Body calculations entered on your personal measurement sheet will guide you when purchasing a commercial pattern. (See Taking Body Measurements) Remember that sizes listed in the back of pattern books can vary slightly from one company to another. Pattern sizing is not consistent with ready-to-wear. For instance, your bust measurement may indicate a size 16 pattern, but you may wear a 12 in purchased garments. Bust measurements are used when purchasing any top, dress, jacket or vest pattern. Either the waist or hip measurement determines a skirt or pants pattern size.
Pattern types come in Misses’, Miss Petite, Junior, Women’s and Women’s Petite. Misses’ are drafted for well developed and proportioned figures that are approximately 5’4”- 5’6”. Miss Petite is for a 5’2”- 5’3” height with a 1” shorter back waist length. Junior patterns are also for the same Petite height, well-proportioned but shorter waisted. Women’s and Women’s Petite both have larger bust, waist and hip measurements than Misses’ but the same heights. Women’s Petite has a 1” shorter back waist length than Women’s.
Use the high bust calculation to choose your pattern size since the full bust measurement will generally result in necklines, shoulders and sometimes the back being too large. The high bust measurement is taken high under the arms around the body with arms hanging at your sides. Adjusting the full bust is a much simpler alteration than having to reconfigure necklines, shoulders and often sleeves. Most patterns are drafted for a B cup, but some pattern companies have been addressing this with alternative pattern pieces, new cutting lines and instructions. Another option is to use the Front Width calculation taken across the upper chest with the arms hanging at your sides. (See October 2010 Body Measurements Worksheet). Measure from crease to crease where the arm and upper chest intersect. A 12” measurement indicates a size 6 Misses’ or size 5 Junior pattern. Choose a size 8 Misses’ or size 7 Junior if the Front Width measures 12 ½”. For each additional ½” choose one size larger. When in doubt, it’s often better to go a size smaller since the neck and shoulders should be a better fit.
When purchasing a skirt, pants or culotte pattern, the hip calculation is generally used. However, if the abdominal extension (high hip/tummy area) is larger, use that measurement instead. It’s often more expedient to use the hip instead of the waist since altering a waistline is easier and, especially in pants, the correct hip calculation will result in a better-fitting seat and legs. Even though the waist will probably be too large, it’s much easier to adjust using the waist darts, pleats, gathers or side seams.
Pattern chart length calculations for skirts or pants are not as important as back waist lengths since it’s usually very easy to lengthen or shorten skirts or pants. However, a short back waist length measurement could indicate the better choice would be a Petite style. Since most patterns are sized for Misses’, honing your pattern altering skills will result in your being able to adapt any size pattern to your personal measurements.