Pattern sizing. Don’t we all just love it? After several attempts at a couple of different patterns, and not finding them awfully flattering and worth wasting my lovely fabric on, I took stock of my wardrobe. What was my favourite go-to shirt that fitted well and flattered my coming into middle age figure? It was a pair of cotton tops I had picked up at K-mart for $5. They were woven fabric, but with some stretch in them, and most importantly, they had lovely princess seams. Princess seams are when the garment has seams running vertically, over the bust line, parallel to your centre front. That, and not empire line tops which make me look like I’m hiding a baby bump, flatter me the best, lets be honest here. So a bit of nosing around my friend google, lead me to Simplicity 3786. Sadly out of print, however my local Spotlight had 1 left in each of the 2 size ranges (6-14 and 14-22).
I splashed out and bought some adorable poly-cotton that was on sale for about $3 a metre, and then came the agonising choice… which pattern size do I cut out? This is where I get annoyed at pattern manufacturers, and hopefully I can save you from wasting hours of time and effort making the wrong size.
See the first red bit there? That’s how big my bust measurement is. I’m closer to 40 inches than 38, so accordingly the pattern thinks I should be a size 18. Now if you look allllllll the way down the bottom, where it gives the garment measurements, that means I will have a top that is 7 inches bigger circumference than me. That sounds a bit big. That sounds a whole bit too big in fact. So I looked along that finished garment line, until I found one that was more reasonable. Ahhhh, size 14, 43 inches. Remembering that this is a pull on top, that has no buttons or snaps to get in and out of it, I thought that this was a safe compromise. So accordingly, I purchased the larger pattern, size 14-22, because there was no way that I would wriggle in to anything smaller than that 14.
Fast forward to the finished article, 3 days later. It’s a gorgeous top, in an awesome light, non-creasing summer fabric. I love the soft grey-blue background, and the vibrant paisleys.
It doesn’t look too bad from this angle, but I am actually swimming in this top. Seriously.
Here is the back view. I unpicked the pattern’s 10cm of elastic gathering, and re-did it across the entire back.
It’s actually a very clever technique that uses bias binding stitched onto the inside of the top, with the elastic patiently threaded through, then the ends sewn off. I will definitely be using it again! As a bonus, it is even possible, although fiddly, to add it in to a top after is has been put together, so it is ideal for this sort of situation when you need to draw something already made in a bit.
What isn’t obvious from these pictures, is that I had to sew the faux wrap front cross over down, to stop it from flapping open and showing everyone more than they needed to see. It was just so baggy! I also added the lace trim afterwards, stitching it on by hand, just to give the neckline some pop and some definition. Verdict? I love the top and with the extra elastic and so forth, it is still absolutely wearable. It was super easy to make, but the sizing still needed some tweaking!
Back to spotlight on a urgent mission to grab the last pattern in the smaller size, which was the 6-14! I also picked up some more delightful cheap poly-cotton, and off we went with a size 12.
This time I made the 3/4 sleeve version, and added the lace trim in as I was constructing the front. You are able to see from this angle, that I still stitched the front wrap panel down, and I can get it on and off with only the minimum of wriggling (I have broad shoulders which have always been a problem with clothes). It is well fitted, maybe a tiny bit too tight, but that will be easily fixed next time by cutting a 12 and just seaming the sides at 1cm instead of the standard 1.5cm.
The verdict? I love this top. I wear it ALL the time, it’s been perfect for this spring weather that has some warmth but isn’t hot yet. I absolutely have plans to make a few more of them, next up I will try the version with the pin-tucks down the front. The princess seams are as flattering as I hoped they would be, and the family of men approve, which is saying something!
However, I do wish that pattern companies would get their acts together regarding sizing. How can I go from an 18 down to a 12, and still be able to sew up the front and get it on? And how angry would I have been if I’d made up the 18 first, and wasted my time and fabric? There doesn’t seem to be any correlation between the pattern size and the finished garment size at all!
So, I guess the trick is to always check the finished garment size, vs what you think you are, vs what the pattern says that you should be! Happy sewing to us all!
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You far such an awesome seamstress Cassie, thy may be big but the fabrics you’ve chosen are perfect!
I am considering buying this pattern and trying my hand, for the first time, at sewing my own top. Here is my question…. once you use this pattern once, can you reuse it? Do you think the pattern is worth the cost? Do you think that you could try to make this without a pattern?
Kat, thanks for your questions. I trace all my patterns onto lightweight pattern tracing or interfacing, so I can safely alter, recut etc, without destroying my original pattern. I find the second or third time making a garment, you have learned maybe a couple of shortcuts or ways to change it so they don’t all look the same. Definitely don’t use your best fabric for your first attempt, in case, like this top, you need to make drastic changes! This top offers quite a bit of variety across the views, so it’s not like each top will be a copy-paste of a previous version! I’m not an expert dressmaker or seamstress, so I would not try the complex curves and fitting of clothing like this without a pattern personally. I’m not sure how much it costs nor your budget, so I’m not sure how to answer if it’s worth the cost. If you like the styles, if they suit your figure, and if it’s something you hope to make multiple times are the questions I’d ask when considering a pattern. I buy more indie patterns now, from design studios like Cashmerette and Helen’s Closet. This post is 9 years old and my body has changed a lot since then! Hope this helps! Cassandra.