There are some amazing makers out there in the sewing community doing such great work highlighting the trials and tribulations of fitting garments to our bodies. It's a whole movement on Instagram now with lots of fun hashtags to follow.
@minimalistmachinist, @ithacamaven and @wzrdreams are just a few of the great instagram accounts I follow and I avidly consume their stories for information, help and ideas on pattern mods, fitting and making toiles.
When I hosted the first @cuckfieldsewinggroup on 9th January 2020, I had the idea of creating a measurements chart for us all to have a go at taking our own measurements, to see if we couldn't compile a sort of measurements bible if you like. Something that we could keep with us, or at least keep in mind, when choosing patterns, choosing which size to make and when making the pattern adjustments we need to make the garments fit is better.
Our Measurements Do Change, But Not As Much As You'd Think
Most of the measurements we need to take don't change over time. With the exception of really major surgical procedures, arms don't grow longer, collar bones don't stretch and legs don't grow. The measurements that do change over time, and can change quite drastically, are the full chest and the belly and hip area. When you think about it, measurements that are dependent on bone structure don't change more than a centimetre or two over time (neck and back length, leg length, wrist etc) while those that are dependent on flesh, do (chest, belly, hip).
Choosing the correct size based on the fleshy measurements and then making pattern adjustments before making a toile seems to me to be the way to go in this complicated fitting process. Knowing the outseam, neck to back waist, crotch depth, wrist, arm length and so on makes all those decisions about leg, arm and bodice lengthening much easier and means that we can then make super quick adjustments to the paper pattern before we make a muslin ( or a wearable muslin). Its much easier to fine-tune the fit when these are all out of the way.
Choosing The Correct Size
Choosing the correct pattern size for your body totally depends on what you want to make. If the garment hangs from the shoulders, like a dress or a top, a coat or a jacket, then choose your size according to your high chest. If the garment hangs from the waist, like a skirt or wide palazzo pants, choose the waist measurement. It what you want to make sits on the hips, then go ahead and choose the hip/belly/low hip, depending on the fit.
Mark The Points
The first thing I do after I've chosen my pattern size is measure the pattern pieces and make adjustments if I need to. Most of the big commercial patterns have the centre front, centre back, chest apex, waist, hip and knee marked somewhere on the pattern. You should be able to find out from the pattern maker's website, or just by searching the internet, which height and cup size (if any) the pattern was drafted for. If this information isn't on the website, email the pattern designer and ask where these points should be and ask the size of the fit model. I've found all of this information from the big four commercial patterns on their website and on the pattern pieces. Most indie pattern designers are super helpful and will be only too pleased to help you.
For me, a sway back, forward shoulder, leg and arm lengthen are the basics. Then I make a muslin.
There are so many amazing resources out there for fitting adjustments so I won't delve into that here but I've added my checklist of the main measurements that you need to take and added the list as a free download, here. Click the link, save it and print it out when you're ready. Fill the sheet with all your measurements and it should set you on the road to being able to decipher which fit adjustments you need to make and which are right for your body.