I really wanted a retro style playsuit, I couldn’t find anything to buy, so I asked my Mother-In-Law (a dressmaker by trade) if she would show me how to make something. The dream was something like the above left, but I found a modern pattern, a Simplicity or Kwik-Sew from memory, it was seperates for a little top and shorts… that will do for my first time! Before we even opened the pattern envelope I had set us up for failure. I quickly took a rough hip, waist and bust measurement, and then looked up my measurements on the back of the envelope.
Whoa! My measurements put me at a size 18! I buy a size 12 at the shops! No way was I going to tell my Mother-In-Law I was size 18. And right there is where I went totally wrong. No chance of this garment ever fitting me. While vanity caused my disaster, I think that most budding sewing stars would have no idea that the size numbers really don’t mean a thing.
So it’s my hot tip for everyone – The labels mean nothing! It is all about your measurements. Don’t get hung up on what label you would normally choose in a shop buying clothes. I also check my measurements every single time I make a new pattern to see which “size” I’ll be making.
“Why?” I hear you ask. There are many reasons and here are just a few:
- Sizing systems have changed over time. Check out the sizing system below from the early 1900s! Those letters are as clear as mud.
- Different countries have different sizing systems.
- The average female size has increased two sizes in Australia since the 1960s!
- Individual retail fashion brands have started to make “size 12″ the size of their median customer. The median for a store catering to teens (e.g.: Supre) will be very different to the median of a store catering to women over 50 (e.g.: Rockmans).
- The individual designers at indie pattern companies may design for themselves and then grade up and down from that.
My closing thoughts? Check your measurements every time to see what “size” you’ll make. For exceptional results, also look at the finished measurements of the garment you are making.
And finally, if you aren’t sure where to take measurements, what are all the measurements and how to do it accurately, come on in to Thread Den and take our workshop: How to take & understand measurements for dressmaking.