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Let’s talk about size, bay-bee

January 19, 2012

All the good things and the bad things that may be.

Sarah and Miss Crayola Creepy (whose blog name I love, but real name I don’t know :( ) are co-hosting what no doubt is going to be a very popular series. A sew-along which will go through all five of the garments in the Colette Sewing Handbook. Cool! I’ll definitely be joining in on a few of these, and these gals are great!!! Taffy is next on my list, but I’ve started making plans for the Pastille dress.

As you know, I just finished up my Meringue skirt, and there was a minor issue I didn’t mention in that post. I wanted to pose it to the collective sewing hive anyway, and thought this might be as good a time as any. The Meringue is a sweet little skirt, and I can’t wait to see all of the finished versions that will be popping up soon.

I’ve discussed size a smidge here. While I do think size (the number) is totally arbitrary, and am much more interested in perfecting fit, we do use pattern size as a starting point. That said, men’s sizing is great. The waist is measured, that’s the pant size (in theory). Doesn’t matter if the rise is low or high, the size is based on the inches in the waist. Both pairs of “fancy” jeans I have are the same. The rise is pretty low, hitting at a body circumference inches larger than my natural waist. But the size? The size on each is my natural waist measurement, as opposed to 6, 8, 10, whatever. Now, I’m pretty much Mom/self-taught at sewing. I learned that patterns are the same. For instance, even if a skirt is designed to fall a few inches below the natural waist, you determine size based on waist circumference. Example – your waist is 30″ and the pattern reads that the skirt is meant to fall 3″ below the waist. Still, your starting point would be whatever size corresponds to your natural waist, even though the top circumference of the finished garment would be larger because it is meant to fall 3″ below.

The Meringue was different. I measured the flat pattern, and the finished circumference for each size corresponded to the WAIST measurements designated on the size chart. But the skirt is designed to fall below the waist. Therefore, if you have a 30″ waist, you should not sew the size marked for a 30″ waist, but instead the size that matches your circumference at a given point below the waist.

Have I been under the wrong impression all along? Or do any of you find this odd? I ask not out of criticism, but curiosity and knowledge-seeking. It took me ages before I knew that high bust was the best measurement to go by for blouses, rather than full bust. Enlighten me, dear readers.

16 Comments leave one →
  1. January 19, 2012 10:26 am

    Oddly, mine turned out a tad on the large side for me, so I had the opposite thing happen LOL. I think it might have been the difference in fabric though, because my muslin was out of a stiffer fabric and did indeed sit at my natural waist, not below it.

    Personally I have found so many discrepancies on how patterns AND RTW fit me that size doesn’t even mean anything to me anymore LOL. I know to get a good fit I’m doomed to grade sizes and still do fitting adjustments and that’s just how she rolls LOL.

    I’d heard high bust is a good measurement to go by on the big 4 pattern companies but with Colette to go by full bust as they draft for a C cup instead of a B. I haven’t done any Colette tops though yet so I wouldn’t know from personal experience :)

    • January 19, 2012 10:36 am

      Yeah, I know the best thing is to measure the flat pattern, and I’m ALWAYS grading (big hips). Fit adjustments are part of the process, and very important. But as a starting point, I originally learned that regardless of where a skirt fall, you measure the waist. Just curious, mostly out of time-saving. Size the number is irrelevant, but when you’re measuring/determining starting points it does end up playing a minor role. It’s so silly to translate cm/in to a size – I wish we could just move into a measurement system the world over!

      • January 19, 2012 10:49 am

        Yeah, that’s what I always thought too… if we had to determine the exact place where the pattern was supposed to sit and measure THAT area it would make things really complicated, especially for people like me LOL.

        To your very good point, I am just starting to learn about measuring the flat pattern, and I find it to be a very wise thing to do. Some patterns have acres of ease in them and I’m not a fan of looking like I’m swimming in my clothes LOL – but better that than find out too late a garment I spent so much time on is too tight! :)

  2. January 19, 2012 11:09 am

    I concur. I would expect the waist measurement on the size chart to be your natural waist. I think this is logical because when you draft skirt pattern you start with a set of measurements for waist (natural) & hip (or widest point) and the distance between them. From there you can move the waist but its still determined by the initial measurements. Where finished measurements are given I’d expect it to match with where the skirt actually sits.
    And as for sizing in rtw – i’m not gonna start cos i might not stop!!!

    • January 19, 2012 12:00 pm

      Weird, right? Thank dog my Mum taught me size is a stupid concept long ago! Otherwise I never would have made it out of the “husky” department or patterns sane. Husky… what a term.

  3. January 19, 2012 12:06 pm

    I didn’t even know that about high busts on the big 4! I’ll see if I can find out more about it. Also, can anyone recommend a good online guide on the best way to measure flat patterns against one’s own body measurements, and adapting them? Lavender I love your pretty things blouse btw – uber cute.

    • January 20, 2012 10:32 am

      Hhmm… I simply notice a point (bust, waist, hip – where mine are in reference to the pattern) and measure. Then multiply accordingly, subtract SA and any width taken out by darts. Because of my shape, I’ll often grade between waist & hip, then change two darts to four (two different lengths), dividing width evenly. This distributes the, um, spread a little nicer on my figure. Math! Maybe I should do a guide?

  4. January 19, 2012 12:22 pm

    I’m so glad you are doing the sew-along! And I love that you are discussing sizing. I’m having trouble with my muslin and can use all the info I can get!
    – Erin :)

    • January 20, 2012 10:28 am

      I’m happy that YOU are co-hosting! It’s a great idea to go through the book, and perfect timing after the holidays :D

  5. January 19, 2012 1:19 pm

    Fascinating! I would have assumed what you did. I started Truffle last week and became so frustrated trying to rework the D cup to my A cup that I gave up and drafted my own pattern.

  6. January 19, 2012 1:52 pm

    Measure the flat pattern, eh? Yeah. That would probably be a good idea. I should really get on that……

    I’m too trusting/lazy, as it turns out. But I have, I suppose, a figure that works with a lot of standard measurements, at least at hips and waist. It’s the bust and rear that screw me. I usually go up a size rather then grade anything, but this year I’m trying to focus on fit, so all that is about to change. Mark my words. GRADE my words.

  7. January 19, 2012 3:51 pm

    Measure the high bust, eh? Huh. Maybe that’s my problem. I mean, besides being 8 months pregnant and trying to modify patterns to fit my rather bulbous shape at the moment. This is why I love sewing blogs!
    And what you say about the waist measurement makes complete sense. But weird that the Meringue wasn’t like that too.

  8. January 19, 2012 4:39 pm

    Are you looking at the size chart on the page with the pattern or the one in the back of the book? because the one that it on the page with the pattern is the garment measurement NOT your body measurements that’s in the back.


    • January 20, 2012 9:42 am

      Yeah, I realize that. Maybe I’m just hung up on semantics, but to refer to the garment msmnt as “waist” is slightly misleading if it falls below the waist. Maybe just give hip? On the other hand, it would be silly to state the garment msmnt as “slightly below the natural waist”. I always like to compare size charts to final msmnt charts to determine ease, as well as measuring the flat pattern.

  9. January 20, 2012 5:23 pm

    I always assume the same as you. That the waist measurement is your waist measurement & that the pattern does the work for you accounting for the rise or fall of the garment. It makes sense to me, as I know my waist, hip & bust measurements by heart so I always do a quick sense check of the body measurements chart to make sure I’m buying / cutting the right pattern size.

    However I have been caught out by similar things before….

  10. January 22, 2012 9:27 am

    I’m also very confused by this, how am I supposed to know which measurement to use? That’s also assuming that the height between natural waist and the garment’s waist will be the same for everyone – and I suppose this is not true.
    Can you explain a bit more about this high bust measurement? I’ve read something about it somewhere but don’t remember where, and people seem to think it gives a better fit that full bust, but I don’t know exactly how. Do you have a link or something?

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