{Blog series}How patterns compare? SIZE

Author: Sonia Peskova for HoP
The second part of the mini blog series: “How patterns compare?” we are going to explore that vital information at the back of an envelope: sizes. Who never asked themselves this question :What patterns companies work best for my body? Because there are many similar designs on the market understanding where patterns are similar or different can tip the scale in choosing a particular brand of pattern. Fitting is a fun process in itself but when you have to make so many alterations it can suck the joy out of the project.
Commercial patterns like Vogue, Butterick, Mccall’s, simplicity etc…design from a slopper without seam allowances. Using their standard body measurement (found on their size charts) than they add design/wearing ease accordingly. 

Source: Sew Direct

Their bigger criticism is the design ease they add. Taking this in consideration, instead of sewing a size 16 (based on my measurements). I tend to measure the ease and incorporate into my personal measurement when picking a pattern. FYI My size for commercial patterns is generally 12, which tend to fit me well besides height adjustments. ( I call commercial patterns the big 4 + simplicity/ NL)

Independent patterns have their own scale of minimum and design ease and I would like that information to be more available for comparison. Terms like ‘minimum ease’ can be vague. Anyone one can think their own standard of minimum. Never assume you are fixed on a size from a pattern company as design ease plays an important part. Picking a size comparing the finish measurements and body measurements will not only give you the ease but an idea of how the designer indeed the garment to be made to wear. It doesn’t mean you got to stick with that.  You have the empowerment to make changes as you see fit.

Just a word of advice: don’t use ease to overfit yourself. Often we forget that a lining, waistband, interfacing, weight of fabric will also count as volume. Fabric do have ease too.
Pattern grading for sewing companies are based on a hourglass figure with standard increments. Bust sizes for example: Small sizes (up to size 10) increase by 2,5 cm/ Medium sizes (10-12) by 3,8 cm and larger sizes by 5 cm.

If we take indie companies for comparison:

BHL small sizes(2-8) by 2,5 cm/ (10-16)medium to large by 5cm 
Colette small size (0-8) by 2,5cm /(10)medium  by 3,8 cm and large (12-18) by 5cm 
Sewholic : small size (0-6) by 2,5 cm/ (8-16) medium to large by 3,8cm 

Not different at all!  Except Burda, as they increase small and medium sizes by 4 cm and large sizes by 6cm

The average height considered for sewing patterns are very similar. Most pattern companies draft for 1,65 to 1,68 cm. 

Designers collections also vary from their standard chart. Sandra Betzina trousers ease fits closer to RTW and away from Vogue measurement chart and she drafts for 1.65 height.

Burda size 40 tall also referred as size 80 (drafted for 1.76cm) fit me wonderfully.  Their tall range is limited in style choices and instructions are sketchy at best.

I always had an intuitive way of picking my patterns but recently I took a more methodological exploration and decided to compare my personal measurements against different patterns companies and see how they compare{High bust 94cm (Bust 98cm), waist 75 cm and Hips 101 cm/ B cup pattern wise/ Height 1.81 cm tall} and there are few clues to which ones suits me best.

 I never sewn any Sewholic. I do like some of the patterns (the coats specially) but she drafts for the smallest height (1.62cm) and for a pear shape which is disproportionate to my hourglass. It doesn’t mean I shouldn’t make it. What it means is that when I use her patterns I know what to change/ adapt to suit me. Out of the package would be clear disaster for me. 

Interestingly when pattern companies are compared on the same size bracket, some assumptions  can be drawn regarding shape of customer they cater for. For example: Colette size 8 is 6.3 cm larger on the bust than Sewaholic size 8 but 3.8 cm smaller on the hip size. That is without considering cup size.
Deer and Doe approach description of their size to closely relating to RTW so if would fit on a size 38, the same number would apply to her patterns. Of course, now personal discretion needs to be applied here because not all RTW size 38 are the same. Similar, how many of us also used the ease on RTW to fit on a smaller number? I’m guilty as charged.
Each pattern company will have their size range limited to what they can supply at the time. Commercial patterns offer the larger range of size available: From Euro 32/ US4 (75cm-56cm-80cm) to Euro 54/ US 26 (122cm-104cm-127cm). Burdastyle Offer even better: Euro 32/US6 (76cm-58cm-78cm) goes as large as size Euro 60/ US34 (146cm-128cm-152cm) On the largest size of the spectrum are plus size pattern ranges.
Indies offer a reduced range of available sizes, specially european patterns. For example Deer & Doe goes from size European 34(80cm-60cm-86cm) to Size 46 (104cm-84cm-110cm). US patterns like Grainline US 0 (81cm-63.5cm-89cm) to US 18 (112cm094cm-119cm) or Colette offer a better range. Colette on selected patterns will cater up to a size US26/3XL (137cm-117cm-142cm).
With a little bit of personal research identifying what the best sizing proportion for you can help wonders picking patterns that are easier to fit.  Now that we talked prices, and sizes, both rational decisions I want to close this post with a few other considerations.
Pattern style is a combination of 4 design elements: Lines (horizontal and vertical, curves etc), detail (collars, sleeves etc), colour and texture. By themselves or in combination they will affect the focal points of the garment. They can add to or diminish height, enlarge or streamline your figure. 

Personally I like to play in flavour of my super tall figure instead of hiding( I used to want to hide from been tall when younger). I like to highlight my waist but been enjoying discovering other flattering shapes. I like  strong colours and prints that express positivity and confidence.
The biggest lesson I learned regarding picking a pattern was to be adaptable. Occasionally I don’t find a pattern that matches exactly the garment that I have in my mind and I will change it to suit my taste. Either by redrafting from an existing, drafting from scratch or buying a pattern with potential beyond the cover picture.
Did you miss1st post of this series. To read more about cost of patterns (in the UK) click here
How do you pick your sewing patterns? Did you enjoy this mini series?
  • Super, such an interesting and useful post, Thanks!

  • I often wonder if US has a measurments standart. Finns do! I have a home printed book of 100 pages, with measurments for four different female bodytypes and hights that start from 158 and go up to 176 cm if I remember correctly. And they measure everything!
    I belive those measurments are used in most Scandinavian RTW clothing companies.

    I pick the style I like the most and then do the editing if needed.
    I use Burda magazine the most since I’ve grown up with it. But I never fit into their size 36… even thou according to my body measurments I should! LOL

  • Very useful post! I think I’ll come back to read it quite a few times in the future!

  • Another interesting post – thank you. I have one of Sandra Bezzina’s books and she compares the Big four and Burda in another way – says that their ease is too much except for New Look and Simplicity, whilst Burda also have less ease but are drafted for wider shoulders – so she advises most sewists to go down one to two sizes for the shoulders in respect to their busts. By bust measurement I’m a Burda 42 but it’s always too big in the upper back for me. I found that Deer and Doe 42 fits me perfectly even though for her I’m a 44 bust wise. Highlights the importance of muslins, doesn’t it?

  • Thank you so much! This was very interesting. I’m also very (very) tall and I’m struggling with finding things that fit me. And now that I decided to sew my own clothes, it looks like I might have the same problem too! Designers don’t tend to think of tall girls – which is weird since the majority of models are tall, so they could offer a little bit more support.

  • I really hadn’t thought about the looking closely at the sizing charts to determine which pattern most fits my body type. I’ve always just merged sizes to get the right measurements, but of course starting with a better match for my body would be more accurate. I’ve got a Craft Gossip post scheduled for later this morning that links to your post: http://sewing.craftgossip.com/choosing-the-right-sewing-pattern-brand-for-your-body-type/2014/11/03/

  • Thanks so much. Lots of research and very helpful and useful information.

  • I’m really enjoying this series. It is so helpful to have all this information in one place. Thank you so much for sharing and for all the time you invested in compiling this information.

  • This is a brilliant mini series. Love this post and the last one too. It just goes to show: no-one is a standard size, and absolutely everyone needs to learn how to do fitting adjustments(sigh!). I guess we all better learn to love them!

  • Love this series! My body measurements are almost identical to yours, so this post was particularly helpful. Thanks for sharing!

  • I have given up on buying commercial patterns as they never fit me in the bust. I have a small back and a large bust (several letters above a DD) and very few patterns are designed for anything about a C or D cup. I do not enjoy having to do a FBA everytime I want to sew a blouse/dress.

  • Very interesting. I’m tall too, but shorter than you – 179cm. I also hated being tall when I was younger as I was taller than all the boys even – it was difficult to get anything to fit. It’s much easier nowadays as young people are generally taller than the previous generation – another reason why the basic models need updated. As I’ve got older (and less slim) I’m looking for a more classic shape, less fashion forward, not short and find it difficult – that’s what brought me into sewing. I do like to sew for my daughters, though, the youngest is as tall and slim as you; this allows me to make slightly trendier things that I couldn’t wear myself!

  • Very informative! I think this is good information that will help all sewists but especially those beginning who don’t know about ease and things.

  • you clearly went a long way to figure this all out, and it’s a great approach, Rachel!
    Will be doing my own math and comparison, towards building a more interest wardrobe and smarter purchases.
    Great great post!

  • Fantastic article!Colette the fits me well. I’m busy and more narrow hipped. But I like Burdastyle.com and a style Arc because they are more fashionable.