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Aug 8, 2013

Back Darts and the Risks of Overfitting



Readers, would you say this man's shirt is too tight or just right?  How much room do you think he has to lift his arms without ripping out some seams? 

There's a reason you don't see fish-eye back darts on many men's shirts.   They look best on a very broad back that tapers to a very narrow waist and then stays narrow in the hips.  Not even the mannequin below can pull this off very well (too much seat, I'd argue).



I'm not tremendously V-shaped from shoulders to waist and I have a bit of a seat and hips.  I've made shirts with back darts a few times but it's not my usual thing.



Many of you wanted me to put the back darts in the coffee ice cream-colored shirt I just made and I was curious too, so I did.



I strongly recommend putting your darts in your shirt -- provided you know how wide you want them -- before you finish your garment: it's so much easier!  I measured the length and width of the dart on the pattern very carefully and, measuring the shirt from the inside, marked the dart width from top to bottom with a washable pencil marker.



I pressed the dart length along the center and then pinned the dart shape.  The dart is approximately 1" at its widest and narrows at top and bottom to nothing.  I started stitching from the middle down and the middle up, a technique that allows me to avoid having to start stitching onto a tapered end.







I carefully pressed the darts toward the center, putting a fabric scrap beneath the dart edge so as not to make an impression in the fabric.





So here's the result.  Michael thinks the shirt looks better; I'm on the fence.  It will certainly stay tucked in my pants better, but I don't love that puddling at my lower back.  (A dark fabric magnifies every little crease of course.)







When I model this shirt with my blue cotton twill pants (which I started today), the shirt will be tucked in.  It will be interesting to see how it looks.  In retrospect, perhaps a dart that narrowed sooner from the middle down would have been better; I'm not sure.  Regardless, I'm happy with the shirt.  And it's fun to try a new (to me) pattern once in a while.

In closing, readers, have you ever gotten so obsessed with fit that you ended up without enough ease in your garment, i.e., overfitting? 

When it comes to clothes fitting slightly loose or too tight, my preference is the former, but then -- call me crazy -- I like to be able to swing my arms occasionally and sit down without my buttons popping open.

Shouldn't we be able to 1) breathe, 2) move, 3) feel comfortable in our clothes?   What's a sew-person to do?

Have a snug great day, everybody!

50 comments:

  1. I'm sure your shirt - with the darts - will look super good tucked in. In the first photo, the guy's shirt is too tight in the upper back. Fashion is definitely more body conscious these days than, say, in the 80's, which personally I like. But, you have to be carefull when you fit your garment and know when to stop. Overfitting is never a good thing and yes, it has happened to me on a blouse. While I really appreciate a close to the body fit when it's well done, I hate when the garment looks like it has been painted on the person; I see it as a sign of bad taste.

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  2. As I have aged (gracefully of course!) I like my clothes looser. I would prefer a better fit..but I would need a better body to go with it. Ha!

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  3. I agree it will look great tucked in. I tend to like things to sort of drape on my body vs being tight. However with the advent of lycra in jeans and such I love my skinnies and tighter fitting knit skirts and dresses even leaning towards body con etc. My biggest snag on button up shirts is the arm holes. THey are typically all too big and low. I can find that more restrictive than say the one shirt I have that has very high close fitting armholes that makes the whole thing fit close but is not tight and gives me full shoulder motion. Comfort is paramount to me. I will not wear it if it is not comfortable. THis does not translate too loose though.

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  4. I'm not sure I understand when one would choose to use a dart as opposed to taking the excess out of the side seams. It's always confused me.

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    1. Some of it is purely a style choice. But also, just as woman's front torso narrows beneath the breasts, a back has hollows beneath the shoulder blades. Darts can remove some of the extra fullness those hollows create more directly than narrower side seams.

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  5. I always prefer a slightly loose fit, because you know, I like to live in my clothes. But I do have to be careful I don't err on the side of too-loose, which is almost as bad for me as too tight. It's a fine line.

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  6. I see these darts as optional - and I optionally choose not to use them :)
    if you have a perfect body then they can be OK but I like clothing I feel comfortable and can move in - if I looked like the guy in the 1st pic, I'd still want the shirt a little looser as he looks scared to move.
    as you say, you don't always need them.

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  7. why do I have to sign in yet still get put as Unknown???? LOL

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  8. personally i love those darts on you. if you keep doing the things ruggy requests of me in your own sewing so beautifully, there's a real danger of me actually making him something.

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  9. Fitted clothing can be not the most comfortable to wear. If the fabric stretches it's a whole different thing. I have lots of tops from a 50's pattern of a fitted blouse and they are what I would call 'stiff' to wear, just the nature of the game for good looks but not comfort.

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  10. I think the darts look good. As for the puddling in the back, I think it is the position of the widest part of the dart not matching your natural waist position.

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    Replies
    1. I third it, and Debbie's solution below is the answer (as Debbie's solutions usually are).

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  11. I like the darts--they look great on you. I personally like fitted clothing, but can't stand anything overly tight. I'm more of body-skimming fan.

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  12. Reading all your shirt making posts has been very enlightening for me. My husband is very much V shaped, including the slim hips and small backside. This has strengthened my resolve to make him a shirt, since all the RTW doesn't skim his body the way I would like them to. I think this pattern would be a great start. Thanks for the review.

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  13. I like the darts. The shirt will probably lay better when it's not over cord shorts. :-)

    You probably know, but I thought I'd menttion anyway ... just because a dart is marked a certain width doesn't mean you have to sew it that way. Since your torso isn't as tapered, maybe less dart uptake would be a happy medium?

    I usually first sew those darts for myself *after* the shirt is constructed so I can pin fit and adjust to me since they're usually wrong for me as printed. Then I re-draw the "new" darts on the pattern so that next time I can sew them first.

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    1. All hail Debbie Cook!!!

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    2. Debbie Cook rocks. :)

      And the darts look good on you Peter. The shirt is fine either way, but I like the look of the slightly more fitted version. I would say that if you plan to tuck the shirt in, go with darts. If you plan to leave it untucked, then no darts.

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  14. I think the shirt looks better with those darts.
    The first shirt does look uncomfortable on the upper back, but mostly both first shirts are too tight in the *front*, imho. Not very classy.

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  15. I too think the darts improve the back view. But agree totally about not overfitting- especially on my rotund little self, skimming is the way to go.

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  16. The shirts in the first couple of photos are almost certainly made with fabrics that have a significant lycra content.

    I have no idea about the darts on your shirt. It seems to me that it looks fine either way.

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  17. I say that dude's shirt is too tight. I know the fashion now is for guys' shirts to be very fitted, but most men have to move in their clothes, not hold poses the way models do. Your shirt looks fine, though.

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  18. The shirt looks much better with the darts. As to fit and raising your arms, I learned years ago from a tailor that the problem with shirts that seem too tight to raise your arms is almost always because the armscye is way too low. You almost always have to raise it. Then you have a well-fitted shirt that you can move in.
    -Ellie

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  19. I think the shirt looks really fine on you, broadens your shoulders and narrows your waist. Having said that, you will sacrifice some comfort for vanity, no doubt. As far as fit, I wear two types of clothing, those that are really fitted that make me feel more attractive that I wear for short periods, and those that are less fitted that I live in. I think everyone's wardrobe needs a few fitted items. You've done a great job on this shirt, Peter.

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  20. We knew you'd come over to the dart side.

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  21. I like your shirt with the darts and it will look better when tucked into the pants. It reminds me of David Hedison on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (hubba-hubba). Not too fitted, but fitted enough to be flattering.

    The first pic is fitting gone wild. There’s a difference between fitted and sausage casing.

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  22. SeamsterEast@aol.comAugust 9, 2013 at 11:50 AM

    The darts seem to look better on you. My guess is you're getting good enough to notice they are not EXACTLY right. Just a guess on my part is the center of the darts is a little too high and a little too deep. Still, all in all a good job indeed.

    As far as the top picture goes, the guy probably put on six or seven or eight pounds since the shirt was tailored. Still, closely fitted shirts are a common overt signal these days for men (and women, too, for sure) looking for a new partner or partners. That guy also was wearing snug shorts and carried a messenger bag, a clear sign for a man of his age seeking something new. (Messenger bags are often called gigolo bags by men in their 20's and 30's, even though carried by men into their 70's who are "looking". Messenger bags have a randy, rakish, often a bit commercial nuance.) A man with a partner usually doesn't carry a messenger bag, except if he is in his mid 20's to early 30's and the bag is loaded with a laptop.

    The top picture looks a guy who is "hunting" who put on a couple pounds since he bought the shirt.

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    1. The darted shirt is so much less slovenly. Good luck learning to sew them for your own body.

      Now, as to this here messenger bag theory: It is mildly insane. I am a 45-year-old mother and professor with a hot professor husband and am not nookin pa nub at all. I carry my grading papers and laptop in the messenger bag because I look *even dorkier* wearing a backpack and I don't know what else could possibly carry all this stuff on the bike or bus trip to work. I think your theory is for 70 year olds who daydream that people born in the late 60s and younger, who are used to messenger bags, are secretly willing to leave their hot spouses and look for a 70-yr-old lover. Good luck with that! Keep daydreaming.

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  23. I think the shirt looks better on you with the darts. I think the boxy shirt style is generic - putting the darts in makes it more 'you' because you're tailoring it a bit for your body. You'll probably have to play around with the dart concept to get them perfect for you. As long as you can raise your arm to hail a cab you're good to go.

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  24. I don't purposely "over-fit" but I've had clients who wanted things so tight I wasn't sure the garment would hold together! Case in point: A young woman called me (many years ago) on a Sunday and said she needed a dress for her prom the coming Saturday. I agreed to make it for her providing she got the fabric to me by Tuesday. She brings me beautiful silk organza and charmeuse and wants a dress that is 2" wide horizontal pleats from bust to hem (strapless dress, knee length, Cathy would have loved it!). I get it made and ready for her final fitting on Friday and she wants the dress TIGHTER. I tell her that any tighter will start affecting the actual fabric i.e. seams may start to pull as she sits/dances etc and because she has chosen silk organza for the pleated overlayer she may actually rip things out. She insists. I finish everything as to her wishes, she brings her Mom Saturday morning to pick it up and Mom is horrified at how tight the dress is. We have a lengthy conversation where the daughter insists, again and again, that the dress is perfect and exactly what she wants. They take the dress and pay me with a check.
    A week later the check bounces. I call Mom. She's refusing to pay for the balance of the dress because...wait for it...it RIPPED. I ask her to bring me the dress back to see if I can repair it so she does. She hands me a dress with the back mostly torn away from one side of the zipper and the front splattered with vomit. Turns out her baby girl got drunk at her prom, threw up all over everyone and everything but lied to her mom and merely said "the dress was too tight". I could smell the alcohol on the dress (sorry for the TMI). I handed the woman back her daughter's dress and told her not only would I not be fixing her dress but I was also not going to take her to small claims court. She had bigger problems to deal with if her daughter was going to continue that type of behavior. She threatened to take ME to court for making a defective dress (?!?) so I told her to go ahead, just be sure to bring the dress to court UNCLEANED. Never heard from them again. Only commission I was never paid entirely for and only dress I've ever purposely overfitted. After that I made it a part of my contract that items that were overfit, and there would be plenty of discussion and an addendum to the original contract, would not be fixed at a later date.

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    1. Wow -- what an amazing story! I'm sorry you weren't paid for all that work though.

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    2. That is truly shabby, to go along with the daughter's nonsense and then when what you predicted would happen DID happen- to have the brass to try to make YOU the one at fault while ripping you off for your fee!! You should have been paid in full before the dress went out the door.

      That poor girl has a mother who is about as POOR a role model as anyone could possibly have.She will have PLENTY of misery in her life to make up for shafting you, that I guarantee.

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  25. OK, totally not about your shirt but there's this guy on the 11 o clock news in TO (Rob Malcolm) who wears EVERYTHING about a cm away from being ridiculously too tight (so it's all just stupidly too tight. His motto must be: Who needs ease?) I mean, I can get with minimal ease - I'm a small person with boobs! But it drives me up a freakin' wall. Furthermore, he thinks himself quite the fashion plate with his Italian suits and patterned ties (which he wears too short!). Sorry, just had to rant.

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  26. BTW, just read his crazy bio and he worked on the news in NY for a while. Perhaps you know of him?

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  27. I thought you should add darts. There's still a lot of pooling in the back. I don't know that much about fit so all I can say is that the problem should be worked out in the muslin next time, and it may take several fittings.

    A while back I posted a link to an excellent blog post by a custom shirt maker in which he explained all the complexities of trying to fit a shirt on one customer.

    I'm sure your shirt will look fine when it's well pressed and tucked in.

    I'm getting help with fitting and although I've taken lots of classes, the suggestions are different than the ones for industry or commercial home sewing patterns because I'm making a custom pattern. It would never have occurred to me to make some of them.

    Yes, I have overfitted, or more accurately, been overfitted. I was lucky enough to have access to three highly experienced people for free (they were not working together). Person 1 would do a good fit, I'd redo the pattern and make a new muslin, Person 2 wouldn't like it, and then on to Person 3...

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    1. I'm interested in this link to the post by the custom shirt maker! Would you mind sharing again? :)

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  28. Sometimes I put in a center back seam, so I can curve it and eliminate the "puddling" at the back. I think your shirt looks great.

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  29. Your shirt looks nice! I think I would do the darts if you'll mostly be wearing this tucked in, but I like the slouchier look if you'll be wearing it untucked.

    Sometimes it can be so hard to resist the temptation to overfit! After one really bad experience, I tend to err on the side of too much ease now.

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  30. If I came across this guy somewhere I would assume he was either gay or a Mediterranean type.(he could be both, of course; a man carrying a purse always set off my "gaydar" immediately until people started carrying laptops on a regular basis).

    .I often amuse myself by making assumptions about people I know nothing about other than they are standing nearby and then seeing if I guessed right.I find that the 'snap' judgements turn out to be surprisingly accurate most of the time, and that there is a definite psychic element to it as well. But I digress.

    We were talking about back darts in men's shirts. They definitely indicate someone who is extremely appearance conscious. Gay men tend towards the "extremely appearance conscious"; (let's face it; they are a fixture in the world of fashion and cosmetics.)

    So do Mediterranean men. they are well known, even legendary, for their peacockery, wearing things that no Anglo-Saxon man bent on being taken seriously as male would even contemplate, and Italian tailoring is famous all over the world.

    I would not automatically assume a man was gay because he had back darts in his shirt if he was Italian or Spanish or South American, but if he was an "Anglo-Saxon" type, I certainly would. Back darts are sort of a 'subliminal' signal that sets off the ol' 'gaydar".

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  31. All I can add after reading the post and all of the comments is that I find back darts helpful if there's is bunching in the back hollow. Your shirt looks great both ways, IMO.

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  32. I don't find back darts on a man's shirt all that useful, however that triangular hollow between the bottom of a man's ribs and the top of his glutial region can be quite sexy. Darts do emphasize that hollow, as does standing with shoulders slightly back.

    As for ease amount, I find too loose is more restrictive of movement than too tight. I find myself tripping on the extra fabric. Most of the fashions of the 90s and the new millennium have been WAY too loose for my taste.

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  33. I like the darts. My mister likes a fitted shirt. He's quite broad on top and very slim on the hips so it is very necessary to incorporate them otherwise he ends up in a tent! Thank you for the fab tip about scrap fabric under the dart before pressing x

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  34. Through all the reading I've been doing, I've finally getting a sense of what the minimum ease is for some areas in some women's garments, but I'm still having a hard time with other measurements and other fabric types (i.e. wearing ease on a calf, thigh, elbow, etc., or wearing ease on designs for knits that are body skimming vs. body fit). I'm not talking design ease, just wearing ease. Peter, have you come across any wearing ease charts for men's stuff? I'm curious if it's pretty much the same as women's, or slightly more as the sizes tend to be bigger (i.e. a percentage of measurement). I guess it's partially a matter of preference too, just like women's clothes (some women may prefer 3" at the chest for wearing ease, but others may prefer 4").

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  35. Oh finally, a sewing man!! Yey! Just discovered your blog thanks for all the infos! Good work!

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  36. hi Peter, I have visited your site twice now. I intend to start sewing with my machine as soon as I get the time.
    I have a question about darts AND suits for men. I am a black guy and have a sort of hour glass figure which means I ALWAYS have problems with off the rack clothes. (Can't afford tailor made yet....lol)
    I bought this lovely suit a while back (haven't got much use out of it) and it fitted nicely and my partner thought my generous 'seat' was accentuated in it. There was a bit of bulking even when I bought it but if I went a size up I would have had to alter just about every thing from shoulders to sleeves and the trousers would have been 5 inches too wide!
    Anyway I have become a bit more muscular in build and now the contour of my back is deeper.
    My suit still fits PERFECTLY at the shoulders, arms and front with no pulling but I have more fabric in my deeper back hollow like your pictures above. The vents do not gape surprisingly.
    Do you think darts can help pull in most of the fabric? I don't care about some level of extra fitting as I don't plan to do cartwheels in the suit and I am not bothered about being seen as gay as i am gay anyway...lol
    Cheers!

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    1. You could add darts if it's unlined. You might want to have this done professionally though. You don't want to ruin a suit!

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  37. Thanks for this. My teenage son is very slim so I am always looking for ways to streamline men's patterns.

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