Pattern sizing vs RTW sizing: On the McCall Pattern Company blog

Let’s have a discussion about pattern sizing! I have a feeling readers might have something to say on this topic.

Specifically, we want to talk about pattern sizes—those numbers you choose from on the back of our envelopes—and how you feel about them in comparison with RTW sizes.

We all know how fashion companies shifted to vanity sizing this century to appeal to customers. When that change transpired, pattern sizes became more out of wonk with RTW sizing. Further complicating the whole pattern size and RTW size thing is that as consumers we now buy fashion on a global basis. Visit any Zara store and you’re looking at clothing tags with different sizes from the US, Mexico, the UK and Italy. And sewing pattern customers are global too—confusion over pattern sizing vs. RTW sizing isn’t something that only US sewers encounter.

I bet if you’ve been sewing for awhile you’ve long accepted that pattern sizes don’t match RTW sizes. But would you prefer it if they did match?  You’re an 8 in RTW, why can’t you be an 8 in pattern sizes too, because that’s way better than being a 14?

Sewing newcomers are confused and flustered by pattern sizing. “If I’m a size 6 in stores then I should just cut out a size 6, right? ‘Cause there’s no way I’m a size 12!” We field calls and emails to that effect all the time. Getting new sewing customers to look past the pattern size and to focus on their measurements isn’t insurmountable, but maybe this part of the process could be easier.

So, sizing…it’s complicated for both RTW and patternmakers. We’d love to read your thoughts specifically about pattern sizing. Not on the sizes of patterns themselves or how much ease or lack of sizes at the ends of spectrums—we can save that for another time.

  • Do you think we should adopt vanity sizing, to more closely match RTW?
  • Or, is there a better sizing option out there? For example, Chico’s uses a sizing system that runs from 000 to 4.5; Sandra Betzina uses her “Today’s Fit” sizing which goes from size A to J. Maybe there’s a better way?

Looking forward to reading your comments!