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Introducing the Palmer/Pletsch Tissue-Fitting Method to Apparel Design Students at Oregon State University

By Pati Palmer with Helen Bartley

It was exciting to be invited by my alma mater to speak to a class of seniors in Apparel Design. We introduced students to the Palmer/Pletsch Tissue-Fitting Method. Of course they don’t use patterns, they design their own. So we explained how commercial patterns are a tool to learn how to fit. Professors Bolanle Dahunsi and Colleen Pokorny volunteered to be tissue-fitted in front of their students.

Professors Bolanle Dahunsi and Colleen Pokorny, center, with Helen Bartley, left, and Pati Palmer, right, of Palmer/Pletsch
Helen Bartley, Bolanle Dahunsi, Colleen Pokorny, and Pati Palmer

Marta Alto, co-author of The Palmer/Pletsch Complete Guide to Fitting, and I developed a fitting order/sequence that if followed helps you to be successful. For example, start with the back. If you need a broad back alteration, you will gain width, which will make a full bust alteration (FBA) smaller.

RULE: Always fit first what will affect another alteration.

Fit back first…

Pati Palmer fitting the back of Colleen Pokorny

then check the front.

Pati Palmer checking the front fit

Our order of fitting and alterations from our books and videos are in our McCall’s and Butterick patterns that feature The Palmer/Pletsch Tissue-Fitting Method. (Vogue, Butterick, McCall’s, and Simplicity patterns are under one umbrella today at the simplicity.com website. Our Butterick and McCall’s patterns are also available on our palmerpletsch.com website)

Helen determined the amount of width Dr. Pokorny would need for her FBA by measuring from the pattern center front to hers.

There wasn’t time in the two-hour class to demonstrate all alterations, so Helen decided to show the FBA to the students. It is one of the more complex and requires paying attention to what Helen calls “fitting hygiene.” She emphasizes neatness as you follow the correct order for altering, inserting tissue strips where you have cut and spread the tissue, and taping the alteration AFTER it is completed and the tissue is totally flat.

Apparel Design students at Oregon State University (OSU) observing Palmer/Plesch fitting lesson
pattern front tissue cut to make a full bust adjustment
The finished FBA ready to pin to the back and try on again.
We marked an X on the tissue at her bust point. The horizontal bust dart needs to be lowered to the X.
marking the bust point with an X

The dart was lowered and the pattern was pinned together and tried on again.

The bust dart is pointing exactly to her bust (apex).

The pattern is ready to cut from fabric.

She will do some tweaking in fabric, but overall, the fit will be much better than if she’d not tissue-fitted.


The same process was used when fitting Dr. Dahunsi. Helen checked the back first, then the front, while I was finalizing Dr. Pokorny’s pattern.

Helen Bartley fitting Dr. Dahunsi

It was so much fun to be back at Oregon State where I learned about textiles, design, and business in the School of Home Economics. Today, apparel design is in the College of Business.

Apparel Design students at Oregon State University observing a Palmer/Pletsch fitting lesson
Apparel Design students at Oregon State University observing a Palmer/Pletsch fitting lesson

I was blown away by how modern and bright the apparel design lab appears today in Milam Hall, built in 1913. It is where I studied apparel design. Students asked me how it was back when I was there in the late 1960s. I said that the curriculum was similar, but the equipment and tools are more advanced. However, the students’ aspirations and dreams are the same.

lockers from the early 1900s in the Apparel Design department at OSU

Compared to the contemporary classroom, here is a wall outside the classroom of built-in lockers that students used in the early 1900s.

HISTORY OF MILAM HALL:   guides.library.oregonstate.edu/buildings/milam-hall



OSU has 14 business and design majors to choose from as well as a full double-degree track (for students outside of business who want to double major). business.oregonstate.edu/programs/undergraduate


Printed books, DVD videos, and hands-on workshops can be found at palmerpletsch.com.

Streaming and downloadable videos and flip books can be found at palmerpletschdigital.com


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