Welcome back to our behind-the-scenes series on the development of the infamous, legendary and much-anticipated Cashmerette blazer. No pressure, guys! 😀
Well, since our last check-in, we got to a crucial stage in our pattern development: the first testing round. Since we completed our last muslin, we made some final tweaks (you can read about them here), and then prepared the pattern to send it to test.
Testing is a ton of work both for our Cashmerette team and for our testers. We have to develop the pattern to the same level as we would for launch (that means all the dotted lines are there for the different sizes, all the labels etc. are done, all the print at home PDFs are created and so on), and get the instructions ready too. The instructions are done in a simple Word/PDF format, not fully graphic designed – that’s because we usually make lots of changes post testing (otherwise, what’s the point of testing?!) and we don’t want to have to re-do a lot of layout work unnecessarily.
We reached out to a selection of testers across our size range, and we also asked them to split into two groups, wovens and stretch, so that we could assess the fit on both. The testers were given several weeks and were paid for their time and fabric usage. They provided amazing detailed feedback for us, which is truly invaluable. Thanks in advance to some of our testers for agreeing to be (headlessly) featured in this post!
Testing is an interesting beast as it’s 100% inevitable that the pattern will not fit all the testers perfectly, or even well. How could it, given we all have SUCH different bodies? So what we’re going for is a “decent average”. If everyone has the same issue, then that’s definitely going to be changed. But if some people find sleeves too short and some find them too long… well they might just be right then. As you’ll see a lot of interpretation has to go into the process.
So let’s get on to it!
Testing results: Stretch Fabric
Let’s look first at the blazers made from stretch fabric – which you may recall, was the original intention of the pattern. We ask testers to not make any changes to the pattern beyond grading between sizes, or shortening/lengthening. That way we have a much better chance of accurately assessing the fit.
Here are the fronts of the stretch blazers:
As you can see, the lemony one looked pretty fab! The other two also fit reasonably well, but the proportions looked off. You can also see the welt pockets for the first time here!
From the side:
We could see some tightness here, and the front was coming up at the front for two of them.
The backs were not too bad, but too wide across the upper back.
Testing results: Woven Fabric
As I mentioned, the pattern wasn’t originally planned for woven fabric but we thought we’d test it to see how it did. And the answer is… mixed?!
Here are the woven blazers from the front:
Immediately you can see there are more fit issues, including major twisting in the sleeves (although interestingly only on some people, not on others), too little ease at the waist, and too wide at the upper chest. The button is also too high (especially given we are drafting for big boobs).
Here they are from the side:
Again, some sleeve fitting issues, and pulling up on the front on some.
And from the back:
That extra width at the upper back is evident again.
Changes made with the testing feedback
The next step is that we briefed our pattern drafter with the proposed changes, as well as consulted with her for her opinion (she has a lot more experience at this than we do!).
Here are the changes we made:
- Lengthen the blazer by about 1″, doing it at the upper torso
- Reduce the upper chest width and shoulder width
- Increase the waist width (and rebalance with chest)
- Address the sleeve twist (this turned out to mostly be an armscye issue!)
- Increase the lapel width for a better proportion
In addition, the testers found a range of issues in the instructions, which we addressed. In some patterns (especially the easy ones!) it’s usually just a few typos, but on something as complex as a semi-tailored, fitted blazer, inevitably there were a few more.
Post-test muslin with changes
Once our drafter made those changes, it was muslin-making time again in the studio! Making a blazer muslin takes FOREVER but luckily our new Pattern Development Manager Julie was able to tackle this one in the quiet time between Christmas and New Year.
So here’s the revised muslin on our team member Ayelet! (she’s a 14 G/H to a 16 waist/hip):
So much better, no?! We were very pleased! The length and proportions look much better, the princess seams are looking ace, the lapel looks good, and significantly less twisting in the sleeve. We’ve found that depending on your shoulder rotation there is zero to some sleeve twisting – so this is something where we have to find a good “average”.
That said, we still wanted to tweak a few things:
- The waist was still a bit tight, especially when the blazer is done up, so added an additional 1″ there (this is also really influenced by having big boobs – for a smaller cup size, the waist might be OK).
- Lowered the welt pockets by 1/2″ for proportional balance
- Any other changes that could decrease the sleeve twist any more.
And it’s back to testing again!
Depending on how the test goes for a pattern, sometimes the changes are sufficiently minor that we just proceed with the rest of the steps to take a pattern to market, but sometimes we have to re-test.
In this case, given the blazer is so complex but also such a requested pattern, we wanted to feel confident we’ve got it right so we decided to do another round of testing. It adds a lot of time, and indeed expense (it’s a 5 figure sum to test each time in testing fees!), but we want to see if our changes worked for everyone, and know that the pattern is going to be a hit.
So right now, the team is working on checking the revised post-post-test pattern, and then we’ll be processing it, updating the instructions, and we are aiming to go to test again by January 22 (fingers crossed – we’re also working simultaneously on a lot of other things!). We’re also starting to plan our photoshoot in advance – we can’t make samples until we’ve done the next round of testing and confirmed the fit is right, but we can start planning (and buying) our fabrics and styling! I’ve just got one word for you: FUCHSIA! And, I’m fondling all the Harris Tweed. I will not apologize.