I have been recieving a lot of inquiries about the pattern numbers I reference when I post about finished garments. The pictures I take don't look the same as the garment pictured on the envelope. I know. There is something really, really important to consider when picking a tissue pattern-- the pictures that many of the major pattern companies use for their patterns LIE. And worse than the photographs, are those colourful illustrations used to back up the untruths. So what do you do? How in the world do you decide what to sew? How do you find those complicated pockets or hidden facings or the fact that there is absolutely no shaping, save for a rope belt?
Here's what I do.
1. Ignore the pictures and go straight to the technical drawings. If you're shopping online or out of a catalogue, then you'll be able to look at the black and white, technical line drawings of all views of both the front and the back. You can count darts, figure out drape, and search for hidden zippers, snaps and other bits that make life more interesting. Plus, you won't be distracted by the awful/fancy/strange fabric or wierd embellishments that, taken away, make it the same pattern you already own. If you're looking at the pattern envelope, you may only be able to see the back view in line form. That's all right. The rear view can give you a lot of information.
2. Once you've figured out how this pattern works, you're going to want to ask yourself if this is something you would try on in the store. This little question has saved me from so much heartache. For instance-- "cuuuute smock top!!! Oh gosh. Wait? Where is the shaping? There are no darts. Uh, why are there gathers at the neck that flow straight down into the waist? Oh. Moving on". Other things I avoid? Full skirts that gather around the hips and waist. High necks. Wide open arm holes. But that's all me-- your Beware List might include everything that I love.
3. Check finished garment measurements. They are so important and are usually listed below the sizing numbers. This will give you the ease (give) and tell you if you're going to have room to breath or if you need to invest in some shapewear.
The way I look at patterns has changed so much in the last few years. Most of what I've been learning has been through trial and error which is good-- but often frustrating and expensive. I try to recycle my failures, but man alive, I would much rather have it come out right the first time. So-- Simplicity 2599 is a perfect example. The woman pictured is wearing a svelt tank made from rayon or something silky complete with cascading ruffles down the front. PASS. On closer inspection, the top is shaped with well placed darts and given a nice little calico (minus the ruffles), I have a shaped smock top that I can wear (and wash) every day. It's got nice, tight armholes and it's a great length.
I made one minor change-- there is a back seam that closes with a zipper. In this case, I decided I didn't need one*, so I stitched up the seam and made the facing one piece instead of two. The back seam had no shaping at all, so I drew in a long curve starting from the shoulder blades, through the small of my back, down to the hem. I only took it in a 1/2" from the original, but it made a lot of difference.
Edited with picture (click on picture to enlarge):