Article: Pattern Sizes
Before you buy a pattern, there are a few things you must know. For starters, pattern sizes do not relate to ready-to-wear sizes at all. To determine pattern size, measurements must be taken. These can be taken right in the fabric store. Ask a clerk to borrow a tape measure. Ideally, measurements are taken in underwear or over a leotard. If a restroom is available, take upper chest, bust and hip measurements over your underwear; if not, take measurements in the store over your clothes. Measurements are always taken snugly, allowing no ease. If you are taking measurements over a full skirt or sweater, at least an inch should be subtracted to compensate for the bulk of your clothing.
Patterns fall into two categories: European and American. Burda Style and New Look are European patterns. Their sizing runs true to measurement. Stretch and Sew, Kwik Sew and Folkwear are American patterns which also run true to measurement. Patterns from the above companies are purchased by full bust measurement for a top and hip measurement for a bottom. American patterns: McCalls, Simplicity, Butterick, and Vogue-run slightly larger in the area from the armhole to the neck (upper chest) than the ones previously mentioned. If you purchase patterns from these companies by the “full” bust measurement you will end up with far too much fabric above the armholes in the upper chest area, resulting in an unflattering, frumpy look. Therefore, whe using patterns from these companies, match up your upper chest measurement to the bust measurement on the pattern size chart. This measurement is taken high under the arm and flat across the upper chest. Choosing the pattern in this manner gives a good fit in the upper chest, neck and armhole areas.
A garment which is too large in the upper chest is impossible to correct without taking it apart and totally re-cutting. A garment can easily be taken in or let out at the side seam from the armhole to the hem. In the back of the pattern book you will find a chart for determining pattern size. If your measurement falls between sizes, use the larger size if you are full-busted. And the smaller size if you are small-busted.
For all pattern companies, if you are purchasing a pattern for a bottom (skirt, shorts, or pants) buy the pattern size which corresponds to your hip measurement. Unless you are in perfect proportion, the waist size indicated on the same pattern will not be the same as your waist. Do not worry about this, since garment waist can be made larger by letting out or eliminating darts or made smaller by increasing dart size or adding additional darts. Waistband must be measured as well! If your pattern features both a top and a bottom and you plan to make both, choose the pattern which corresponds to your upper body measurements. Simple adjustments can be made at the side seams to make the bottom fit. Otherwise 90 percent of the people who sew would have to buy two patterns one for the top and one for the bottom. If you are 5’5″ or under and are interested in a pattern which is described as “very loose fitting,” purchase the pattern one size smaller than the size which corresponds to your measurements. This will scale down some of the fullness creating a better proportion for the shorter figure.
You can also watch Sandra, and her daughter, Kim demonstrate step by step instructions on Sandra’s, Learn To Sew Series: What Size Pattern To Buy.