How-to Tips

Determine Pattern Size

One of the main reasons to make our own clothes is to get garments to fit properly so the first step is to choose the correct pattern size and to do that we need to take accurate measurements. NB: Do not assume you are the same size pattern as you are ready-to-wear.


To achieve the best results when measuring it is important to measure over the undergarments you normally wear.

HANDY HINT: If possible, enlist the help of a good friend or partner. It is far easier to take accurate measurements for someone else!

Hold the tape measure comfortably snug, but not tight.

Then measure . . .

  1. Height: Standing against a flat wall without shoes, from floor to top of your head.
  2. Bust: around the fullest part of the bust and straight across the back.
  3. High Bust/chest: directly under the arms, straight across the back and above the bust.
  4. Waist: If not obvious (and as we get older, it often isn’t!) Tie a narrow elastic or string around waist and bend slightly from side to side to allow it to settle naturally at your waistline. Measure over the elastic. Keep the elastic in place for the next measurement.
  5. Back Waist Length: from the most prominent bone at the base of neck to the natural waistline.
  6. Hip: around the body at fullest part, usually 18 – 23 cm (7 – 9") below waist.

The Bust, Waist and Hip measurements are what are used to determine PATTERN SIZE.

Body Types

Patterns are sized in ten different body types which include children, junior and men.

To determine the BODY TYPE you are, compare your HEIGHT AND BACK WAIST LENGTH measurements with the Body Type Measurement Charts on Simplicity’s website  – visit – look under Fit Help).

  1. MISSES’/MISS PETITE: This is one of the two most common Types for women. It is for a figure that is well-proportioned and well-developed in all body areas. Bodices are designed for a B Cup size (With 6.5 cm/2 ½” difference between High Bust and Bust measurements).
    Misses: about 1.65 – 1.68 m tall (5’5" to 5’6").
    Miss Petite: under 1.63 m tall (5’4") The back neck to waist measurement for the Miss Petite figure is 2.5 cm (1") shorter than the Misses measurement.
  2. Women’s/Women’s Petite: This category is for a larger, more fully mature female figure but with the same height ratio as above.
  3. Unisex: For figures within Misses’, Men’s, Teen-Boys and Girl’s size ranges. Patterns are shown as Small, Medium, Large, Extra Large rather than by standard size although measurements are still given.

  4. Junior: For the young Miss figure that has started to develop. Height about 5’2" to 5’5" without shoes.
  5. Girls’/Girls’ Plus: For growing girls who have not yet begun to mature. About 1.27 – 1.55 m tall (4’2" to 5’1"). Girls’ plus are designed for girls over the average weight for their age and height.
  6. Children: Although these ‘around’ measurements are similar to Toddlers’, these patterns are for taller children with wider shoulders and back than Toddlers. About 92 – 122 m tall (3’ to 4’).
  7. Toddler’s: This figure is taller than a baby but shorter, with narrow shoulders and back than a child. Toddler patterns include a nappy allowance.
  8. Babies: For infants that are not yet walking. About 43 – 87 cm tall/long (17" to 34”).
  9. Boy’s/Teen-Boys: For growing boys who have not reached full adult stature. Boys about 1.22 – 1.47 m (4’ to 4’10”). Teen-Boys – young men, about 1.55 to 1.73 m tall (5’1” to 5’8”)
    View Boys’ & Teen Boys’ Body Measurement Chart.
    10. MEN’S: Average adult build about 1.78 m tall (5’10")

Which Pattern Size?

Most patterns are multi-size nowadays which helps to get a custom fit, particularly if you are not the same standard size for Bust, Waist and Hip. To help minimise the amount of alterations needed, choose a pattern size that matches your Bust, Waist and Hip measurements as follows:


Use these MEASUREMENTS for correct size:

Dresses, Tops, Jackets and Separates
BUST (NB: if you have more than 6.3 cm (2 1/2") difference between Bust and High Bust, select your pattern size by HIGH BUST* measurement).

  • Misses patterns are made for a B cup with 2 1/2" (6.3cm) difference between Bust and High Bust measurement.

Skirts & Pants
WAIST measurement UNLESS your hips are two sizes or more larger than your waist, then use HIP measurement.

SAME PATTERN SIZE you used before pregnancy.

Between Two Sizes
SMALLER SIZE for a closer fit or if you are small-boned, LARGER SIZE for a looser fit.

Added Ease

Another element in pattern design that will affect the fit is the amount of DESIGN and WEARING EASE that has been built into a design. To determine the amount of ease that has been incorporated in a garment, compare the Finished Garment Measurements with the Size chart body measurements. The difference is the amount of ease allowed. This will be a combination of Wearing and Design ease.


Another excellent and quick trick is to take a similar garment – for example, a dress or trousers, that FIT you WELL. Turn it inside out and lay it out flat. Superimpose the tissue pieces on the dress, matching the shoulders, and centre front. You will immediately have a sense of "will this fit just like my favourite dress?", and you can quickly alter your pattern just by pinning a little here and there till it matches the contours of your favourite dress. This works equally well for trousers.

If you are about to use luxury or expensive fabric, always make a test garment in calico or inexpensive cotton. Wherever possible tissue fit first, remembering to pin out seam allowances, darts, tucks and pleats.

This article has been put together from information supplied on Simplicity Patterns website and Simply The Best Sewing book. The website is more than a showcase for the Simplicity and New Look pattern ranges, there is also lots of helpful information (look at left hand column and select options) including Sewing Basics and Techniques which includes a Fabric Width Conversion Chart as well as sewing techniques for handling specific fabrics, or Fit Help which has lots of tips on achieving perfect fit.

For more information visit:

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