On ease and sizing

I’m currently making a muslin of Vogue 8667 view A.

When I started sewing in 2008 I picked pattern sizes based on the usual advice. I took all my measurements carefully, wrote them down, and compared with the size charts to choose what pattern size to make. Everything came out much too big. I eventually worked out that cutting size 10 on the chest and waist and 12 on the hips with Vogue patterns is a good starting point for me, despite what the tape measure says.

Here’s a bit of the Vogue size chart (in inches):

Sizes 8 10 12 14
Bust 31.5 32.5 34.0 36.0
Waist 24.0 25.0 26.5 28.0
Hip 33.5 34.5 36.0 38.0

I gradually came to think that my waist measurement must really be 25 inches because size 10 fitted me. The piece of paper I wrote my real measurements down on got pushed to the bottom of the sewing basket and forgotten.

Then I started making patterns from Burda Magazine rather than envelope patterns, basing the sizing on what I thought my measurements were from the Vogue size chart. Those all came out a little too small and had to be let out. I even had to start doing full bust adjustments.

Recently I measured myself again in order to get accurate numbers to draft a skirt pattern, and was amazed to discover that my measurements are considerably larger than a Vogue 10. I always thought I wasn’t one of those people who’s in denial about their real size and shape. And yet despite this discovery the too small Vogue size 10 still fits comfortably.

So when I started my current project I checked the ‘finished garment measurements’ on the pattern. These are for the views with the A-line skirt.

Sizes 8 10 12 14
Bust 34.5 35.5 37.0 39.0
Waist 26.5 27.5 29.0 31.0
Hip 37.0 38.0 39.5 41.5

So that’s three inches of ease at the bust, two and half at the waist, and three and a half at the hips. That would explain a lot when the difference between sizes is only one and half or two inches. The larger hip measurement can be explained by the skirt being A-line rather than fitted, but I found the sheer amount of ease on the bust and waist measurements surprising. Burda magazine patterns, on the other hand, are often described as having relatively little ease. That started me wondering what the standard amount is.

On checking various reference books I found very little agreement. I have a copy of The Dressmaker’s Dictionary by Ann Ladbury from 1982, which suggests three-quarters of an inch to one and a quarter inches at the waist, and one and five-eigths to four inches at the bust.

Vogue Sewing gives a chart by type of fit (from close-fitting to ‘very loose-fitting’) and type of garment, but only one ease number for each combination. The ease given for a fitted dress is three to four inches which is very slightly more than the Vogue pattern I’m talking about has. The envelope describes the bodice as ‘fitted’, for what it’s worth.

The Perfect Fit is pretty vague on the subject but suggests the minimum is one inch at the waist and two at the bust and most patterns will have more.

None of my other books mention specific amounts to use.

Another puzzling thing is that the books don’t change the amount of ease for different pattern sizes. I’m no expert but I think you’d want the ease to be a little greater in larger sizes and less for smaller ones. Over a small range of sizes it probably doesn’t make much difference to keep it constant, but as most Vogue patterns come into two different size ranges I wonder if the ease allowance is the same for both versions?

As there doesn’t appear to be a simple rule that is going to work for every case I’m just going to have to work out what I personally feel comfortable with and use that in future. It would be interesting and useful if patterns had the ease numbers on the envelope. I’m going to start working them out before making adjustments from now on.

Oh and I ended up cutting a 10 on the bust and waist and a 12 on the hips for my muslin of Vogue 8667. But now I know why.