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For straight skirts, play from the hip

Published Oct. 10, 2005

Question: I recently heard you talk before a group of professional dressmakers and was very surprised to hear you say that you think it's best to purchase a straight skirt by the hip rather than the waist measurement. Why is this? _ Mrs. E.P., New Port Richey

Answer: It is important to remember that straight skirts hang from the hip and that the crosswise grain should be the same at the hip line as it is at the hem. This is very important to the fit of a straight skirt, which is why I would always select my straight skirt patterns according to hip measurement, not waist measurement.

This also makes altering much easier. If the waist needs enlarging, you can accomplish this by letting out the darts or adding to the side seams or both. If the waist needs reducing, first try taking in the side seams. You can take in the darts also, but remember that the more you take in these darts, the more cupping will result at the dart tip. Be sure your figure needs this extra cupping before taking in the darts.

The location of the darts at the waist of the skirt is also flexible and can be changed. If you find your figure requires darts closer to the side seams, simply move them. Shorten or lengthen them as necessary.

However the waist area is altered, you can be sure a straight skirt will hang properly if the hip area fits correctly.

What is the

meaning of large?

Question: I would like to know what the size of a blouse or sweater is when it is simply marked "LARGE." Some stores don't seem to know the real size, and I'm surprised to find that sometimes a large size is too small for me. I usually wear a size 14. _ Mrs. L.W., Philadelphia

Answer: Every garment manufacturer has a size range for its line. One manufacturer might produce sizes ranging from 4 to 14. Another will produce only sizes 14{ to 24{.

When manufacturers decide to make their clothes in small, medium or large, they divide their size ranges into three equal parts. Each size is meant to service one-third of the overall size range. Therefore, a LARGE for a company that manufactures sizes 4 to 14 would fit sizes 12 through 14. For a company manufacturing in sizes 14{ to 24{, a LARGE would actually fit a 22{ to a 24{. Unless you are familiar with the manufacturer, always check the garment for fit before purchasing.

Nap is a factor in Ultrasuede

Question: I plan to make a pair of Ultrasuede pants. Can I reverse the slacks legs on the layout to save fabric? I have been told Ultrasuede has no nap. _ Mrs. J.S., Ester, Alaska

Answer: People who tell you Ultrasuede has no nap are doing you a great disservice. It does have a nap, and you can tell this for yourself by performing a simple nap test: Drape the fabric around your neck. You'll notice that one side appears slightly darker than the other. Imagine this color variation in your pant legs _ disastrous, to say the least. So I always suggest cutting your pants with the nap.

I will sometimes cut a section off-grain or at an angle uncalled for in the layout to conserve on fabric, but I do so only with sections that will not show, such as facings or undercollars. In these cases, it's acceptable to ignore the grain. But I sometimes suspect this little "trick" has spread by word of mouth until it's being misinterpreted by some as meaning Ultrasuede has no nap.

When you are working with a fabric such as Ultrasuede, I appreciate the fact that cost is an important factor. But to ignore grain so that you need less fabric can cause you to ruin the entire garment.

Questions may be addressed to: Sew What's New, c/o the St. Petersburg Times, 4900 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64112.

Dare to flare

Washington Post

Fashion is in constant motion, whether we realize it or not, and clothes we thought were outrageous on the runway five years ago are invariably the very same things we are wearing today. Vivienne Westwood's crinolines in 1985, Christian Lacroix's poufs in 1987 _ these are the forerunners of the "new" fashion.

It can take years for an avant-garde idea to take hold in the minds of women who do not necessarily follow fashion around every hairpin curve.

This was true a couple of years ago when American designers jumped on the mini-crini bandwagon. Unfortunately women simply said no.

Now it's a different story. Five years have taken some of the flare, and fear, out of swingy skirts.