Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Choosing pattern size - what is "true to size?"

Today's Know to Sew topic is pattern size - how do you choose which size to sew and what does it mean to be "true to size?"  As administrator of a Facebook sewing group for going on four years now, I have seen this question many times: "Is this pattern true to size?"  

Well, let me first tell you a little story about my little babies E and P. Here they are, on the days they were born. 

Baby P, 6 lbs, 17 inches, barely on the growth chart (5th percentile)

Baby E, 9.6 lbs, 22 inches, 95th percentile.

Why am I showing these adorable pictures? Because here are two newborns, my two girls as newborns, and neither were typical newborn size! One was very small, too big for premie clothing, too small for 0-3 month clothing. The other was in 3-6 month clothing from birth! And yet, they were both true to their own size!  And different brands fit them differently. P's first brand of clothing was Old Navy, which run very small. Gap have always been too long for her legs.  E moved into 3-6 month size Gap clothing and has always been a Gap fan because her legs are soooo long.  They both have different body types and different brands fit them differently.  

My point? There is no true to size in clothing you buy at the store.  It depends on your size, your body shape, your figure.  If are curvy with medium-sized legs, one brand might work great for you but not for the person who has slim hips and long legs.  

There is no brand that is completely true to size because we humans vary so much in size and shape.  And this rule applies to the clothing you buy and the patterns you sew from. 

So, how do you determine which size pattern to buy?  
You use this tool and you use it more than once. 

Take my E, for example.  It took me three times to get the accurate measurements for her that you see above because she is so wiggly! And, the first time I measured her chest, I didn't realize she was puffing it out.  LOL Silly girl. So, I measured again and then one last time for accuracy.

So, which size is E?  According to pattern size charts:

Millie Rose patterns size 7
Monkeysbug patterns size 6
Ruffle Bunnies patterns size 4
Jocole patterns size 7
BrownieGoose patterns size 4-5
Tie Dye Diva patterns size 6X
Handmaiden's Cottage patterns chest size 4T, length size 6

This just has to make me laugh a little. She is all over the map because she is so slim.  But, I don't want her dresses to look like tunics so I have to account for length, too. I cannot make her a size 4 dress because she is a size 7 tall!   This is where tailoring comes in handy. You can take a size 4 bodice and add a size 7 skirt, for length.  And you can make a muslin first and then tailor that to your child. Then, you go from there.  If you have the opposite issue with your child and you need less length and more width, please check out my making patterns your own series parts one and parts two where I explain how to add width and take away length. 

So, remember, there is no true to size, there is only true to your size. 

PS If you want to know how to choose a pattern for a grownup, Tilly and the Buttons has a great post.


  1. So true about size. I hate being asked what size I am, especially since I sew and I just use measurements! Even sewing sizes are different, US, European, Italian, more like ready to wear. So many ways to measure.

    1. oh Annette, I could have written a book about Euro sizes! LOL Comparing those to American sizes, I mean.

  2. Great information! I always wonder when I see questions about a pattern being "true to size"...true to WHOSE size??

  3. Great post! This is the biggest struggle I have every time I start a new project: what size should I make? I want it to fit her and look good right off the machine, but I also don't want her to outgrow it in a month. I analyze and over-analyze every time.

    I've nominated you for a Leibster Award, I hope you don't mind. Please take it as the compliment I intend it to be. You can read more here:

    1. oh my goodness Ren! Thank you! I will read it fully and respond after dinner. What an honor!!

  4. LOL! Your "baby" E and my Little Miss are about the same caliber at birth and she has stayed at the 95% since then. :) Big Miss on the other hand was much smaller ( a bit bigger than your "baby" P at birth). I'm really struggling with the American sizes as I'm from Finland and have learned to go by height instead of age. So I'm making more and more clothes for them myself. And I get the style I want. :) Great post Kathy!

    1. I find Euro sizing much easier to sew with, to be honest.

  5. So true! We should focus on creating clothes that fit our own beautiful bodies perfectly, and stop worrying about being any specific numbers. Health and fitness count; numbers don't!