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choosing patterns for plus sizes

rohan9ca | Posted in Patterns on

Hi, Everyone!

I am really terrible at knowing what looks good on my body, so I was wondering if anyone had any tips on what styles to look for when choosing patterns–I’m a plus sized pear shaped petite woman (so many “p”‘s!)–bust 40″, waist 47″ hips 51″, 5’1”, and I just don’t know what styles of clothing to look for.

I’d classify myself as a beginner sewer–not absolute beginner, but just starting out with clothing sewing. Any tips and help would be so much appreciated!



  1. rodezzy | | #1

    Hi rohan9ca:  I am pear shaped too.  I am not accomplished in sewing clothes for myself, so my suggestion is only from a fashion stand point, not as a seamtress because I am not. 

    I usually try and pick patterns that mimick what I would buy in ready-to-wear that look good on me.  In my reading and researching lately, I have heard it over and over, "look to your own closet for inspiration".  The clothes you love to wear are the ones you want to make. 

    In fact I have "Threads" magazines that teach you to copy your favorite clothes.  I have not tried this, so maybe someone else out there reading these threads can give you more advice, I am not at home now, so I can't reference the exact books. 

    Good luck.

    1. User avater
      ThreadKoe | | #2

      Ok, here is a fun, although it could frustrate you if you let it, way to figure out what looks good.
      Go into a good plus size shop, or department store, not a discount or walmart. TRY ON CLOTHES.
      Never mind the colour or print. Look at the style lines and details that seem to flatter you the most.
      Ask the best dressed customers for their opinions.
      Don't worry about the staff. They are used to this. Be polite and hang the clothing up and just act picky. You might actually find something that you really like. Don't prejudge a garment, try on everything, you will be surprised at what looks weird on a hanger will look like on a real body.
      Jot down what looked good then head for the pattern books.
      While you are at it, this is a good time to turn the garments inside out to have a peek at how they are put together to check the quality and to get some great ideas for your own sewing.

  2. rekha | | #3

    I have tried making clothes from http://www.petitepluspatterns.com/ and am happy with the outcome. The sewing instructions are elaborate

  3. gowngirl | | #4

    Hi Shannon,
    Some time ago there was an article in threads (someone here will probably come up with the issue number for you) explaining how to figure out what looks good on yourself using a "paper doll" idea. Basically, take a full length picture of yourself standing front and center. Then, using tracing paper, use your image to sketch clothing on yourself, like a paper doll. This is a really accurate way of doing a virtual try-on of something you'd like to make. Just be sure that you keep the style details proportioned to your own figure. I often draw a horizontal bust, waist, and hip lines through figure of the proposed design so that I can accurately esimate the location of the details. I'm posting an example of this sketch idea.

    This has been the most useful article I've ever read in Threads magazine, and has been worth the price of every year of my subscription. A HUGE thanks to the person who wrote that article!!

    I'm sure this idea will help you tremendously. Laura

    1. starzoe | | #5

      It is called a "croquis". Threads Magazine had an extended article on it a few years ago, and it is a wonderful way to find out what looks good on your body (however much the shock when you see your real self in silouette!).Vogue patterns have little icons to show which body types suit particular patterns.

  4. User avater
    artfulenterprises | | #6

    Generally speaking, the idea is to choose garments that will balance out your body. Pear shapes might emphasize a small waist or diaphragm with a fitted bodice and a skirt that flares away from the hips, adding a jacket or neckline that gives emphasis to the shoulders.
    If the shoulders are as wide as the hipline it camouflages the "pear". I also think an asymmetric design line keeps the eye moving around the body rather than focusing on a single element.

    And, my mom always said not to worry about the little flaws because, "they'll never be noticed on a galloping horse!" (sigh....the things are mothers told us!) I always interpreted that as just keep dancing!

  5. User avater
    ThreadKoe | | #7

    The Article that Rodezzy referred to is in the list of online articles on this site.  On the home page, under design, there is an article on Fashion drawing, and another on the Croquis Family.  Both should be helpful for you.  

    Barbara Deckert also has an excellent book on choosing designs and sewing for the plus sizes.  It is called Sewing for Plus Sizes and is put out by Taunton.   A very positive read.

    Edited 5/29/2008 6:27 pm ET by ThreadKoe

    Edited 5/29/2008 6:34 pm ET by ThreadKoe

    Edited 5/29/2008 6:36 pm ET by ThreadKoe

  6. Memmy | | #8

    Well first of all I would forget about anything that cuts you in half I would go for emphasis of the verticle and wear tops and bottoms of the same colour and perhaps coloured over shirts . tops with v necks and deep u necks , some shoulder pads to help balance your top and bottom a bit tops that are longer and fall to your mid thigh and maybe have un assymetricle and interesting hem line  or are longer at the sides than the middle front and back. Go for differences in texture and weight of fabric rather than colour. I also like wearing layered clothes which might inclde a top and pants of the same colour and then a much shorter cardigan in a differen t colour and fabric and with an assymetric hem line  There is a wonderful company here in Australia called TS which make wonderful clothes I am sure they have a web sight and you could look at their clthes. as inspiration.

  7. From my Stash.... | | #9

    There is a good reference book on the subject - "Sewing for Plus Sizes" by Barbara Deckert.  It covers what works and why and then talks about fabrics to use and how to select and modify patterns and fit.

    Good luck with this since a well-fitted garment will help make you look and feel good.

    1. rodezzy | | #11

      This book sounds great!  Does it show you how to adjust the patterns or just talk about it?

      1. From my Stash.... | | #12

        It has a section that tells you how to make pattern adjustments for the specific problems.  For example, for plus size women, the upper arm area is often insufficient in patterns, this gives details in how to slash and enlarge the pattern for the upper arm.

        It also has a section on design modifications for plus size women (that is making your altered pattern more comfortable or more wearable).

        Someone else in this string said it, but it's true, this book plus  the Palmer Plesch (?spelling) will give you a really good knowledge of of what looks good and how to achieve it for the plus size woman.


  8. User avater
    CostumerVal | | #10

    Another good book I have is by Palmer Pletsch called  "Looking Good".  It's a workbook on personal Style, Color, Design, Wardrobe planning.  Has tests, worksheets.  Tells you what to sew and what to buy, even how to apply make-up.  How to accessorize and with what.  Hairstyles for face shapes.  How to determine what your color scheme is based on skin tone, eyes, and hair.  When and why your skin and color schemes change.  I've sewn more than a few clothing items that just didn't look good at all when I was finished.  After reading this book I'm back in good shape.  I refer back to it all the time when designing theater costumes also.  I even tell actors how to plan their wardrobe changes in modern plays using this book.

    Between this one, Sewing for Plus Sizes, and Fit for Real People.  You absolutely wont go wrong.  Fit for Real People is about how to alter patterns for a flawless fit and most of the models are plus size in every shape imagineable.


  9. fabriclover007 | | #13

    Plus size also with about your measurements. I second going to nicer stores (Macy's, Lord & Taylor, etc.) and trying on clothes. Forget the cost, you're just trying to get a sense of what looks good on you. And as said also, stay away from Walmart. Cheap stuff with sometimes bad stitching/fit.

    One thing I missed (and if someone else mentioned I apologize), you may need shoulder pads to balance out your shape. Not the old 80's style football kind, but enough to even you out a little at the top. Believe it or not a somewhat extended shoulder line may help as it will widen you a little at the top. It seems counter intuitive because as plus sizes we're always trying to look smaller but pads may balance you so that the eye starts at the shoulder line and flows downward rather than starting at a small point (shoulders at the top) then skimming down over larger (hips)

    When you go shopping take a tape measure with you also; measure the garments that you like and fit well (length, width at bust, waist, hips, etc. and these measurements are the ones you'll strive for when fitting garments.

    Lastly, keep in mind that generally patterns are either drawn or fitted on someone whose body isn't like ours so don't be seduced by the pictures. We generally look best in classic shapes without a lot of frou frou, we just don't need the extra fabric. For fabrics you'll look best in firm weave without a lot of extra texture (adds weight, knits are good (with good shapewear up under).

    Good luck

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