Why your pattern size is based on your body measurements not your ready to wear size!

Are you choosing your sewing pattern size based on your ready to wear size?

Unlike buying clothes in the shops, we can’t try on our dressmaking projects before we make them, so it’s crucial to take our body measurements to decide what size we’ll need.




Ready to wear sizes and sewing pattern sizes are not the same systems, so never assume your sewing pattern size is the same as the ready to wear size you’re used to buying. Measure your self with the tape measure sitting firmly around your body at the Bust, Waist and Hips.

How to measure yourself
  • For skirts and trousers you always choose your size by the hip measurement, and then adjust the pattern to your waist.
  • For dresses choose the size by your bust measurement, and then adjust the waist and hips.



Most of us will span several sizes between these 3 areas so don’t worry if you’re not the same size at the waist as you are at the hips! Make a note of the size closest to each of your measurements, so if you’re a pattern size 14 at the hip, but an 8 at the waist, you will blend between those 2 sizes to create a custom fit. This is the beauty of sewing your own clothes, you can tailor the paper pattern to your own unique size and shape.I dream of being able to buy dresses in the high street that were blended between sizes!

blending between sizes

There are different sizing systems used across all of the pattern company brands, so It’s a good idea to make a little chart of your own body measurements, and use it to compare with the size chart on your pattern each time you make a new project. I’ve made you a little downloadable measuring cheat sheet to record your personal measurements.

The best way to really fine tune your pattern sizing is to start understanding “Finished Garment Measures” and “Design Ease” If you’d like to read about how to do that, I’ve written a more in-depth post here

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  • Sewing Princess

    29.11.2016 at 08:51

    those tips are a good start but I would slightly rephrase to take into account enormous ease on some patterns.
    Measure yourself and then compare your own body measurements to the finished measurements on the pattern
    you’re working with. If that is not available, measure the actual pattern piece [then you would need to explain]

    Or maybe you could do a series…

    I learned to sew starting from drafting patterns using my own measurements….once you have that down from the beginning you understand concept of ease too…of course there are drawbacks to this method because not everyone wants to learn how to draft…
    BTW love the new website design! great job!

    • The Thrifty Stitcher

      06.12.2016 at 00:59

      Hi Silvia,

      Thanks for your feedback. As you say this post was meant to be a starting point only, and i merely wanted to encourage absolute beginners to use their measures, and not just the assumption of sizing based on ready to wear.
      I have a more in depth post planned on understanding ease, but having taught this in person to totally beginners, i know it’s tricky to understand if you’ve never touched a pattern before or made any piece of clothing. I will indeed either change this post to include something about ease and finished garment measures, or write a follow up post!

      thanks for your compliment on the new website
      best wishes:)

  • Debs Barker

    26.11.2016 at 19:08

    I’m still a beginner and measuring and fitting is definitely the most daunting part of making my own clothes. It never even occurred to me that I could combine different sizing for different parts of the pattern but it makes complete sense and I will definitely be trying that in my next project, as I am never the same shop size in all areas! Thank you!

  • PsychicSewerKathleen

    26.11.2016 at 15:04

    Thank you for posting great sewing tips online. Just signed up for your newsletter and look forward to reading more of your posts!