As a sewing blogger I am very aware of the problems involved in fitting garments made from Big 4 pattern company patterns: Simplicity/New Look, Vogue, McCall's, and Butterick.* It's well known among us sewists (see recent posts from Shams and Robin) that if you go by your actual body measurements you will most likely end up with an oversized garment. This is because these pattern makers are notorious for ridiculous amounts of ease in their patterns.
A typical sewing pattern includes both wearing and design ease. Wearing ease is minimal and exists so that one can actually sit, stretch, and move in a garment. Design ease is what makes the difference between a dress skimming the body's curves or billowing around them. Design ease is calculated by the designer/maker of the pattern to give the finished garment a specific look. However, it seems the Big 4 likes to overcompensate on the wearing ease issue. I can only guess it's to allow for more women to fit into each size? Why that is, don't ask me.
Therefore, to fix the problem many sewists automatically cut a smaller size than the pattern measurements recommend. Unfortunately, that still might not guarantee a good fit. It might be better to note how each company describes the final fit of the individual garment in their pattern descriptions. These following terms correspond with their published ease charts. The charts, available in the back of Vogue Pattern magazine and on their website work for all three brands of the McCall Pattern Company; Vogue, McCall's and Butterick. They give you an idea of what to anticipate when it comes to fitting their garments. Check out the details for Butterick patterns below.
Close fitting = 0-3"
Fitted = 3-4"
Semi-fitted = 4-5"
Loose fitting = 5-8"
Very loose fitting = 8" and more of ridiculous ease!
Close fitting = 0-2"
Fitted = 2-3"
Semi-fitted = 3-4"
Loose fitting = 4-6"
Very loose fitting = 6" and more
We may all have our specific problems (see Shams and Robin) that we wish these companies would change, style or otherwise. However, I understand that addressing all of our issues would be a huge financial and logistical undertaking for the Big 4. Perhaps, we can take it one step at a time. What if they could agree to print finished garment measurements on the outside of all pattern envelopes (as well as on the tissue)? Most patterns do print some on the envelope but for fitted dress or wardrobe patterns we need the "Big Three": bust, waist, and hip. Can we all agree on that? What do you think?
*Called the Big 4 but only two actual companies, the McCall Pattern Company (Vogue, McCall's, and Butterick) and the Simplicity Creative Group (Simplicity and New Look).
**Update: Simplicity has a new fitting handout available for download on their website!!!
Images: Examples from Banana Republic, Eloquii (Did you know The Limited had a cool plus-size line?), and The Gap.