Off-the-Rack Sizing vs. Pattern Sizing

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NSC Question

I’m sewing costumes for my entire family (15 total!) and am having problems with sizes. I bought patterns according to off-the-rack sizes for each member, but when I went to make the muslin patterns, they weren’t nearly big enough. I now look at the waist and hip measurement, and those don’t even match up.

Is it true that pattern sizes are not off-the-rack sizes? Do you use the largest measurement on the pattern to the size of your person and then try to alter from there? Any suggestions on what I should do first? Thank you.

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NSC Answer

It is true that sewing pattern sizes and off-the-rack sizes are not similar at all. When sewing with a commercial pattern, the only real way to determine the correct size to make is to take body measurements.

When selecting a size to make based on the measurements, you will want to pick the size that all (or most) of the measurements line up with. If there is one that doesn’t match up with the rest in a certain size column, you can grade the pattern up or down in size as necessary.

For example, if a bust and hip measurement fall in a size 8 but the waist is a size 10, you can gradually grade the cutting line from and 8 to a 10 from the bust to the waist, and then back down from a 10 to an 8 from the waist to the hips.

Hope this helps!


Related links:

How to Alter Sewing Patterns for Shorts and Pants
Sewing Pattern Alteration and Tools
Back to Basics: Drafting Patterns

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11 Responses to “Off-the-Rack Sizing vs. Pattern Sizing”

  1. Debbie

    How do you make capris and tops from your own clothes?

  2. Jeanne

    Even with matching measurements patterns usually run smal. At least that is my experiences and I have been seeing for 55 years

  3. gladstep

    I have a pattern that needs single bias tape. I can't find the correct color in single but I can in double. Can the double bias be used in the place of single? Can it be converted? Thank you

  4. Joanna

    I have a Janome embroidery machine, and purchase a lot of embroidery designs on-line which I download onto CDs. My computer was running slowly, so my techie nephew "cleaned" it for me. I now have a serious problem as I cannot view designs. Previously I would insert the CD and all my designs would appear as thumbnails. Now I just get pages of blank boxes. If I click on any of them I just get a message saying that Windows needs to know what program I want to use to open it. I can open files in my Janome software, but I need to be able to view the icons/thumbnails in order to find what I am looking for. Can anyone help me here?

  5. Brigitte

    My fairly new upgraded computerized sewing machine suddenly sounds loud when sewing. I checked for lint, thread in bobbin, changed the needle and re-threaded. It sews fine but sound is concerning. What can it be? Is it safe to continue sewing?

  6. Carmela

    More of a question. I wear knee braces under my jeans. how do I prevent faded jeans in inner thighs, or ones that are faded.Should I put a patch over it?

  7. Cynthia Brown

    I enjoyed the video on making adjustments on patterns, however, I was wondering how to adjust children's patterns. I have several darling patterns that are a size 6 that I would love to be able to adjust to a size 8 so that I don't have to go to the expense of buying another pattern. Do you have any suggestions or advice on how to do this? Thank you? Also, do you answer me personally or do I have to keep checking your blog?

  8. Winifred

    Hi......can you please tell me where i can buy a hem buddy for measuring hems with...many thanks...Wyn

  9. Lenora

    How do I find the instruction videos I want to see, without having to scroll through hundreds of videos? It is way too time consuming. I don't see a search box exclusively for NSC. If I type something in the search box, I get an internet search. That's not what I want. Is there a better way to zero in on the video I want to see? Thank you.


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