My personal sewing projects have ground to a halt, because of two classes I am currently taking at City College of San Francisco. But I am not complaining; both of them have been exciting and enriching.
The Moulage is a class taught by Lynda Maynard. She is an expert in couture sewing and fitting techniques, and the author of two books: one on couture sewing techniques, and a self-published book on fit. She also has several Craftsy classes available, and I’ve just purchased her fitting class.
What is Moulage?
Moulage is a pattern-drafting system that aims to produce a skin-tight garment that fits your torso from neckline to hip, based on measurements. I am told the word “moulage” translates from the French as “mold”, a way of molding a garment to your body.
The finished moulage can be used as-is for certain types of garments, including those for knits. But typically you use it as the starting point for making patterns of other types of garments. More on this later.
The textbook we are using for the class is The Moulage, a self-published book on CD by Kenneth D. King. Maynard is a colleague and collaborator of King’s; she knows the system exceedingly well. Maynard departs from King’s instructions in minor ways, but overall the textbook is very detailed and straightforward. In class, I was often able to answer questions from the textbook before I had a chance to interact with the instructor one-on-one.
The first class was devoted towards taking measurements. The instructor demonstrated each measurement necessary to draft the moulage. We split up into groups and measured each other. My measuring partner was unsure of the accuracy of his measurements; fortunately this was not a problem as the instructor was willing to check measurements for anyone who asked.
The outcome of this process was a sheet with our individual measurements, that we would use to draft our own personal moulage. We also filled out a separate worksheet, calculating some numbers from the measurements we would use as the basis of the draft. The instructor led us through those calculations. Some students used fraction calculator apps for modern smartphones, that make the arithmetic easier to digest.
Weeks two and three of the class were devoted towards drafting the back and front pieces of the moulage, respectively. The instructor would give us a few steps to follow, we would go to our worktables and draft, then come back for more.
The back piece is the same for both men and women, but for men the draft for the front is both different and simpler. We covered both variations in class. I drafted the men’s version for myself, but took careful notes of the women’s draft for potential future projects.
You can see here in the photo the men’s front draft has some cutting and slashing work to pivot out a dart introduced on the armscye; the women’s draft has more darts and is more involved. The women’s draft basically pivots several darts into a princess seam.
After our draft was complete, our homework assignment was to sew a muslin from our moulage draft, for fitting in class the next session.
I traced out the muslin from the raw draft and added 1-inch seam allowances everywhere. The extra-wide seam allowances are for fitting purposes. My front pattern trace has an error at ceter front; the front piece is cut on fold so there is no seam allowance. The back piece is cut as two. (I caught the mistake before cutting fabric – it’s a common error to make).
The muslin has horizontal balance lines sewn as thread traces for fitting. The balance lines are crucial; the instructor would not fit muslins which did not have them.
I also traced the stitching lines with a tracing wheel and sewed directly on the stitching lines, for accuracy.
We run a zipper all the way up the back to get in and out of the muslin. It is crucial the center back line on both meets precisely at center back. To get this to work, I sewed the center back seam line with a basting stitch and pressed the seam allowances open. Then I overlaid the zipper with the teeth centered on the seam line, stitched the zipper in place with a zipper foot, then undid the basting with a seam ripper.
Our most recent class was a giant fitting and pattern alteration session. Each of us took turns posing in front of the class wearing our muslin. The instructor used the opportunity to teach us about the fit issues in each of the muslins, as well as the method to correct them.
To a fit nerd like me, this two-hour fitting session was like being in Disneyland. The instructor invited us to assess the fit before her assessment, and solicited volunteers to make the alterations.
One common alteration is adjusting the shoulder line. The shoulder line is very crucial for proper fit; once the shoulder is adjusted properly many problems lower in the garment often disappear. I would have had an easier time with my recent fitting experience if I had addressed the shoulders early on.
Another common adjustment was to add extra room to accommodate the seat. The indicator for this issue was fabric bunching horizontally across the small of the back.
A few people in the class – mostly the guys – needed no fitting adjustments to their muslin. I was one of them.
I still have to revise my moulage pattern though, due to a mistake I made in drafting; I lowered the underarm point on the front piece, and the side seam in front ended up too short compared to the side seam in back. The front is on the left in this photo.
Fortunately, with the 1-inch seam allowances this did not get in the way of fitting.
After the fitting session, the instructor showed us how to make the flat-pattern adjustments for each kind of fitting change. We saw full bust adjustments, booty (seat) adjustments, and full belly adjustments. The students then updated their moulage patterns accordingly.
The primary goal for the class is for each student to create a clean pattern draft for a moulage that fits them, as well as a fitting muslin garment. But the class has stretch goals.
The moulage by itself can be used to draft a form-fitting garment, or to make a garment from knit fabrics, which have stretch and are often skin-tight. But to be useful for other types of patterns, a sloper is created. The sloper adds wearing ease to the moulage and produces a wearable garment, albeit devoid of style.
There are multiple sloper patterns one can create from the moulage. The first is for a blouse, dress or shirt. The second is a jacket sloper; it adds more ease to the shirt/blouse sloper. And the third is an overcoat sloper, which adds more ease to the jacket sloper.
The textbook contains instructions for all three types of sloper. In class, we are drafting the shirt/blouse sloper, as well as a matching sleeve for it. It is not possible to fit a sleeve to the moulage draft, as it is too tight and creates mobility issues with a sleeve attached.
I traced off my completed Moulage pattern and followed the instructions to produce a sloper pattern. You can see both here in this photo, with the sloper having a lowered neckline, higher shoulder, and expanded side seams.
I’m currently sewing up the muslin for the sloper now and hope to fit it in the upcoming class, as well as produce a sleeve for it.
Once class is complete, I plan to adapt the shirt/blouse sloper into a dress-shirt pattern. I’m curious to see how it fits compared to the pattern I fitted to myself starting from a trace of a commercial design.