Let’s talk about ease
What is ease, anyway? Ease is the difference between the body measurement and the finished garment’s measurement at the same body part. But there are actually two types of ease – Wearing Ease and Design ease.
Wearing ease is the amount needed to actually wear the garment, so you can lift your arms, sit down, BREATHE etc. Some people prefer more wearing ease, for a looser fit; some prefer less wearing ease, for a more snug fit. This is strictly a personal choice. A good rule of thumb is 1-2″ of ease but more ease can be helpful if you have difficulty getting dressed or have a sensitivity to fabrics touching your skin.
Design ease is the amount given for a specific design to get a certain look. Vintage styles from the 40s and 50s often have little design ease, choosing a form fitting silhouette. Coats and Jacket have ease built in so you can wear them on top of other clothes. And some fashion shapes can be exaggerated and oversized. Big puff sleeves or balloon leg trousers spring to mind as the excess ease creates a dramatic shape beyond what you need to move in the clothes.
One last note about ease: Fabrics make a difference. Some fabrics have more give than others, so garments made out of these fabrics need less ease than others. This is especially true of stretch fabrics like jersey or knits. If your fabric is a woven with a little bit of stretch content and the pattern doesn’t call for that, you might find you can size down your make slightly.
Negative ease is when you’re using a stretch fabric with a pattern designed for stretch fabric. Here the designer has already considered the ease and will have actually removed some. Stretch fabrics have so much give that often the pattern pieces are designed smaller than your body measurements. This is called negative ease and helps achieve a close fit by counteracting the stretch in the fabric. This only works if you use a fabric with the right stretch percentage using the Pick-a-Knit rule on the back of your envelope.