Ask the readers: How do you deal with weight fluctuations?



I received this question by email recently:

“I would really like to start sewing for myself, but for the last year or so, my weight seems to fluctuate 2 to 3 sizes within a month. No, I’m not menstrual or menopausal. Many of your patterns are pretty fitted. I don’t know if you or any of your readers ever have this issue, and I was wondering, do I just pick the largest size I go to for my pattern and then wear loose clothing when I’m smaller, or do I make the dress in 3 different sizes? This may seem trivial or silly to ask, but it’s really got me stumped and is keeping me from even starting to sew.”

Obviously, there’s no one-size-fits-all (heh) answer to this question, but I’ve heard many comments from you guys here and there about weight loss, weight gain, and pregnancy. I thought you could help this reader by telling us about your own experience and how you adjust or plan your sewing for it.

Do you have tips for creating a handmade wardrobe while taking weight fluctuations into account?
Do you make clothes in different sizes? Have you found ways to adjust clothing to make it more wearable or flattering at different sizes?

Sarai Mitnick   —   Founder

Sarai started Colette back in 2009. She believes the primary role of a business should be to help people. She loves good books, sewing with wool, her charming cats, working in her garden, and eating salsa.

Comments 99


Knits. Lots of knits. They’re so very forgiving.


I have a couple of circle skirts I made- I love them to bits but I lost quite a lot of weight in a very short amount of time last year and was devastated when I realised they didn’t fit my waist anymore. Tucking an elasticated belt on the waistband works for me- it gives the impression of a paper bag skirt and draws emphasis on the waist, perfect for a New Look 50s style. Win win!

Otherwise, as Merry says, knits!! And belts, elasticated or not.


I love circle skirts for their adaptability. I sometimes don’t put a waistband on them and so when I’m “thin” they ride low and when I’m slightly heavier they just sit up higher. Actually, a lot of skirts can work like that if you don’t mind them a bit unstructured.

Lisa S.

Wrap dresses and wrap skirts are great because they are adjustable by nature! Since they wrap and tie, you can loosen or tighten them accordingly. And they are generally not very complicated to make.

Sew Little Time

i know myself that there are certain styles (probably the most fitted ones) that i feel most comfortable wearing on a “thin” day. so maybe think about the styles and whether you would want to wear them on a bigger day and sew accordingly? for example, if i’m feeling a bit bloated, i would probably choose something with a flared or aline skirt rahter than a straight skirt. great tips above about knits and wraps too!


– Knits for when your weight goes up and fitted clothes when it goes down
– Knit wrap dresses are always fine…
– Wear more layers
– Never wear wide, formless clothes, even with bigger sizes
– I like to make dropped waist skirts which I can wear higher or lower on the waist/hips even if I gain a few pounds (skirts are much easier to wear that way than pants)

Paige @ LPD

I’ve lost twenty pounds this past year. I think you should always sew/buy clothing for the size your are currently. There’s no point in sewing something you can’t enjoy (having a goal weight dress is kind of BS in my opinion, also it makes you feel bad in the meantime.). I don’t know if that situation applies to this woman though.

Maybe I would start with taking a months worth of daily measurements since your weight fluctuates so much. If the your measurements tend to change the most in say your stomach (this is where I bloat a lot) I a bit more ease in that area (or if you want something fitted just add a larger seam allowance so you can take it out if need be). Two to three sizes is quite a lot for your weight to be shifting though, I assume you spoken to your doctor and know the reason?

But as commenters above have also said knits can be very forgiving.


I actually had the same issue when I started sewing again. Part of me was lazy, thinking I will do all this cutting, fitting and sewing and then I’l loose weight? Better wait till I’m thin. Well it never happened :) Instead I made peace with my body and developed a few tricks to accommodate for the changes. The best one, and I was planning writing a post on that, is to attach the front to the back instead of attaching the waist all in one go. You have easy side seams to alter later. For the same reason I rather underlining then lining, unless the lining is one piece (like in a sheath dress). I found that I change mostly in the hips and in the waist, so shoulder wise- bust size remain the same, and so do the fitting alterations. I personally don’t like knits as much, especially when I am fuller, first they don’t give the body enough shape and support and second, being so comfortable, they make you eat more:) . Side seams and underlining instead of lining is my answer to you. Hope this helps..!


This certainly helps me! I’ve put on quite a bit of weight recently (I know the reason why and thankfully that’s been addressed) and have been putting off sewing until I’ve lost it. But that’s going to take a while…and the wardrobe is bare.
Thank you for sharing. I love the comment about making peace with your body. I surely need to do that. And interlining will definitely make alterations easier. I’m inspired!


Brilliant idea Milena, thank you! Like you, I fluctuate in my bottom half, and don’t like knits too much except for tops… I love the idea of sewing front to back so it’s easier to take in.


Genius! I love this idea!

Dawn A.

Brilliant answer! I am battling with my baby weight after just having twins 7 months ago and I have so many new patterns I’m dying to try out, now I can using your side seam technique! Thank you!


What does ‘sewing front to back’ mean?


I’m dealing with this myself, and when clothes I sew don’t fit anymore, it’s more frustrating than just any other clothes that don’t fit. I’ve been sewing a lot of knit shirts and dresses, but I find that knit skirts with elasticized waists make me feel fat and frumpy.


When I was loosing weight, but still wanted to sew, I made a few circle skirts that are adjustable with a ribbon fed through the waistband. The ends come out through buttonholes on the inside of the waistband where I simply tie a bow.
I love wearing flowy skirts, so this was the perfect solution for me.

I don’t really wear very fitted clothing, I much prefer dresses that have some sort of elasticized waistband because they are more comfortable to wear. There are a lot of ways to incorporate that into a dress without it looking cheap and tacky.


Oh, the ribbon is a terrific idea!

Jennifer Lachman

I use body shaping undergarments. They tuck in the tummy just a little bit tighter, pick up the girls just a little bit higher and smooth out any bumps along the way. Makes it much easier to squeeze into a dress that is just a little to tight.

Also my weight tends to fluctuate with the seasons. I gain in the cold months and loose in the warmer months. So I plan accordingly when sewing for a certain season.

One benefit to sewing is that it is always easier to let out something handmade than it is to let out something store bought.

Jen Nicholson

I always find that I sew clothes that I can adjust easily for my fluctuations- belted dresses, wrap skirts or things that are fitted across the bust but flow nicely or loosely elsewhere, so that I can feel presentable irrespective of whether I’m having a “fat day” or a “skinny day”. Also, knits are fabulous :) And WAY easier than all of the wovens because fitting problems don’t really exist :)


I have struggled a bit with weight gain and loss recently and have these super tips:
1. Wrap dresses! I have a wrap dress (shop bought) which helped me through weight loss and weight gain. They could be fun to make too, but I have not tried to yet myself.
2. Sewing with knits! Sewing using knit fabrics would be beneficial too as you can get a good fit without too much hard work, and they stretch!
3. Trace Patterns! I would suggest to always trace from patterns so you still have the bigger or smaller sizes available, if you want to make a garment again in a different size


Perhaps go for clothes that are of a looser style but in the middle size and use belts to pull them in as necessary. You could also consider elasticating the waists, eg some shirring in the back would look pretty.


Elastic waists. I know it sounds terribly home ec, but if you wear a belt on top of the waist band, or if you don’t tuck in your shirt, no one will ever know. I tend to put the elastic in just the back of my skirt waistbands, leaving the front flat and smooth.

Also, try stretchy woven fabrics. All my pencil skirts are a little stretchy, so that could help you!

Bonnie James

I deal with weight fluctuations by keeping things in assorted sizes. Wrap dresses are a great idea punkmit.


There are so many great ideas here! I too suffer from weight fluctuations – I have Celiac disease (basically severe gluten intolerance) which can cause one’s weight to fluctuate dramatically, especially when first diagnosed. I first lost about 20 lbs off of an already anorexic-looking frame, then gained about 30 lbs, went on to lose 15, then gained almost 40!
The hidden elastic is terrific, and I love the suggestion of a circle skirt with a ribbon tied on the inside of the waistband to adjust sizing. I even tried a wide knit waistband on something that I knew the waist would be covered up on. Wrap dresses are a god-send, both in knits and woven materials, and can be easily shortened into tops.

I agree with Paige – I hope you’ve spoken about this weight shifting with your doctor to ensure that there are no medical reasons for this problem…?


Being short,even 5 or 10 pounds up or down really changes my shape! Plus, I have started exercising alot more this past year,which has resulted in smaller size pants . Anyhow, I wear mostly jeans so ones with stretch really help. I mostly sew tops and jackets.One fat days,I like to wear jackets that cover my hips or blouses that are V neck,tunic type. On thin days I belt the blouses or tuck the in. Now that spring is here, I think I will make some flowy skirts! How about some new skirt patterns for summer???????

Craft Sanctuary

I do a lot of knits. As for wovens, I tend to wear a belt with things, so if they are a little big, the belt helps.

Lisa G.

Measure yourself before each item you are going to make. And, if you find that you enjoy sewing and like the way certain designs look on you, you may be happy to have several of the same style. You can make them all look unique by different fabrics and embellishments.

Just be relaxed about the whole sewing thing, and if you make each dress to fit you at that time, you’ll end up with what you need.


I liked your comment the most; your comment beautifully summed up what sewing should be like. Also, I visited your website. I enjoyed reading your Christian posts.


About 8 years ago, I lost 70lbs. I kept it off for a year, then had a medical issue that required a medication that put it all back within 2 months. Also, I have a GI condition that makes my waist go up and down about 4 inches, depending on how my tummy is doing. Dresses are easiest to wear for variations of up to 2 sizes. Anything more than 2 sizes and the dresses either look too tight or too big. For seperates, knit tops can hide a world of hurt, but again, fitted styles start to look too big if you go down more than 2 sizes. As for bottoms, skirts look better than trousers. Too small trousers will hug areas that no one wants hugged and too big trousers will sag in the bum area. What I do for skirts is to make it fit my larger waist, then insert some hidden elastic in the back of the waistband.


I have a similar issue – because of a GI issue, my waistline can literally change up to 4 inches… in a day. I tend to give myself more ease at the waist, then cinch with a belt and favour elastic waistbands. As said in another comment, a few good foundation pieces can make the world of difference – if you’re able to wear them. A few nice clothes with roomier measurements for the larger days is always good, and make them extra pretty so you don’t feel bad about it! I always guilt myself when I gain weight, but having really nice clothes soothes the pain.


I kind of hate knits and love structured clothing so here are some tips I’ve picked up as I’ve struggled with genetics- the Indian spare tire- and medical issues that make my belly bloat and come back in almost at random.

I highly support the comment above about underlining rather than lining and sewing the entire front to the entire back to allow for easy adjustments.

I tend to fluctuate the most around my belly- boo for gluten issues here too- I’ve also found that high waisted trousers, side zips and dresses that are all in one piece- no waist seam- are really helpful. The common feature is that the fabric acts as a structuring element around the unpredictable part of my body and all allow for a belt if things get loose.

Thanks for posting this question- I’ve been thinking over the same issue!

Lisa G.

Gosh, isn’t the “gluten thing” awful? It’s like an epidemic, or perhaps it was just an unknown issue in the past. I know very well I’d be better off without wheat, but what a pain it would be, so I’m just shlepping along.



Preferably Not with too much negative ease …
Size up if the pattern has too much negative ease …


I tend to only make clothes when I’m thin and the the rest of the time I slum around in old things that make me look hideous. It’s very sad. I look forward to the comments today.


This describes me exactly! But there are few tips here that might help me out . . .


Like Mugsy, I have a health condition that causes some pretty serious fluctuations. What I’ve done is sewn a couple of small capsules in each of my two most common sizes, one bigger and one smaller. I guess if someone at work is charting my outfits, they can probably tell when my weight shifts, but it works and allows me to have a pretty nicely fitted handmade wardrobe either way.

But if you’re just getting started, it will take a while to learn the skills, not just sewing, but fitting, choosing flattering, practical fabrics and styles, etc., so no need to be a perfectionist about it–just jump right in! If that first skirt only fits you two weeks out of a month, well, that’s two weeks you’re wearing me-made that you weren’t before, and you’re learning an awesome skill! :)


Like the asker, my weight fluctuates more than “normal” through the month. The difference is always in my belly so I tend to look for patterns that will allow for more freedom in that area (Paige’s suggestion of daily measurements would help one determine for themselves if not as obvious as mine). This is one reason I love Colette’s Laurel – I’ve made two of them so that the back and rear fit well and the front is just loose enough to allow room for my fluctuations. Another that I love is Made-By-Rae’s Washi dress/tunic, the design of which is perfect for my erratic waistline.

I agree with Lisa G too – make sure that you measure yourself accurately before you make anything. I will add that you should certainly make things at ALL of your various weights through the month. That way you will always have something that fits well regardless of where your weight is at the time. While I typically don’t want my weight to dictate what I wear, I know that feeling good and comfortable in my clothing is most important. Constantly tugging here or cinching in there is not what I consider comfortable.

Jennifer b

Princess seams are wonderful to take in while you’re losing weight. I agree wrap dresses and tops are great. I made 2 vogue 8833, for Christmas tops right after I had a baby. Very easy to put together- very adjustable. I’m still wearing them a few months later, they just look a little thinner!
Still, if you constantly fluctuate, I think I would make 3 different sizes. Why fight your body? Maybe measure your waist and fit only when it’s about the right size. That way you can always have perfectly fitted clothes. Besides, I’m generally working on at least 2 projects at once! So do 3!


I didn’t make a lot of clothes when I was heavier–I wanted to, but as a beginning sewer I hadn’t learned things like the stupid ease that’s put into Big 3 patterns. So, I would make something for myself and it would be too big, I’d get frustrated and throw it in a corner. I did make myself costumes and an 18th century working-class wardrobe, but that doesn’t help here (excepting that, women’s clothing in the 1700s was designed to accommodate body changes like pregnancy).

But, I think I can still help. To get an idea of my own physical changes, I’ll gladly put my weight fluctuations since 2007. From late 2004 to August 2007, I went from 140 to 172. In the spring 2008, I was around 158, jumping back up to 170 that fall after getting an office job. By summer 2009, I was 155 and able to maintain that until that fall (when some jealous women I worked with made me feel guilty–like I had an eating disorder). By Christmas, I was back to 172. Two weeks after my wedding, I gained 6 more pounds from wedding cake (178). I lost some weight after training for derby, and it went like this: Oct 2010-178, Feb 2011-174, June 2011–167, very muscular legs and butt, but still flabby in the waist. I got injured that month, could not skate for a while. I hovered around 167-9 for several months, started working to lose weight in January, lost all 30 lbs by June of last year. Now 140 again, and have been able to maintain it. Size 14 at my largest, now a size 6.

Most of the clothes I wore over this period are gone, except for a few items that I was able to wear this entire time. I have a knit dress that I love and have had for 6 years and a long wrap skirt my mother gave me for my 26th birthday (2007). A big factor–does your weight change mostly in your lower half? I’d get around this by making dresses fitted bodices that rest an inch above the natural waist (or higher, if you can get away with empire) with full skirts to accommodate your fluctuating middle. Maybe even some fabrics with a small amount of stretch could work, too.

I guess the best thing to know is where your measurements change the most, and to work around that.


Not a solution I know but I find the pride and excitement I get making my own clothes motivates me maintain my weight. I want to be able to continue to wear them.


Me too! I just concern myself with maintaining a certain set of measurements and don’t really pay much attention to what I actually weigh.

Mikhaela Reid

I have the same issue. For medical reasons I’ve been on and off oral steroids, and before that I was nursing (my size seemed to fluctuate depending on how hungry the little one was!) and before that I was pregnant. So my waist and hips and bust have been up and down a lot, especially the waist.

I know the advice is “sew for the size you are now!” but when that size changes every few weeks and it can take a week or two to sew something, that doesn’t really help!

I love sewing with knits too, but that doesn’t solve the problem of wanting to wear beautiful, fitted woven fabric clothes. And I prefer the much more fitted styles, not looser ones with lots of ease. So here are some non-knit ideas for fitted dresses and pants:

1) Shirred elastic panels. One feature I’ve noticed in a few of my vintage dresses (mostly casual summer dresses, but also a velvet cocktail dress) that solves this is an elastic shirred back panel (or little shirred elastic panels at the side). When I was pregnant and planning to make a maternity version of the Colette Parfait (which I didn’t get to do before I actually gave birth, but whatever!) I was going to add a full belly adjustment to the front of the dress and a back shirred panel to the back. (more on this here). And I made some shirred-waist elastic skirts that fit me now but also fit me when I was 35 pounds heavier and very pregnant.

2) Hidden elastic in the back waistband or sides of the waistband. I first read about this technique in Sandra Betzina’s book Power Sewing, but it is also detailed in David Page Coffin’s “Making Trousers for Men and Women.” I tried this in the waistband of a pair of wide-leg trousers with pretty decent success but need to work on the technique.

3) I’m sure others have mentioned, but a belt is always good for a just-slightly too-large dress…

Julie Parrish

I agree that shirred back panels/side panels help solve a lot of fluctuation issues. I have a couple of pinafore dresses I have loved and worn for years like this. I also have been mulling over a pinafore dress with corseted side panels that could be tightened or loosened as the tummy dictated.

Mikhaela Reid

Oh that’s a great idea too—it reminds me, I have a beautiful strapless lined sweethear neckline cocktail dress that has back lacing for adjustability… I’ve been able to wear it through many fluctuations.


Great comments above, many to add to my own findings. Myself, I fluctuate between two sizes, keep them in separate places, and label handmade clothes with size labels (from school label ribbon company). I do make in both sizes, and will make for the size I am as I make something.

I am very pear shaped, and have found that making clothes that fit me make them stay fitting for longer, there is leaway on fit that is equal on each area. This summer I looked at my wardrobe for what fits longest, and I’m going to make tops that fit to the top of the bust then gathers across the body (also yoked tops and dresses) and will wear a belt.

Good luck with your wardrobe


When I was in my 20s, I used to have about 20-30lbs that would appear and disappear “monthly” so I suspect I understand! I had a few well-fitted items all across my range, a number of forgiving items (knits, loose garments, belts, things with elastic or spandex, lots of skirts) and bras of different sizes to go with it all.

Now that I’m older, my body seems to have settled into a more seasonal pattern. I’m thinner in the summer and thicker in the winter. Much easier to deal with as far as clothing goes!

If she hasn’t already, I suggest the writer ask her doctor about her weight shifts – unintentional weight shifts can be an early warning of a number of things.

joy n

that’s a tough one since there is a 2-3 size issue. Knits (which has already been discussed), things that aren’t that fitted to begin with like a-lines and shifts are good choices too – you could add belt loops or throw a piece of elastic in the waistband of skirts to make them more adjustable (I recently saw a tutorial for a method where you put the elastic in the back). Personally I wouldn’t make the same dress in three different sizes although I guess you could make various items in various sizes so that you have something you like to wear.


I started sewing clothes in earnest when I was heavier, and it’s been really fun to see how they still fit well while I’m losing weight (after two years of messing around, I’m finally back to my fit self just in time for my wedding). When I started, I made up two knit dresses with empire waists, and they looked fine with slenderizing leggings underneath before, and look marvelous now. I also made a little knit capsule with a princess-seamed skirt and elastic waist, over which I always wear a longer top and sash. Now it just looks flowier. Colette’s Taffy blouse is great because it’s cut on the bias and ties in back, so again, it just looks a little flowier now. And what else? Oh yes, I’m pear-shaped, so wrap dresses are my friends too, as are high-waisted fitted dresses. Now they’re just “relaxed” fit, and I’m glad the couple I made like that are casual sundresses. I’ll still wear them even though they are looser. Last, the Tiramisu dress from Cake looks great even though it’s a pretty relaxed fit, now, and looked great when it was a closer fit before.

Good luck finding what works for you.


Funny this should come up today! Yesterday, I did a closet purge which had me give away a few of my handmade creations because they were too big. I lost 20 pounds these last few months, and some of the more summery clothes I had made simply did not work anymore. Here are my tips about sewing when your weight changes:

1) ALWAYS trace your patterns instead of cutting them directly. This means you can go back and trace another small or bigger size garment if your weight fluctuates a lot. I wish someone had told me trick when I first started sewing… Live and learn, I guess!

2) Knits are your friend. They stretch to fit your shape and can be very forgiving. Just be wary of too slinky matte jersey, which can sometimes cling to the lumps and bumps we are trying to camouflage…

3) Plan ahead and leave some seam allowance to make adjustments. For instance, last year, I realized I had gained weight in my hips. Thankfully, I had anough seam allowance to let out some of my pencil skirts. Everything worked out fine, and when I lost the weight, I simply took it in again.

4) Belts, scarves and other accessories can help you make larger items more form-fitting. For inspiration, I suggest you seek out books, tv shows and blogs for clothing tips. I recently discovered Gok’s clothes roadshow and was flabergasted by his approach to dressing women of all sizes.

5) Like others said before me, plan out your creations according to your current weight. There is no sense in making clothes that are too small or way too big : you won’t want to wear them because you won’t feel good in them. If you are in a really big transition period, choose pieces that can easily be modyfied or that do not require a spot-on fit. Elastic waists, flowy blouses, dirndl skirts and shift dresses like Colette’s laurel are good choices. Their simple construction makes it possible to take them in at the sides when you lose weight.

6) If you do have items that do not fit anymore and that cannot be adapted to your new figure, keep them for 6 months to a year. If your weight fluctuates again during that time, you’ll be glad to have these. After that, I would personnaly give them away for two reasons: one, for some lucky person to have, and two, to declutter your closet.

Hope this helps!


Yikes! Look at those typos!


A few months ago I made a dress that has elastic in the waist. Just last night, I opened up a portion of the casing to reduce the amount of elastic that was there. It was a simple fix and easy to adjust the elastic so that the overall fit of the dress is better and flattering. This is a knit dress. I also fluctuate a lot in my belly – I use lots of belts and mostly sew with knits. I also found that the Laurel dress is great for hiding this area. I just have to adjust the back (my back is too narrow for the pattern) for a better fit.


I try to construct the old fashioned way….with plenty of seam width for adjustments if I need them. That means very few serged seams!;


I was just thinking about this the other day. I tend to fluctuate anywhere from a RTW 6 to a 10 or even 12, though I tend to stay within the middle of that range most of the time: an 8 to 10. It can be really hard to get myself to sew fitted things when I’m near the top of the range or when I’m actively trying to be healthier and lose weight…I should really take a tip from Lynne and just sew my garments with generous seam allowances!

I’m not at my biggest now, but almost, and I’m starting to work out again and eat better. As such, my hope is that I’ll lose weight, which means anything fabulous I sew now may not fit me later. My strategy at the moment is to sew casual, every day items which help with my goals at the moment. I’m planning to make some active wear, start dabbling in undergarments, and make casual clothing with knits, or woven clothing that is adjustable.


I like to wear my clothes “air-tight”, I’m not super-skinny (I’m UK10) but feel it gives me support and confidence.

I had a baby boy last year and while I was fortunate enough to bounce back to my normal figure very quickly, MY RIB-CAGE EXPANDED by about an inch or so !!! (I’m short so the baby was all up in my torso!!) It’s made some of my button-down shirts “button-pinging-ly” tight round the bust, and pretty much unwearable!!

– so for anyone else who likes very fitted tops – be careful of the expansion that you can’t do anything about!!!


I know exactly what you mean – I didn’t experience it as much with my first child. But, after my second child was born there was a big difference in how my rib cage fit in anything (right under my bust line). Even after I lost all the baby weight and was wearing a pant size smaller than pre-pregnancy. Once my “baby” was 3 yr old I decided I’d had enough of feeling like I was still post-pardom. I invested in a lot of pilates reformer classes. I noticed a difference within weeks and now months later my rib cage isn’t as expanded as it was. So, I guess it wasn’t just the bone structure but muscles that were impacted and needed to be trained back into place.


Wow, great comments from everyone. I was thinking about this a bit more, and I have one item in my wardrobe that has been amazing through all my fluctuations (I have been every size between a US10 and a US00 in the last five years).

It’s a pair of high-waisted US navy uniform pants, lined at the top, and, more importantly, made to be altered. And by altered, I don’t mean taking the waistband up and all that fiddly stuff–It’s made so you can sew right up the back, press the seam, and go. Or, vice versa, rip the seam out. I’ve altered them probably two dozen times, they still look great, and it’s never taken me more than 5 minutes. I bought them for my largest size, and take them in whenever it drops off.

I know not everyone wants to wear bellbottoms, but I think you could put this sort of inside finish on any pant without a waistband, if your main gain/loss is in the tummy and rear section, as mine is. If there’s interest, I’ll post some pics.



I would be very interested to see pictures of the method you describe. I am unable to wear trousers most of the time, because of the effect that sitting down has!


Threads issue #120 has an article about sewing in this situation. I haven’t read the article but if you have some old issues at home or in your local library you might take a look.


Oh, I so share this problem. I also lose weight in wildly different proportions, so my shoulders are a size six/eight, and my midsection is, er, not.

I use big, fat seam allowances (I go as as large as 1.5″). They are a lifesaver. Also, I notice my favorite Anthropologie dresses all have shirred panels. I am not a huge knit fan, so this is perfect. I actually just made a Hazel dress with a shirred back and the fit is easily better than any garment I’ve made in the past year. Seriously. I cut out a few patterns yesterday and am plotting shirred bits for all of them. (Well, except the Clovers.)

I mostly make dresses, so belts and cardigans hide a multitude of sins (fitting and otherwise).


Definitely knits. Also, I wear a lot of wrap tops (adjustable clothing is a life saver!), and I have a pair of skinny jeans and a pair of not skinny jeans. I don’t own two of the same thing in different sizes, but I keep options for my heavier and lighter days.


I actually have several wider solid belts from the Gap. If I do knits, I’m really careful about the quality as some can make you have a prominent muffin top or as my 8 year old commented – “now I know why old ladies wear bras, your boobies are saggy!” So, really good foundation garments – bras in a few sizes. I have some looser tunic tops out of voile and batiste. They don’t hang so loose that I look pregnant but the fabric has a bit of swirl and looks casually chic! I tend to sew outfits I love and add some elastic (often hidden) into the gathers at the waist. Remember you can always take in, but it’s really hard to add any on. Belts, scarves and a slightly looser but fitted silhouette are very forgiving and adjustable.


I don’t know if someone has suggested this yet, but I like dresses that have smocking at the back with elastic thread. This way the waist always looks fitted, but it’s more forgiving.


Some clothes to fit the lower weight and some to fit the higher. A wrap skirt. A really high-quality taffeta (not nylon tricot – yuck) slip or camisole – believe it or not, this is for the “high weight” days, to smooth out the little puffinesses under knit tops especially.

I’ve never made the exact same garment in 2 sizes, but I only had to deal with this for a short time in college (combination of hormones and the ever-infamous cafeteria food, I suspect – high-sodium salad dressings, anyone?)

Tracy McElfresh

I made a like of stretch knit dresses for my days I’m fluxing, like around the holidays.

Cat Grayson

I love shirring for blouses. I put a fitted/structured front, and shirring on either the back or in a side seam panel. I haven’t been able to do the deep math to figure out how much extra fabric to add before shirring, so I usually do the shirring on an oversize piece of fabric, then cut out the pattern piece. It does waste a lot of fabric, so if anyone wants to help with the math, please let me know!
As for bottoms, I drafted a lovely more-than-circle skirt with a yoke and an elasticized waist so it’s almost infinitely adjustable. The pattern is a simple math equation that I’ve written into an excel spreadsheet (if anyone’s interested, I can post it here). They are flattering for any body type, and can be worn with almost any top. They make me feel pretty and girlish when I wear them. (I often have to stop myself from twirling to flare out the skirt! lol)


I’d be interested Cat :)

Cat Grayson

Ok, I’m putting a few finishing touches to the explanation part (so it’s easier to understand and follow), and we’ll ask Colette if she minds other people posting their patterns here.


Cat, email me and maybe we can do a post about it!

Cat Grayson

That would be fun! I just finished taking a pic of the basic skirt (in my size, of course lol) It looks much better on, though. It can be sewn with any fabric, but I find it stands a little stiffly if sewn with regular cotton quilting fabric. I prefer a softer, heavier hand for flow & drape. I can’t figure out how to add a doc to this post, so I’ll email it to you, Sarai, and I’d love to see you do something with it. Like I said, it is infinitely adjustable, and looks good on any body type (provided you make it the correct length for your body – I made one a few inches too short & it looks awful! lol)

Cat Grayson

P.S. Sarai, I can’t figure out how to add an attachment to an email to you either… How should I get this to you?


Cat, just use the contact form to email me. Once I reply back, you should be able to reply and send the attachement.

Or you can upload it to a service (like yousendit) and just send me the url.


I find when I make something I make it for right now and and don’t worry about what I’ll be later. I make sure to know my size when I start and go from there. If I can’t wear something for a week or two, no biggy. Tracing the pattern helps but I find that feeling great about an outfit I made right now helps motivated me to make a new one should the other not fit. We sew to feel great and make things that fit *our* body so why not have a closet full of things that fit all our shapes?

Tiffany Simmons

Something no know one tells you when you are younger is that your hips get bigger around 30 – even if you don’t have any babies. It happened to me and I thought I had gained a lot of weight, even though I work out regularly. I turned thirty and boom – all of my pants stopped fitting me. I was depressesed until I accepted that our bodies never really stop changing – I just had to go out and buy new pants. And now that I can sew, I’ll be making some, too.

As mentioned, knits are great. I still have a lot of my knit tops from the last 10 years or so.

Neeno – Sew Me Love

Gahhh! I had this problem recently, I made a beautiful pair of pants (it’s on my blog if u wanna see pic and now they don’t fit me :(

I can put them on, but they are too tight and ride up and hurt my crotch!!

I was bit upset, but ppl have pointed out that this is my first pair and not to be too upset, and think about how many dresses I had to make before i got the fit right -to fit on both ‘fat’ days and ‘skinny’ days.

Other readers have suggested stretch fabrics.

With dresses, I usually make something with a full skirt because I know know my weight gain is always in the tummy area, so full skirts help :)


I have just recently lost 6 kilos over about 2 months. In that time I have been continually sewing and I can still wear everything I’ve made. I guess when I’m larger, I’m kind of ignoring the amount of ease needed in a garment so the dresses fit me a little tight around the middle. Now that I’ve lost a few centimetres around my waist and hips, it seems that the dresses fit me as they were originally intended. It’s kind of nice to have the feeling of the waist moving around mine, rather than hugging it and feeling too tight. If I knew I was going to flutuate so much each month I would just make a few items in different sizes and dress according to how my body was feeling.


I like to use smocking (the traditional type, no elastic) instead of back darts when i can. it gives non-stretch fabrics a ridiculous amount of stretch. that is why it was developed. also- keep your seam allowances as large as possible, even if you cut them a bit big (just be mindful of how much bigger you cut them for fit proposes). i also make my skirts with a waistband that i can take off and remake if i ever need to. it is simple enough to take off the waist, take in/out some seam allowance/pleats/gathers, then put it back on. it also helps to make the hem adjustable so that the skirt could be worn higher on the waist closer to the ribcage on days when i have a few extra inches lower down, or lower on the hips if it is a bit loose.

really the best thing to me is that because i have made the clothes, i know exactly how to unmake them, so they can be forever adjustable. happy stitching!


I have this problem too. But I found a great strategy. Recently I made a fitted bias skirt out of sheer organza, with a bias underskirt in a darker color. The waist is elastic. The organza is a novelty fabric with stripes and mink dots sprinkled in, in lovely colors – a unique, beautiful fabric. Usually I prefer fitted waistbands. But I found the fabric and cut made the shirt very special, perfect for the pattern, and the elastic waist was an enhancement, because I can wear it on days when I feel bloated, but the skirt still looks very special and one of a kind.

Elle C

There is a discussion on Stitchers Guild that addresses this issue. Someone on that very long thread recommended Loes Hinse Cruise Pants pattern. Apparently they are wearable through about 20 pound weight fluctuation. Also, sew easy patterns only when your weight is on the way down, it’s not so hard to give it up if you didn’t spend hours and hours and hours making it.

Everything else has pretty much been said. Knits, elastic waists, wrap dresses, are all good.


I really enjoyed reading all the comments and suggestions here — thank you! I have made too big skirts / dresses, and then too tight when I de-bloated/ or lost weight, and felt very frustrated — now I simply have more choice for different days. I like the suggestion of elastic panels, which I thought about adding or using, but after reading the ideas here, I think I will actually do this, rather than just think about it. I also like stretch cotton, and cutting items on the bias, as well as belting with and elastic belt that has a regular buckle.

Just the other day, I found an unfinished summer dress where the top was too tight at the bust, and the cotton batiste too delicate for another zipper (the zipper I inserted was flawed — I should have checked… sigh…!). I found some extra fabric and will add a shirred panel at the back (though my machine hates shirring, despite all the tips and tricks I tried — maybe I will just just elastic pieces panneled in…). Anyway, I like the ideas for making elastic pretty, and the use of ribbons — it certainly makes me feel better, and more inspired and enthusiastic about sewing. Now, I better finish that Laurel…!


Children’s clothing often uses buttonhole elastic on the waistline. The buttoning of the elastic lengthens or shortens it, to adjust fit. I think the same could be done for adult clothing.


I have a pair of trousers I bought in Canada that have buttonhole elastic in the waist on the inside, they are fabulous as trousers always gape in my back, now I am making a pair with the buttonhole elastic on the outside as a design feature from a Japanese pattern book. I haven’t finished them yet, but I am really excited about them…


I find sewing for myself a great motivator and reality check which helps to keep my weight in check. I don’t weigh myself, but the measuring tape doesn’t lie. Last year, after a month’s holiday, I found by measuring that I had put on a bit of weight, and held off making clothes until I’d lost the weight, and returned to my normal measurements.


That is a great question, and I am sure a lot of us ladies deal with weight gain and loss. In the last year and a half I have gone from size 6 to gaining 50 lbs (pregnancy) and after the birth of my son I still weighed 172. I am 5’4″. First of all I bought 2 pairs of jeans that fit me right then. They were very well fitting. I then made a couple of well fitting tunic tops. They were not tight either, but just the fact that everything fit so well made me look smaller. I don’t like knits when I am in my heavy stage. Yes they stretch and are comfy, but that stretching is also revealing the dreaded back fat, muffin top and horror of horrors boob spillage. Proper undergarments, and well fitting clothes are key to looking classy. I am now down 38 lbs with 12 to go, and I still wear my tunic tops. They just look more fabulous now, because they have that sort of hanging loose hippy look. And for each size I have gone down, I have bought 2 pairs of well fitting jeans. I think doing a well fitting pant with a loose shirt that skims over the wobbly bits can be extremely attractive. Oh, and I also sewed myself about 6 dresses with the mccalls pattern 5039.( I modified it so much that it was just a semblance of the original pattern, which is why I don’t buy mccalls) I sewed the first one when I was 4 months pregnant (4th child so already had quite a bump) It had elastic in the neck, the sleeves, and I added a draw string waist. I then got my size 4 sister to try the dress on. It looked delicious on her, yet, it still fit me. I wore those dresses all through my pregnancy,post pregnancy, and will continue to wear them for probably the next 20 years. :) I love the thought of making peace with ones body. Size really has no bearing on beauty.


You must be my secret twin-your body sounds like mine,! but I am a couple of inches shorter! Thankyou for your ideas.I think I need to buy myself some better fitting jeans, I love all your sewing ideas.The” Anise Jacket ” pattern is my favorite,and is very flattering. A dress pattern that works for me is the “darling ranges dress” by Megan Neilson. (Elastic added to the waist ,allows me to wear it when my weight goes up a bit.)The v neck and the buttons down the front,makes me feel thinner!

Gretchen Moran

Hi there, I’ve found this to be true for me in certain ways. I find that I have a winter and summer wardrobe that are quite different in size. Here are a few strategies I’ve found to work for me. 1: find a pattern that isn’t too fitted like Colette’s new laurel. It is very easy to make once you’ve gone through the pattern and you will enjoy making all kinds of variations. 2: Instead of cutting the pattern, I would suggest tracing out a few sizes of the pattern. 3: I’ve also found that finding a simple a-line or pencil skirt (I think Colette has one) is a great way to create variation in the wardrobe. Skirts are relatively quick to make and require minimal yardage. 4: fabric can be expensive so I found some great local thrift stores to find fabric. It’s always fun and you can find some really cool stuff. 5: two other Colette patterns you might want to consider are the Crepe and Macaroon. The crepe is a wrap dress do could work well with size variation. The macaroon is fitted at the top but the empire waist, front pleats and pockets are both forgiving and flattering. I think it’s great you are honoring the rhythm of your body and finding a creative way to stay comfortable and stylish. Happy sewing!


I sew mostly with knits, so this isn’t really an issue for me. I’m also lucky that I have a small bust and frame and that’s not really not going to change if I lose weight (now if I were to gain it – which I doubt – that would be another story). That’s how I’m able to wear a lot of vintage clothes too, so many women back in the 1930s and 1940s were much more petite with smaller busts. What’s more, I’m lucky in the vintage knitting world too – so many patterns are a size 16…which is what I am now. (Now a vintage 16 is different from today’s 16….and this is the subject of a blog post or two somewhere on the Internet)

Lady ID


I love fitted waists so my suggestion would be on circle skirts cutting the waist on the bias and having some ease in the seam. Use the skirt style hook and eye and adjust that when necessary.

I also read a tip for fitted dresses to use a grosgrain stay tape with aforementioned hook and eye. Then adjust the hook and eye as necessary. This of course presumes that you would sew for when you are usually fluffier.

Unfortunately I made a few things I love when I was at my smallest size but even though I wasn’t thin I felt better with 5-8 extra lbs which means I can no longer wear those. Fortunately though with running and new habits, I tend to fluctuate no more than an inch so the hook and eye solution would work for me.

Juli Williams

I find that I like princess seamed dresses. I like to put lacing loops in the princess seams both front and back and then tighten or loosen as needed. It makes the dress fit no matter what. It works up to 4 sizes smaller. I found this out when I tried it with a lovely RTW princess-seamed dress that I lost out of and didn’t want to get rid of.


The belt – the humble belt! It gets me out of so many sticky outfit situations and is so versatile! I have several different belts and all can change the look of an outfit as easily as it put on! I realise not everyone likes a belted waist but I find this option is great when sewing with cotton because you can never get it really super fitted or it would tear the seams when strained so the belt just brings the waist in nicely.

Nancy Anson

Great topic — from following many beautiful sewing blogs, I thought I might be the only one with this issue. Sewing bloggers are soooooooo inspiring. But looking at the posts, I see ladies of every size, and they ALL look gorgeous. As long as the garment really fits, fabric is appropriate, and sewing is well done, you look pretty. I’ve been kidding myself that I’d get down to my perfect weight since the Collette Sewing Book came out and I fell in love with the Meringue skirt. Wait…wait…wait. Well, I’m pretty much the same size today. However, one can find many gorgeous Meringues out there on ladies who are just my size. WHAT AM I THINKING! I believe we should sew for who we are right now. One garment that’s perfect — wear the heck out of it. Knits and wraps are a pretty smart idea as well. I found the Sewaholic Renfrew knit shirt pattern this winter and I’ve made several that I’m very proud to wear. Thanks to all of you for your comments. (Meringue skirt coming soon…in an appropriately large size).


Empire dresses and tops are helpful. Also, I was amazed when offered to wear something from a friend of mine from India. Her clothes were made with very large seam allowances, approximately an inch or more in some places for the ability to let out seams. There are pinch points like armholes that can’t be changed, but it gave me a new appreciation for how clothes could be pushed across multiple sizes. Have also appreciated wrap dresses and drawstring pants and shorts.


I’m trying to lose weight, and as a result have a fluctuating size (some weeks i’m good, others I forget…) and the thing I’ve found easiest is to make tops in my “larger” size and then to sew a piece of elastic into the back of the waist, going from one side to the other. This allows it to fit no matter what size I’m at.

Clare S

Huzzah for this post! I’ve also had medical-related weight fluctuations over the past two years (unbeknownst to me, an overactive thyroid was keeping me slim, despite a large appetite … Then along comes diagnosis and medication, getting rid of the ridiculously high metabolism, but not the appetite, lol!), so I really appreciate all these comments!

To echo some previous suggestions – I’ve made some dresses with shirring (one easy summer dress with a fully shirred bodice, the other is a sleeveless retro pattern I’ve changed to add shirred panels under each arm). Gertie has a good tutorial, which you can change up when you get more confident with sewing:

Thank you so much to those who have suggested sewing the full front, then the back, before doing the side seams – what a brilliantly simple idea! Will be doing this in future!

Someone else mentioned shapewear, which can help if you just need a little adjustment … I have a bit of a cheat’s option in case you don’t want to shell out that much money (sometimes that stuff can be expensive!) or find shapewear uncomfortable … Tights (pantyhose in the US, I think?). Might sound silly, but tights do suck you in a bit, and if you wear the band actually on your waist, they can take that in a fair amount, depending on your ‘squash factor’, which could really help if you’ve got a flared skirt or dress with a fitted waist that is a little tight.

I’m not sure if anyone else has mentioned this yet (haven’t had a chance to read ALL the comments yet!), but skirts with exposed wide elastic waistbands were ‘in’ a few years ago and can look very stylish, so they’re a great option and very easy to make.


Comment #1: are you sewing clothing that is very fitted or tailored ? Because just looking at the type of pattern, and paying close attention to the “ease” they indicate could make a huge difference. I tend to like to be very comfortable, and because I have tummy troubles alot of the time, I don’t like to wear clothing that is tight at the waist. So I always try to choose patterns that are supposed to fit with ease..which should accomodate at least a 10-15 pound fluxuation in weight. Choosing dresses like the Colette Laurel would give you comfort at a rage of weights if you make the right size.

Comment #2: Are you measuring yourself carefully and sewing the correct size ? Don’t pay any attention to the number, just the measurements. We all like to see that we’re a small number in sizing, but most pattern companies [not Colette] use very outdated sizing. I am a 10 in RTW and 18 in Simplicity Patterns.

Comment #3 I liked the posting where she suggested making two sets of outfits…I would say, if you stick to dresses that have alot of ease, and then make separates in a couple of sizes, you would have a fairly workable wardrobe. My wardrobe is small, but I love every piece, and every piece fits me well. Don’t aim for quantity over quality. I hope that’s helpful !

Eleanor (uneadgoat)

So I have a similar problem of never sewing because I always believe I’m about to lose weight . . . and I actually have a dress that literally ripped at the waist after only a month or two because I kept wearing it despite some GI bloating! I know this post is a bit old and maybe no one will ever see my comment, but here’s the main observation I have gleaned from this experience: Don’t put a seam literally on the natural waist! It is one of the greatest points of expansion and contraction on your body, especially in short-term fluctuations.

When fitted waistdresses were last in fashion, it was much more common to wear control garments, which nowadays I think most of us only break out on special occasions or don’t even own because we are used to clothes which “exalt” the natural body. If the fitting in the waist area is done with vertical darts or princess seams, and if you have more ease at the belly than the lower back, the natural give of the fabric will do a lot for you. These can also give the appearance of being more fitted than they actually are, think of a woman’s shirt, for example, right now I’m wearing one I bought at age 15 and it’s doing fine 8 years later. For figure flattery, the most important aspects of fit are through the shoulders, and the amount of ease at the waist is actually a lot less important.

I know I’m jumping in to an old discussion, and also that my comments are not as concretely helpful as some of the stuff above; I am actually a fashion student so I have been applying these principles to designs from scratch that aren’t actually allowed to fit me, which is pretty different from modifying commercial patterns to fit your own specific body. So here’s a quick list of Colette dresses which I think have a “fitted” look through the torso without having a seam around the natural waist or relying on a belt:
Licorice (from the book)

Generally if you can’t figure out where the seams on a garment fall from looking at the photos, the line flats should be able to help, unless for some reason the garment is only shown with a belt (looking at you, Licorice) . . . also for elasticized waist treatments and knit patterns this is less pressing, but personally I find drop waists and princess seams to be more flattering on a wide range of uncompressed bodies! You’re NOT going to achieve the New Look without a corset, but that’s ok–very few women really can.

This comment is getting way too long and incoherent, but one final thought: If a dress includes boning or is otherwise a bit stiff through the ENTIRE torso–waist seam (natural or low) to at least the empire line–it can hold in your belly for at least a few inches, acting as its own control garment. Just a single layer of cotton is not going to nip you in at the waist but some judicious garment engineering can work wonders.


Alright! Problem, have gained weight as getting older (menopausal) I guess, and I sew modestly. I teach so I’m on my feet all day. I love comfortable yet stylish clothes I have plenty of material but not a lot of stretch or jersey fabric and I’m on a strict budget with no extra’s for new clothes this year, I have some crepes, cotton blends, poly blends in very pleasing colors. What type of clothes do you recommend I could make from these types of materials. Oh! by the way love flowy skirts and one piece dresses as well as wrap skirts. Help school starts soon. :)


I have what I call “Fat dresses”. I maid them out of knit fabrics, high waist with a gathered skirt. I have IBS and I will swell up. I love my dresses. They are so comfortable. I wear knit pants also but prefer the dresses. It is not always comfortable to wear anything around the waist.


Sorry, I meant to say “I made them” instead of “maid”. Sorry!

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