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Was not about hula hooping but that would have been fun, right?

My brother texted me last week while on vacation with my family. “Let’s plan a Skype date. I want to talk to you about a cool business idea.” I didn’t know if this was the booze talking but I agreed. I was worried but he assured me, “I really have a solid business idea that I want to talk about. Brother to sister.” Yeh, right.

Our Skype date happened two days later, on Monday night, and it started by him outlining his observations about women and their wardrobes. He expressed how women have so many clothes yet only they only wear a handful of them and that’s because of poor fit. Duh. This was not news to me. He continued. He recently purchased a made-to-order suit from an online retailer, Indochino, and as part of the ordering process, he was required to take several measurements. They supposedly input his measurements into a system and, poof, a perfectly-fitted pattern was made just for him. He didn’t use the word poof – I added it for effect. Then came his business idea. According to him, an algorithm exists, which would be based on a set of unique measurement, that would create a perfect pattern for any shape and he wanted me to come up with the algorithm. Do I look like Nikola Tesla?

Remember what Jackie said yesterday in her interview? She said that the difference between making a pattern by hand and making a pattern by computer was that the former was more couture, custom made, and bespoke. “A body is not perfectly proportioned – one arm is longer than the other, one hand is bigger than the other, and one side of the body is fatter than the other. You can account for a body’s quirks with hand drawn and drafted patterns. But in the computer, the pattern has to make sense and everything has to be equal – the left has to equal the right and the right has to equal the left,” she said. No computer or algorithm can create a perfect pattern. What the computer can do though is create a generalized pattern, by which I mean a pattern that has been made to fit many sizes by removing the curves, scoops, and odd shaping that would make it unique to one person. From there, the pattern can be altered again to fit a unique set of measurements. I’m guessing, but I am not sure, that this is how Indochino works. It has a set of block for different shapes and silhouettes (think of jeans – it has a pattern for a boot leg, straight leg, wide leg, etc) and when a customer purchases a suit and sends their list of measurements, it matches their measurements to the closest pattern. From there, their pattern makers adjust the pattern to fit the particular customer. In any case, the perfect pattern did not just appear from a formula.

Yes, a formula exists for a perfectly fitted and sewn garment but that equation can’t be done with a calculator – someone’s hand has to play a part in it. A calculator can perform simple additions and subtraction in the equation of a garment but a mind’s common sense and hand must finish it.

The other thing about pattern making and sewing is that there are so many factors that go into making one article of clothing. The pattern, the fabric, the trims, the interfacing, the thread, shrink percentage, stretch percentage. These are only some of the variables that equate to a garment and the variables change from garment to garment. No computer can take into account all these factors. Again, a human brain and common sense have to be involved for 2+2 to equal 4.

James ended our Skype date by saying, “Seriously, think about this. I really think it’s possible.” I hate to be pessimistic, dear brother, but I think it’s a lot more than you think. Your dream and visions are admirable, just like Jay Gatsby, but I have to be the Nick Carraway in this situation – realistic.


  1. Reply


    Isn’t this sort of what Lekala patterns does? Although I’m not sure how well it works, I haven’t tested them myself. They use only a few measurements.

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      I’m not familiar with Lekala but I’ll look into it.

  2. Reply


    Pattern software tries to do this too, but as a user of one I still take what it generates from the automatic part into it’s CAD editor to roll sleeves, smooth joins in side seams at the armscye and neck, move style lines on occasion to suit my short self or trace a shape from a digitized drape I’ve done..like that wavy back waist seam that takes 3 darts because of back high hip fluff. The software got me 85% of the way and has given me far better shoulder fit than RTW, but it can’t do everything little thing. I should also add, even though there is very good tech support, the best result comes from those who have learned their fit needs and have interest in pattern drafting. Not for fitting beginners IMHO, although there’s always some that are lucky to work with generated drafts with no tweaks. < : )

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      Perfectly expressed – the computer can only get you so far.

  3. Reply

    Kenneth D. King

    I’m with you on this. I learned patternmaking from my teacher Simmin (pronounced Simone) who studied at the Ecole Guerre-Lavigne in Paris in the 1960’s. We learned a draft called the moulage, which was used to make a custom dress form. Drafting by hand is the gold standard precisely for the reasons you stated–the body has subtle (and not-so-subtle) asymmetries, and you need to factor in the variables of movement and peculiarities of fabric. Accommodating this is really possible when drafting by hand. So, you’re right to be pessimistic about finding an algorithym.

    Men are easier to fit, and that’s why it’s more successful for us. Perhaps that’s why he had a good result and is so optimistic.

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      Great point about men being easier to fit. You’re absolutely right – that’s probably why my brother had a lot of success.

  4. Reply


    I find this really interesting. Right now the technology doesn’t exist in a perfect form but we are getting pretty close, in fact even leap frogging what your brother describes. I think we will be amazed at where technology takes us over the next ten years in virtual technology and augmented reality. I have been lucky to work with some leading edge technology in this space and it is really exciting. Watch this space I say!

  5. Reply


    This sort of thing has actually been a programming project of mine for the past few months actually.

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      what? I’d love to hear more about it.

      • Reply


        I’m close, I just have a few more things to work out. Hopefully I can pull it off.

  6. Reply

    Latrice Smith

    I am right on board with you.

    I think this system works fine on men but I don’t think it would be great on women. I think it might end up being the same fit problem, especially if they are using a block in the end. Will the block still be based off of a B cup? My chest/full bust measurement probably won’t be the same as some else. I have a small back with large chest, and someone else with the same measurements as myself might have a wide back with small chest. In order for this to work well enough, the system would have to get really detailed measurements and your average consumer is not going to want to take that kind of time.

    I know when I made my own block, it got a little wacky, so I had to be a little creative and then make a muslin to get a great fit. So yeah, I dunno.

    eShaki.com does customized clothing, I have not used them but I am curious how good the fit would be.

  7. Reply


    I wish that I knew more about computer pattern drafting. But I think if there was a magic algorithm for pattern drafting, someone would have discovered it by now…

  8. Reply

    Natasha Estrada

    There is actually a Russian company that does this. Lekala as mentioned below. If you order directly off their Leko-Mail site as opposed to the Lekala for americans site it takes your 4 basic measurements Bust Waist Hips and Height plus some non metric data like high/low bust to create a data string that you use to order patterns. I’m a hefty hideaway girl and the patterns for me have been spot on and saved me a bunch of time and effort. The downside is the site is not that user friendly though the patterns work out to be about 50c-$1 each so cheap as chips.


    Levi’s used to have custom fit jeans years ago I got a pair but the fitting process was essentially they measured you and then you tried on a sample pair since they had about 500 pairs in each hip/waist combo and then they just measured the length so not that sophisticated.

    The algorithm wouldn’t be so much of a problem as the measurements. I had an instructor who developed such a thing for a body armor company so they could make custom fitted bullet proof vests for female police officers. But that was for one garment/style.

    Men are lovely in their ambition no?

    • Reply


      Lekala’s ideas are good, but I do think they need to fine tune much more. If a woman is busty, the front width will be different than back. But their pattern increase the width in both front and back, as they don’t ask for separate front and back width measurements.

      • Reply

        Natasha Estrada

        Actually they do. I would recommend them if they didn’t. But you have to order through the leko-mail site using the data string which enables you to enter 11 more pieces of information including whether your boobs sag or not and the last thing on the list below is the width of your chest. So they don’t need to fine tune you need to use all the tools they offer you. I stand behind my statement that I can cut and sew a pattern from them without alterations and I am VERY busty.


        As I said before getting a perfect fit requires you using the original leko-mail site not the one for americans.

        • Reply


          Natasha, Thanks for your very helpful reply. The only Lekala pattern I tried was a free one offered on their American site based on 4 measurements. Maybe that’s why mine didn’t work. I was really bummed and didn’t pursue those patterns anymore.

          Now I’ll give them another try using the site you gave. Thanks again!!

          • Kayoticsewing

            I should have read your original post completely before I jumped to reply why Lekala doesn’t work for busty people. I stand corrected and I apologize.

          • Natasha Estrada

            No worries. I always assume that most people have used the other ones since the site I use isn’t so user friendly but it does give you more options and styles and also its a lot cheaper than the already cheap lekala.co site. For a size 22W lady the leko-mail site gives me options I never had before.

  9. Reply


    You’ve got me giggling. He sounds like my brother, who is always coming up with wacky ideas and expecting me to work some serious magic. Lol

    I don’t have any experience with using pattern software but I remember talking about this very topic a while back with a friend whose father runs a local jeans manufacturer. Computers are great for RTW but a custom fit demands a human’s touch. Regardless, I do wonder if technology will surprise me and prove me wrong in a decade or so, as it has done in the past.

  10. Reply


    I’m sure in 10 years 3D scanning pattern and fit technology will blow our minds. But then, where’s the fun in that for patternmakers? I love both the math and the intuition of it. I loved your interview with Jackie, too ;).

  11. Reply


    What a great concept but does not sound possible. For instance, my company has been sewing outfits for models for our video content. One model to my surprise had the exact same bust hips and waist measurements as me so we are the same size pattern however she has a larger cup size and is half a foot taller than me. I think any algorithm would still put us in the same size and shape due to our measurements but we both start with the same pattern and have to make several adjustments. Not to mention hair color, skin, color, eye color, personality, etc all alter how certain garment ‘fit’ a person so I imagine it would work well for some but others will still have the same problems.

    xx Lorelai

    Seams Unbiased

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