Subversive Sewer

{January 25, 2010}   Fitting Odessy, Part 1

Well, I have Fast Fit. I have FFRP.  I’ve read countless posts on Pattern Review.  I’ve read Debbie’s blog.  The last thing I could think of to try was to buy a fitting shell pattern, and after several months of forgetting to do so, I finally remembered a couple weeks ago.  Then of course I forgot to ask my mom to help measure me (there’s only so many people you can ask to help measure your bust), so I decided to measure what I could on my own.

I’ll ask my mom to re-measure, but what I got so far is way different than what I’ve been sewing.  I’m still not totally sure where my waist is, either.  I’ve been sewing a 12 on top and a 14 on the bottom, taking in at the waist.  Here’s my measurements and their corresponding pattern sizes:

Bust: 36 1/2″, size 14

Chest: 34″, size 14

Waist: 30″, size 16

Hip: 38″, size 14

Bicep: 11 1/2″, size 26

Shoulder to elbow: 14″, size 14

Elbow to wrist bone: 10″, off the charts

Back base of neck to bust point: 13 1/2″, for a C cup, I’d be a size 10, for the D cup that I know I am, I’d be a size 8

About that cup size discrepancy: prior to having my daughter in 2004, I was an A cup.  After that, I was wearing a C cup until about a year ago when it finally dawned on me that the girls are supposed fit into the bra cups.  I tried a D cup and everything fit.  So, I’ve only had about 6 years to figure out what size I am, but I’m fairly sure I’ve got it right now.

Anyone well-versed in fit issues want to take a stab at this one?


Kathi says:

I am sorry I can’t help you, but I have found that even with the right measurements it doesn’t always help! I have the best results with Burda, Jalie, and Ottobre. I made a Vogue skirt the other weekend and it was okay, but the measurements it claimed to be weren’t the actual ones. (I read the same comment on mutiple reviews.) I don’t know why there can’t be more consistency with the big 4. Okay, stepping off my soap box now. I’m sorry!!

Liloula says:

I hope I don’t appear rude because I am very very new to making clothes but I think maybe you have measured your waist incorrectly. I used to think my waist was a size bigger than everything else but I was measuring too low. Your waist is not around your abdomen it is almost a hands width a way from where your hands lay when you rest your hands on your hips and just under your ribs.

subversivesewer says:

No, not rude at all! Thank you for the tip!

Jane says:

In Fitting Finesse by Nancy Zieman she recommends finding your size by fitting your shoulders. You measure across your upper chest from arm crease to arm crease (there’s a diagram in the book) and check this measurement against a chart. The chart recommends the size to start with, to begin making your fitting corrections from. I borrowed the book from my library, hopefully yours has it too. It helped me get started and I learned more from various sources as I went along. Good luck! HTH, Jane

Bunny says:

I have had great luck with the Nancy Zieman method. It speaks to the fact that it is a lot easier to alter the waist and hips than the bust, shoulders, and neckline.

Patti says:

Your measurements are just you and not a size. Having said that I know that you need a starting point. So what is your upper bust measurement? Since you are a D cup, you should be choosing your pattern size for tops and dresses by your upper bust measurement. That is a more accurate reflection of your actual bone structure than a full bust measurement is. The cup size is just ‘padding’ on the frame. 🙂 Unfortunately, those of us with a robust bust, almost always require adjustments to patterns to make them fit better. That ‘padding’ throws things out of kilter a bit.

Nancy says:

Hello! This is the first time I’ve posted a comment on your blog, but have been following along for several months.

I have also been struggling with figuring out what size I should be sewing. What are your complaints on fit?

To find your waist, bend sideways. It’s where the “crease” is. I’ve also read that the chest measurement should be quite snug (like pull it 1″ tighter than would be comfortable). Make sure you’re not getting a finger under the tape when you measure.

I got a FFRP DVD for Christmas, and it has some good info on tissue fitting, though I find it very difficult to do on myself. It’s still worth checking out.

I got a FFRP DVD for Christmas, and it had some good info on issue fitting, though I find it to be really difficult to do on myself.

angie.a says:

Oh I like the NZ book! I bought it in the fall? Maybe summer? Anyway, haha, I really liked it. And just out of curiosity (because it saw it debated) I checked the FBA both ways. Once using NZ and once traditional. They ended up the same size.

Hatty says:

I think the problem you are having is not just your actual size, it’s how much “ease” there is is in the pattern. If you are very muscular, you will “spread” less, for example, when sitting so you will need less ease. If you are a short size 14, you will probably need more ease than a tall size 14. So you need to measure the flat pattern to check how much ease it has and if that much suits you. When you measure your hips, sit or squat while allowing the tape to run through your hands. You need that much room around the hips or you will split your pants/skirt at some point.
I am 5’5′ with measurements very similar to yours. I am between 42 and 44 (Burda) or 14-16 (Vogue’s charts) but I often need to take the waist in and sometimes the hips (but if the hips are too big I can cut a smaller size of course. The dimensions of flat patterns vary even within the same company. But I find that knowing how much ease I need and want and measuring the flat pattern saves me LOADS of time and bother and I never have to make a muslin (for a start it saves you from cutting too small, which cannot be retrieved). I make small adjustments to fit after cutting but you have to do that even when you make a muslin unless you make it in exactly the same fabric (doubling your costs). Don’t worry about whether you “look like” a size x or y. RTW sizes are crazy. My body mass index (like yours) is within the normal range, I am definitely a size 14 going on 16, but in the States I take an 8 in RTW and in the UK a 10 or a 12. Objectively speaking my weight is fine (as is yours), the numbers are just a way to find a fit, girl! They are not some kind of ranking!

CindyC says:

Oh, don’t give up! There are a few things you can do!

Fist, go to a fabric store that offers sewing lessons and have the instructor take all your measurements. Keep that chart when choosing a size to sew.

Second, look up the particular pattern on (use Advanced Search) to see if the folks who have made it and posted their discussion have had particular issues with the way that pattern is shaped or constructed. You’d be surprised at the changes people make to patterns to get them to fit their various body shapes. And knowing what issues a particular nifty pattern has helps reduce the frustration factor and allows you to plan better.

Third, always do a muslin! Use anything – muslin itself, old bedsheets, some other cheap fabric that you no longer love, to mock up the garment and test it on yourself to see where you need to let out or take in.

Fourth, I would suggest one of those do-it-yourself paper dress forms to capture the difficult combination of features you have, so that you can put your muslin on it and adjust away to your heart’s content. They’re surprisingly easy to do and well worth the effort. Here are three tutorials that I’ve printed out that, taken together, give great wisdom on how to do this. Read them all the way through and then grab a friend and go to it!

Fifth, you might want to invest in a more top of the line fitting bible. The tippy top book seems to be Leichty, Pottberg and Rasband, “Fitting & Pattern Alteration.” (The newest version has a longer title and one of the authors’ last names changed, I believe). This book runs almost a hundred bucks, but if you haunt eBay, you can find the occasional earlier version for twenty to thirty something dollars. (I scored mine for $32 on eBay.) This is one of the best investments in sewing books that I could recommend.

Lastly, remember that every pattern company uses a slightly different “sloper” (body form) as the basis for drafting its patterns, so fit may differ from pattern manufacturer to pattern manufacturer. That’s where the dress form comes in — to double check that the garment will fit, will drape nicely, and will be long/short, wide/narrow exactly where YOU need it to be.

Plus, once you get a set of patterns that really fit you well and that you’ll be using over and over (TNT or “Tried and True” patterns), you can check the shoulders, arms, etc. of a new pattern against your trusty dusty TNT pattern to see where the new pattern might need alterations to fit you better.

Sooner or later, it will just all fall into place. You may crawl through every d*mn fitting issue until you get there, but think of those wonderfully fit clothes and keep going. We’re all rooting for you!!!!

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