Size DOES NOT Matter!

Aug 19 2017 7 Comments Tags: Commercial Pattern Sizing, Pattern sizing

I'm sat writing this while our Pattern Grading workshop is going on, which means I have the benefit of listening to what's going on in the background.  It's a familiar tale, and one which I have come across myself, in that some ladies who might be a size 12 on the high street are actually a size 22 on a sewing pattern and they can't understand why.  When this happens, it is such a deflator to your confidence that you never want to eat again...until the lure of a bacon sandwich comes along, you realise life's too short and you're cracking open a new bottle of HP sauce!

So what's the cause of this?  How come I'm a size 12/14 on the high street but a size 22 on some commercial sewing patterns?  Two words; VANITY SIZING!  Over the years, nominal sizes on the high street have become physically larger over time; what was a size 18 in the 1930's became a size 12 in the 1960s and then a size 4 in this century!  Look at Marilyn Monroe; she had the quintessential hourglass figure and was famous for being a size 16 (or a size 12 in English money) but there is no way nowadays with measurements of 35-22-35 that she would be a size 12!!  A dress of those measurements wouldn't even go over my left leg and I don't think I even had a 22" waist when I was born!!! :)  So why has this vanity sizing happened?  Easy.  BECAUSE SHOPS WANT YOU TO BUY THEIR CLOTHES!!!!  Let's face it, if you go into two different shops and in one you're a size 16 but in the other you're a size 12, which one are you most likely to frequent?!  The one that makes you want to lay off beer and bread (perish the thought!) or the one that says "hey, you look great - go and have that fish supper!"?!

The difference between the high street and commercial sewing patterns is that commercial sewing patterns haven't adopted vanity sizing; they have remained the same.  But as humans we've evolved over the years so yes, we may be more robust (love that word!), but we're also taller to go with it.  I won't divulge The Mother's age, but she was born slightly before WWII ended (!) and she was classed as a giant in her family.  She's 5'5" on a good day.  My grandma was born in 1916 and she was barely over 5 foot, whereas I don't class myself as being particularly tall in today's standards and I'm 5'8".

(Picture: Blubella/ Cavendish Press)

Don't get me wrong, it can be a hard thing to come to terms with but let's face it, as long as you're healthy, does it really matter?  Don't sweat the small stuff and make that size 22 pattern THAT ACTUALLY FITS!!! Please don't make the schoolgirl/boy error of just making your high street size without checking your measurements first as surely spending all that time making something that doesn't fit will make you feel way worse than working from a size 22 in the first place?!

← Older Posts Newer Posts →


  • Brilliant post, love the honesty of it! Thankyou for taking the time to research and share it with us!

    Stef Wilson on
  • Thank you for a really interesting read. I too was really disheartened when my first make for decades, a Simplicity skirt, said I was a size 20, and not my high street size 14! I did as it said and cut the size 20, only to find it was MASSIVE! One thing I’ve since found is to check the FINISHED size of the pattern, as the big 4 seem to add masses of ease into their patterns. I’ve made that skirt four times since then, and this last one was the first time it’s fit right first time! As my sewing journey has grown, I’ve come to love the independent pattern houses so much more, their patterns are more expensive but they actually fit so much better, and the sizes they give are correct! Tilly & The Buttons, I love you!

    Karen Dodgson on
  • So glad I read this. I’m a large lady 6’1" tall and shop aide 20/22. Just returning to dressmaking now retired.

    Mary on
  • Glad I’ve read this now I know why things don’t fit well. Plus being 6’1" I’m definitely not standard!

    Mary on
  • Good read and explanation of the pattern sizes thankyou.

    Angela on

Page 1 of 2

Leave a Comment

Please note: comments must be approved before they are published