Pattern sizing – the mind boggle explained and simplified

Over the years I’ve noticed students get in a complete muddle about what size to make for themselves. The size chart has no relevance to what size they would buy for themselves in high street shops and they often find they’re not one straight forward size. Choosing the right size to make, shouldn’t be so tricky so here it is explained and hopefully you’ll understand the nonsense.

I’m about to start making myself a jumpsuit, view D from the pattern below, so lets use that as reference.

Measure yourself

Start by measuring your bust, waist and hips. Make sure your body is relaxed and you’re not holding your breath. The tape measure should be parallel with the floor. Make sure the tape measure doesn’t slip off your boobs or bottom.

You’ll notice it’s not pulled really tight and I can get my thumb underneath. My bust measures 36.5 inches, waist 32 inches and hips 40.5 inches.

Back of the envelope sizing

Now lets compare with the size chart on the back of envelope.

According to size chart, my bust is closest to a 14, my waist an 18 and my hips closest to a 16. But I usually buy a size 12 in most high street shops. Hmmm confusing….

Finished garment measurements

Lets focus on the size 16 for now as that’s the average of my measurements. Further down the envelope, there’s a section which says garment measurements. This is what the finished garment will measure.

Circled in red is the finished garment measurements of the jumpsuit in a size 16. The finished hips 4.5 inches bigger than my hips and 6 inches bigger than my bust. Thats quite an increase. So why is this? This is called wearers ease, this allows extra fabric so that it isn’t skin tight and you can move. A coat will have lots of ease so that you can wear a jumper underneath. While a swimsuit will have negative ease because you want it to stretch so that it fits snugly. It all depends on the garment and your personal preference.

I advise my students that they have to measure the finished garment measurements on themselves to decide what fit they like best. What I mean by this, is that you have to hold the tape measure around yourself at the measurements they give and decide whether thats a good fit.

I think the best finished measurements for me are the figures circled in green.

I’ll explain how I came to this decision. On the jumpsuit, I want the bodice to fit nicely so that I’m not worrying about my bra being on show. I held the tape measure around my bust at the size 12 (38.5 inches) measurement but felt this might end up being too gapey. Then I did the same for the size 10 (37 inches) which I think is probably better for me.

However, the size 10 finished hip measurement is 39.5 inches. This is smaller than my hips, so I’m going to have to multi-size my garment, which I will explain in a min. The size 12 hips is 41 and the size 14 is 43. I don’t mind them being a little baggy, the fabric I’m using is linen so I want it to feel light and floaty, and have room to be able to chase after children! I think the size 14 is probably the best fit for me. I could do the size 12 but I think you need more than half an inch wearers ease across the bum as this is an area under strain.

There isn’t a finished garment measurement for the waist as this garment is elasticated. I’ll probably go with the size 14 as my waist is towards the bigger end of the proportion on the original size chart.

If there isn’t a finished garment measurement chart on back of envelope, you can usually find the measurements written on the pattern pieces somewhere. See below.


Now that I’ve decided on the sizes for my hips and bust, I need to merge the sizes to make my pattern work, this is called multi-sizing. Anywhere above the bust needs to be a size 10 and anywhere below the waist needs to be a size 14. So using a red sharpie, I’ve drawn a line between the 10 at the bust and the 14 at the waist.

The trousers will be cut out as a size 14, I have no need to edit that pattern. When it comes to meterage for fabric, I will refer to the size 14 so that I have plenty to work with.

As I’m quite tall, I also need to lengthen my pattern so I don’t have the dreaded “hungry bum”! I feel this is the subject of another post, so I’ll save that for next week. So come back then.

Rosie xx

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: