Size matters?

Size matters?

Size matters

It is important to remember that every body is different. We all have different genetic and cultural traits. Even if everyone started eating the same things and did the same amount of exercise for a whole year, we would not all look the same at the end of the year. This is because each person’s genetic inheritance influences their bone structure, body size, shape, and weight differently.

Clothing sizing differs within different shops. Unfortunately people vary quite a bit in size and proportion, so even an idealistic company would have to compromise on fitting people into broad categories. Made to measure there is no compromise.

I am sure I am not alone in saying that I am not an average size, I probably sit between a 12-14, depending on the retailer. One shop I may even be larger and or smaller, dependant on their target customer. I don’t fit anything in Top shop for example.

I am a set of measurements, not a standard size.

I worked in the bridal industry making dresses made to measure, no one bride was the same.

My shape

My parents were both tall and slim. I have always swam regularly, so I am broad across the shoulders, I have a long back and wide hips. I have also had a child and in my 40’s, so not many high street clothing stores have clothes that fit my shape. I find it difficult to find trousers that fit and tops are always tight across the shoulder. I always buy tops a size bigger and I can’t buy trousers with side pockets.

Buy or make?

I have several fashion shopping apps on my phone, that I browse often. I use them more for research these days. Instead of clicking the shopping cart, I look at my fabric and paper pattern stash and make my own clothes.

This week I was browsing through a clothing website and saw some tops that I liked, but I was going on holiday soon, so the delivery wouldn’t get to me in time. Instead of spending money, I decided to copy two tops that I already have in my wardrobe.

You don’t always have to make from a paper pattern either, you can trace your favourite clothes instead. Clothes are not made to last any more, we are in the age of ‘throw away fashion’. So next time you are sad to see a favourite top; fade, or it has a hole in it, the seam may have split or you have stained it, don’t throw it away, copy it in your favourite fabric first.

This may sound daunting so start with a simple shape, you will be surprised how easy it is. You can simply draw around a shape, adding seam allowance, or you can pin some calico fabric to a garment and make the pattern from this. A good place to start would be a square cushion or a vest top.

I will talk you through how I copied a simple vest top.

You will need the following materials:

  • Newspaper or dot and cross pattern paper.
  • Paper scissors
  • Tracing wheel
  • Pins
  • HB pencil
  • Ruler

Pattern cutting

Start by drawing around the front panels. To do this you need to fold the top in half and trace one side. Mark a straight line on the paper first and then line the centre front of the top to this. Why in half? This makes sure that the front is equal on both sides. Mark the waist and draw a line accordingly. When you draw the back panel make sure you check the length from the waist markings. Make sure both front and back side seams are the same length.

If there is gathering, you can estimate how much there is and add this to the neckline or seam. I times it by the finished length when making a skirt. For a gathered skirt I times it by 4.

If there is more than one panel, use a tracing wheel, you press through the seam line and then mark this on your paper. Then add seam allowance. I |measured around my waist and calculated how long I wanted the top to be, as the one I am copying is too short. If you want your clothes to be a perfect fit, it is a really good idea to make it in cheaper fabric first (calico for woven and a cheap jersey for stretch garments). I made this top twice, the first without the under bust seam and the second with the seam added. I wish I had made  the gathered top slightly longer. If I had toiled it first, this wouldn’t have happened. once you have traced around the panels, use a ruler to straighten the lines, you don’t want wobbly lines. once you have your paper patterns, you can make with them time and time again.


The sewing is relatively simple, I sewed the seams with a French seam on the cotton top and i over locked the stretch top. The cotton top neckline has a gathered edge, this you need to be careful to keep it even, especially at the back, it needs to be equal on both sides of the centre back and front seam. Once you have your desired length you can tie the thread so it doesn’t unravel.
Then I made my own bias binding from some Liberty fabric off cuts and using a binding maker. I cut my bias strips 4cm wide and as long as my scraps allow. Then you feed this through the binder and pressing with the iron at the same time. It is so quick and easy to do. I pin the first strip to the centre back and then centre front, sewing onto the wrong side, I do this so your final top stitch is on the right side. I then pin and top stitch the binding.

bias binding video

For the straps I start at the under arm, folding back the first end, pin to the neckline and then measure how long I wanted the strap. I made my straps 12 inches, 32cm from front neck edge to back neck edge. Then you continue pinning to the original underarm. Once again starting on the wrong side and then closing with a top stitch on the right side.
The final sew is the hem, for this a dis a tiny fine pin hem. Pressing under first, sewing on the very edge, trimming away and then pressing and top stitching over the original stitch. I then press the whole top.

I always find wearing the things you make is when you really know how well they fit. I discovered this with the blue top, as I needed to take the side seams in a little. I remember when I was a runner in the fashion industry, the junior buyers used to wear the products all day before orders were placed.

It is such a quick easy make, taking me less than an hour. I like quick sewing projects, if it takes more than an hour I usually don’t manage to finish in one sitting. Time is limited when you have children.

It really is easy and cheaper to make your own clothes. It’s Sew Simple!

I hope I have inspired you to make your own patterns too.