I know I’m courting controversy here, but today I’m going to try to convince you that it’s GOOD that there isn’t standardized sizing in sewing patterns, or in ready-to-wear clothes from stores.
Now you may be thinking, “Jenny, don’t you know how hard it is when sizing is all over the place?!” and I totally get where you’re coming from, and before I became a sewing pattern designer I’d have agreed with you. Why oh why can’t I just be a size 18 in every pattern? Why am I a 16 in one, and a 20 in another? However, it’s actually a blessing in disguise.
In a nutshell: if all sewing patterns and clothing used the same measurements and same proportions for their sizing, then either you’d fit ALL of them, or you’d fit NONE of them.
And that means 90% of us would fit NONE!
Right now, because brands vary in both the measurements and proportions that they use, you stand a good chance of finding a brand that is very similar to your body, and therefore either fits, or with minimal adjustments. You know how often jeans from one store fit you but not at any others? You’ve found the one that has an underlying block design which matches your body. But if all brands used the same sizing, you wouldn’t fit in any.
There are two elements to this. First up, measurements. Each brand decides what set of measurements they’re going to use for each size—so for instance, in Cashmerette, an 18 is 46 – 48″ bust (depending on cup size), 38″ waist and 48″ hip. But, in another brand, it might be 45″, 39″, 50″. Depending on your measurements, you may find one of those is much closer to your bust-waist-hip ratio than another, and you’ve skipped a bunch of adjustments!
Jenny is wearing the Pembroke Dress and Tunic.
The second consideration is proportion. Cashmerette is designed for curvy bodies—that primarily means big boobs, but also a curve to the waist and hip, and a full tummy. So, if you’ve got big boobs, we’ve already drafted every seam and style line to work for your body type. As you can imagine, if all pattern sizing was the same, then either there would be no option like Cashmerette, or everything would have to be curvy! Luckily, different brands draft for different proportions: whether that’s long-waisted, or small busted, or straight up and down, or pear-shaped, or apple, or hourglass—you get the idea. To some extent you can tell that from the body measurement chart, but you can also ask the designer for more information if they don’t share it publicly.
Sierra is wearing the Lenox Shirtdress.
The great news is as sewists, we have a shortcut to help us take good advantage of the variations in sizing. If you’re looking for jeans from a store, there’s no way to actually know what the measurements and proportions are of say J Crew jeans vs. GAP jeans, vs. Old Navy jeans. Nope, you have to trawl around the mall trying on umpteen pairs until you maybe find one that fits you. Which we all know is no one’s idea of a good time. However, as sewists, we know our measurements, and all sewing patterns (or any that are worth their salt) tell you the measurements for each size, and the better ones will also give you more details like the height and cup size they’re designing for. In fact, we’ve got a summary of the main sewing patterns for plus sizes right here with the measurements of the largest size and cup size to help you find patterns for your body even quicker.
Dawn is wearing the Ames Jeans.
Have I convinced you? Our superpower as sewists is being able to create clothes that fit our bodies rather than trying to change our bodies, and variation in sizing is just another tool to help us achieve that as quickly as possible! Let me know whether you agree—or think I’ve lost the plot—below.