This post was originally done when I released my tentative size chart for my Wearing History Clothing Kickstarter campaign. At the time, and still, I am a very small, one person run company and I was very sad about having to limit my sizing. This post was made to help others understand what goes into standard sizing, including size range, grading, and the differences in “blocks” or base sizes.
Although at present we have a very limited stock on Wearing History Clothing, following the success of the Kickstarter campaign I was able to add plus size in two of the clothing styles. Due to the high expenditure, we will not be able to make new Wearing History Clothing at this time, but this post will help you to understand sizing standards whether for ready to wear clothing or sewing patterns, and why very small companies often have to limit their ranges.
Re-Sizing Patterns & Base Patterns
There’s a real, technical, reason behind sizing and sizing standards. When you take one pattern and change it to different sizes, it’s called “grading.” It takes a LOT of math. But, as you’ll see, not all sizes can be graded from one pattern.
Generally, a “safe” grade rule would be up and down two to three sizes from your “base pattern”. A Base Pattern is the pattern you draft your original pattern from.
But what is this Misses size vs Petite, Tall, Plus, and Junior’s?
All of those sizing types are based off of different proportions
Because of this, no amount of math will let you change from one size type to another. So, for example, you can’t take a Petite and change it to a Misses. You can’t take a Junior’s and change it to a Plus. There may be Junior’s Plus, or Petite Plus, but that’s different than just Junior’s or Petites.
Why? Because when we “grade” a pattern, we do this flat, with math, in 2-D. The body is different. It’s in 3-D, and it not only is 3-D, but it moves, and has different needs based on age, size, height, and weight. That’s why we have each of these different size “types”.
Your Base Pattern Size Limits Your Size Range
In my case, my Wolf professional form is a Misses’ 34″ bust, which I bought after I graduated from fashion school, over 10 years ago. Sadly, that means I’m already not in the middle of the size range for misses’ sizing. That means my size range is already limited, because I can only size up so much and still have accurate grading from a small base pattern.
Why Can’t Startups Start with a Bigger Size Range or Different Size Types?
Well, most of it comes down to financial reasons and skill sets.
As of now, I’m not making any profit, of course, because my clothing line hasn’t launched yet. I’m on a pretty tight shoestring right now, so I’m using the tools I already have, which includes the smaller professional dress form.
My Kickstarter goal will only cover production costs- not startup fees OR pay for my time developing this line over the past few months, or for filling orders or time I spend working after the launch. After I actually am able to make a profit, some of that will go into a new professional form, which can cost over $1,000. It’s big money up front for a startup who’s not got much to start with! So all of my “base patterns” are for my size SMALL form currently have. All of my patterns are Misses’ sizing, because that’s what my form is.
Now, if the Kickstarter goes gangbusters and we go above and beyond the goal, adding larger misses’ sizing is a definite possibility with future releases! But right now, I just don’t know, because, ultimately, my time and work and the future of my clothing line are in the hands of the future customers (that’s you!).
However, down the line when I get a size medium or large misses’ form for drafting my base patterns, I still won’t be able to do plus sizes by using that form and my skill set. Because to do that I’d need a different dress form, and a different, unique skill set for making those types of sizes.
Other Sizing Types Require A Different Skill Set
In general, fashion school teaches you to draft misses’ sizes, not plus, petites, or tall. We did have one junior form in fashion school, and none of the misses’ outfits we drafted ever fit it, or vice versa. I remember, we always had to be careful not to grab that form. It made out outfits we were graded on look bad! Because our outfits were drafted for misses’, not juniors’, and we were graded based on both our pattern drafts, and how our mock up looked on the form.
People can spend lifetimes perfecting their skill set. A lot of experience and skill comes from knowing how to fit your unique figure. I’m misses’ size and I have been making clothing in my personal size range for a great while. I don’t have personal experience making plus sizes, or petite’s sizes, or tall sizes. But people who ARE in those sizes and have spent a long time learning to do what they need to for their size type are generally more used to the unique concerns of that size group. (Update: I was able to purchase a plus size form following the Kickstarter, but am still very much learning how to redraft misses’ patterns to plus size patterns. It has taken sometimes up to ten revisions and mock ups before each pattern was redrafted correctly.)
So Why Does Sizing Vary So Greatly WITHIN a Size Type?
Most fashion companies use Misses’ sizing. But there is no standard size chart, so a company is free to use whatever measurements they want to use to make up their sizing, and they are free to change it down the line (add or subtract sizing, change measurements, etc).
If a size chart doesn’t say it’s Junior’s, Petites, Tall, or Plus, you can bet it’s Misses’ sizing. In general, it’s the industry standard UNLESS it has a target audience within the other sizing types.
Some have size charts varying depending on the particular design, too, so ALWAYS check your size charts before buying!
What are you doing for your size chart?
In my case, I made my “tentative” size chart based on what I felt I could safely grade from my Misses’ size base pattern. I compared this to what other companies that my target customer base buy from, and I made my sizing. It falls closely in line with Revamp, Stop Staring, and ModCloth.
So that’s it, in a nutshell. I hope you can understand a little more clearly about how sizing works. Truly, if other companies are like me, they WISH they had the resources and skill set to offer fashions for EVERYONE! I really do. It makes me totally bummed when I hear some people can’t wear what I’m making :( But I can only hope that in the future I will be able to do so. I’m hoping so, because I REALLY want to make this happen!
If you’re interested in more of a technical reason behind sizing, make sure you check out these links:
Colette Patterns: Grading Patterns for Plus Sizes
Fashion Incubator: What is an Optimal Size Range, Pt 2.
Fashion Incubator: What is a Size Break?
Fashion Incubator: Why Existing Manufacturers Don’t Add Plus Sizes
Fashion Incubator: Grading is Not Morphing