it. A skirt has ease so that you can sit down. A top has ease so that you can lift your arms. Patterns may tell you how much ease an item should have. But in the case of the Bombshell Dress, Gertie told us that the bodice needed to have zero ease so that this bustier corseted dress would stay upright on our bodies without gaping.

I had to make two toiles of my bodice to get the fitting right. Just a few millimetres can make all the difference between perfect, snug, too tight or too loose. I also found it difficult to judge how one layer of calico in the toile would translate into the fitting on a final item that would include lining, underlining and batting in the cups. Wouldn’t, you know, things be different?

Finally, I started cutting into the fashion fabric and making the dress. All the way along, my heart would flutter with anxiety, my head screaming, It’s going to be too small! It’s going to be too small!

How ironic that the bodice DID end up being too small, but that was mainly because I’d decided to give my dress a generously lapped zipper (because Gertie had) and I thought my fitting could magically accommodate a similair generous lapped zipper. (Because I subconsciously want to BE Gertie, I suspect. But sewing crushes are a whole other blog post. We all have them, right?)

My panic came from the fact that I’ve spent most of my life trying to hide my body beneath loose layers. When clothes shopping, I’d automatically grade up a size. I need a size 12? Let’s buy it in a 14, then. Just to be on the safe side. (I had to really train myself out of that habit and it can still be an issue in my sewing.) Never, ever have I owned a dress with boning or one that has built in cups. I mean, it’s just not me!

It’s come as quite a surprise that this dress looks kind of flattering. It’s not perfect, but it’s been a labour of love. However, I could be the person cowering in a corner, arms crossed over my body, on our Bombshell Meet Up. Humour me. Once I’ve had a cocktail or two, I may take off my coat and open the door to body confidence!

Waiting To Be Opened

Have you had similair emotional or psychological issues with fitting? Or have you fitted clothes to others, struggling to interpret issues that your client doesn’t even know how to vocalise? I’d love to hear.

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20 Responses to Zeroing In On Zero Ease

  1. Suzy says:

    I am on the small/ petite size and zero ease like on the bombshell made me a bit uncomfortable in the bust department. Even with the padded cups I’m as flat as a boy.

    You look fantastic in your dress and I so look forward seeing you gorgeously in it!

  2. Stevie says:

    I totally get this I always religiously make in a size larger than I am and take in. I have a phobia of things being too small! My Bombshell dress is still in fitting stages and its driving me crazy! I am purposely going to make it smaller so that I can wear it at Christmas and slim into it!
    Your dress looks fab! I bought the boning for mine today eek it looks scary!

  3. Elizabeth says:

    Oh, I totally empathize with you on the zero ease issue. And I think you look absolutely smashing in your dress. Wear it with zero ease pride my friend. You totally rock it out of the park.

  4. Abby says:

    I actually have the opposite problem! I have a cup size that is way larger than average compared to the rest of my body, and clothing that is too large and/or blousy tends to make all of me look as big as my bust. I always buy and make patterns by the measurements, then try it on and decide I hate all that ease (because of the afformentioned clothing dilemma), and take it in too much. I spend all day in my me-made clothes trying not to breathe so I don’t burst the seams!

  5. thornberry says:

    Your dress looks wonderful, but I do hear you on zero ease! I am very tempted to do Gertie’s class and make a bombshell dress – it would be SUCH a great learning experience – but at 43 years old with a thick waist, am I likely to ever wear it? I doubt it – which is what has held me back from taking the class.

  6. Vicki Kate says:

    Eerk! The thought of zero ease is scary! I can see the Goddess that is Gertie’s point though about it needing to be snug to keep everything up! And I join you in that sewing crush, but can I add Casey, Sarai, Zoe, Miss P, Debbie, Tasia and her Royal Selfishness to my crush-list? I wish I could sew and style the way they can!

  7. Joolz says:

    I haven’t yet made anything with zero ease, but it has taken me more than four years to start making clothes that really fit me because I was making everything “comfortable”. I made a skirt yesterday and when I tried it on it was a little big in the waist and I was tempted to leave it because it was comfy, but after taking it in it looks so much better.


  8. Lucy says:

    The problem with zero ease is that you can’t gain or lose weight. At all.

    As for fitting, I’m still revelling in the concept of being able to sew and thus have clothes that fit. I’m 6 foot tall with D/DD-cup boobs, major swayback, and a 0.7 waist:hip ratio, RTW ‘fit’ has been a laughable concept. I generally ended up buying size 16 tops so I could use the ease as length. Needless to say, it never quite worked.

    • Lucy says:

      And the point that I was trying to make but never got round to is that having fitting/ potentially fitted clothes has given me more confidence, not less!

  9. Pingback: Sewing Hero Worship « VickikateMakes

  10. Marie says:

    Zero ease sounds really scary, so I’m not surprised it was hard to get your head around. But I still maintain that you look stunning in your Bombshell dress and you have nothing at all to be self-conscious of!

  11. lazystitcher says:

    Okay, add one more terrifying thing to the bombshell project! As it is, I’m thinking that the bodice is going to wind up as some sort of brooklyn bridge style engineering, being plus-size and busty then you go and throw zero ease in there. Still as you say the techniques are worth it from a learning perspective.
    On a different note, blogging has helped hugely with how I feel about my body. Things like, I used to avoid being in photos but the process of documenting finished projects allows me a bit more objectivity in an area that is so highly emotional and personal. I know I’m bigger than a lot of sewing bloggers and I’m certainly not above editing out the really unflattering takes but before blogging I wouldn’t have admitted my size to my closest friend and now I’m happy to include my measurements in a fitting post. With all the calculations and alterations to achieve a good fit the measurements are just numbers – they begin to lose their meaning and (forgive the pun) weight.
    The bigger issue that sends me running for looser clothes is physical comfort – I just hate feeling restricted – this is why my work wardrobe consisted of plenty of fitted dresses…. all made from double-knit!
    p.s. fair warning, you’ll have to lose the coat on Saturday just so we can all ooh and ahh over the details.

    • You make some great points about how sewing makes the numbers on the tape measure become meaningless. I love that about sewing! I’m really pleased you’ve gained confidence in this way. Yay – can’t wait to see you!

  12. Your dress looks great! The thing I’ve found about fitting is that my body turned out to be a different shape to what I’d thought it was all my life. I don’t know how it is you can look in the mirror and not see what’s really there for years. Baffling.

  13. Felicity from Down Under says:

    We’ve all been there, being hypercritical of ourselves but perhaps more accurate about how others look. Trust what we’re telling you: the dress looks fantastic and you look fantastic in it. The colour and cut are really becoming.

    So my story of woe? I used to think I didn’t have a figure that could wear close-fitting garments, even in the days when I did (you know, my late 20s and early 30s). I was self-conscious about my arms (they weren’t really that big). It’s true that I’ve always had big thighs and a big backside. (Family failings both; and sorry, backside is what we call it here.) I made a lovely dress to wear to a family wedding (because I couldn’t find anything RTW that fitted, I liked and could afford) then got a fit of self-consciousness and covered it up with a fake-fur jacket (I still have it if you want to borrow it for the party, LOL)! The day turned out to be cooler than expected so it wasn’t quite as silly as it might have been, but it wasn’t the glam look I’d been hoping for. I couldn’t tell you now if I was ashamed of the way the dress looked (gee whiz, I’d made it myself and reasonably quickly) or the way I looked in it (oh, those bare arms), though I suspect there were elements of both.

    There’s also that notion of wanting to be able to breathe. It’s kind of essential when you’re a singer, so my personal inclination to opt for looser garments or those made of knit fabrics (or something with a bit of give, anyway, rather than closely woven fabrics) is practical as well as coming from the same corner as lazystitcher. We want comfort.

    Sorry to be rabbiting on, but it’s perhaps also true that females are not encouraged to be proud of the way they actually look. Whether we’re well endowed or not endowed with much at all, we feel self-conscious because we don’t look the way we think we ought to look, the way advertising media tell us we should look. Huh. This is something about which I feel quite strongly,because I have never – and I mean that – looked “fashionable” in terms of the shape nature bestowed on me.

    All right, I’ll stop before I get too hot under the collar. Wish I was going to be at that party with you! I’m sure you’ll have a great time, all of you

  14. Tanit-Isis says:

    Although I’m not a proponent of loose, unfitted garments (I don’t have much figure, it needs all the help it can get 😉 ) I go through that “OMG this is NEVER GOING TO FIT” phase in about every other project. Including, weirdly, ones I’ve made over and over again, like my jeans. Which leads me to conclude it’s not a rational thought but mostly a response to a particular stage in the construction process.

    And your bombshell is da bomb. Seriously.

  15. Law says:

    I’ve never really been able to wear loose fitting clothes on my top half, as like Abby my bust size is way bigger proportionally than the rest of me, so tunics look like tents on me! As such I’ve grown to not feel self-conscious about showing my upper figure, just because it’s hard to hide big boobs anyway! Funnily enough though some girls have pointed out if an item of clothing makes my bust appear more prominent than usual, and I’m never quite sure if it’s a criticism or compliment. I mean it’s not like I can do anything about it is it?!

    However bottom half wise I never wear tight pencil skirts or skinny jeans, and tend to wear long tops that cover my bum anyway. I know I need to be adventurous and make a pencil skirt or something, but in a weird way I think that if I cover my bum in something tight it makes it look bigger than in something loose!

    So really I have two completely opposing perspectives on my upper and lower body, which is confusing and illogical.

    I think its good you’ve made something out of your comfort zone. It’s clearly stirred up thoughts within you, and it’s interesting to read other peoples perspective on figure revealing clothing.

    Please, really do believe us when we tell you that you look fabulous in your dress, because you really really do.

  16. Jane says:

    What a great post, with some really interesting comments. It was Lazystitcher’s comments that resonated the most with me. I totally agree that the process of documenting how you look and what you wear through blogging has really helped me gain confidence: before I started blogging, there were very few photos of me from the past 10 years as I hated seeing myself. Blogging and making my own clothes has really helped with that, especially taking part in MMJ and putting up a photo every day! The comment about tape measure numbers becoming meaningless in sewing is also very true. I use to get very hung up about sizing but don’t even think about it now.
    Your dress is truly a work of art Karen and you look so beautiful in it on your blog, I know it’s going to look even better in real life. Can’t WAIT to see you and everybody else on Saturday! xx

  17. Paola says:

    Zero ease to me is daunting for a few reasons, but the biggest one not being able to eat or drink (or is it only me who seems to expand in their clothes at social occasions), and the prospect of once one has eaten or drunk, not being able to breathe! Feeling uncomfortable in my clothes at any time makes me head for the nearest exit and the comfort of my trackie-daks.
    I do admire you and your work in the Bombshell, though!

  18. Erika says:

    Like Law and Abby I’ve had the opposite problem: a bust that is a bit out of proportion. Any RTW will have the problemof either being too tight around the bust or being too loose around the waist. As the second version makes my waist disappear and make me several sizes larger, but most importantly removes all my curves, I’ve usually bought things a bit too tight around the bust. Only works with knits and stretch though… A RTW wiggledress is a complete impossibility.
    As I’m used to things being a bit too tight around my bust and my hips (oh yes, plenty in that departement too…) I tend to overfit and needs to constantly remind myself to not “fit away” the ease of movement! Sitting down is a practical move to be able to do.

    I hope your night out cured the doubts you had about venturing outside in your gorgeous bombshell dress!

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