A revelation on choosing the correct pattern size
When I saw the latest offering from New Zealand-based company ‘Papercut Patterns’ I was smitten. The Clover dress, a collaboration with designer Brooke Tyson, looked like an easy to wear and (seemingly) easy to fit garment – exactly the type of pattern I’m always attracted to. I really loved the shape and the slouchy ‘casual but stylish’ look.
It’s the kind of style that works best in fabrics that drape well, such as those hard-to-come by soft woven rayon/cotton blends with a teeny bit of stretch. As luck would have it I had a huge black piece of rayon/cotton blend in my stash that I thought would be perfect for Clover. I was also totally taken and inspired by Anneke’s amazing black version!
I didn’t make a muslin (slap on the wrists) and just sewed up the straight size XXS as my measurements correspond to that size. This led me into troubled waters: the neckline and bust area were really huge while the back and shoulders were verging on the tight side! Argh!
I didn’t want my nice fabric to have gone to waste and was determined to get something wearable out of the whole escapade so I managed to make it work with some (unadvisable) improvised post-sewing tweaking and cutting to alter the neckline. It still droops a bit but it is not a total disaster and I really like the end result.
But what troubled me more was that at first I couldn’t work out why this pattern hadn’t worked for me. If my bust measurement matches the bust measurement on the pattern where did I go wrong?
Thanks to Tilly’s tutorial on the SBA for the Françoise dress and this Colette post on SBAs, more pieces of the puzzle started to fall into place.
While I knew that determining whether you needed a small bust adjustment involved your high bust measurement, and I’d also heard it suggested that starting with a larger bodice size before doing an SBA was an option, I’d never considered that you should choose your pattern size based on your high bust measurement, let alone why that would even make sense.
Here’s what I learnt in a nutshell:
1) Find out the difference between your pattern’s high bust measurement (around upper chest just under the armpits) and full bust measurement. For Tilly’s patterns this is 5cm; Colette patterns 7.5cm.
2) To choose the pattern size (for the bodice area at least – you can always grade between sizes if it is a dress and you want a different size around the waist and hips) take your high bust measurement and add this difference to that measurement. This measurement is then your imaginary bust measurement. Pick your pattern size based on it – this means that although it will be too big at the bust it will fit around the upper chest, neck, and shoulders.
3) Carry out an SBA to take away the difference between your imaginary bust measurement and your real one.
Understanding this helps me realise why the Clover dress probably didn’t fit right, and indeed why the Belladone dresses I made earlier this year are definitely verging on the slightly-too-tight around the armholes and chest.
So now I’ll retrace the Clover and Belladone in the correct size to see if that helps. Fingers crossed!
Of course, the main stumbling point is whether you know what the difference is between the high bust and the full bust on a pattern. But how can we find this out if it is not indicated? Is 5cm the standard difference?