Discussion Topic: Pattern Sizes vs. RTW Sizes

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.

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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!

 

We've been sewing since 1863.
164 comments
  1. Actually I struggle more with bust size and the cup size on most patterns because like lots of women I have a large bust and have to buy to the high bust and then alter the full bust. I know this from years of sewing but I think it is pretty complicated for a beginner. Thank goodness for patterns with multiple cup fittings included, I still have to adjust but not as much as a standard pattern.

    1. Whatever sizing identification system is decided on (letters make sense, no comparing to RTW), I would like to see more information printed on the pattern envelope! You used to able to at least find finished measurements on the envelope, but now these measurements are either located on the tissue (not good if you are only considering the pattern, stores frown on you unfolding the tissue before purchase) or they are nonexistent. Sometimes the envelope does not even say what the fit (loose fitting etc.) is. Without physically removing the tissue and measuring it, it is often impossible to tell how the garment is sized. If more finished measurements were included on the envelope it would help to select the appropriate size. Finished width at hem, hip and bust, finished length, all would help with pattern selection and make it easier not just for beginning sewers but for all!

  2. I would be happy if each and every pattern company would list the high bust measurement. I use this measurement to purchase patterns, but I now have some independent company patterns that I haven’t got a clue where to start. Now to the sizing–I am not upset with the numbers, but I do think patterns should reflect the size of women today. There are not many women (and this includes young women) who have less than a 27- inch waist. Today’s Fit patterns and Coni Crawford are much more realistic. Maybe we should take away the numbers and use letters instead.

    1. I have a 24 inch waist and I’m an adult …
      I have almost straight up and down body, no butt no hips …
      Please don’t dorget us too because sometimes even the smallest sewing patterns sizing is way to big …
      And I’m not advanced enough to grade down the size …

      1. Adding: most Asian are built on the petite side and we sew too … And I know and see lots of women (adult and teens) who have waist smaller than 26inches … In fact, that’s kind of normal in Asia …
        Please think about us too …

      2. I agree with keeping the smaller sizes, not only for me, but because a lot of us sew for our daughters. There are no good patterns for younger teens and teens. They don’t want the fashions in the “tween” section of the pattern book plus the shape is wrong. My daughter is 15 years old and perhaps barely bigger than a lot of her peers. She’s a pattern size 6 which is the smallest you see often. So her peers would need a size 4. I’m sure this varies by geography and neighborhood to neighborhood but I’m surprised at how uniform the girl’s bodies are at her school.

        1. When we were researching sizing for our book Fit for Real People, Junior size patterns had just been discontinued. The reason was there there were really no “true” juniors as girls matured at many different levels including height and bust development. We came to a conclusion and showed how to adapt misses sizes and used the Palmer/Pletsch Tissue-Fitting Method and graded down patterns where necessary. It has worked like a charm.

  3. As Meg suggested, we must ignore the designated pattern “size” and look at body measurements. I have learned to go beyond that and consider actual garment measurements on the pattern pieces to determine which cutting lines to use. However, it might be easier for seamstresses if sizing were designated by a more neutral tag, such as letter designators or something similar. It is a bit horrifying to acknowledge that a person’s pattern size is so much larger than RTW, and may actually discourage some prospective seamstresses from picking up the craft, due to resistance about sizing.

    1. I agree with Mary completely. In fact, I’m sure a lot of new sewers would be happier and have greater success if the sizing was tied to a letter or something arbitrary that required them to compare their actual measurements to the pattern’s measurements. I usually don’t even look at the number associated with my size–I take any sizing info that I need directly from measuring the pattern tissue.
      Having said that, I would not like to see patterns go the way of vanity sizing. I am short and petite and have been vanity-sized out of a lot of department stores. I would hate to be sized out of the pattern spectrum as well, especially because making clothes to fit my small frame is one of the main reasons why I sew.

  4. Size names are so arbitrary, just by their nature. Since many stitchers choose to make their own garments precisely because RTW garments don’t fit well enough, pattern size numbers become less and less of a vanity issue, the longer one sews.

    Commercial pattern makers have been using an industry standard for over a century. During that time, they have gathered vast data on actual measurements of women (and men, but to a lesser extent) to use in drafting to a standard. As population means and averages have shifted, the industry has updated its sizing to reflect those changes.

    As a person who has sewn her own clothing for nearly 50 years, I find the sewing industry’s standards to be a logical, easily understandable way to purchase paper patterns in a size (or in a size range) that will fit my body with the least amount of alterations. And there will always be alterations. An industry must draft to a standard. Custom clothiers can draft to an individual’s measurements, but an industry attempts to serve thousands of customers.

    When I purchase RTW clothing, I arm myself with a tape measure. Those garments might be labeled anything from a size 6 to a size 3X, yet all measure exactly the same!
    When I purchase paper patterns, the patterns are reliably sized at whatever number the industry has assigned to that size. Much the easier way to shop, in my opinion.

  5. Since many beginners find the numbered sizing misleading (and may get off to a discouraging start in sewing as a result), I would like to see a letter system. A numberless system would force us to examine the body and finished size measurements, which is what we should do anyway. I suggest the system Jalie uses as a good example.

    1. I agree. I like the Jalie system and agree that it forces sewers to be aware of measurements, rather than a numbered size that carries preconceived notions.

    2. I agree Mary the size on a pattern means nothing other than knowing which line on the pattern to cut, so why don’t we just do away with sizes and move into a lettering system. The lettering system for each pattern company doesn’t even need to be the same. I always go by the body measurements. This would stop sewing patterns being compared to RTW altogether.

  6. Those of us who have been sewing for years are used to the difference between patterns and RTW sizes but new sewers ( or those who sewed when patterns size numbers and RTW matched and are getting back into it ) are a bit confused, if not horrified! I like the letter system on the Today’s Fit patterns. Some sort of symbol would work as well. Something so different from RTW that measurements are actually taken and compared to the pattern envelope as opposed to saying ” I’m a 6 so I must always be a 6″.

  7. I am used to the sizing difference, and actually, I think the RTW sizing its a little bit ridiculous, not say very ridiculous, you have to be very thin, and thats not normal.

  8. I would rather rtw sizes went according to measurements, the way sewing patterns do… and the way men’s sizing works! Women’s RTW sizing isn’t always the same from shop to shop. Numbers, however, don’t lie. If you take your measurements you can have an idea of how a pattern size will fit and what adjustments you’ll need to make. Why change to something arbitrary?

  9. I like the idea of using letters–it would both alleviate some of the number-size angst and encourage beginners to focus on actual body measurements. I agree with Jill and Mary: I also wish all pattern companies would include high bust (full bust has so little relation to the rest of your frame size) and finished garment measurements (after all, you may prefer a tighter or looser fit and that can be hard to judge from the envelope art).

  10. I agree – letter sizes, or something else neutral, would be a good idea. Being from the UK I don’t find the difference between pattern and ready to wear sizes too horrifying, and any one who’s been sewing a while knows to go by body measurements, but I imagine it would make a world of difference to new sewers.
    I can’t wait for the opportunity to moan about ease!

  11. I think it’s silly to call RTW sizing “vanity sizing”…. the whole vanity issue is nonsense made up by ill informed consumers. For an industry perspective on the changes in sizing, you can read here -http://fashion-incubator.com/the_myth_of_vanity_sizing/

    The tldr of that article is that the median size of a given retailer matches the median size of their average customer. That is why I wear a size 4 pant at Ann Taylor but an 8 at h&m. Ann isn’t trying to make me feel skinnier, their customers are just larger on average so their size range reflects that.

    So the question is… does the current pattern size range accurately represent the average sewist? If so, it doesn’t make sense to change what your are doing.

    1. Please keep pattern sizes as is since sewists get used to it quickly and it’s reliable unlike retailers. In my 20s I was an ann Taylor size 4. Now I’m 12 pounds heavier and an ann Taylor size 2. I think vanity sizing is very real. Ann Taylor is my go to work retailer so I have a long history with them. If you thrift and find older Ann Taylor clothes the difference is apparent as I will be a vintage Ann Taylor 6 or 8.

  12. Please can someone tell me what RTW means? forgive my ignorance.

    1. Ready to wear – shop bought 🙂

      1. RTW means Ready to Wear, clothing that is manufactured vs. custom sewn. Sorry–we’ve been in the fashion industry too long.

  13. I have faced this question my entire career. In 1971 the pattern industry resized to be like RTW. In those days a RTW 6 was the smallest size in misses. But RTW expanded vanity sizing and now we have a zero. Who wants to be a zero. So the pattern industry decided to stick to a standard. In RTW you vote by trying on and buying. You can’t try on a pattern, so standardization is very important. Once you figure out your correct best size pattern, you stick with it and you will generally know the changes you will need to make and those will change throughout your life. We teach tissue-fitting and buy our size using the high bust measurement just like James McCall did in 1873. If you want a quick overview of this, we just filmed two online classes for Craftsy.com and people are reporting great success. We honestly weren’t sure about that, not being our normal hands-on classes. But, we have to remember how smart sewers are. If something makes sense, they will make it work for them. Encourage pattern companies to remain standardized as then we will know what we are buying. If we couldn’t try on RTW before buying, we’d want them to be standardized as well!

    1. I appreciate very much your tissue-fitting methods! They are easy to understand, easy to implement, and easy to afford — no special tools or materials need be purchased to tissue-fit. (Unless you don’t have piles and piles of tissue paper lying around, as who does not?)

      I will admit to using a book, not an on-line class — I am that old, and I am more accustomed to have a book propped open in front of me with a pattern weight than stopping and starting an electronic tutorial.

      1. I agree. When people ask if they should get our fit book or DVDs I always say there is more in a book. You can’t get it all into a DVD. But, if they are extremely visual, DVDs and online classes work for those people. Marta Alto does some magical things in altering odd designs for a full bust on our Full Busted? DVD that I haven’t replicated in a book. Second to books are hands-on classes!! The best!

  14. I was certainly confused by pattern sizing compared to RTW when I was newer to sewing. Now that I have a good sense of how to read a pattern size chart, though, I have no trouble.
    I got very annoyed however when I wanted to purchase a men’s pants pattern for my husband and then I discovered that even there the pattern size and RTW pants sizing are different. I guess I always (wrongly) assumed that men’s pants were sized in actual inches.

    If there were to be an industry change, I would second the move towards non-numbered sizing to help alleviate any confusion. Actually if they could make it symbols instead of letters that would be fun. I want to be star-sized. Or smiley-sized. Maybe flower-sized?

    1. I love this idea–I want to be star-sized, too!

  15. I’m happy with the way pattern sizing is. It’s not hard to learn to look at the measurements on a pattern envelop. It’s part of learning how to sew.

    Summer

  16. I always look at the measurements but really look at the finished measurements on the pattern pieces. Those are a wonderful guideline for me. I have a number in my mind that I feel comfortable with the ease on various styles and use the finished measurements as a guide.

  17. Like others who have commented, I’ve been sewing for years and am used to the pattern sizing & buying by the high bust measurement. Recently I’ve tried a couple of the Butterick patterns that have cup sizing included and I would like to see more of those. On one I didn’t have to do anything & on another I had to do just a small bust adjustment. I know how to make a full bust adjustment but the patterns that include the cup sizing just make it quicker. I also find the Vogue Today’s Fit patterns by Sandra Betzina to be very easy to fit. I don’t usually have to do much to those.

  18. I would like pattern companies to get rid of sizes altogether and simply provide measurements. Why does it matter if you’re a 8 in RTW and a 14 in McCalls? What matters is what MY measurements are, not some arbitrary number/lettering system a company has devised that I happen to fit into. I would also like to see the high bust measurement on patterns, esp. those that don’t come with A/B/C/D cup sizing. I’ve learned through trial and error to buy patterns based on my much smaller high bust measurement so that they’ll fit me in the shoulders (this after a full-bust adjustment on the pattern to accommodate my girls). At my age and for the length of time I’ve been sewing, I don’t let pattern sizing or vanity sizing sway me … but I do think for people new to sewing that providing measurements only would eliminate a lot of frustration from the beginning. You just can’t argue with a tape measure around your hips …

  19. Just make sure to put pattern measurements for each individual pattern on your website and on the pattern envelope! There’s no way to match ready to wear sizing – every country, every manufacturer is differfent.,

  20. I don’t care if you use vanity sizing or not. What do care about is having an accurate idea of what each size means and how much ease a garment has built into the pattern. One of the major reasons beginners find sewing with commercials patterns to be difficult is because the sizing listed on the envelope is misleading. I measure between a 20-22 on McCalls patterns but I usually end up making a 20 for wovens and 18 for knits. I wear a 14 in RTW. This is so frustrating. I need the pattern envelope to list finished garment sizes as well as on the pattern pieces.

    ALSO, for the patterns that have cup sizes (huge thank you!) the instructions on how to pick a size need to be amended to clarify how to determine which size to cut. They do describe how to determine cup size, but that’s it. The usual method for determining this when a FBA is needed is to go by the upper bust measurement. Should we follow this same advise for the multi cups or go by the full bust? I feel that this needs to be clarified because if I follow the full bust I still get a lot of excess ease (see first paragraph above) even though I’m waaaaay more than a D cup.

    1. I agree completely. When I first started sewing, I looked at the pattern envelop and saw that my body measurements were *exactly* those listed for a size 12. Then I made the pattern and swam in it. I did the same with Burda, the garment fit. I was utterly confused. So I stuck to Burda and other EU patterns and magazine for about a decade. I went with the sure thing.
      Like Grace, I now know to make a 10 for most of the BMV, except perhaps Designer Vogues where I make a 12 (but not always). But how is a new seamstress supposed to figure this out USING ONLY THE PATTERN ITSELF???? Sorry for shouting but, for some people, there is no intermediate step. They want to sew, they go to a chain store, they buy a pattern.
      I don’t really feel the size chart needs to be altered, at least in the nomenclature. I don’t live in the US and don’t really buy RTW so that is not a frame of reference for me. I do know my various body measurements fairly well.
      I think listing High Bust, Full Bust, Back Length, Waist, Hips and Hip Depth (waist to hip vertical measurement) as well as Back Width or Shoulder Width would be much more useful as well as Finished Garment Measurements. All printed on the envelop, pattern paper and/or instruction sheet.

  21. The problem with trying to sync up with RTW sizes is that there is no standard. Sizing varies from brand to brand and from year to year. Sewing pattern sizes might be confusing at first, but at least they’re consistent.

    There’s another reason not to mimic RTW: For me, sewing has been a big help in getting over the insecurities that came with the number on the tag. Instead of feeling bad about not fitting into the next smallest size in RTW, I just make clothes that fit. Yay!

    So yes, let’s get rid of the traditional size numbers (6-8-10-12-14) on sewing patterns, since we can all agree that they’re a little confusing, they come with baggage, and we all should be paying attention to measurements anyway. I like the previous suggestions to come up with other labels. Letters would work, or even non-traditional numbers, like 1-2-3-4-5-6-7.

    1. The thing that changed my sewing was learning that different pattern makers used a different ‘block’ for their work, and that I had to learn to fit ME to THAT. Once that was understood, the whole fitting process opened up like a book. Or a flower.
      I don’t know that we can have A Standard Block to work from, until we have A Standard Woman to work from. At least we can identify the cup size we’re using on the pattern.
      What I wish we had is what we used to have: (this is taken from
      http://www.chronicallyvintage.com/2013/01/vintage-clothing-sizing-101.html)
      “For example, throughout the mid-twentieth century, Sears often released the same garment in one or more of its most common size ranges: Juniors (designed for the slender teenage figure), Misses (average adult sizes), Half sizes (designed for women who were 5’3″ and under and/or were of average height but fell between two even numbered clothing sizes), and Women’s sizes (designed for plus sized gals)”

      I know, that’s not practical now, but a gal can dream. And use her fitting blocks.

  22. I think that simply how people are learning to sew may be the main problem rather than pattern sizing. We are not learning in schools like our grandparents did. Most just start with a pattern, some fabric and a sewing machine. They may not even know about doing alterations or knowing if they need an alteration before cutting out the fabric.

    In the beginning it is more about getting the resources out to people more than sizing. Once they are use to the difference, the pattern number doesn’t matter anymore.

  23. I too would prefer that pattern companies simply provide both standard body measurements (this includes high bust) AND finished garment dimensions for key fitting areas on the back of the pattern envelope (not just finished length and hem width!). I do not want to rely solely upon the actual pattern pieces to find the finished bust, waist or hip measurement, especially if I have no option but to buy the pattern online.

  24. I am for eliminating sizes altogether and using the bust measurement to designate the pattern size. It really doesn’t matter what a size is labeled as long as it fits your body. I am at the low end of a lot of retailers size ranges and it really does not make my heart flutter to wear a 2 or a 4, I just want clothes that fit!

  25. I wish the measurements didn’t have so much ease. My measurements might put me in a size 18, but then when I factor in that I want to remove 6 inches of ease from the pattern, I’m right back at the 12 I would expect if sizes matched RTW.

    1. Well said Carly. I don’t trust big 4 patterns. Actually most patterns. The amount of ease included is massive. It’s not good to make up a fitted dress with 4 inches of ease! I always measure the pattern pieces to determine which size will fit, usually between 36 to 40 in burdastyle. However I do find Gerties patterns in her book are spot on. The fit is great and not massive amounts of ease.

  26. I agree that beginners may be thrown by pattern sizes at first. But once you learn to use your measurements (and once you realize that patterns are drafted for someone who is 5’6″ whose waist is significantly smaller than their bust/hips), then you can figure out your size and what alterations you are likely to make. Finished measurements (bust, high bust, waist, hips, even bicep circumference) are also helpful. I have never noticed excess ease, but I am relatively small busted for my size. Maybe that makes a difference. I don’t particularly find Sandra Betzina’s method any easier – I just know I usually start out with a 14, so found the corresponding size on her pattern and it worked out. I find RTW sizing to be a crapshoot.

    1. I’ve never noticed this huge ease issue either and I have been sewing a very long time. I buy by my measurements and I flat pattern measure before cutting. There are many today who prefer their clothes with little or negative ease. I think that is playing into the judgement.
      Having spoken with new sewists far younger than myself I hear a couple of things regarding Big Four patterns. First, there is either confusion or refusal to cut the size that fits by measurements. Retail sizing is stubbornly clung to by the new sewist and that’s how they purchase their patterns. The fact that retail doesn’t match pattern sizing just isn’t being grasped. Changing to a system, like letters, based strictly on measurements, would go very far in helping our new young sewists achieve success. Secondly, there is a belief that patterns should require no alteration for fit. Many newer sewists prefer the indie blogger patterns because they are often cut very simply out of basic rectangular shapes with almost no detail and little fit, and therefore have enough ease to pass as good fit. I believe some sort of educational outreach needs to happen to inform the unknowing that we all have different bodies and to expect to fit our garments. And lastly, ask a new sewist what the standards of good fit are and you will get a blank stare. Again, that educational outreach, perhaps through instruction on the pattern sheet, has to happen. Getting the correct size pattern can be a lot more than taking measurements for our newest sewists. Anything the pattern companies could do to help would be wonderful.

  27. To some degree pattern companies have adopted vanity sizing.

    I had a period where I wanted to buy vintage patterns and saw that the same measurements equating to size X today was size X+++ in patterns from 1939 etc. In fact is was always a bit amusing to see how those measurements starting giving a lower and lower size over the decades.

    1. In the early-to-mid 20th century, some pattern categories were based on age, not size! That is, a size 14 was designed to fit a fourteen-year-old girl, a size 16 was designed for a sixteen-year-old, etc.

      We have it much easier now.

  28. Unless there was a constant set of sizes across the industry (which there is unlikely to ever be again) it doesn’t really bother me: they are just all numbers and might as well be symbols or names of fruit. I know this isn’t meant to be about ease, but knowing what the ease is on all measurements is inherent in being able to choose (and buy) the correct size. Especially if one’s size is at the top of one range and bottom of the next. So annoying buying the 14&over to get home, make it and realise the 14&under would’ve been better. Once I measured as a 16, made a 14, then had to take four inches in so that the strapless dress would stay up… What a waste of time and money.

  29. Really good comments here! Keep ’em coming. Love that industry experts like Pati Palmer are weighing in.

    1. Thank you. I am wanting to comment on what everyone is saying, but not enough time in the day. I am so excited McCall’s has had my daughter Melissa Watson do tissue-fitting videos on You Tube. Tissue-fitting is the easiest way to see how much ease is built into a particular design. Plus what you see is what you get with tissue-fitting. It shows where alterations are needed and what you look like in the design after altering. It has taken Marta Alto and myself 40 years teaching tissue-fitting to make it our favorite tool. I hope you all try it out. You can do it on yourself, but if you need help, we have teachers all over the world teaching it successfully and they are listed on the palmerpletsch.com website. They can get you started!

  30. I would like to see more realistic waist measurements for your patterns. I teach sewing to teens and kids and we find for even them we have to make the waist bigger. I am used to adjusting the waist size for me. Store bought smaller sizes have bigger waist lines. I am frustrated with the lack of small size patterns for teens. A lot of patterns start at size 8. What about adding 4 and 6 for them.

  31. I don’t care how you number them or call them letter sizes. I just need accurate finished measurements on the patterns. I can fit myself and I’ve never been married to a size.

    1. This comment all day.

      I sew from the finished measurements always.

      1. When McCall’s got a new president a couple of years ago, he asked me to have lunch discussions during our fit workshops and see what changes people wanted to see in patterns. The main one was to put finished garment measurements back on the back of the pattern envelopes as well as printed on the tissue for bust and hips. He gave that charge to his companies, Vogue, Butterick, and McCall’s and they immediately started adding them back on the envelope. Early in my career, Susan Pletsch and I told McCall’s that Vogue is printing finished garment measurements on the tissue (this was about 1980) but that it didn’t do us any good as we had already bought our single sized pattern. So McCall’s made the leap and put them on the back of the envelope until about 6 years ago, before our new president took over. I have loved all 35 years of designing for McCall’s and giving them consumer feedback and of being a cheerleader for pattern companies. The employees are real people who care about their consumer and do the best job they can.

    2. THIS.

      In the past I had a lot of angst about being a size 12 in one store and an 14 in another – my self esteem was caught up in the numbers, just like it is for many people. Thankfully, I’m over that now, and measurements are what matter, not what the measurements are called. Moving to a letter system might help with the angst because it will make sewing sizing different from RTW – I’m a 12 in Ann Taylor but I’m a C/star/blue/whatever in McCalls. This also might encourage new sewists to look at the measurement charts more carefully.

      Now what I really, really want is information. Finished garment measurements for high bust, bust, waist, high and low hip, bicep, sleeve length, skirt length (from back neck and from waist). Also for each design, it would be useful if the design ease is also given (e.g. finished bust measurement of 38″ including 4″ of ease). The info about the intended amount of ease would help when grading up / down and maintaining the integrity of the design.

      This info needs to be on the envelope and/or online for EACH pattern – not on the tissue. We need the info all in one place so we can refer to it easily (BEFORE) we buy the pattern.

      1. I totally agree…and make sure the notions are on the envelope as well as I have found some patterns missing this on the envelope and you have to hunt on the tissue and/or the instructions sheets for it. Example: I had a pants/skirt pattern and could see that it had a zipper but could not tell if it was a 7″ or a 9″ zipper that was required. I suppose if you already had the pattern, you could make a list on a post-it note to either buy everything online or in the fabric store but they sure look at you crossways when you open up the pattern to find everything you need.

  32. I don’t care if they match ready to wear sizing. But the measurements on the package should be right. I made a Mccalls pattern and had to use one size below my high bust measurement (two sizes below actual bust which was what was listed on the pattern envelope). I have read that Mccalls patterns just have a lot of ease, but the illustration on the front does not depict that much ease. It seems like the sizing is inaccurate when compared to the body measurements given on the envelope back.

  33. Sandra Betzina’s way of siziing is perfect. No more numbered sizing.
    Use alphabets A-J or A-M if necessary.
    Then the focus is on measurements.

  34. I don’t see the value in changing the system. It can’t match RTW exactly as there’s so much variation. Although it amuses me that when I started sewing I read everywhere that you mustn’t expect your pattern size to match your RTW size and if it does you’ve got it wrong…but mine did and I was rather surprised. I hadn’t twigged that people were talking about US RTW sizing! I’m British and UK RTW sizing is practically identical to pattern sizing.

    What helps most of all is having finished garment measurements on the pattern envelope. There seem to have been more of these on Vogue patterns in the last few years, which is really nice.

  35. First I think it is important to clarify that RTW sizes are not absolutes. All it means is that the manufacturer/designer has decided to sell X number of sizes. They decide the smallest and the largest possible sizes, assigning them sizes of, let’s say, 2 – 16. Then they decide how many different sizes they will make, and take this subset out of the original set. That could be 5 sizes, and then they may identify a size range that is more likely to sell, and this could end up as sizes 6, 8, 10, 12, 14. Individual manufacturers may have their own standards, but as a whole, a size “10” in this example is simply an arbitrary or flexible number in the middle of the scale.

    On the other hand, pattern sizing is based upon actual measurements. Pattern sizing does not narrow down to a small subset, and so I suspect this is the main reason that the numbers are different.

  36. Thanks for asking. For me, I’ve been sewing long enough to know not to bother with the size and go start to the measurements. So I could careless if the sizes matched RTW. What I have a problem with is the block you use to make your patterns. If you change your sizes to match RTW change your block so the measurements match as well. I have to use 3 sizes to get your patterns to fit. One for the bust, one for the waist and one for the hips. And with your pants pattern the crotch length is always too short. I know no pattern is going to fit without some adjustment. But in saying that your Today’s fit patterns by Sandra Betzina are more realistic and do fit with minimal changes. So please consider using a more realistic block for your patterns. Teresa

    ps I’m old enough to remember the different categories of patterns you use to offer. Such as Vogue Woman, Vogue sport, Designer Sportswear suits/coats jackets, etc. Please consider bringing those back. People are sewing more. We are hungry for more sophisticate designs.

  37. If one is a professional dressmaker and sew for others, the larger numbers can be an issue. Customers have given me a hard time in the past, they are insulted by the larger number, even when I explain the sizing difference has nothing to do with actual body size.

    That said … following the measurements, as mentioned by others, just doesn’t work. I measure one size, but the actual pattern size I make for myself is at least a full size smaller. And there’s no consistency between brands, or sometimes not even within one brand. I measure the pattern pieces and add the ease that I know works for me.

  38. I am now used to the numbered sizing in patterns. At first, it was a shock to find that I was a size 12 or 14 when I was a size 6 or 8 in RTW. Now, I appreciate the consistency, especially when buying vintage patterns. I look for a 14 (or a 16 if I’m buying a pattern from the 1960’s or earlier). Pattern companies sizes have been pretty consistent but I know that the pattern companies changed their sizing in the late 1960’s or early 1970’s as a 36″ bust used to be 16 at that time. I think a bigger problem is the huge amount of ease and the lack of finished measurements on patterns. I realize that the Big 3 pattern companies have an ease description system: close fitting, fitted, semi-fitted, loose fitting etc. but I think very few people know that the descriptions on the pattern envelopes correspond to a certain ease measurement. (I also think 5″ of ease for a semi-fitted dress or blouse is likely too much.)

  39. Please don’t align pattern sizes with RTW sizes – those sizes are all over the place and totally inconsistent. I can wear anything from a 12 to an 18, a medium to an XXL. I think labeling the measurements with letters is a more “neutral” place to start and one that will make all sewists – new and seasoned – look at the measurements rather than the sizing for where to cut.

    I would also like to know the measurements of each letter size so I know where to cut, especially the all-important upper bust measurement. I can adjust for the larger bust size but I need to know which size / letter will fit my shoulder area. Also, please keep in mind when grading the pattern that just because I may be larger does not mean my shoulders have magically expanded. Sometimes those shoulder seams are halfway down my arm (OK, I exaggerate).

    Thanks for bringing up the topic, I’m sure it will elicit lots of comments. :o)

  40. I’m a size 16/18 in vogues table but their excessive ease puts me back in my rtw size 12. Unless sometimes when there is no excessive ease. I just want the sizing to be consistent. I’ve wrecked a few good projects because of this ease and it’s really pissed me off to ruin good fabric and hours of work. (Yes no Muslin I know but I should be able to go by the chart you list)

  41. Personally I think if you sew, you look at finished garment measurements rather than the size itself. An upper bust measurement would be handy on sewing patterns.

  42. I have to echo comments about the craptastic pattern size charts.

    I can accurately measure myself and would dearly love to be able to rely on the information on pattern envelopes, but have found them rarely be correct. Usually they do not reflect the actually size of pattern pieces at all.

    And I am not talking about wearing and design ease. There is usually so much ease in all the “big 4” patterns that I end up using 2 sizes smaller than what the size chart on the pattern envelope says I should.

    It irritates me to no end that even sewing patterns reflect “vanity sizing”. It is an insult to your customer’s intelligence and a tax on their patience.

    1. The issue I have is when the pattern envelope depicts a slim fitting dress (or, in knits, one we know would have negative ease, even) and then the size you are directed to pick based on body measurements is MUCH larger than that–the ease should correspond to the ease depicted on the front of the envelope.

    2. If you had read the previous threads you would realize that patterns do not “reflect” current vanity sizing and most commentors are asking that they don’t. Many years ago patterns and RTW used the same sizing. But still way back, as manufacturers changed to vanity sizing, the pattern companies did not. This has been clearly discussed in the early comments of this thread.

  43. I’ll add my voice to the comments asking for the finished garment measurements to be on the pattern envelope. That would be particularly helpful when your size falls on the cusp between the different multi-sized envelopes. I’ve got no issues with the sizes not matching RTW, I think after the initial head scratch you get over it.

  44. Love this discussion … everyone has an opinion so here’s mine. I agree that pattern companies should not try to emulate US RTW sizing. For starters there are many sewers globally for whom those sizes are no less confusing. Also US RTW sizing will likely continue to change and evolve leaving the pattern companies back at square one. I would like to see 3 things happen. Firstly that the body measurements result in the best starting point size for a well fitting garment (I typically have to start with a size that is 2 smaller than my measurements), second that finished garment measurements are included on the envelope (or instruction sheet) and thirdly that the photos or illustrations are indicative of the built-in ease. That’s probably the biggie – so many photos indicate zero or minimal ease but the pattern is very different. Thanks so much for the opportunity to comment on this.

  45. There are certain brands that I won’t sew for myself because even their “large” or 16 is still too small. I’m a 12 in the real world with lots of butt, no hips. To top it off my waist size varies. I have been altering my patterns for years and found McCalls, Butterick and Marfy fits me best. For my girls and nieces, Vouge and McCalls works best for them, but I still have to accomdate for the bust size.

  46. Please leave your sizes the same!! I’ve so appreciated knowing that I can rely on (esp. Vogue’s) sizing to get the custom fit I want for my clients or myself. Changing the sizes to reflect vanity sizes doesn’t kid me: 45″ hips are 45″. But…. I’ve heard we women should adopt the menswear: measurement equals size:)

  47. I think you should do SOMETHING! I’ve been sewing for over 50 years and the changes in your sizing has been huge. Shoulders that are inches too big, ease that cannot be calculated without a toile. Today I went to cut out a shirt for my son. He wears a 151/2 x 34. The pattern for the sleeve was 24 inches. Add the 2 inch cuff and…….who on earth has 26 inch sleeve length ??? Really?? No collar sizing or sleeve sizing for a men’s shirt???
    I am the same size I was 30 years ago. Same height. I am 5’10”. I do not believe that most women today are 5’4″. All of my son’s friends are at least my height. I don’t know anyone under the age of 50 that is under 5’6″.
    The guessing games must stop. I am tired of the work it takes to choose a new pattern!

    1. I’m 36 and 5’5″ and am the tallest of my group of friends! LOL!

    2. Just thought I’d back up Nakisha–I am 5’1″ at 31 years old. My sisters are 5’2″ and 5’3″… My mom towers over us all at 5’3-1/2″. I don’t think we are total anomalies–petite women are out there!

    3. I am 5’2 and my daughter, SILs, all my nieces, mother, and MIL are all shorter than me! My sister is the tallest woman on both sides of the family at 5’4″ . I don’t feel particularly minuscule around other women–5’4″ seems reasonable as an average height for women.

    4. I’m petite too but fully accept that I’m outside the norm and pattern companies should be drafting to average height. But that’s beside the point, I’ve had the same experience with men’s patterns. As bad as sizing is with women’s it’s all the more insane in men’s and the size charts seem to change with each release. This is bizarre because men’s shirt sizing is well standardized in RTW.

  48. Since your patterns are sold worldwide and RTW sizes differ by country, the discrepancy varies by country – if you change to a US RTW sizing standard, it will become more misaligned to some countries’ RTW sizes. Case in point, your current pattern sizing matches RTW sizes in the brands I like here in Australia – I take a size 10-12 in RTW tops here, and I’m a size 10-12 in your top patterns; I take a size 12 -14 in RTW bottoms here and that corresponds to your size 12-14 bottoms patterns! If you need to change the way you represent sizes, maybe a lettering system would be the most neutral and result in the least confusion worldwide. If you simply shift the size numbers down, you’re going to have a period of consumer confusion for the many customers who already “knew” their pattern size, and you’re going to be too flattering to Australia (what? I dropped two sizes this month? Wow -) I didn’t even try!).

  49. Love the discussion in the comments. Trying to match RTW sizing is a futile endeavour as it varies from country to country and store to store. There are more fundamental problems in pattern sizing. Patterns are mostly drafted for a B-cup when the average woman’s cup size is much bigger. I believe the sizing mostly reflects a slim, youthful figure from the 50s rather than today’s woman who has more height and weight, with curves, lumps and bumps. People’s bodies have changed and pattern drafting has not caught up with them. Adding more ease disguises the problem but does not rectify it.

  50. NO! RTW sizing means nothing! I remember at one point having *wearable* clothing in sizes S-XL and 8-12 depending on the brand. Please do not try to do this.

    What would really help is if the finished measurements related to the chart.

    I have a 39″ bust and using the chart I would sew a size 20. I sew a size 14 and make an FBA. E.g., I just finished a Vogue top in a 14 with a finished bust of 41″. The size 14 size chart is for a 36″ bust. The pattern does not depict a top with 5″ of ease so why is there 5″ of ease added to the pattern?

    Also, I think it’s important to remove some of the clutter on back of the envelope and list the finished bust/waist/hip (as appropriate for the pattern) on the back! It should be on the pattern tissue as well, but it really should be on the envelope.

    There have been several times where I wasn’t sure if I needed the smaller range or the larger range and there were no finished measurements to help me decide. And we all know that the chart is useless.

    1. And, all woven tops and dresses should have cup sizing!!!!!!!! 🙂

    2. Try using your high bust measurement for size and then tissue-fitting to adjust the ease to your preference. I think you will be more satisfied. Sincerely, Pati Palmer

      1. Oh, I do. But it took time to figure that out.

        1. I would like to know if I should chose a pattern size according my high bust when I am using a multi-cup pattern. The instructions only depict how to determine which cup is appropriate, but not which size.

          1. Grace, The answer is yes as you still want the right size through the upper chest, neck and shoulders. Then choose your cup size. However, this is not an exact science as my coauthor Marta Alto is a C cup size in her bra but the C front was too small. She needed the D. If you want to be more sure of getting the front right, tissue fit and add the width you personally need for the design–and that will vary. Just do a full bust adjustment. Also, for some who are very full busted, none of the cup size fronts will work. So may as well learn to do an FBA. It’s not so hard.

    3. Try using your high bust measurement for size and then tissue-fitting to adjust the ease to your preference. I think you will be more satisfied. Try it and if you have any questions email me at pati@palmerpletsch.com. Sincerely, Pati Palmer

  51. It would be nice if all retail sizes were alike–so thinking a pattern size should be the same as RTW is unrealistic. It depends on the manufacturer what size you are; there are NO standards amongst manufacturers. The cheaper the clothes the larger the size. Because I have sewed for 60 years I go by my measurements when shopping for patterns and RTW. Every sewist should have a little tape measure on their keychain.

  52. Tangent alert!

    I wish you would update your blocks to reflect current average size. I also wish you would draft your blocks so that having a full bust doesn’t automatically equate to giant shoulders, necklines, and overall bodices. Someone who measures 40″ at bust level doesn’t always divide that circumference evenly: 20″ across the front and 20″ across the back. Yet, your bodice block appears to assume this division. I measure 41″ at bust level; 26″ across the front and 15″ across the back.

    As for vanity sizing, meh. Update the block, please. I care not for numbers. =)

  53. I don’t think patterns should follow RTW sizing for all the previously stated reasons. However, I do think sizing should be done away with and that patterns should utilize strictly body measurements. There also should be finished measurements as many have stated and I think the outside of the pattern should have a clearer indication of ease. Many sewists, particularly the newer among us, don’t grasp the “fitted”,” slightly fitted” , etc descriptions on the back of the envelope. Perhaps a universal color legend would be a better, clearer indicator. Thanks for listening.

  54. RTW sizes mean very little in my experience. I can fit in sizes 8-16 depending on the type of garment, the manufacturer, and how I want it to fit. So patterns that followed RTW sizes would be closer to a “guesstimate” on what measurements to use in sizing. I would much rather see pattern companies put ACTUAL finished garment measurements on the patterns (the outside envelope, not buried on the pattern pieces) instead of sizes. That way I can decide how much ease I want in a particular pattern. Right now if a pattern says “loose fitting” I know about how much ease that should entail, but then I have to figure out if I want to go down a size or two, stay the same size or somewhere in between. I end up measuring the pattern pieces which takes a lot of time. There are a couple of pattern companies that do this now, and I find the fit of those patterns much more accurate and easier to choose than the majority of pattern companies.

  55. You can call each size whatever you like – a hundred and twenty seven and three-quarters would be perfectly fine – but you *need* to put finished garment measurements on the back of the enve!ope, and those measurements must be accurate. Ease on some garments made from American-branded patterns has, in my own experience, been utterly ridiculous. I do not buy a dress pattern in order to make a tent – but I am sure I could go camping for a week, with enough room for the dog, too, in some of the patterns I have attempted to make.

  56. I feel like vanity sizing is not the way to go as there is no standard sizing in ready to wear. You may wear a 14 in one place, a 16 in another or even a 12 or 18. Gee even within stores own brands you don’t always get standard sizing. I’ve bought 3 sizes of pants in the same store (same brand). I like a sizing that corresponds to nothing in particular like Sandra Betzinas or Chicos. Go with that and I think everyone could be happy.

  57. As a dressmaking teacher specialising in fit I am regularly telling students that at least the major pattern companies use very similar body measurements for all patterns so there is a measure of uniformity. I believe pattern sizes should be indicated be high bust/chest circumference measurements. Printing actual finished garment measurements on the pattern envelope would also be a step in the right direction. Forget the totally irrelevant numbers like 6 or 14. The tape measure does not lie. There also needs to more focus in explaining to all sewers, and especially new sewers, that the economics of producing either generic patterns and clothing do not allow for individual custom sizing. Sewers need to be encouraged to understand that learning to fit is an investment well worth their time and patience which will pay dividends throughout the future. No two individuals are exactly the same and adjustments are a standard part of the construction process. Good luck educating your customers! My experience over many years has led me to believe that knowledge of what good fit actually is has been lost. In both RTW and sewing patterns most people seem to think that if a garment does up it fits.

  58. For many years, I made all my own clothing. When I first started sewing, at the age of 10, 51 yrs ago, you always bought one size smaller than the size you bought off the rack because the patterns were always sized a bit larger. In addition, pattern markings were very clear, and instruction sheets were well written & illustrated and very easy to follow. When I had children, the same rules applied, and I made most of their clothes. In the last two decades, that has all changed. I don’t see how a person who is new to sewing can figure out what size to buy, and the instruction sheets are often so vague that’s it’s even hard for me to follow, and I spent five years of my career as a Home Economics teacher! Over the last decade, I have stopped sewing clothing completely…primarily because I have no idea what size pattern to buy! Nothing is consistent and it’s frustrating to have to buy a size 18-20 when I wear a size 10 off the rack! I miss sewing, and as I grow older, I would love to be able to make what I want when I can’t find it in the stores. I think people would be more willing to buy patterns, and try sewing, if the industry would simplify the process again….at least by providing a comparison chart on the back of the envelope. Example: If you wear a size 8-10 off the rack, purchase a size 18-20 pattern. At least the seamstress would meet with better success and, upon producing a garment that actually fits, might be excited enough to continue to sew. People who fail on their first attempt, often will never try again! The pattern sizing has been so “off” for so many years, that I no longer even attempt to make clothing…my sewing is strictly for crafting projects these days!

    1. I agree with Patti. I learned to sew as a child in the 80’s: finished garment measurements were on the outside of the pattern envelopes and on the pattern pieces. I had some big sewing successes when I was younger, even at 5’11” DD cup. Not so now, and sometimes the ease description isn’t included on the pattern envelope. I have a personal sloper and have to alter every.single.pattern I use. The expense and time needed to get a good-looking, wearable garment from current Big 4 sewing patterns is discouraging. Finished garment measurements on the envelope and clearer sewing instructions for new sewers seems to be the way to go.

  59. I don’t mind the sizing the way it is BUT….I would like to see more patterns with cup sizes included. Every pattern I buy, I know that I will have to do a huge Full Bust Adjustment. I have to add 3″ to the pattern piece (6″ FBA).

    people’s bodies, on average, are curvier than they were 50 years ago. An average bust today is not a “B” cup but patterns are drawn to that standard. I haven’t bought any Betzina patterns because the letter sizing is confusing. I have, however, bought Jalie patterns with letter sizing. What I’ve sewn looks just like something I would buy in the store and didn’t require lots of adjustments. For example, the pants I sewed didn’t have a lot of ease but they fit straight out of the envelope.

  60. I wear sizes 2, 4, and sometimes a 6. I always go by finished measurements. Doesn’t matter what you call the size. I find the amount of ease is what determines what size I make as I find the ease is way too much on most of your patterns.

  61. I think it’s wrong to call it vanity sizing at this point, RTW sizing has been consistent for my entire adult life, 30+ years. Yes, there are some anomalies but whenever I check myself with a given retailer’s size chart I’m the same size. It would make sense to me that a US pattern company would at least report the US sizes that we are all familiar with. I would still consult any info in the charts but translating that to my only-in-the-sewing-world size seems antiquated. If it causes newbies confusion it should be changed. Anyone who already sews and has figured out the current system, would be smart enough to deal with a change.

    But I think the bigger frustration is really that the patterns don’t fit the person with the stated measurements all that well and possibly by maintaining a unique sizing system pattern companies aren’t forced to meet the same standards we come to expect from RTW. In addition to checking the charts, I have to check the pattern pieces and make sure they are consistent with the stated size and don’t include unreasonable ease. I’ve come across patterns where no size in the envelope would fit me, e.g. waist ease greater than my hip size. I’ve never had a problem remotely like this in RTW. Worst case scenario there I have to bump up or down a size.

  62. I honestly do not care what the number is BUT what I would like to see is the ease shown in the picture on the front of the envelope matching the ease in the garment if you make the size that fits your body measurements. So, for a slim fitting sheath dress, for example, if I pick the size that corresponds to my body measurements, it should fit “like the picture” (within reason, of course) NOT like a giant sack.

  63. It isn’t important to me what you call your sizes – xyz or 123 or 14-16-18 – what I would like to see is consistent sizing from one Vogue pattern to the next based on measurements. Recently, I made V8997. The 14 with a C cup (thank you, thank you for variable cup sizing) fit me straight out of the envelope. By measurements alone, I should have made a 16. For another project I made straight size 14 bodice muslins of both V8949 and VV1428. 8949 was too tight in the bust, but fit in the sleeve and armscye. 1428 was too baggy in the bust but too tight in the upper sleeve. Looking at the finished measurements for each pattern, it seems 1428 is exactly one size smaller across the board than the corresponding size in 8949 in the upper sleeve. I understand design ease, but c’mon – doesn’t set-in lace sleeve = set-in lace sleeve? Presumably, the same sloper is used to draft both patterns. I ended up making 8949 with a full bust adjustment. Honestly, I don’t seem to get this kind of variable sizing using the same measurements when I make a Burda. The Vogue sizing is inconsistent, and I’d sure like you to address that instead of a “New Sizing” rollout.

  64. I don’t care what the number is; I’m not always pleased by my measurements, but it’s a thing that has to be accepted in order to choose the best size to start from. I think it would be more helpful to always print the finished measurements on the envelope as well as displaying them on the website. I’d also like to see a few more body measurements included in the size charts, especially the bicep measurement and cross chest/cross upper back.

    While you could try chasing RTW and renumbering all the sizes, I’m not sure it’s worth it even if you chose a single brand or standard to settle on. If pattern sizing numbers are consistent with RTW as it was around 1970, if they’re matched up again now, who’s to say they won’t end up off again in a few years? I think it would just lead to unnecessary confusion and expense.

    Lettering instead would avoid those issues, as well as any traumatic comparisons to RTW numbers that people might make, although then I guess you might have a conflict with the letters Sandra Betzina’s already using.

  65. I wish the big 4 would stop using sewingpatterns.com lock lizard app. I bought a lot of downloadable patterns from them and can’t open any of them. I work in IT so it’s not because I’m computer illiterate.
    I was able to open a few and the lines sometimes does not match up. Then I bought one I couldn’t open, ask their CS and now I can’t open any of them. And they won’t refund me. And quite a lot I haven’t printed too. Since then I never bought anything from them.

    Why not just use normal pdf like other pattern company? Even using lock lizard where supposedly I can’t share the patterns, IF I wanted to, I can scan or photocopy the patterns and share them. The same as tissue paper pattern, IF I wanted to I can copy and share with others too. So using lock lizard really just making it hard for us buyers who wants to buy the patterns.

    I love the big 4 patterns. I hate tissue paper. I love pdf because I don’t have to spend on international shipping and can get the pattern instantly.
    But since the lock lizard incident I stopped looking at any of the big 4 patterns.

    If you google, I’m not the only one who doesn’t like the lock lizard app from sewingpatterns.com
    Maybe sewingpatterns.com can just digitized the pattern and do like other indie patterns company and not worry so much about sewers trying to rip them off by sharing and emailing the patterns.

    1. Sorry it’s not related to the topic but how can I weigh in on sizing if I can’t even download the pattern.

  66. The Today’s Fit sizing system, using letter sizes based on actual measurements, is an effective way to help sewing pattern purchaser’s get past the vanity part of RTW versus sewing pattern sizes.

  67. Thank you for opening up this very germane topic for discussion. I agree with most of the other contributors-the actual pattern size number is not that important. My biggest plea is that your company list the finished bust, waist, and hip measurements for each size on the OUTSIDE of the pattern envelope. Please so this for every pattern – or at the very least the bust measurement if is is not a fitted pattern in the waist and hips.

    1. I agree, finished measurements on the outside is key. The amount of ease appears indiscriminate, and sometimes totally baffling (e.g. 4 inches on a close fitting garment). Expensive for us Brits to take a trial and error approach when patterns are upwards of £8 each!

  68. In my closet I have RTW clothing in sizes ranging from 4-12, XS-L. Sizing is all over the place and I just buy what fits and flatters regardless of the size on the label. When I sew patterns I nearly always use a 12 and grade to a 14 over the hip with an FBA if the style needs it. I would hate to lose that consistency.

    What I WOULD like to see in patterns is better drafting (more realistic ease, sleeve caps that fit into armscyes without tears and crotch curves that fit real women in particular) and more industry finishing techniques in the instruction sheets. When was the last time you saw an armhole facing on a sleeveless top in a store? And yet pretty much every sleeveless top pattern calls for an armhole facing. Or a T-shirt with a set in sleeve with a cap so high that it required gather stitching to make it fit into the armscye? Or buttonholes on a shirt front placket that were horizontal? Those details are often what make home sewn garments look, fit and feel slightly “off” and it takes years to learn how to compensate for these issues in sewing patterns.

  69. Sizing in RTW is so variable from one manufacturer to the next that it really doesn’t matter and has no correlation to sewing patterns. For sewing patterns the size is just a number, all the European pattern companies use a different number system so all in all it doesn’t matter. I hope you keep the same size number system. I do agree with everyone that finished garment measurements should be printed on the envelope and the pattern. Particularly for outerwear so I can judge how much ease is in a jacket or coat. For Knitwear so I can evaluate how fitted or not a particular style is. I also think the amount of ease is slightly much but the trend now is for very body conscious clothing and so many things have lycra that people are accustomed to a very close fit. I had to laugh because one commenter above mentioned not knowing anyone under 5″5″. I’m 5’3″ and could make a denim patchwork skirt with all the extra pieces I have hemmed off jeans over the years. I would like to see a line of pattens for shorter figures. Otherwise I think people just have to learn to fit the basic pattern and then transfer that knowledge to every pattern they sew. It’s like any other skill that is learned with practice, and definitely can be tedious but worthwhile when you get to the point where any pattern can be adjusted for your own particular fit.

  70. Being a RTW size outlier, 00 petite, i always expect to alter patterns. I look for finished garment measurements because if those are not close to corresponding to what i need, the alterations will surely be in challenging spots such as armholes, sleeve caps, necklines, upper chest, etc. Excess ease or the dreaded words “loose fitting” are dealbreakers for me. Won’t buy that pattern. I do use compare measurements, tissue fit, and muslin everything I make.
    My pet peeve is that some patterns only offer down to size 8 while others go down to 6 or 4. I will not purchase pattern with 8 smallest size. Too many changes to make for me.. Also wish finished garment ease was not so generous.

  71. Please keep the number system. There isn’t anything to gain from RTW when it comes to sizing. The last time I was regularly shopping I was a size 6 at most stores. Now, a pregnancy later, I’ve been in everything from a 0 in shorts, a 2 for a bridesmaid dress and a 4 for a sun dress. The reality is, according to my scale and my tape measure I’ve gained 10 pounds, and two inches across my thighs and waistline.

    Give us really detailed measurements for choosing a size and for finished garments: upper bust, and full bust; upper hip, lower hip; more cup sizes. If McCalls is seeing a large number of people struggling because they are trying to sew a RTW size rather than according to their measurements, perhaps you should consider changing your instructions or finding a better way to help new sewers take their measurements and find the correct size. Plenty of people chose the wrong sized clothing in RTW, hence dressing rooms.

  72. I write knitting patterns and while some designers like to use the craft yarn counsel’s standards (XS, S, M, L, etc) And others use the ASTM numbered standards like RTW, many of us don’t even designate a size, we simply state the bust size in inches and centimeters for which each size is intended to fit and include a detailed schematic of the finished garment so people can determine which size is best and what modifications to make.

    In sewing, I like when companies use sizing indicators that can’t be confused for RTW or another pattern company’s sizing. Many of the indie designers number their sizes but those numbers bear little or no relationship to RTW or traditional pattern sizing.

  73. I teach a beginning sewing class at a local fabric store. I always point out to my students to ignore the size and concentrate on the measurements. I also like to see finished garment measurements on patterns and point those out to my students as well. I agree that a letter system would be better. I also feel having to move up in size discourages new sewers. I’m sure some have cut out their RTW size and when the garment didn’t fit given up on sewing.

    1. I am a teacher too and totally agree with you. Unfortunately women’s obsession with size (“Oh, there is no way I am a size 12!!!) plays a big part in this. Perhaps we just need to learn to face facts and understand that the tape measure does not lie. It seems vanity can be applied to the women as well as to the RTW size and this is what gets in the way. Leaning to alter patterns to fit individual body shapes makes all the difference but it takes time and practice. Unfortunately we live in a world where everyone expects instant fit out of the pattern envelope.

  74. I don’t think the numbers need to be changed (I couldn’t care less about what “size” I am), but I agree with everyone who has asked for finished garment measurements on the outside of the envelope. I always choose my pattern piece based on finished measurements, but when I started sewing 15 years ago I didn’t understand that or even realize that the finished garment measurements were on the pieces. As for the discussions about pattern proportions: I am very petite (5’2″, 33″ bust, 22″ waist, and an extremely narrow back) – I expect that I will need to adjust everything I make. Yes, adjustments are annoying, but everyone has a different body and the pattern companies can only draft for an one shape. Learning how to adjust garments to fit is part of the process of learning to sew.

    1. I agree completely! Everyone has a different body. Alterations will always be necessary. Learning how to adjust garment to fit is the joy of learning to sew.

      To be fair to pattern companies, “excess ease” is often part of the style of the garment. If you don’t want a loose fit, don’t buy patterns for a garment that is described as “loose fitting.”

      Just as different RTW clothing manufacturers use different body types to draft their clothing (this is why each of us favorite brands, which always seem to fit us better than other brands), different pattern companies use different body types to draft printed patterns. For instance, while I have come to understand that I will always have to add at least 2″ in length to the middle of every garment I sew (long torso, deep rise), I know that I will have to make fewer alterations to patterns from some companies, because they draft for a figure that is more similar to mine than do some other companies. I will never be able to sew straight out of the envelope, but I can sew ALMOST straight out of the envelope with some, not with others.

      1. That is an interesting perception. It seems to be true for indie pattern designers more than for the four long time brands. We have compared the slopers of those companies (see page 249 in Fit For Real People) and they are almost identical. Burda is very close but they grade evenly in cm between sizes whereas Am. companies grade 1″, 1 1/2″, and 2″ difference between smaller to larger sizes, so there is some difference in Burda’s larger sizes. Anyway, the factor to consider is fashion. If, say Vogue, as a fashion forward company is ahead of the trend and fashion is becoming oversized, their designs will be drafted with more ease. People would then think “Oh, Vogue is bigger than McCall’s.” It often took the others 1-2 years to be drafting the same. This used to be more prevalent, however. There is less of that today as with the internet there is less of a fashion lag across the board.

    2. Totally agree with you.

  75. I like the fact that with pattern sizing at least there is consistency. Trying to match RTW sizes seem futile as every company has their own set of measuring standards. But I do love the way RTW merchants such a Chicos take the sting out of sizing by creating a simplified 1-2-3, etc sizing method. I also like the way Sandra Betzina handles sizing in her patterns. You have measurements to go by, but they do seem closer to RTW. Why not take the confusion out of it by going with the 1-2-3 or A-B-C, etc method. Then the sewist simply needs to check the size chart to see which letter she is. Takes the fear and vanity and confusion out of the whole process.

  76. Sizing in ready to wear varies from brand to brand so which standard would be used to get the pattern sizing closer to ready to wear? Pattern sizes should remain unchanged because at least it is consistent. Since the numbers carry so much baggage, a letter system would be helpful.

    As suggested by other posters, please please please put the high bust measurement on your patterns!

    1. I proposed that to McCall’s last year, but the fear was that if people used that to buy the right size–which works and everyone agreed–that the issue would be that if a full busted person who didn’t know about altering made a blouse and it wouldn’t button, they’d want their money back. We all concluded that education is the key. To that note, in October there will be a new page on how to buy the right size pattern in the back of the book that will do just that–educate. Also, we have re-done our 1983 basic dress fit pattern to reflect how we teach today. It is multi-sized with 6-22 in one envelope. It is a dress you could wear if you were slightly hourglass and if not, it can be used as a road map. In other words to compare your body to the most fitted design you’d alter. It also has all of our alteration lines printed on the tissue and a lengthy guide explaining how to make your road map. We use the tissue-fitting method that Marta Alto, my coauthor of Fit for Real Poeple, and I have been tweaking for 40 years! It works well. The number will be M7279. My only regret is that the model wearing the dress doesn’t need front skirt darts. We almost always eliminate or narrow them, but McCall’s has to make the pattern as is, so there are puckers. Oh well, we strive for perfection so I ask forgiveness on that issue!

      1. I truly believe McCall’s fear about putting the high bust measurement on the pattern envelope would result in ladies wanting their money back is unfounded. You could easily argue that if a full busted person who didn’t know about altering made a blouse chosen from the full bust measurement, the neckline and shoulders wouldn’t fit and they would want their money back. However, that is the scenario currently….have full busted ladies been asking for their money back? Both the high bust and full bust measurements should be listed on the pattern.

        1. Thank you. I obviously agree, but McCall’s felt too small would cause more to be angry about than too big. Oh well. There is another issue, the term bust. It appears from an 1873 ad by James McCall that at the time he called what we call high bust, “bust”. In the same ad he advises that for men’s shirts, take the “breast” measurement. Did the term “bust” come from art? So changing the name of bust to high bust on the measurement chart would seem to be more clear if that is where we want you to measure for size. In the next McCall’s catalog we’ve written a 2-page spread in the back about how to buy the right size and to alter for a full bust if you are fuller there. It is the beginning of an education process. I’d love to hear from you after taking a look at it. I could also email a PDF of the pages now if there was a way to do that. Or, maybe Meg Carter could post them here??

          1. I am glad we are on the same page! Again, I don’t understand the reasoning by McCall’s, customers being more angry by smaller than bigger. It sounds like they are thinking either / or. Just list both! Then put an asterisk saying something to the effect: “Use your full bust measurement to determine your size. However, if the difference between your high bust and full bust is greater than 2 inches, use your high bust measurement. You will then need a full bust adjustment. See the back of our catalog for more information or….go to our website or refer to Fit for Real People or….” Something like that.
            I think it would be a great idea to have Meg Carter post the 2 pages here on the McCall blog. You will get plenty of input from all of the readers (including myself). 🙂

          2. Good points. I think the too small is more of a problem because you couldn’t wear the garment. Too big, you could but…. Anyway, I just looked at the pages for the catalog. I hadn’t had a final approval and a very important thing was left off page one, so hope that can be corrected for a future catalog. If you use the high bust for size, there needs to be a clear instruction which I offered with art, that if you are full busted, you will need to do a bust adjustment. That is the most educational statement that can be made and with art it is more clear. So this week I will talk to McCall’s and see if we can add that. I know it got eliminated because of space for French and Spanish translation, but I think we could do a new layout. We will see. Thanks for your comments. Pati

  77. Please, please don’t try to switch to RTW sizing!There is no such thing. I can wear a 4 or 6 or 8 or 10 depending on the label. How on earth would that work for sewing patterns? (Actually, the last size 10 top I bought was a full size bigger than the previous one I bought of the exact same style # from the exact same company last year.)

  78. I vote no on changing to vanity sizing. I think pattern companies need to put finished measurements on the back of the envelope. And offer more patterns with cup sizing.

  79. Pattern size can vary too depending on sewers age/body shape. I’m 59 and the same size as my 23 year old daughter but my waist is larger. I alter patterns to account for ARWE (age-related waist expansion) I.e when you go from hourglass to shot glass!

    1. Love your acronym and analogies!

  80. I haven’t had time to read all the comments, but I’ll throw in my opinion-
    I would prefer sizing based on measurements. By that, I mean the way mens’ clothing is sold: the sizing refers to waist circumference & inseam length for pants; for a shirt, the sizes refer to neck circumference & sleeve length.

    For womens bodices, I would not recommend using the full bust measurement, though. Using the upper chest measurement is more reliable to fit the shoulders – then you could have different cup sizes to accommodate all the variety out there.

    Also, not sure if this is part of this discussion, but I’d like to the see an update to reflect modern bodies. Compared to McCall patterns, I find that RTW has a slightly forward shoulder adjustment, the shoulder width is slightly narrower, the bust cup size is larger, waistlines are larger and while we are at it, people seem to be getting taller, too.
    RTW pants fit me well but McCalls pants patterns fit me very poorly, so I have no idea what to say except the crotch curve seems different – maybe it’s just me?

    And finally, I like the idea of letters instead of numbers. The letters force people to look it up and make a more intelligent choice.

    It’s great to see this discussion!

    1. In the 1990s McCall’s asked me if I could design a pattern that would fit baby boomers better. All I could see was ching ching $$$. But I finally had to be honest and say no. I have a photo of 6 of my students, all over 50, in pants they fitted during our pant workshop. They all started with a size 16 pattern, so the photo showing how different their bodies were was revealing. I couldn’t have picked one of them to be a more normal size 16 baby boomer. Many of us were more true to the hourglass shape in pattern sizing when we were 18 so if we made all patterns fuller busted and thicker waisted, would we be doing a service to young people who we encourage to sew. We went through NEW sizing in the early 1970s and it caused great confusion for years. I propose we learn how we vary from the most fitted pattern and make a “road map” of our differences. Then we will know the changes we would need to make. If the design is looser, we wouldn’t need to make all of the changes. Use the high bust measurement for size (explained in an earlier comment) and tissue-fit every design. It’s pretty easy actually. Hope this makes sense.

      1. Pati,
        I wonder if the alterations I mentioned made you think I was specifically referring to older women. Now that I think about it, I can see why you might assume that is what I meant.
        However, that is not at all what I was talking about.
        I have literally compared RTW to a McCalls pattern and that is what I found.
        But – I am a person who buys RTW from the same shops & the same brands and therefore I was not really aware that RTW sizing is all over the place. So many other people have commented about extreme sizing variations, that I now understand my experience is not consistent with their experiences.

        At this point, I have no problems altering patterns to fit. When I was learning, I bought your books and DVDs – I had some learning breakthroughs so thanks for your contributions to home sewing

        1. Robin,
          No, you don’t look like a baby boomer! And sorry for my misinterpretation. I think I responded because of your comment that RTW seems bigger in the waist and fuller in the bust. That is what made me mention the baby boomers and that was a true story. I could not do a line of patterns that would fit that group better—or really fit any group better. But that is what lead to printing the alteration lines on the tissue for Palmer/Pletsch designs and writing how to do alterations in the guidesheet. You sound like a pretty confident sewer who has figured out your own alterations! That is great! Thank you for your reply. Pati

          1. ha ha, I am most certainly a baby boomer. I believe your story; patterns made for the masses need to fit the median measurements perfectly. Not too many folks have the exact same measurements as the median, so everyone has to learn where their bodies differ and what to do about it.
            Just looking around me, reading blogs & sewing forums for a decade, it seems as though the median measurements are little different now than they were in the 1970s.
            That’s all I am saying. Based on just my own personal experience, I think RTW has been a lot more flexible about adjusting their fit models over the years and that is why I can go to certain brands and get the fit I expect to get. I am lucky in that I can buy pants that fit me in RTW. Bodices are a different story. I’m pretty glad that craftsy sells pattern-making classes by Suzy Furrer because I am doing well with simply drafting my own patterns. I recently made a notched collar jacket out of brocade purchased from Mendel Goldberg, so I would say yes, I am confident. However – this does NOT mean I will stop buying commercial patterns. When I made that jacket, I had a question about drafting that collar, and I referred to a Vogue pattern to see, “well how did they do it?”. I will continue to buy patterns when I like the design details.

  81. Thinking more about it, my preference would be for finished garment measurements and recommended ease.

    “Ease at hips recommended at 2 inches, ease at bust recommended at 1 inch” etc.

    I don’t mind sewing from finished garment measurements, but sometimes it’s tough to determine how much ease you need in, say, a pencil skirt.

    1. This is some discussion. I’ve read 150 comments so far today. But fit is my passion and if I can share some tidbits and be helpful, I am so happy to do so. Here is my tip for ease. Buy the pattern by your high bust measurement using the bust line on the measurement chart. If between sizes, go to the smaller size. Then alter the tissue to fit. If unsure about ease, cut 1″ side seam allowances. Ease can generally be adjusted at the side seams by letting out or taking in. That way, if you don’t know how much easy you prefer or your design and fabric need, you have a way to change it!

      1. Hi Patti Palmer,
        It is so nice to see you online. I bought your book a couple of months ago. I have to admit that while there may be some gain in tissue fitting over doing nothing, that I am not a believer in this method for anything but the most generic fit. Which makes me sad, I really wanted it to work – saving me time and muslin fabric. The reality I found was making adjustments based on tissue fit left me with a garment that fit worse than straight out of the envelope. I find that making adjustments on a muslin has been successful in giving be a better fit. I am most interested in fitting the armscye and back. Interestingly I used my old duct-tape dress form (cut up into basically pattern pieces) to get a good fit everywhere except the armscye. Then I once took the back piece of the cut up duct-tape form to alter my back pattern piece thinking how it would then fit my back perfectly – but just like the tissue fit – it fit worse than the out of envelope fit. I’ve only been able to get precision fitting on these two areas with a muslin. Bless you for what you do though – getting thousands of women closer to a better fit!

        1. Nice to meet you too. I am sorry tissue-fitting didn’t work well for you. I wish you were close to Portland, Or and I could give you some hands-on help. We’ve been so successful with it, but every person is different and some find more difficulty fitting themselves for sure. My daughter and I just did some Craftsy.com classes on tissue-fitting. I honestly wasn’t sure we could teach this online. Hundreds told us they were successful. We did focus on a specific pattern for each class so that may have helped. (There may also have been hundreds who weren’t successful and didn’t tell us.) If you’d like to try to become more successful with tissue-fitting, go to our website and see if we have a teacher near you so you could do a hands-on class. http://palmerpletsch.com/teacherlist-CSI.htm. Also, FYI, tissue-fitting is half the process. To avoid a muslin you need to then fabric-fit so you can adjust the other side as we are often a little different side to side. Thanks for your comment. Pati

  82. I would really like for the sizes to be lettered or listed simply in terms of the measurements; drop the “Pattern size 8” and call it size 31.5-24-33.5. I have a neighbor who tried sewing from the big-4 a couple of years ago and gave up because she did what almost every new sewist does and choose the familiar size as compared to RTW, then add in confusion over ease and the flat out errors…it is a nightmare for someone getting started. I walked my sister through purchasing a pattern recently and those stupid numbers do carry baggage. The beautiful thing about making the new sewist immediately face the tape measure is that they can start to see where sizing starts to go askew – they can give themselves credit for having slim hips – or tiny waist or trim back, like, I’m a size 31.5-26.5-33.5 etc. AND as everyone else has stated, put the finished garment measurements on the back of the envelope.

  83. I did a comparison size chart a while back, and despite there being variations in sizing between RTW brands, when you compare “like to like” (junior to junior, contemporary to contemporary, misses to misses, plus to plus) the variation doesn’t tend to be that much.

    I would vote for having the pattern sizes better aligned with ready to wear (I know I seem to be in the minority around here).

    I would also strongly suggest cup sizes should increase as size does – that only the smallest sizes should be drafted for a B cup, that sizes 10-12 should be drafted for a C cup, and larger misses sizes and plus sizes be drafted on a D (or DD) cup. My daughters, in their mid-twenties and neither having kids, both are in the low end of misses RTW sizing, and both wear C cups.

    As far as shapes, it’s impossible to get everyone covered, but perhaps a slight pear (spoon shape) would fit the most people with the least amount of alterations? An hourglass might have to size up in the bodice and a true pear might have to size up in the skirt/pants. Apples and “H” style bodies are going to have to alter no matter what. Definitely the shoulders need to be redone in the current larger sizes, they are way too big for most women.

    1. I have to disagree with correlating size to cup size. That’s just not a good idea.

      1. Why is it a bad idea? If one is going be targeting average women’s figures, there are very few size 16 women wearing a B cup bra. And very few size 6 women wearing a D cup.

  84. I don’t think the size labels need to change. If they do and are unconsistent with other pattern companies like simplicity this may confuse new sewers more. I would find it very useful if the high bust measurement for each size was stated on the pattern envelope with the finished garment measurements for the bust, waist and hips (or whichever measurement is relevant to the design) because I prefer to buy patterns based on how they will fit not the size I am meant to fit into.

    1. Also it could help if brief instructions on how to do a full bust adjustment and smaller bust adjustment are printed on the instruction sheets to try and minimise any confusion and issues about fit around the bust.

  85. I really do not care how the sizing is done as long as there are multiple sizes in the package. Sometimes I am a 22 top and an 18 bottom. Years and years ago I was a size 12…of course that 24″ waist is no more. I like the adjustable cup size blouse and dress patterns because I am large busted. I am built like a gymnast: broad shoulders, narrow hips, sway back, rounded tush, and hour glass shape. I need the multiple sizes in the pattern package to adapt to all of that.

    One other point: please put the required notions on the back of the pattern package. It is less stressful trying to get everything while in the fabric store when you can readily see it.

  86. My only objection to patterns switching to vanity sizing is if you use that as a reason to get rid of the smaller sizes. My daughter is very slender and I would be sorry to lose your current size 6 because it isn’t really a RTW size. It would also take a big advertising effort to make sure people knew about the new sizing and didn’t buy/cut the wrong size. I really like the idea of listing high bust measurements on patterns–that would be fantastic.

  87. I don’t care what you call a size (I’m a RTW Petite 2/4, pattern 8) but I want finished bust/waist/hip on the pattern envelope. Having the measurements on the tissue is only slightly better than nothing. I need to see how defined the waist is to know if a style is appropriate for my figure BEFORE I purchase the pattern.

    If you go to a more RTW sizing scheme, please don’t eliminate the smaller sizes or defined waist. I sew because I’m short and relatively tiny. At 44, I look silly in styles meant for Juniors even though that size 3 is often my best fit (because 2 Petite isn’t an easy size to find) and even worse in a girls’ size 14/16. I have few RTW options with many retailers’ Small representing a 6-8 or 8-10, but they carry few or no XS.

    I’m not opposed to a letter based system, but the Today’s Fit/Sandra Betzina line is a disaster for my figure. Her sizing is appropriate for apple figures, but it doesn’t work for this tiny pear. Maybe a rainbow based scale, Roy. G. Biv… I’ll be a petite Red!

    1. I agree with AmyMay, the number of the size isn’t the problem, the measurement is. Finished Measurements are much more useful than the sizing measurements which doesn’t explain to you how much is included. And it should be on the sleeve, not somewhere randomly on the tissue paper.

      I’m a size 14 in shops, and I now sew a size 14, but going by my measurements I should be sewing a size 16 or 18. WTF?

    2. Reading back through all the comments it really is the erratic fit and excessive ease of the patterns that is causing people problems not the labeling. (And this wasn’t supposed to be a discussion about ease, oops!) I don’t think the labeling should be important, but perhaps it would make the companies more accountable to fit and that seems to be what’s really needed. So why not try something new?

      1. I also find the confusion about ease fascinating. I just finished a fitted dress design for McCall’s that is coming out next month to teach fit. M7279. In the guide I’ve said, “We have built in a bit more ease than is in the sloper from which McCall’s designs. This dress has 3” ease in the bust, 2” in the waist, and 3 ½” in the hips. However, ease preferences are personal.” If you bought the pattern by your full bust measurement, you could be buying a size that is 2-3 times larger than what you need. I am thinking that is what is happening and why there is so much complaining about too much ease. If you measured your high bust and bought accordingly, the ease would be more normal. Does anyone else think this could be the issue??

        1. Yes, if you buy according to upper bust, you will get yourself into the right sizing ballpark.

          If you still have bagginess in the upper chest or shoulders, that is because the Big 4 patterns are based on some combination of larger measurements than your body measurements (such as cross front, shoulder length etc)

          It is very hard to have a conversation about sizing without touching on the specific measurements in the basic block used by the Big 4.

          This reminds me of another thing I would love to see – a complete chart of the measurements of the basic block for every size. Then I could see very easily that some of my measurements are too far off from the basic block and before I sew, I know that I need to deal with the upper chest, or shoulders, for example.
          (The measurements I refer to are those used in the moulage method, taught in pattern drafting classes on craftsy. The bodice class explains everything very clearly. I am a convert to that method because if I am willing to do the work, I can have patterns that fit me.)

          1. But you know, I realize that my body measurements make me an outlier, so my wish list might not be what most people really need. I notice a lot of people want to see finished measurements on the pattern envelope. Now that I can make my own patterns, I am just enjoying the conversation. I am not desperate for McCall to change their product!

  88. PLEASE don’t go with RTW sizing, it’s all over the place. Ideally, I would also prefer size numbers that corresponded with bust circumference than RTW sizing. However, cup size varies so widely I’m glad to discover you instruct how to determine what your cup size is and how it affects how you choose patterns, online:
    http://mccallpattern.mccall.com/how-to-choose-your-correct-size-pages-577.php

    In the above comments I see that there is a ‘help’ page going into the McCalls pattern books soon and while I agree that education is important, I rarely see anyone look at the back of the pattern book. Hopefully, there will be something to direct people there if only a mention of it added to the beginning of the various sections of the book where it applies. Info like that should not be missed.
    As for using letters or icons, I don’t think that would make size selection any more user friendly. Sandra Betzina’s use of letters does help emphasize the uniqueness of her line, since her sizing proportions are different than the standard pattern, but for standard patterns I don’t see the point. I am glad to see the final garment measures on the envelope since ease can definitely help you decide.

  89. I think it would help if the McCalls and Butterick lines had the shape symbols like are on the Vogue patterns so that you can see which figure type the design works best. And for the new sewers an explanation of how to determine your figure type.

    I agree that you need to maintain the wide range of sizes that are offered.

  90. I sew vintage and I sew brand new ones. Sizing at this point makes no difference to me since I can sew a garment from the 20s and change each decade thereafter. I am also fat enough that you don’t make my size in what I want to sew that fits and/or looks good because they come out ridiculous with ease or drafting issues, and what is in my size I’m not going to sew because I don’t believe fat=shapeless bags.

    I think the slopers you use is out of date. Bust size has increased, size over all has increased and people wear better bras, or not, then they did back then. Isn’t this why you came out with new sizing in the late 60s/70s because women changed? And yes, I know there are thin women, and it seems they have fit/drafting issues, too.

    I don’t have much of a solution to the sizing issue and I don’t care how you do the sizing as long as I can figure out what I need to buy based on my measurements, the amount of ease there is in the garment and preferably, what the finished measurements are. I think there is a bigger problem with other issues then just sizing.

  91. The problem with pattern sizing is NOT the size, it’s the ridiculous amount of ease included. The ease included in patterns almost never match the photo you provide.

    I buy a size 14 in shops, and guess what, I sew up a size 14. However, if I take my bust and waist measurements, I “apparently” have to sew either a 16 or 18. And before I understood design ease, I spent my early months of sewing as a beginner completely despondent because I have yet again ended up with a dress that’s 2 sizes too big.

    In fact, I would like to claim back the money I wasted on fabric from McCalls, Vogue and Burda!!

    It took me a while (about 6 months) before I understood to look at the Finished Garment Measurements (when they are available). And now I don’t even do that anymore, I instead measure the pattern across the bust/back and compare it to my measurements, then decide I how much ease I want.

    I think you put of a lot of beginner sewers with this problem. I mean, I spent hours and hours and hours online trying to figure out what I was doing wrong. I’m not going to lie, there was some crying as well.

    There is nothing wrong with ease but when your photo on the sleeve suggest a fitted dress, then you should NOT include such ridiculous amounts of ease!

  92. I think the current pattern sizing is fine. The vanity sizing is the one that’s in the wrong. It’s not supposed to be about size, it’s supposed to be about fit. I would appreciate more consistent and better information about finished garment size being present on the envelope. That has always been a source of aggravation. Some pattern makers put the ease amounts on the tissue so I have to remove and unfold the tissue pattern to have a look at the ease. Quite aggravating when it should be printed on the outside or on a small sheet slipped in the envelope.

  93. I don’t really care how sizes are designated–letters, numbers or whatever. What I would like to see (as has been mentioned by others) is the finished garment measurements printed on the outside of the pattern envelope. In my opinion, this is the only way to realistically assess the fit of the garment. Finished measurements should also be printed on the pattern tissue. Also, lately I have noticed that fewer patterns show the bust apex. This is essential for any pattern altering. So I would like to see the bust apex printed on the pattern tissue.

  94. It’s great to see this discussion happening! I don’t care if pattern companies use letters, numbers or some other system altogether. Nor do I care if pattern companies model RTW sizing or not. None of that is helpful unless fundamental information is correct. It would be so helpful, especially for beginners, to know standard measurements for shoulder width and high bust for each size, as well as full bust, waist, hips and height, to have all finished measurements available on the pattern envelope and to know the measurements of the pictured model and the size garment that model is wearing so that built in ease is apparent. As someone with a A cup bust and slight figure, I’d also plead that smaller sizes are retained, particularly when built in ease is so ridiculously over the top.

  95. There is no need to change pattern sizes to match ready to wear sizes, since ready to wear is so inconsistent. I never know what size is going to fit ready to wear clothes without spending a lot of time trying everything on. It is confusing for new sewers to be confronted with a different (and seemingly larger) sizing system, but surely they figure it out soon. It might be comforting to go back to old bust size systems, but the relationship between bust, waist, and hip were not consistent between pattern companies in the past. I really don’t think there is a good way to get a good fit other than working with each pattern to make it your own.

  96. Just leave it the way it is. I have a huge collection of patterns, and if you were to change the system now I think it would cause even more confusion. A woman’s measurements wouldn’t change…so if she’s currently a BIG girl she’s still going to be a BIG girl at the end of the day. No manipulation of the sizing standards is going to change that. I’m an 8 to 10 in RTW, and 14 to 16 in commercial patterns, depending on how I want the garment to fit. I would LOVE to be a size 3 again, but it is what it is!

  97. Don’t change the sizing or the sizing labels but, please, oh please, do publish the finished garment measurements for every pattern. For me, the finished garment measurements are the surest way to figure out which pattern size and where I’ll need to make adjustments. Why not include some standard verbiage on the envelope advising a sewer that RTW and pattern sizing are labelled differently and to consider the finished garment measurements when deciding on a pattern size?

  98. Please keep in the smaller sizes, I’ve got real trouble to find anything that fits in RTW since what they consider small is far to big to fit my body. I love that the pattern companies acnowledge the existance of small sized people like me.
    Other than that having the finished measurements for bust, waist and hips included on the envelope would also really help, especially since it will sometimes make the difference between buying the 12-22 range envelope or the 6-12 one. Since the amount of ease varies between patterns there is at the moment no sure way of determining wich envelope to buy up front for those who have a size 12 going up or down.

  99. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment on this blog post. Getting direct consumer feedback like this is helpful and important to us. I’m closing the option to leave more comments on this post, largely because the commenting has winded down and I’d like to summarize what’s been said here for our MPC team members, but look for more discussion topics in the future. —Meg

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