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4’11” size 20 HELP

ceeshell | Posted in Fitting on

HELP! I am in my 60’s I am 4′!! and I wear a size 20 women’s petite when I can find them. I have sewn all my life. when I was young and skinny it was a matter of shortening and taking in

bit, but doable. over the years, between gravity and health problems, I have gone from a cute petite to a short overweight pear shaped difficult to fit frazzled sewist. I shorten the area between the bust to the waist, the waist to the hips, but what I can not seem to get under any sort of control is the area between the bust point and the shoulders. Narrow the shoulders and the neck, and go from a B cup to a D cup, keep the back wide enough to have ease, and I won’t even start on the sleeve and armseye problem. the pattern begins to look like the funhouse mirror that shortens and widens you gone berserk. I need to sew because the RTW market has decided that petite is 5’4″.

So, I know that there is someone out here who likes classic clothes that are semi fitted and is also 4’11 with a “mature” figure. and you have figured out what to do. I get so frustrated. I know that the process starts with getting the hips,waist, and bust moved to where they need to be, and then you adjust the cup size. but the shoulders hang off and there is a huge amount of fabric in the sleeve and armsye that just bunch up because I need to eliminate the neckline gap.

I know that I am starting to ramble. but I have adjusted commercial patterns, drafted my own, had a friend try to drape me. and I just seem to fix one problem and create two more. I am so tired of wearing oversized t-shirts and pants that are not fitted. Tent dresses are out of style. (anyone besides me remember Tottie Fields) some suggestions that really work please.




  1. joyfulneedles | | #1

    Sorry, I don't have an answer to the fitting problem, I am still working on my own, roughly same problem with a taller body.

    But I had to reply to your mentioning Totie Fields.  I can still see her in a bright pink dress that had small ruffles from the neck to the knee.  And her comment about black does not make you look smaller, just dreary, so she was wearing a happy color.  That is probably not an exact quote but my memory.  After that, I added more color to my wardrobe, like red and fuchsia. 

    Thanks for reminding me of her. 

  2. jatman | | #2

    Hi Ceeshell!

    A friend of mine lent me her DVD's on fitting from Palmer Pletsch and they were really good.  They showed exactly how to do alterations from the tissue pattern:


    I also looked up plus size fitting on Amazon and came up with these:




    maybe one of these will help you out.  I'm 5'4" and I know I'm supposed to be able to wear petites but they just don't fit me at all.  I'm not sure I understand sizing anymore anyway.  I just bought a suit and a couple of shirts which were all different sizes.

    Totie Fields!  Wow, what a flashback!



    1. [email protected] | | #6

      I've taken the fitting classes that they offer in Portland, (the kids call it Mommy Camp) but we really do have a blast and Patti and Marta are amazing, knowing just how to alter for all kinds of mature figures. You come away with a sloper that fits you like a glove. Their books and DVD's are the next best thing to being there.I agree that the place you have to start is the right pattern size and for those of us with really lovely ladies that means using the high bust snugly measured when choosing the pattern so that it fits our frame.

  3. sewelegant | | #3

    Have you tried Fashion Patterns By Coni?  She has a dress called a magic dress.  It is A line and has a shrug to wear with it so it disrupts that "tent" look.  The shoulders are narrower on her patterns and I believe she also addresses a larger bustline, but if you have drafted your own patterns you might like this because I think you could easily adjust it.


    View Image

    look for it in the Butterick Pattern Catalog or on her web site.

  4. lynnewill | | #4

    Hello ceeshell I understand your frustration my mother has a similar frame as you.  My first guess is that you are starting with a pattern that is to large to begin with.  For dresses and tops you need to fit your shoulder width or above bust measurment first.  Take your above bust measurement and use that as the bust measurment when choosing pattern size, alternatively measure across your front and back chest from armseye to armseye and compare that to your pattern.  Once you have found the proper size there your neckline and shoulder will be correct and it is just a matter of adjusting bust cup size, shortening your lengths etc.  My mother has very slopping shoulders, so this is another adjustment we always need to make on her garments as well, changing the angle on the shoulder seam and then adjusting the sleeve to fit.  And remember when adding width never do so and centerback and centerfront, only at the other seaming.

    I hope this helps, if you would like to see pictures of a jacket my mom just completed go to http://www.sewingcafewithlynne.blogspot.com scroll almost all the way to the bottom and look for the heading "Betty with Jacket pieces"  She is just 5' and the above method is what we used for her pattern. 


  5. PASDENOM | | #5

    It probably would be worth the expense if you can find a dressmaker who would make you a sloper that you could use to base your pattern adjustments. You could also use a computerized pattern drafting system, which do work pretty well and create patterns that only need some tweaking.

    Petite Plus patterns are made for your figure, probably for someone a little taller, but at least most of the adjustment is already there, compared to most patterns drafted for someone much taller with a less curvy shape. I was amazed at how close to my shape they are and barely have to do any adjustments. I'm all of 5'2" and struggle to get below size 20.

  6. User avater
    JunkQueen | | #7

    I was looking at some old Threads magazines, and I came across and article that just might be helpful to you. May, 1998, Issue #76, pages 58 thru 63. The name of the article is "Sizing up to Plus Sizes. Subtitled: Real-life pattern grading for the full figure. written by Barbara Deckert. You may very well be able to request a copy of the article from Threads. If not, I'd be happy to photocopy the article and mail it to you, if you'll PM me you address.

    I'm not short, but I do have some other figure challenges that this article has helped me see a way to work around.

    1. User avater
      ceeshell | | #8

      thanks, I think I have those issues in my sewing room. I have just been too disheartened to do the research.

      1. cafms | | #9

        Barbara Deckert also has a book Sewing For Plus Sizes that is very good and may be of help to you.  I don't have it in front of me so can't say if she addresses height also.

  7. dressed2atee | | #10

    I would highly suggest you check out Wildginger Pattern Software.  I is awesome!  It will create a sloper using your measurements and from there you will be able to make endless styles of clothing.

    check out http://www.wildginger.com  for a trial download!  Worth the investment. ($150)

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