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The UK’s Biggest Pattern House

Part 2: What pattern size am I?

One of the reasons that people sew is to get a garment that fits perfectly. People are not necessarily created equal – they come in all shapes, heights and sizes. Like ready-to-wear clothes, sewing patterns come several different sizes to fit all of these different bodies. Patterns can come in numbered (10-12-14, etc.) or lettered (S-M-L, etc.) sizes, just like at retail. But the similarities in sizing end there, so it’s very important to remember:

Pattern sizes are not the same as retail clothing sizes

So first things first, watch our handy guide for taking accurate body measurements so you understand your own size first.


Next you can watch our video on what pattern size you should choose:

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This jacket has more design ease, to maintain a 1950’s, retro-inspired swingy silhouette.

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The illustration below shows the comparison between all three measurements:

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One last note about ease: Fabrics make a difference. Some fabrics have more give than others, so garments made out of these fabrics need less ease than others. Some examples of these fabrics for comparison:

More Give – Needs Less Ease:

  • Loose-Weave Linens
  • Jersey Knits
  • Crinkled Fabrics
  • Stretch Woven Fabrics
  • Less Give – Needs More Ease:
  • Tight-Weave Cottons and Linens
  • Denims
  • Wools
  • Satins

Using the Back of the Envelope to Help Choose a Pattern Size

Once you’ve chosen a pattern style and have your starter size, it’s time to refer to the back of the pattern envelope to narrow down your sizing even further. The back of the envelope is a great tool, but like any other tool, you have to know how to use it properly. Let’s break it down:

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Title: this acts as a description of the pattern, including the size range and all of the garments included in the pattern. This simple line of text can give you extra clues that let you know what the fit is like – for example, if a top is labeled “pullover”, that top needs more ease to be able to pull over the head without a zipper or button opening.

Fabric Suggestions: this is an actual list of the fabrics suggested for each item in the pattern, which also gives a clue about fit. Garments that are recommended for knits only are given very little wearing ease, so they are usually more close-fitting.

Body Measurements: these are the actual body measurements for each size. These are put on the back of the envelope for quick reference, allowing you to see at a glance if the pattern comes in a size that’s right for you.

Garment Measurements: these are the measurements of each finished garment included in the pattern, in each size. The measurements for each garment are taken at the widest fitting point – dresses, tops and jackets are measured at the bust, while skirts and pants are measured at the hip. These finished garment measurements include the maximum amount of ease given for each garment. Since people prefer different amounts of ease in their clothes, these are important numbers to use when choosing your pattern size on a pattern-by-pattern basis. Here’s how it works:

Beginning with your starting size, look at the finished Garment Measurement of the item you are planning on making, and compare it to your Body Measurement at the same point. It may be easier to take your tape measure and put it around your body, matching the Garment Measurement. See how much room you have between your body and the tape measure. Too much for you? Go down a size. Too little? Go up a size. Somewhere in between? Go with the larger size, because it’s easier to adjust a larger size than a smaller one.

Figures Types and Special Sizes

Once you’ve figured out your pattern size, there is one more thing that you may want to consider, your figure type. Simplicity produces patterns for several different figure types, including adults and children. Here are descriptions of the most commonly confused figure types:

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Misses’ for an adult female figure that is well-proportioned and well-developed in all body areas. Misses’ sizes are proportioned for 5’5” to 5’6” tall.

Miss Petite like in ready-to-wear, Miss Petite refers to a proportion for 5’4” tall and under. The torso for a Petite size is also 1” shorter than that of the Misses’ size. This is important, because many people don’t realize that Petite is not just about height, but an overall shorter proportion. If you are truly Petite, just lopping off the excess length at the hem is not going to do it! Also, don’t make the mistake of thinking that Petite only applies to smaller sizes; there are larger-sized women out there that are still Petite.

Simplicity’s Misses’ and Miss Petite range of sizes run as follows:
4 – 6 – 8 – 10 – 12 – 14 – 16 – 18 – 20 – 22 – 24 – 26

Women’s or Plus Sizes a larger, more fully-fashioned mature adult female figure. Women’s sizes are proportioned for 5’5” to 5’6” tall.

Women’s Petite or Plus Petite a larger, more fully-fashioned mature adult female figure proportioned for 5’4” tall and under. Like Miss Petite, the torso is 1” shorter, so the same basic Petite rules apply.

Simplicity’s Woman’s/Plus and Woman’s/Plus Petite range of sizes run as follows:
18W – 20W – 22W – 24W – 26W – 28W – 30W – 32W

Juniors’ for the Young Miss figure, about 5’2” to 5’5” in height. This figure, not being fully matured, has slightly fewer curves than the Misses’ size.

Simplicity’s Junior range of sizes runs as follows:
3/4 – 4/5 – 5/6 – 7/8 – 9/10 – 11/12 – 13/14 – 15/16 – 17/18

Junior Plus for a larger, more fully-fashioned Young Miss figure, proportioned for 5’2” to 5’5” in height.

Simplicity’s Junior Plus range of sizes runs as follows:
15+/16+ – 17+/18+ – 19+/20+ – 21+/22+ – 23+/24+ – 25+/26+

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