We recently started a conversation on Real Women and fashion with Sara’s post “Too Fat For Fashion,” and your response has been lively, evocative and challenging. As we prepared to launch an extended ready-to-wear Basics section on our Alabama Chanin website, we found ourselves thinking more carefully about how our pieces fit different shapes, how they can be adjusted and streamlined for individual figures, and how many of our pieces flatter many body types.

Start with the material. By using 100% organic cotton jersey, we have given our collection a head start on both comfort and individualized fit. Jersey, by nature, has a generous stretch, but also memory. One member on our Alabama Chanin team loves the Alabama Corset because when she hangs it up after wearing she can still see the silhouette of her body in the fabric. It makes her feel as though the top was made especially for her.


Every Alabama Chanin piece is cut with the grain of the fabric running up and down – so it works like an accordion – stretching left to right, not top to bottom, and ultimately molding to your body. The more you wear a garment, the better it fits.

We are not an extensive team, but we are many different body types, each of us with a favorite style for one single reason; we like the way the garment flatters our figure, and makes us feel that we look the way we think we should. I am substantially larger than the typical model and I wear our clothes every day.

One studio member loves the Basic Tank Top because it’s fitted at the waist and flares out over the hip, (it’s cut a little longer than our other tops) accentuating her best assets. The top creates a proportional and flattering look. Another staff member, who is taller than most women, likes the Alabama A-line Sweater for its generous flare – she actually took it in to reduce some of the fullness. She says it’s comfortable and flattering, hiding her midsection (or “problem areas,” to quote her), but also favors the V-neck detail because it accentuates her chest and brings attention to her face.

A lot of women who come to our workshops tell me they prefer sleeves. The Fitted Cap Sleeve T-shirt, Fitted Long Sleeve T-shirt, Alabama A-line Sweater, Long Sleeve Pullover, and jackets have proven popular for those with aging arms. Our patterns are easily adjustable and we often help workshop attendees and custom clients modify the garment to allow more room under the arm.


Every Alabama Chanin garment can effectively be made as a Basic – an item that can be worn every day, over and over, seamlessly integrating into every wardrobe. But some garments lend themselves more easily to certain body types. Most of our fitted dresses and t-shirts, like the Basic Tank Top with its cinched waist and longer length, are flattering styles for bottom-heavy figures with smaller tops. The Pleated Skirt, with a full flare, compliments pear shaped bodies. The Basic Wrap Skirt, essentially a classic A-Line style, works well with more narrow hips.

The Alabama A-line Sweater, Alabama A-line Dress, and Long Sleeve Pullover are great for apple shapes because of their generous fit through the waist. The Long Sleeve T-Shirt Tunic is made with six panels and princess seams, combining a fitted top with a slightly flared hemline that hits just below the hip, accentuating womanly curves. The Alabama Corset, a very fitted piece that tapers at the waist, has a shorter length than our other tops and is particularly flattering on women with a short waist as all the seam lines come together in the middle front, giving a look of elongation. It’s also a good look for women wanting to emphasize their chest.

I’m just touching on a few of our Basics, but I’ve watched all body types fit beautifully into our collection over the years. Sometimes you think a fit is going to be totally wrong on a person, but then she puts on and it’s quite simply elegant and lovely. You just have to find the perfect garment for you— and you’ll know it when you find it.


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  1. Margaret Plichta

    Hey Alabama!

    This is not actually about your great post here today, but about the Academy Award Red Carpet. I was hoping to see something from Alabama Chanin walking into the awards. That would have been really wonderful.

  2. ashley

    I discovered Alabama Chanin in December…and it has been a life-changing discovery!! I’ve sewn for years, but machine-sewing garments intimidated me in a way that I cannot exactly describe. Since finding the Alabama Studio Sewing & Design book by chance, cotton knit jersey has become my absolute favorite fabric, and I can say that I LOVE to sew clothing : )

    The basics pieces are the BEST! So far, I’ve completed two long-sleeve T’s, two fitted tunics, a babydoll top, a long fitted skirt and a camisole tank. I am also quite a bit bigger and differently shaped than a conventional clothing model – the medium – extra large patterns sizes are the ones I use most of the time, and it is wonderful to be able to easily adjust them to fit my figure! I definitely believe your pieces are suitable for just about any body type. I never, ever believed I could wear a fitted skirt because of the way my lower body is shaped, but somehow it just works, and I feel so wonderful when I wear my fitted skirt! It doesn’t even feel necessary to wear a long top anymore to try to cover my “back” area, though I still do because I like the way it looks : )

    I have to admit, I have not even made any embellished garments yet, because I love the basics so much, and right now am concentrating on just making myself comfortable, simple pieces. Does it sound a little crazy to say I’ve considered giving away my entire wardrobe (except for the pieces I’ve recently made) and starting over with all Alabama Chanin-inspired garments??

    What you’ve accomplished through your work and company amazes and inspires me. Please know that I so appreciate it…you’ve helped this girl feel comfortable and beautiful : )

    1. Alabama Post author


      Thank you so much for sharing your story. You have made us all proud. (And we love the idea of your Alabama Chanin Closet…)

      xoNatalie and all of us @ Alabama Chanin

  3. Parco Moon

    Ashley– starting over doesn’t sound crazy to me! I’m in the process of doing that myself, too. My husband is having a bone marrow transplant, and we had to move about two hours away from our home for at least four months (we’ve been here a month now), and I specifically didn’t bring any spring or summer clothes. I told myself that if I wanted warm weather clothes I would have to make them myself. I went back to our house a few days ago, opened my dresser drawers, and realized that as soon as I get home, all those clothes are getting ripped up and made into something new or donated to goodwill. It’s hard to go back to clothes that you find adequate after you’ve worn clothes that feel like your second skin. Thanks to Natalie and the Alabama Chanin team for providing us with the means to craft a truly individual and beautiful wardrobe.

  4. britt

    i love the adjustability of your garments as well. i modified the tank with the princess seams into a tee with short or long sleeves. it is my most favorite thing to wear. the fit is just perfect: tight where i want it and room where it needs to be.

  5. Irina Klyagin

    I have also only recently discovered your site, but I have already made the Natalie’s Dream Wrap ( I can’t wait for the winter to be over!) and the poncho, and I have a long list of things I want to make. I know that patterns of some of your basic garments are available in your books, but not all of them. It would be great if you would consider adding them to your site as pdf downloads. Burda style website has a great pdf downloads section, you can print patterns on you computer and scotch-tape or glue pieces together. ( I am pretty sure I won’t be the only one interested in purchasing them.

    1. Grace

      I bought the two later books specifically for the patterns, and I refer to them often for information about sewing the garments. I would certainly purchase downloadable patterns if they were available, but I would also buy another book with a few new patterns and inspiring embroidery photographs. After having made a few garments myself I am most intrigued by the embroidery possibilities and would love to see more detailed swatches from the AC past collections.

      All that said, I love the diversification of the AC brand and I think that the basics fall within the realm of affordable for me. I am saving money by sewing my own sustainable wardrobe, so saving up for a real AC piece is totally possible.

  6. Marianna

    i love this collection……..and this is what my dream IS……..that you would provide us with an opportunity to purchase some of these patterns that are not in your books…….wish list……? Maggie’s Dress and top…..and A-line Sweater……I’m not that full figured but in my 60’s now……have taken your workshop……and love love love these designs.

  7. anissa ljanta

    i love your clothes, i have handstitched a few and get comments all the time. I have a list my arm long of more i would like to make. Organic cotton jersey is just a joy to wear and the patterns i have come to know so can tweak and work so the Alabama clothes i make are perfect for me and my short, curvy body. I love the honesty of this post…stating which patterns work best with different body types gives us a good solid starting point. Thanks for being who you are and what you all put out in the world. Simply put, the world is a better place. And such selfishly, my world is a better place. thank you

  8. Sherry

    What a timely post! I am working on my first AC basic top. I have morphed the fitted top and the tee from your third book into what will be my basic top. I have to have sleeves, but I like the lines of the fitted top much better. I also raised the neckline about 1.5″. I have it sewn together and it just needs the neckline bound. It is twilight with slate thread to go with the 6-gore bloomers skirt in twilight over black I just completed. I see a rainbow of AC basic tops in my future — maybe some basic tank top / tee morphs too.

  9. Gabriela

    I am also interested in more of the patterns! I have already made 5 fitted tops, one of them backstitched embellished with the anna’s garden motif, I have made a poncho, bolero 3 skirts, one fitted tunic, a rooster tshirt and a sleeveless t-shirt and two fitted skirts, (one embellished) I just discovered Alabama Chanin about 2 months ago! ( I do have a job too) I am really happy with the fit, the philosophy and the open source sharing that Natalie has chosen to do. Thanks so much! I hope to make my wedding dress too.

  10. Claudia

    While not starting over with my closet (I’m too attached to a lot of items), I am looking at my clothes in a new way. I say that I’m “curating” my wardrobe (thinking about the Seam Allowance project in relation to this as well). My Bloomers swing skirt is a staple of summer and seems to accept my hips whether I’ve been running or not. I’ve brought my AC dress that I started at the workshop last August with me to Berlin, packing it as not only a project but as a wardrobe item for spring (so I’m happy it’s still cold and have more time to work on it). But I think one of the themes here is that it’s not just about the way the clothes fit, it’s about how they fit each of us individually and how they make us feel. A dress can be beautifully cut and constructed, but if you don’t feel beautiful in it, it will never be beautiful on you. Taking thread and needle in hand and working the fabric allows one to connect with one’s clothing, which is really a fantastic thing.

  11. Rae

    I would like to make your basic wrap skirt. Will it be available?
    Thanks for all the inspiration and information.
    Love from Michigan.

  12. Cathy Pendleton

    Real clothes for real women! It is pure joy to make a beautiful piece of clothing that you feel beautiful wearing….thank you!