Why Home Sewing Patterns Don’t Fit

Grading to Fit presents all aspects of hands-on grading.
Grading to Fit presents all aspects of hands-on grading.

If you use home sewing patterns, many of the problems you are experiencing are not your fault. Using the wrong pattern size has proven to be a huge problem for many women.
First some basic information about bust sizing ….

How bra companies determine bra size:

  1. Bra companies determine a woman’s bra size by first measuring the chest under the bust, then adding five inches to give the bra size’s circumference measurement.  If the bust measures the chest size plus 5 inches, the cup size is a C, each bra size’s sample cup size.
  2. For example: A woman with a 31 inch chest adds 5 inches to determine that she wears a bra with a 36 inch circumference. If her bust measures 36 inches she wears a C cup. If her bust measures one inch less – 35 inches, she wears a B cup; one inch more – 37 inches, a D cup.

Commercial home sewing pattern companies use the same system:

  1. The commercial home sewing pattern companies use the same system, but traditionally draft their patterns with a B cup.
  2. Their sizing charts give a bust measurement two inches larger than the chest measurement – an AA cup size, but because the pattern’s bust measurement is four inches more than the chest measurement – the pattern’s true cup size is a B.

How bra patterns are graded:

  1. The bra’s total circumference increases 2 inches per size as the bra is graded.
  2. Each cup increases 1/2 in width and 1/2 inch in length, a total of 1 inch per size, 2 inches for both cups.
    The C cup in size 36 is the same size as a D cup in size 34.

Why you may be choosing the wrong pattern size…

  1. The grade-rule body measurements printed on many American home sewing pattern jackets fit busts 2 inches larger than stated on their charts.
  2. This is proven by measuring the grade-rule slopers, referred to as fitting patterns by the home sewing pattern companies.
    Fitting patterns are produced by home sewing pattern companies to provide basic fitting patterns for all of a pattern company’s sizes.
  3. Measuring any of a pattern company’s fitting patterns reveals the grade-rule measurements used to draft the company’s patterns.
  4. Choosing the sizing that fits the chest measurement, then modifying the front bodice sloper’s bust if the model has a cup size larger or smaller than a B cup, has proven to give the best fit.

Why choosing a pattern by one’s chest size gives a better fit:

  1. A pattern size based on the chest size fits the bone size, giving a better overall fit for the figure.
  2. Choosing a pattern to fit the bust measurement causes problems. If a woman is large busted, half of the extra room needed in the bust area is in the back of the garment. If a woman is small busted, the pattern may be too small overall.
  3.  For a full busted woman, determining the pattern size by the chest measurement reduces the pattern size.
  4. For the small busted figure, choosing the pattern size for the chest measurement may increase the pattern size.
  5. Correcting the bust area is a fairly simple procedure. A pattern that is chosen to fit the bone size is apt to need fewer alterations throughout the rest of the pattern.
Tip: Check the bust point on all patterns!
  1. Pattern companies and industry  drafts their patterns to measurements determined by their grade rules. Grade rules are measurements that determine the amount each area of a pattern is increased or decreased to keep the sizing consistent throughout the style garment or pattern.
  2. Home-sewing patterns’ bust points are often drafted in different locations, irregardless of the grade rule. 
  3. A different pattern, in the same pattern size, may have the bust darting higher or lower, closer to the center front or further away from the center front, than as dictated by the grade rule.
  4. Learn how to move the bust area.


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© Laurel Hoffmann, 2020


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