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measuring up
Whats Your CORRECT Pattern Size??
by Kathryn Brenne

Investing countless hours to create something unique out of beautiful fabric, only to discover that it doesnt fit or flatter your figure is certainly frustrating. But Im going to let you in on a little secret: The majority of fit problems home sewers encounter can be easily solved simply by choosing the correct pattern size.

Taking Measurements
Finding the right pattern size (and therefore getting a great fit) all begins with a set of proper measurements. Enlist a friend to help so you can stand at ease without twisting, making the measurements more accurate. You will need a tape measure, narrow piece of elastic, a piece of string, and a metal washer or key to use as a weight. Check to see that the markings on your tape measure are accurate and that it hasnt stretched over time. Wear proper undergarments of the type you would normally wear under the garment you are about to make. For instance, if you wear control-top pantyhose under a skirt or pants or a padded bra under your tops, wear them when taking your measurements. Do not measure over other clothing. Tie a length of narrow elastic around your waist and bend from side to side until the elastic settles at your natural waistline. Circumference measurements should be taken with the tape measure parallel to the floor. Wrap the tape measure comfortably around the bodytry not to pull it tight or compress the flesh. Dont cheat by adding or subtracting inches, and round up to the closest 1/8" measure. As you take each measurement, record the numbers in a notebook or the measurement chart provided on page 35 and date the chart for future reference. You should also retake your measurements every three months or soeven if you havent gained or lost weight. Subtle changes in weight distribution or muscle tone may change your proportions and your measurements. (continued on page 34)

To do this youll need to set both ego and wishful thinking aside and accept that the size you buy at your favorite clothing shop wont necessarily be your pattern size. Ready-to-wear sizing and pattern sizing are not created equal. In fact, its not unusual to sew one, or even two sizes larger than you might purchase in ready-to-wear. Unlike clothing manufacturers, the sewing pattern companies use standardized sets of body measurements to establish their size rangesand have for dozens of years. Once you have determined your pattern size for sewing, it will stay the same from pattern to pattern. Garment manufacturers on the other hand, have no standardized sizing, which is why you may wear a size 8 in one brand and a size 12 in another. Ready-to-wear sizes have also become more generous over the years. What was once a size 8 or 10 is now a size 4-a trick of the trade the garment industry calls Vanity Sizing. Consumers feel better about themselves when purchasing smaller sizes, which in turn encourages them to buy more (or at least buy more of the brand that flatters them with a smaller size garment).

VOGUE PATTERNS August/September 2008


Where to Measure
Only four measurementsBust, Chest, Waist, and Hipsare needed to figure out your pattern size, but making note of other areas will be helpful in altering the pattern for a personalized fit. I have found from experience, that the more measurements I take for a client, the fewer fittings I will need to do. Measurements also become reference points to check against the pattern tissue. 1. Chest: Measure around the body under the arms, above the fullest part of the bust. 2. Bust: Measure around the fullest part of the bust keeping the tape measure straight across the back. 3. Ribcage: Measure around the ribs, just below the bust. 4. Waist: Measure over top of the elastic at

(continued from page 33)

the natural waistline. Many people think that their natural waist is much lower than it really is. 5. Full Hip: Measure around the fullest part of the hip (approximately 7" to 9" below the waist), taking note of the distance between the waist and the hip. (On some figures the fullest measurement may actually be the bulge at the top of the legs. Measure this area as well as the full hip. 6. Mid Hip: Measure the hip area 5" below the waist. 7. High Hip: Measure the upper hip approximately 3" below the waist. 8. Front Shoulder to Bust Point: Measure from the shoulder straight down to the apex of the bust. 9. Front Shoulder to Waist: Measure from the shoulder over the fullest part of the bust to the waist. 10. Front Neck to Waist: Measure from the hollow of the collarbone to the waist. 11. Bust Point to Bust Point: Measure across from apex to apex.

12. Across Front at Armhole: Measure across the front chest from mid-armhole to midarmhole. 13. Neck: Measure the circumference at the base of the neck. 14. Shoulder: Measure from the neck to the edge of the shoulder. To find the edge of the shoulder extend the arm out straight to the side. There will be an indentation at the back of the shoulder. 15. Arm Length: With the arm hanging relaxed and at ease, measure from the shoulder to the elbow and note the measurement. Continue measuring from the elbow to the wrist bone for a full arm length. 16. Bicep: Measure around the fullest part of the arm. Bend the arm at the elbow to flex the muscle and note the measurement.


VOGUE PATTERNS August/September 2008

Illustrations by Jelena Bogavac

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17. Elbow: Measure the circumference of the elbow. 18. Wrist: Measure the circumference of the wrist. 19. Back Waist Length: Bend your head forward to find the prominent bone at the base of your neck. Standing straight, measure the distance from this bone to the waist. 20. Back Shoulder to Waist: Measure from the shoulder straight down over the shoulder blade to the waist. 21. Across Back at Armhole: Measure across the back from mid-armhole to mid-armhole 22. Crotch depth: Sitting on a flat, hard surface, measure from the waist over the full hip to the chair. 23. Waist to Knee: Measure from the waist to the knee. Bend the knee if you are unsure of where it is. 24. Waist to Floor, Outer Seam: Measure from the waist to the floor in bare feet. 25. Leg Inseam: Measure from the crotch to the floor in bare feet. Tip: Subtract the inseam measurement from the outer seam measurement. Compare the result to the crotch depth. The two measurements should be similar. 26. Crotch Length: Measure from the elastic at the center front waist, through the legs to the waist at center back. 27. Front and Back Crotch Lengths: Tie a metal washer or key to one end of a string. Knot the other end of the string and slip it loosely over the tape measure. With the legs spread apart, let the string and weight slide to the bottom of the crotch when measuring the total crotch length. Note the measurement from the front waist to the weighted string for the front crotch measurement, then subtract this from the total crotch length to get the back crotch measurement. 28. Thigh: Measure around the fullest part of the thigh. 29. Knee: Measure around the knee. 30. Calf: Measure around the fullest part of the calf. 31. Ankle: Sit on a chair and bend the ankle so that the foot is at a 90 angle to the leg. Measure over the heel and around the ankle. This is the smallest diameter pant leg you can sew for the foot to fit through. 32. Height: Standing against a wall, put a pencil mark at the top of the head and (continued on page 36) measure total height.

Body Area
Chest Bust Bra Cup Ribcage Waist Full Hip, 7-9 " below waist Mid Hip, 5 " below waist High Hip, 3 " below waist Front Shoulder to Bust Point Front Shoulder to Waist Front Neck to Waist Bust Point to Bust Point Across Front at Armhole Neck Shoulder Arm: Shoulder to Elbow Arm: Shoulder to Wrist Bicep Elbow Wrist Back Waist Length Back Shoulder to Waist Across Back at Armhole Crotch Depth Waist to Knee Waist to Floor, Outer Seam Leg Inseam Crotch Length Total Crotch Length Front Crotch Length Back Thigh Knee Calf Ankle Height Average Shoe Height

Personal Measurement

Minimum Ease
2" - 3"

Pattern Tissue


1" - 2" 2" - 3" 1"

/4 " - 1/2 "

1 1/2 " - 2 "


/2 " - 1 "

/2 " - 2 "

Name: ________________________________________________ Date: _________________________________________________ Pattern Size Bodice: ______________________________________ Pattern Size Skirt/Pants: ___________________________________ Alteration and Figure Considerations: _________________________

VOGUE PATTERNS August/September 2008


The Vogue Figure
Vogue Patterns are divided into Misses, Misses Petite, and Todays Fit sizes. Misses sizes are designed for someone 5'5" to 5'6" (1.65m to 1.68m) tall with a hip that falls 9" below the waist. Misses Petite sizes are designed for a shorter person, 5'2" to 5'4" (1.57m to 1.63m) tall, with a back waist length one inch shorter than a Misses figure. The full hip of Misses Petite falls 7" below the waist. Todays Fit sizes are based on different body proportions, with slightly larger hips and a thicker waist. They are designed for someone 5'5" to 5'6" (1.65m to 1.68m) tall. For a complete view of the different measurements for these size ranges see page 85, or visit Vogue Patterns are designed for someone with a B cup figure. Dont rely on your bra size to determine cup size. Instead, subtract your chest measurement from your bust measurement and compare to the chart below.
1 " or less 11/4" to 2 " 21/4" to 3" 3 1/4" to 4" 41/4" or larger A cup B cup C cup D cup larger than a D cup

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Misses Ease Allowances Misses Ease Allowance Chart

Bust Area
Dresses, Blouses, Shirts, Tops, Vests Silhouette Close Fitting Fitted Semi-fitted Loose Fitting Very Loose Fitting 0 - 278" (0 - 7.3cm) 3" - 4" (7.5 - 10cm) 4 8" - 5" (10.4 -12.5cm)

Hip Area
Coats Skirts, Pants, Shorts, Culottes


Lined or Unlined not applicable 334" - 414" (9.5 - 10.7cm) 4 8" - 5 4" (11.1 - 14.5cm)
3 3

0 - 178" (0 - 4.8cm) 2" - 3" (5 - 7.5cm) 318" - 4" (7.9 - 10cm)

514" - 634" (13.3 - 17cm) 678" - 8" (17.4 - 20.5cm)

518" - 8" (13 - 20.5cm) over 8" (over 20.5cm)

578" - 10" (15 - 25.5cm) over 10" (over 25.5cm)

818" - 12" (20.7 - 30.5cm) 418" - 6" (10.4 - 15cm) over 12" (over 30.5cm) over 6" (over 15cm)

larger than your waist, select the size closest to your hip measurement and adjust the waist. If your measurements fall between two sizes, look at your bone structure. If you have a small frame select the smaller size. Keep in mind that it is always easier to take a garment in rather than it is to let it out.

much ease is in the garment, subtract the pattern size body measurements from the finished garment measurements. Dont try to squeeze into a smaller pattern size by using up the ease! Alter the pattern first.

Making Alterations
To ensure a proper fit, compare your measurements to those of the pattern tissue and make any necessary adjustments. Make any changes to length first, adjust circumference second, and finish with any personal alterations. On most patterns, the bust point is identified with a circle . Compare your bust point position and make sure that princess seam lines are shaped correctly and darts are pointing to the bust. Youll also want to check the shoulder length, neck circumference, and cross-back width, as well as sleeve length, circumference, and elbow dart placement. Check the high hip circumference and hip depth on skirts and pants. Pin pants front and back sections together at the inseam to compare total crotch length.

Understanding Ease
Ease refers to the additional room designed into a garment to allow for movement and to create a certain silhouette. There are two different types: Wearing Ease and Design Ease. It is important to understand and maintain the two. Wearing Ease is the extra room that is built into a garment to allow you to move freely, walk, sit down, and still have the garment fit you at the end of the day. As much as 2" to 3" may be added at the bust, waist, and hips for Wearing Ease. Only a few garments, such as bathing suits or very-close fitting knit garments, do not have Wearing Ease. If your measurements are larger than those in the pattern, you cannot borrow from the Wearing Ease to accommodate your figure. Instead, the pattern must be altered. Design Ease is the extra room added to create a certain silhouette. If this ease is not maintained, the garment will not have the silhouette the designer intended, and will not look like the picture or illustration on the pattern envelope. The terms close-fitting, fitted, semi-fitted, loose-fitting, and very loose fitting are used to describe the various silhouettes. You will find these terms in the pattern description found in the catalog and on the back of the pattern envelope. Design Ease charts are found in the back of the pattern catalog. The pattern tissue will have finished garment measurements for the bust, waist, hips and bicep. If the pattern doesnt have the measurements you need, you will have to measure the tissue. To calculate how

If you are larger than a B cup, use your chest measurement, rather than your bust measurement, to select your pattern size. You will need to do a full bust alteration to adjust the pattern, but the smaller-sized pattern will fit in the neck, shoulder, upper chest and upper back area better than a larger pattern would.

Selecting Your Correct Size

Compare your body measurements to Vogue Patterns Standard Measurement Charts on page 85. Select the size corresponding to the Bust, Waist and Hip measurements closest to your measurements. Here are some tips to help you make a wise choice. Since its easier to adjust the circumference of a pattern at the waist than at the bust, use your bust measurement to choose your pattern size for dresses, blouses, jackets or coats. As previously stated, if your cup size is larger than a B, select your size by the Chest measurement and make a cup-size adjustment. Use your waist measurement to choose your pattern size for a skirt or pair of pants. Adjust the hips if necessary. If your hips are much

Test the Fit

To avoid frustration (and costly mistakes with expensive fabric) I always test the fit of my garments by sewing up a fitting muslin. Transfer the necessary pattern alterations and cut the garment pieces out of cotton muslin. To make changes easy to see, I use red tracing paper to mark grainlines, the center front, bust point, button placement, and the hip line. I then baste the garment together (theres no need to add any facings, buttonholes or zippers) and press up the hem allowance. Openings can be pinned closed for a fitting. The minimal investment of time and money used to create a muslin is well worth the effort.
Kathryn Brenne is the owner of The Academy of Fine Sewing & Design. Visit her web site at for a complete list of classes.


VOGUE PATTERNS August/September 2008