Step 2: Finding Your True Size
If you tend to be able to fit in most clothes off the rack, then a standard pattern without alterations may work for you. You can also avoid having to make complicated fitting adjustments by choosing patterns with simple designs that aren’t intended to fit closely to the body. Even with a simple design, though, you may find that you need to make adjustments for length or combine different sizes to fit your shoulders or hips.
One Size Does Not Fit All
Every person has a different shape and size. Some shoulders are wide and others narrow. The natural waist may be high or low in relation to the hips. Your arms may need more room for ease of movement than a traditional pattern allows. Taking detailed measurements is how you will find out how your body differs from the pattern you’ve purchased. In fact, with these measurements, you can make or order a custom pattern (called a sloper or block) and then use it as a base for your original designs.
Taking Your Number
The best time to determine your true size and fit is before you get too far in the sewing process. By knowing where you stand, or fit, before you begin you can better select commercial patterns and make better alterations as needed. But first, you are going to need to find your true size.
I’ve created the following worksheet for you to use for taking these additional measurements:
Compare and Adjust
Once you’ve recorded all your measurements, you can measure the segments of your pattern and see how the two numbers compare. For instance, if your shoulder point to shoulder point measurement is wider than the width of your pattern’s bodice, you will need a larger sized pattern piece or you will have to widen the pattern between the shoulders. It is not uncommon to need to add or take away length either in your torso (shoulder to waist) or pant length. Often a pattern will indicate the best place to add or take away length to assist you in making this alteration.
One Style Does Not Fit All
The other factor that you will want to consider when selecting a pattern size is comfort. Some people like to wear their clothing snug and form fitting while others like a little more roominess in their fit. Both the design of a pattern and its size and proportion will affect its ease or movement allowance.
The back of most commercial patterns will identify not only the body measurements for a particular design but the finished garment measurements. These measurements will be slightly larger than the actual measurement of the pattern.
So when you measure your pattern to compare it to your body’s measurements, you will not make any allowance for space to move. When you look at the garment measurements, it is important that you do take your moving space into consideration. In a fitted garment, the bodice of a garment will usually have 1½ to 2 inches of ease or give at the bust and ¾ to 1 inch at the waist. Hips will have between 2 to 2¾ inches of ease.
If you generally like to wear your close loosely, you may not be comfortable with the standard wearing ease allowance that a commercial pattern includes. In this instance, you will either want to consider a larger size or choose styles with design ease. When evaluating a pattern for wear ease, keep in mind that patterns for knit fabrics are likely to have less built-in ease because the fabric itself will provide room for movement through its stretch.
Design ease is the second comfort factor for a garment. Design ease is determined by the silhouette of the item. A loose flowing dress is going to have more movement and ease than a tightly tailored one. Loose silhouettes are often easier to fit and sew as well. When looking at design, you’ll find clothing fit into five primary categories.
- Close-fitted: These garments may allow very little to no movement ease. You might expect to see close-fitted garments on the catwalk or the red carpet.
- Fitted: Fitted clothes fit snuggly to the body and will usually incorporate either a tight knit design or lots of seaming to create a fit that follows each curve of the body. An average wear allowance will range from 2 to four inches for fitted garments. Professional and formal wear are often close-fitted or fitted.
- Semi-fitted: A semi-fitted item will still follow the curves of the body, but not quite as snugly as a fully fitted piece of clothing. These garments may add up to 4 or 5 inches of wear ease.
- Slightly-fitted: Slightly-fitted, or loose fitting, garments offer a comfortable amount of ease while still having some design details that follow the body’s shape. An example of a slightly fitted item might be an oversized T-shirt or a moderately gathered skirt.
- Very Loosely-fitted: These garments are going to have one or two design elements that fix them to the body such as a neck or waistline but otherwise tend to fall away from the body. These garments will require the least amount of adjustment to fit and offer the maximum ease of movement. A garment with over 8 inches of wear ease in the bodice is considered very loosely fitted.
Make Your Style
One of the most wonderful things about making your own clothes is that you can custom tailor each piece to fit you and your personal style. Nothing is more pleasing to wear than a perfectly comfortable and perfectly fitted garment. Knowing that you’ve created something that fits both your style and body brings great satisfaction. Now that you know what to look for, I look forward to hearing from you about the wonderful custom clothing you’ve created.