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Nik-ki | Posted in Fitting on

I used to sew many, many moons ago and I was a perfect size 6 pattern.

Well, not so any more.  My bust is 38, waist is 36, and hips 45.  I am not sure if I should buy for my bust, waist, or hips.  If I bought for all three, that would put me into a 22 or a 24.  Could this be?



  1. ValerieJ | | #1

    My measurements are similar to yours. When making a shirt I have been using the upper bust measurement, which is what you get if you measure right under your arms. That puts me in a small. You need to then make adjustments to the pattern so that you have enough fabric to go over the bust. I have been using Nancy Zieman's pivot technique (from Fitting Finesse) and I have to add two inches to each side. So far this approach has worked well.

    The reason you use the upper bust measure is that having a large bust doesn't mean you have the neck and shoulders of a fullback! If you go by your bust measurement (or even worse, the hip measurement), the shirt will be too big through the upper chest and neck, which has been my problem.

    For pants or skirts the recommendation I've generally seen is to buy for your waist and then adjust the pattern to accomodate your hips. Everything I've read says that it's easier to make things bigger rather than smaller and that makes sense to me.

    Now if you're making a dress, I dunno...


    1. User avater
      Nik-ki | | #2

      Thanks, Valerie.  I'll have to keep that in mind when buying patterns.

  2. User avater
    Becky-book | | #3

    I feel your pain!!!  I bought a McCalls P/P pants pattern size.... "gasp" 18 and even then it might be too small!! waiting for cooler weather and a dose of humility to start fitting those pants.

    I would add... buy pants by hip measure, buy straight skirt by hip and full skirt by waist (ease should cover hips OK)

    Dresses depend on the style but upper bust is probably the way to go for most (unless very fitted at hip!)



  3. Teaf5 | | #4

    My measurements are also similar to yours, and I use a size 18 in most pattern companies, adding a bit to the front for a fuller bust. However, I also need to reduce the shoulder seam length by at least 1/2".

    A good rule of thumb is that your pattern size will be about 2 sizes larger than your RTW wear size. I wear size 14 in most name-brand clothes, and the size 18 patterns usually match that fairly well.

  4. mimi | | #5

    Isn't it funny how attached we are to the size number on our labels!!

    My advice is to have someone measure you and record the numbers on a sheet of paper.  There is a terrific article on http://www.Threads.com on how to do this.

    Take these measurements with you when you go fabric or pattern shopping.  Read the detailed description of the pattern on the back of the envelope, it will tell you how much ease is incorporated into the design.  vogue Patterns is the most accurate about this, I think!

    The whole idea is to sew something that fits you well.  A well made outfit looks elegant and fits effortlessly.  Nobody needs to know what size the pattern is.  You can even order the patterns over the internet so that you don't have to interact with a live salesclerk ;) 


  5. zuwena | | #6

    My experience leads me to agree mostly with Valerie and Becky regarding patterns. My measurements are a little more extreme than yours and I found that I ultimately make better adjustments if the hip fits when it comes to pants and skirts unless the difference between hip and waist is quite small when compared to the pattern. Also the pivot technique (which I believe was promoted by Nancy Zieman) works quite well once you get used to understanding the "placing" of the pins for proper pivoting.

  6. Crish | | #7

    Ready to wear is manufactured using "vanity" sizing.  We always feel better if we are able to wear a smaller size.  Each manufacturer creates its own size profile.  American pattern companies use a standardized size scale.  Take advantage of the ease chart printed in the back of Vogue and Butterick counter catalogs.  Printed on the primary front pattern pieces for bodice and skirt/pant (sometimes the sleeve) is a circle with crosshair symbol.  Near that symbol will be a list of measurements.  These are the finished measurement at the fullest part of the bust, waist, hip and upper arm pattern INCLUDING fitting ease.  If your body measurement plus the info from the ease chart equals that measurement, that's the size for you to use and have your garment fit the way pictured on the pattern illustration.  Remember, we don't wear numbers on the outside of our clothing and no one will know that you used an 18 pattern unless you choose to tell.  I regularly purchase 16 in RTW and use 22 pattern.   I don't talk abput it (except in the Threads forum).

    1. drussell | | #8

      Thanks for the information about the measurements near the circle with the crosshairs. I've been sewing for many, many years and I never knew or observed that. Just goes to show you why you should be thorough in examining pattern pieces, instructions, etc.

      Again, many thanks!

    2. thimbles1260 | | #9

      You sound so knowledgable!  I wish you lived next door and could be my sewing buddy!!  Right now I'm considering the purchase of a dress form.  I'm a fairly new garment sewer (although I am an advanced quilter).  Would you recommend this purchase?  What are the pit falls, if any,  to watch for?

      1. Crish | | #10

        Thanx for the compliment.  I like being knowledgeable but not a know-it-all.

        I think a correctly sized dress form is a great tool.  I've been sewing forever but have had my own dress form for maybe only 5 years.  It sure has made things easier.   Mine is adjustable in circumference as well as lengths (I am very long waisted but with a short rise - if height were determined by above waist length, I should be 6 feet tall, not my actual 5'3" on a tall day).  It is important to be honest in your measurements.  Take them snug to the skin and over the type bra/pantie you normally wear.  Don't allow for any comfort ease on the form - that you work into your garment.  Ask for help (from a good friend, not someone who will make editorial comments) in taking your measurements.  Some are hard to get accurately on your own without some tortuous twisting.  Threads has had some recent articles about making your own form.  Even if that is more than you want to take on, the measuring guides are super useful.   I have the Athena model (from Dritz I think) which is good for my body shape (round).  I am familiar with My Twin and My Double (used by friends).  We are all satisified with the ones we use.  All are pinable.  Mine probably adjusts more easily but it is a mechanical adjustment, the others are sewn adjustments.  Check the clasiified ads in Threads marketplace section - there are always several form companies advertising.  It is helpful to see one up close to make sure it will work the way you want to use it.  They can be expensive - check out your local resale places.  This might be a good way to find out if you like using a form before you invest real money.  

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