Friday, January 4, 2008

What's the Deal With Sizes?

Ever noticed how sizing varies from company to company? If you're a new seamstress you may be surprised when you realize that the sizing of sewing patterns is radically different than that of off-the-rack clothing!

I've had at least one seamstress ask me about the size charts I use for my patterns, confused because by my charts she was several sizes larger than she was in off-the-rack clothing.

I use the US Standard Clothing Size in designing my patterns, which means that you will probably be a larger size in my patterns than you are in off-the-rack clothing.

To illustrate the differences between sewing pattern sizing and off-the-rack sizing, let me compare a size 12 in off-the-rack size, standard clothing size, and--for the fun of it--the measurements given for a size 12 on a pattern from the 40s.


Off-the-rack|Standard Clothing Size|1940s Pattern
Bust: 38.5 34 30

Waist: 29.5 26.5 25

Hips: 40 36 33


As you can see, there's a huge difference in the measurements that claim to be "size 12"--a 2008 off-the-rack size 12 is roughly equivalent to a size 20 pattern in the 1940s!

A word about ease: Most big pattern companies--not my patterns!--add so much ease to their patterns that I often make my garments 2 or 3 sizes smaller than my measurements say. I recommend looking at the "actual garment size" (usually printed on the pattern piece) and choosing your size according to that. You do need some ease, but you may not be happy with the fit of your garment with the large amounts of ease most pattern allow!

The bottom line: Don't judge a garment or pattern by its "size"--the measurements are what really count!