How to determine commercial pattern sizing

Pattern sizing is different from ready-to-wear sizing. Compare your actual body measurements to the fitting/measurement chart at the back of the catalogue. Choose the pattern size that most closely matches your body measurements. If all your measurements don’t match up with one size, choose a pattern that matches your bust size when making dresses, blouses, and jackets. Choose a pattern that matches your hip size when making skirts and pants.

Many patterns are multi size, with several sizes printed on the same tissue paper. If you have a size 10 waist and size 12 hips, for example you can easily draw alteration lines from one seam to the other, tapering gently to maintain the garment’s shape. Or, if the pattern includes several garments, you can make a size 10 jacket and a size 12 skirt, loose-fitting items are sometimes sized extra-small, small, medium and large, and those four sizes are often printed on one tissue.

To avoid confusion, seam lines are usually not printed on multi size patterns. Sometimes the different sizes have different types of cutting lines – one solid, one dashed, and one with a dot / dash pattern – to make each size easier to cut accurately.

Finding the right size

The key to determining the correct size pattern is accurate body measurements. Have someone take your measurements for you, if possible. To do it yourself, stand in front of a full-length mirror and make sure the tape measure is always flat and straight.

Wear a leotard or underwear and tie a string or ribbon around your waist. The string will roll to your natural waist, making it an easy reference point. Stand up straight with your shoulders back. Hold the tape measure snug, but not tight, and parallel to the floor for circumference measurements. Measure twice to double-check. Record your measurements on an index card and bring it when you go shopping for your pattern.

  1. a. Full bust: Measure around the torso over the fullest part of the bust and straight across the back.
  2. b. High bust: Measure across the top of the bust, above the full bust line, just under the arm and across the widest part of the back.
    If your high-bust measurement is at least 2″ (5.1cm) more than your full-bust measurement, use the high-bust measurement to determine your pattern size for blouses, dresses, and jackets. If the bust measurement is not 2″ (5.1cm) more than the full-bust meaurement, use the full-bust measurement.
  3. Waist: Measure around your natural waist, directly over the string, around the thinnest part of your body.
  4. Hips:
    a. Measure around the fullest part of your hips, usually 7″ to 9″ (17.8 to 22.9cm) below the string that marks your waist.
    b. If your waist and hip measurements are not both included in one pattern size, choose the pattern for your hip measurement. It is easier to adjust the pattern at the waist than it is at the hips, particularly if it is a multisize pattern.
  5. Back Waist Length: Measure from the most prominent bone at the base of your neck to the string at your waist
  6. Height: Remove your shoes, stand up tall with your eyes straight ahead, and measure your height against a wall.