I was fitted for a catwalk show yesterday. Can we talk about fittings? Yes? I thought so.

When doing wardrobe for a show of any kind -- fashion, theatrical, pretty much anything except a show heavy in dance, where costumes must actually accommodate your body or disastrous things happen -- the definition of "fit" used is typically much looser than in everyday life. Anything from "I can get it zipped if I just don't breathe too much," to "give me some safety pins, I think I can keep it from falling off" counts as fitting, for a catwalk show. You are a padded clothes hanger. You don't need to be able to live in the stuff, just get down the runway and back without dying or flashing anyone, or at least flashing anyone more than the designer intended.

The particular scene I'm in has wardrobe graciously provided by Ann Taylor. Ann Taylor (and their sister brand Loft) is perhaps a bit short on the leopard-print-and-flash that I prefer, but they do offer some very classic tailored work pieces, and this season they're actually big on bold corals and teal with their normal black/white/navy scheme. At the open call for this show, we were all required to put down our normal dress size. It's expected that you might need to size up or down a specific wardrobe piece, for length or cut, so the dress size you put down is mostly just the size you start with when yanking things off the rack to try on.

I have no idea what my dress size "really" is. The lady who measured me was... questionable at best. Her tape made my hips at almost 39", which I suppose might be right but I doubt it, but she should have been able to tell, with her unaided eyeballs, that if that were true, my waist was not going to be 35". My tape, and the calculator at Pepperberry, tell me that my measurements put me right on the edge of a high street UK8/10 (US4/6), which tallies with the way the suits at Ann Taylor were fitting.

The reason I'm using the calculator at Pepperberry is that their slogan is "Clothes designed with your boobs in mind," and they aren't kidding. Typical prêt-à-porter stuff, especially from high street retailers, is cut for a large B/small C cup, and a relatively low waist-hip difference. In order to get something that fits my hips, I'd have to size up one from what fits my waist, and to get something that fits my bust, I'd have to size up by two. This does not make for a great overall fit. If I didn't know how to tailor garments, I'd be swimming in half the things I own. They say that if you have an hourglass figure, stretchy clothes are your friend, and this is generally true; unfortunately, sometimes the stretchy clothes want to be more than friends, if you catch my drift, which is not great if you are in need of, for example, an appropriate dress for your beloved grandmother's funeral.

One of the bitchiest things I had to learn was how to tailor bras. Yes, you can tailor bras. No, I don't recommend it. Hemming stuff is beginner's work. Putting darts in the back of your work trousers is also pretty easy, especially once you start buying the things with an eye to what kind will be easiest to alter. The biggest problem is getting the needle through many layers of jeans without inadvertently shoving it backwards into your finger instead. Putting darts into blouses and nice t-shirts is intermediate-level crafting -- possible to fuck up such that it can't be fixed, but unlikely after you've tried it a time or two.

Bras don't get tailoring so much as they get reconstructive surgery. It is not for the faint of heart. I do it exclusively because I'm too broke to buy new ones, and I wear what is apparently a weird size, although it probably wouldn't be if more women wore bras that actually fit. I wear a 32DD and given that I've recently lost more weight -- NOT INTENTIONALLY, I assure you -- I should probably be in a 30E, but you try finding those at Macy's. The cups on smallish 34D and 32DD push-ups fit well enough and come up high enough on the sides, but the band is too big and the straps are usually too wide on the back. Hence, I am spending my weekend doing fussy handwork on cheap bras.

(Most of the fashion blogs I read, in fact, are done by "fatshionistas". Statistically, it's a lot more common for plus-size ladies to have the same BWH differences that I do, than it is for smaller straight-sizes. I look rather like this lady in those sorts of killer bombshell dresses, in fact, only in a slightly less awe-inspiring size. I don't have objectively enormous knockers, but they're nothing to sneeze at. This chart gives the approximate volume of the cups in any given bra size; for reference, 1cc = 1mL, and 20 fluid ounces is 591mL. Pretty substantial when compared to the 30" circumference rib cage that has to support them. A bad bra is misery -- you try hanging a pair of unsupported water bottles from your neck, and see how happy your back is at the end of the day.)

This blog gives some instructions for snipping apart and reassembling your new Frankenbra, as well as advice for re-jiggering other kinds of garments. So does this one. This one gives you a lot of pertinent questions to ask if you lack the intestinal fortitude to personally cut apart a $400 dress, and take it to a tailor instead. And this one gives you a lot of good advice on how not to buy the wrong bra in the first place -- note that the name "Castle Heterodyne", is from Phil Foglio's Girl Genius webcomic, starring Agatha Heterodyne, a lady of no small -- er, charms -- herself. Apparently she winds up in her underwear a lot because she's modeled partly on Mrs. Foglio, who has a thing for fancy Victorian unmentionables.

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