Choosing Your Starting Pattern Size

Hey, you!

Now, that you’ve taken your measurements and the angst has subsided, it is time to put them to good use.

You will be comparing your body measurements for your bust, waist, and hips to the standard body measurements on the back of the pattern envelope.

comparing your body measurements to standard body measurements on back of pattern envelope

To choose your starting pattern size, simply circle the measurements that are closest to your measurements for bust, waist, and hips.

And do keep in mind that it is unlikely that all three measurements will be one size.

NOTE: If you’re ready to begin this journey and would like to buy my recommended tools and supplies, please click HERE!

Dresses, Tops, Jackets, & Coats

dress, jacket, coat patterns

The Big 4 pattern companies –Butterick, McCalls, Simplicity, and Vogue– draft their patterns for a B cup?!

Well, here’s the problem with that for some of us…

For example, if your bra size is anything other than a B cup, and you choose a pattern size based on your FULL bust, it may not fit your actual body frame in the shoulders, neckline, upper back, chest, and armholes areas!

And the key to this issue is to remove the breasts from the equation.

So if the difference between your high bust and full bust measurements is greater than two inches, you should use your HIGH bust measurement to choose your starting pattern size.

That is, choose the pattern size with a standard bust measurement that is closest to –but not smaller than– your HIGH bust measurement.

Because doing so will ensure that you get a good fit in the upper body, regardless of your cup size.

Then, depending on the silhouette, you may have to do a Small Bust Adjustment (SBA) or a Full Bust Adjustment (FBA). A SBA removes fullness and a FBA adds fullness to the bust area.

Failure to do so will likely result in a gaping, hot mess around your neckline, shoulders, chest, and armholes! (You can’t flaunt that!)

If you’re a B cup, then you can probably use your FULL bust measurement to choose your starting pattern size and get a good result. Or, you could experiment and try it both ways.

Sew easy tip: Many patterns from the Big 4 pattern companies now offer a range of cup sizes in one pattern. In other words, they are kind enough to do the SBA or FBA for you. Just keep in mind that when choosing your pattern size with these types of patterns, do NOT use your bra size as the guide. Instead, follow their direction for choosing your pattern size!

Two-Piece Dress: Top & Skirt

And if a pattern is a two-piece dress, which is just a skirt and top, then use your high bust or full bust to choose your starting pattern size.

Because it is so much less frustrating to adjust waist and hip than it is to fuss with the fit at the neckline, shoulders, chest, and armholes!


a skirt pattern

To choose your starting pattern size for skirts, use your full hip measurement.


Isn’t there always a fracking unless?!

Unless the skirt style is very full or your waist measurement is larger than your hip measurement, then use your waist measurement.


Because it is easier to adjust the waist than the hips.

Okay, now that you’ve got your starting pattern size, it’s time to consider your preferred fit…

Finished Garment Measurements (FGMs) & Preferred Fit

Some of us like our clothes to passionately hug our bodies. Others of us can’t bear for them to touch us anywhere. And still others, like myself, are all about our clothes lovingly skimming our curves, but definitely not clinging!

This is all about ease and your preferred fit.

And the best way to get a fit you love is to refer to the FGMs. FGMs are the actual size of the finished garment at the bust, waist, and hip.

You can often find them on the back of the pattern envelope.

back of pattern envelope: body measurements and finished garment measurements

And if they are not there, you can check the actual pattern tissue.

finished garment measurements on tissue pattern

And if the numbers aren’t listed there, you can measure the pattern pieces yourself. Just make sure to exclude seam allowances, darts, pleats, and tucks from the total measurement.

Once you’ve decided on your starting pattern size, get out your fiberglass tape measure and test out the FGMs listed for that size.

Just place the tape around your bust, waist, or hips, using the FGM stated for each. And ask yourself:

Is this  too much ease for me? Or is this too little ease? It’s your choice!

Sew easy tip: If you want to know how much total ease is included for bust, waist or hip, select a size. Then, subtract the Standard Body Measurement (BM) for that size from the FGM for that same size — in other words, FGM minus BM equals Total Ease.

Okay, then…

You’re now ready to adjust the proportions of your sewing pattern or sew a muslin, a sample garment, to test your pattern size!

The End

Well, look at you!

You now know how to take your body measurements accurately and how to choose your starting pattern size.

And do you know what this means?!

It means that you’re ready to learn the definition of a good fit and tips for making basic alterations to your sewing patterns that will allow you to sew garments you are proud to flaunt!

And remember…

Life is the ultimate red carpet event. Dress for it!

RELATED: Click HERE to learn how to read a sewing pattern!

RELATED: Click HERE to learn everything you need to know about sewing patterns so you can finally sew it and flaunt it!

RELATED: Click HERE if you’re ready to begin this journey and would like to buy my recommended tools and supplies!

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