Colette

Grading Patterns For Plus Sizes

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plus-size-grading-05 {image source}

UPDATE: This post is simply an explanation of the difficulties of creating an additional plus size line (patterns or ready to wear).

That does not mean that we do not want to release plus sizes at Colette. We have in fact always told our customers that it is our hope to eventually do just that. But as a very small independent pattern company with just one (very hard working) pattern designer, this hasn’t been feasible yet.

For more information on how to grade patterns for plus sizes, our readers have recommended Barbara Deckert’s “Plus Size Pattern Fitting & Design” class on Craftsy.

– Rachel

Today we have a guest post for your from our friend, Alyson Clair, designer of Clair Vintage Inspired.

The other evening I was talking to Sarai about sizing, grading, and fit when she was reminded of this recent comment on the Colette Patterns Facebook page:

“I am so in love with your patterns and I really want to sew better. Your patterns seem like a fantastic place to start – except that your size range falls short of what I wear. What are your plans for extending your patters into more inclusive sizing that reflects the actual range of bodies in need of adorable, inspiring, handmade clothes?”

I receive comments like this about my clothing line, and I’ve felt similar frustrations when making clothing for myself. I’d like to explain why adding plus sizes to a clothing or pattern line is more complex than you might think.

Note: These images are from Alyson’s clothing line, Clair Vintage Inspired. True to her thoughts in this post, she enjoys creating clothing for women of all shapes and sizes. That is reflected in the variety of models in these images.

plus-size-pattern-grading-03

Please note- I’m coming to you with perspective not only of a dressmaker, a commercial patternmaker, and Technical Designer (fancy name for person who fits garments and does pattern/making specs), but personally, too. My body is VERY pear shaped and petite.

Before getting into explaining the nitty gritty of pattern drafting, I’d like to address two issues that frustrate all clothing shoppers:

  1. Clothing brands can call their sizing whatever the heck they want (S,M,L or Pegasus, Unicorn, Centaur, it doesn’t matter).

  2. Vanity sizing is running amok, making you memorize which store calls you “an 8” and which says you’re “a 12.”

That said, the standard for pattern-drafters is to begin with a base size and create a base range of sizes around that. Let’s look further into those terms.

When drafting a multi-size pattern for a garment, you start with what is called a base size. Ideally, this size falls in the middle of the range you’d like your graments to cover. For an XS through XL range, the base size is Medium. For a 0 to 16 range, the base would be an 8.

plus-size-pattern-grading-01

Why start with the median size? Because it gives the truest grading. If you start with your smallest size and grade evenly on up to your largest size, you’ll actually encounter a lot of fit issues.

If you grade correctly, you can hang you XS size right next to your XL size and they look the same, just larger/smaller. Sometimes proportions change a bit, but really the design should translate the same.

Tip: If you run into a company that is doing a terrible job with the fit (poor armhole grading, or tiny pockets on size 14 pants for example) you can write them a letter! Customer service will often pass it along to product development and implement your feedback.

plus-size-pattern-grading-04

Alright, now you got how pattern/garment development is going. So how do we get to the crux of this post, the plus sizes? Why aren’y they automatically included in the standard size range? The fact is, they will not grow correctly from your original base medium size.

Let’s say you have a fantastic dress in an 8 and wonder, “Why isn’t it available in a 20, or a 22 ,or a 24!?!?” Well, typically when you grade your garment beyond a XL or a 16, the jump between sizes increases more than the jump between a size Medium to a Large.

So to fit for a plus size, you have to start with a whole new base size that sits in the middle of the Plus size range. A good example of this at a retail location would be Lane Bryant, who doesn’t go smaller than a 12.

I can totally understand frustration with finding garments and patterns that you just adore, but they don’t fit. At the same time, don’t get too frustrated with companies that don’t offer it. My theory is that I would rather have it done right, than poorly.

plus-size-pattern-grading-02

Please keep in mind that next to no one is the size of the forms and base sizes used to make garments. In working in the apparel industry it’s hard to find live fit models that meet the measurements. It’s based on averages.

Finally, I don’t really care for the term “actual range” used in the comment at the beginning of this post. All ranges are actual ranges. No body is the same. Being a dressmaker, I kind of love the differences and embrace the adventure of dressing and creating around them.

Rachel Rasmussen   —  

Rachel is a nerdy Oregon native with a philosophy degree and classical dance background. She fancies her personal style to be quirky sophistication, focusing on the importance of fit while adding special touches of handmade embellishments. She is also a connoisseur of whiskey and nap-taker extraordinaire.

Comments 150

Lisa onlythesmall.blogspot.com

Awesome post! I hope posts like this create a mutual understanding between sewists and patternmakers. It eliminates frustrations and questions asked on both sides.

A question: what would be the max amount for grading up/down a base pattern? I thought it was 3 times, but this post suggests 4 times would still be OK.

Sarai colettepatterns.com

Alyson can probably answer as well, but it’s really more about the size range rather than the number of grades. So you could grade 5 sizes if you were grading an 8 to a 18 (which is the top of the misses range in our sizing system), or it could be 2-3 grades if you were grading from a M to an XL.

Alyson Clair clairvintageinspired.com

Hi Lisa! I think that if you talk to 10 different patternmakers you would most likely get 10 different answers. Even if you asked them the growth between the sizes! My general rule of thumb is to stop when things start distorting in areas that are taking away from the design. Or if you do have to go up or down far away from your base you must break grade rules. Such as stopping neck growth. (This is common on Youth product to hold the neck grade at a Small or Medium).
For my clothing line I use the base size as a Medium, and then always sew out samples of the XS and XL to make sure they all look like good representations of each other. (Also called a “Jump Size Set”). Or if you must go far away from your base consider holding body length growth after a certain size. I’m kind of a rouge grader when doing my line and mix up my shoulder growth, and lengths to deviate from traditional grade rules, based on how I want the Larges and X-Larges to fit.
It also depends if you are doing Alpha (S,M,L) or Numeric sizing (8,10,12) and how large your grade rules are. When I am grading (on the computer) I usually work with my smallest and largest sizes visible with my base to watch the growth.

Lisa onlythesmall.blogspot.com

Thanks Alyson! When I started learning how to draft and grade patterns, I thought I’d learn THE rules, but there’s so many different ways to do it! Quite confusing, because really all you can do to figure out what is best for you is build up experience. Also a lot of fun though, figuring these things out, and liberating not to have to stick to THE rules.

Lisa onlythesmall.blogspot.com

Thanks for your answer! I thought sizing up or down more than 3 times would distort the lines. If I’m understanding it correctly, it depends on the amount with which you grade each size, not the number of grades.

Alyson Clair alysonclair.com

Hi yes! Depends on the area. I like to start with a rule and then deviate from that if something doesn’t look “happy”. I’m always learning new things, and always walk my largest and smallest sizes to make sure the are joining the same. Armholes and tops with “x” straps in the back can totally be a rouge issue. Happy grading!

Loubelle morethanamomma.co.uk

I have been pondering such issues this week. I have found that dress patterns size much smaller than off the peg. I am making a bridesmaids dress but my lovely girl is a size 16 waist, 18 bust and off the scale for her hips. Since patterns size so such smaller I would hope they would increase the sizes available to purchase.

Jennifer

This is a wonderful response. I actually take somewhat of an issue with the original comment as, like Alyson, the term “actual range” bothers me. It implies that somehow anything outside of this commenter’s body type isn’t an “actual” size or body type. I know the commenter didn’t mean to sound self-centered, but it came across that way to me. It gets dangerously close to that stupid debate you sometimes see played out online over whether skinny women or curvier women get to claim “real woman” status.

Having said that, I think Colette patterns encompasses so many body types traditionally left out in commercial patterns. A quick Google search of finished Colette projects should reveal that.

autumn

The comment using the phrase “actual range” is technically accurate. Range from dictionary.com means: “the extent to which or the limits between which variation is possible”.
Right not the sizes do not reflect the actual range of women’s sizing. They reflect a portion of the range. This, as opposed to saying “when will you make patterns in the actual sizes of bodies in need of adorable clothes?”, does not take away from the validity of the sizes already covered in the limited range, it says that the current range does not extend its limits to the actual range.

I am not plus sized, but I too found this blog post offensive. It may not be very profitable, but it wouldn’t be that much more work to do an extra midsize and grade it. I know businesses do their work primarily for the cash, so we hear the whining about how it just can’t be done, but…on the other hand I think, at a certain point this turns into an ethics issue. There are lots of things we do in business that are not profitable, but we do them because they are ethical.

autumn

supposed to be: Right **now the sizes do not reflect the actual range of women’s sizing. They reflect a portion of the range.

carla

I completely agree. I’m outside of the range of Collette patterns. I was able to have a friend help me grade up but it was a pain. I’ve seen several independent patternmakers give the same excuse – we don’t do plus sizes because it’s more work, they fit differently, it’s too hard. As a plus size woman that kind of hurts to hear. I already can’t buy very many cute clothes, and now I can’t even make my own because it’s too hard? That makes me sad.

Rise

Oh my, thank you so very much! I almost didn’t read this post, since I didn’t think it had to do with me, not being in the range above your pattern sizes. But it was so very helpful in understanding so much of the Why-O-Why’s of sizing.

And you had me at “Pegasus, Unicorn, Centaur” Who wouldn’t want to be any of those sizes. In fact, on any given day if I were putting on my pegasus-sized dress, I might wish I were centaur-sized. Maybe I’ll make some labels…

Paige @ LPD luxperdiem.com

While I do understand the idea of grading from a sample, and how you can only grade so far, I don’t understand why you wouldn’t want to create another sample in a larger size to help accommodate more sizes if you do come across so many requests for it? I’m assuming this is what companies like hot patterns have to do to get their large size range.

At the largest pattern size Colette offers I find myself having to modify a lot of things that could be solved very simply by just sizing up. I am not a plus size woman though, so I can’t even imagine how hard it is for someone who is firmly outside of you pattern’s size range. Other sites such as deer and doe and sewaholic whose patterns I love, but don’t fit any of their size measurements. I would buy every pattern they had if I did.

I understand the intent of this article, about how sizing is done in this industry, I just feel as though it’s a bit dismissive of how we should solve it. I don’t working on extended sizes would only boost your sales. People sew because they aren’t happy with what they can find in stores, and having a plus size sister I know how hard it is for her to find non dowdy plus size clothing and patterns.

Paige @ LPD luxperdiem.com

I think* working on extended sizes would boost your sales.

Sarai colettepatterns.com

Yes, we would definitely sell more patterns if we had a plus size range, which is why I’d love to do it at some point.

The reason we haven’t been able to do it *so far* is a matter of the size of our company and the amount we are able to produce. What one of the commenters said below is true, it would literally almost double our workload, and we just don’t have the resources. It’s not an excuse, it is what we have to work with right now.

There is also the issue of increasing our inventory as well as our workload, which also takes cash. But for me, that is less of a concern than the manpower issue, because we could do it slowly over time.

My hope is that we can just discuss the realities of the situation, because we get a lot of questions about it and there are technical and business issues that not everyone is aware of. It’s not dismissing the needs of plus size sewists or saying “here’s why we can’t help you.”

It’s more like “we know this is an issue, here are some of the challenges to doing this you may not be aware of.”

Heidilea heidilea.livejournal.com

The same friend who runs the historical pattern company tried to outline this to her customers some time ago (I can’t find the post). Her patterns are already $30 a piece. She explained what Alyson details here, and also the fact that the “average” tends to get blurred after size 18–people get shaped differently, so the “one shape fits most” tends not to work like it does with the smaller sizes. Plus, to go large, she would need to use extra sheets of paper which would drive the pattern cost up more. Finally, she added, as nicely as she could, that people saying they will buy something and them actually buying it are two different things.

She caught a great deal of flack for it. But it helped me understand the industry a lot more. Plus, the when her patterns are made in the larger sizes, I see a lot of complaining that it didn’t “fit right” and I have to wonder if it has to do with shape issues.

Alyson Clair clairvintageinspired.com

Good point!! Saying and doing are two very different things. I used to offer my line into 2XL because people would say they wanted it. No stores bought up that large, and I’m always saddened when I don’t get orders for even an XL.

Paige @ LPD luxperdiem.com

Maybe consider offering plus size patterns as PDF only at first if and when you decided to go that route?

autumn

Sarai,

I frankly don’t understand how adding another midsize would double the workload. That is like saying the only thing you do is grade up a few sizes and grade down a few sizes. Maybe you mean it would double a portion of the work that your company does. It also seams most of the job of adding an new size range would be a one time job. Next, I don’t believe that it would be an extreme boost in sales, and that is a much more believable reason as to why it is not being done. If it actually doubled your income, you would simply hire more staff.

Alyson Clair clairvintageinspired.com

Trust me, it would double the workload. If you have the same style in 2 different pattern fits = 2x the work.

I’ve worked as someone who does this and had to argue workload and time over this with corporate managers.

Natasha E sewunnecessary.blogspot.com

How if you are using a size 18 not considering yourself a plus size? I’ve found Collette’s patterns run large compared to RTW. I only have to size 1-2 up and I’ve been a plus size many sizes ago. Regretfully I am to inform you that plus size starts at 12-14. I almost feel offended. But I suppose its natural to want to claim plus starts at the size just above yours. I did that for many years.

Kathy

I found the article very informative but I was ready to read ” now that we’ve discussed the way to get to plus sizing, let’s do it” I love to sew but unfortunately I am way plus sized and therefore, making something for myself is just about out of the question. I have learned how to adjust one pattern to fit me and I am so delighted that I can make that one shirt to fit. I would just love to find patterns by independent pattern makers – are there any suggestions out there.

Paige @ LPD luxperdiem.com

I know of a few…
http://www.newvintagelady.com/
http://www.stylearc.com.au/ (They go up to size 30! :D )
http://www.mrsdepew.com/ (She has a grading system that’s supposed to fit any size, I’ve never tried it though)

Heidilea heidilea.livejournal.com

I love New Vintage Lady! Her patterns are so lovely! Though, I can only use her hat patterns.

Nicole biketopus.blogspot.ca

I recommend Cake patterns (http://sewingcake.com/shop-window/). I just made up their Tiramisu dress, which fits a 30-50″ bust and a 25-50″ waist. I was really impressed with the way that the pattern was designed, because it’s modular so that you pick your skirt and top pieces based on individual measurements rather than your overall size. I wish that more pattern companies would design patterns like this… I’d love to hear from Colette patterns on whether they think it’s feasible to design patterns this way!

Paige @ LPD luxperdiem.com

Thanks! I’ve never heard of this company before.

autumn

Yes, instead of Alyson coming on here and putting her foot in her mouth, it would have been nicer to just link people to Cake and Hot patterns.

Again I am not plus size, but at the upper range of traditional sizing, so while I can fit into many cute indie patterns I see, I am sensitive to body issues, and I am getting really tired of the same regurgitated explanation. If you want to use ‘we can’t afford it’ as your rally cry, find one place it has already been written about (and it has been!) and link to it, don’t beat us over the head with it.

I’m hearing the individual sewist told all the time to see these great links for grading up your size, its so doable, …. but not for us -indie pattern company.

This topic was discussed somewhere on Colette this past year and I bought the “plus sizes have more variation in their mass distribution than traditional sizes” for a while, but now I think it is a flawed excuse. I think the plus sized community would like to also have just the basics covered that all of us widely varying bodied people in the traditional sizea like to have covered. Not that they would have something that fit out of the envelope, but that they have a more reasonable starting point.

Stephani

You might want to look into Fashion Patterns by Coni. Her plus-size patterns are drafted separately from her standard-size patterns, and she does have many that are cute or at least wardrobe basics that are a good starting point. Plus, some of her patterns are designed to accommodate EVERY different bust size. http://www.fashionpatterns.com/. If you’re petite as well as plus, try Petite Plus Patterns. Their fit is spot-on for petite-proportioned plus sizes (I am one).
But regardless of the size your pattern starts at, you will still–most likely–have to make adjustments to accommodate the way your figure distributes its volumes. Every body is different, even those that fall within the standard sizing charts. Almost every sewer has to make some kind of change to a pattern to accommodate her specific figure.
Colette and other pattern companies that accommodate a wider variety of sizes or are designed for special sizes or figure types like Sewaholic and Petite Plus Patterns do an admirable job providing beautiful, modern, and well-designed patterns for those of us who find the Big 4 patterns lacking in both variety and sizing. It’s very difficult and can be very costly to attempt to be all things to all people. That said, I think that if anyone can bring cute, well-designed, and well-instructed sewing patterns in a wider size range to market, Colette is it!

Jean

I was waiting to hear the exact same thing- we know how to do it, so we will pick a median for plus sizes and draft some of our great patterns for that market. Over and over I read these discussions why it can’t be done, or is too difficult. And yet, it is being done, by *some* independent pattern designers. And by some stitchers at home with a pile of books and reams of tracing paper. Perhaps the true point of this post was: we just don’t want to do this. Maybe it would be better to just say it. I would stop reading the headline “grading patterns for plus sizes” with hope and go back to my books.

Paige @ LPD luxperdiem.com

On the flip side I think calling the person out on using the words “actual range” isn’t fair. She never said actual bodies, she said range, and a range should include the smaller and larger limits.

Range
1.the area of variation between upper and lower limits on a particular scale.

She never said any body wasn’t a good body, but she though the range should be larger. I’m sure you could understand how frustrating it would be if a range didn’t include you.

Heidilea heidilea.livejournal.com

I disagree. I’ve seen those kind of comments on many different sewing forums; they may just be frustrated, but it comes off as judgmental. Especially if include the rest of the sentence “actual range of bodies in need of adorable, inspiring, handmade clothes.”

I do understand the frustration, but I also understand the underlying issues behind the grading and how businesses work.

Paige @ LPD luxperdiem.com

But the poster implied that she was dismissing the bodies already in the range, which I don’t think is true. A range, again, is something that includes the upper and lower limits of sizing. The person never said anyone’s body wasn’t real.

I also understand how grading works. Once you have the style lines for you pattern though, it’s not outside the means of a pattern company to draft a larger sample size to grade from. It’s dismissive to assume plus size women should have to learn how to grade/draft patterns based on their size.

Heidilea heidilea.livejournal.com

I’m thinking a lot about this now. What if a pattern company does start with a base plus size, like a 20 or 22. Theoretically, they can grade down to a 14 or 16 and up to a 26 or 28. Would it work? My experience with my mother (who was a 28/30 the last time I measured her, but she has had to lose some weight because of diabetes, so I have no idea what her measurements are now) is that people don’t get large in the same places in the same way. While her waist was 60″, her bust was only a 53″. Will using the standard method of “cut the bust to X size, but the waist to Y size and hips to Z size” work?

Paige @ LPD luxperdiem.com

There’s adjustments you have to make with every pattern, but grading is a whole ‘nother story and really easy to mess up. It’s easiest to just cut a smaller top section and franken pattern it with a larger skirt size if you’re say a pear shape. If Colette patterns went up larger I would Cut a larger back piece for my broad back.

But if the sample was in a larger size you could grade up and down three sizes.

Heidilea heidilea.livejournal.com

A friend of mine who has a historical pattern company has explained this same issue some time ago on her Livejournal (her line goes up to 48″41″50″) and I’ve tried to repeat it to anyone who complains (like on Burdastyle).

And I’m glad that you added the last bit about “actual range.” Thank you so much.

little cuckoo thecuckooemporium.wordpress.com

This post really helped me thanks! I’ve made a few dresses from a pattern I created myself, I got such good feed back I am venturing into selling my dress’s on Etsy. Although the dresses would be made to measure I was thinking I should have a base pattern which I would have made in the smallest size offered and now I know to do it in the middle size so tar very much. x

Stephanie fancystephanie.wordpress.com

OK… So make another sample in a size 20 and grade from there. *doh*

I guess you don’t have to do ALL your patterns in plus sizes, but it sure would be nice if you did your most popular patterns in plus sizes. I would buy them. As it is now, I’m not willing to make all the alterations needed, so I buy from the Big 4.

Paige @ LPD luxperdiem.com

I agree! If you guys are worried about the bottom line just try one or two patterns out and see if it’s cost effective for you!

Alyson Clair clairvintageinspired.com

On the subject of starting at a base size 20 and grading down. I SO wish mathematically that would work! If you took a size 8 and graded up to a 14, and a size 20 and graded down to a 14, the size 14 would not match. This is due to the proportions of the base size being different. The other thing to thing about is that the overall circumference of the garment is growing, but you must also make a call to the length/height. This all plays into how curves work in bust, hips, armholes, and other items.

Stephanie fancystephanie.wordpress.com

I know that would not work. I meant, start a 20, and do a 16, 18, 20, 22, 24.

Tammy

I’m in the plus size category for patterns (not always for FTW), and using the methods found in Barbara Deckert’s “Plus Size Fitting” book has worked for me. She also has a course on Craftsy on modifying patterns for plus size sewists.
The only Colette pattern I’ve modified using her methods is the Sorbetto, but it worked out quite well.

KatO

I’ve got the book, but I didn’t know about the classes! Thanks!

Rachel raywuwei.me

Thank you very much for sharing this resource.

KatO

I’m solidly in the plus size range. I frankenstein my patterns. I start with a base that fits (usually after a muslin or two) and some sketches or patterns with details I want, and begin experimenting. After a couple muslin trainwrecks, I end up with a custom pattern more often than not.

It’d be nice if I could buy a pattern, do a fba and have something wearable, but I’ve never had that happen with anything structured.

I love the vintage details and tutorial and technique posts here, I’ve learned lots from them. I don’t really know how the rotund people in my grandparents’ and great grandparents’ generations made and modified their patterns, but I’ve seen the pictures, I know they were making attractive clothing (structured and flowing).

You know… if you’re considering topic requests… I’d love to see how a more structured pattern is re-worked to make the plus size base. I don’t know if professionals start from the concept sketch, or with the median size, or the largest grade of the median, or ?

Heidilea heidilea.livejournal.com

I like the vintage techniques and styling posts that I come across. What I’ve found in doing research into historical periods: foundation garments. Quite a few women wore them, not all (and it’s hard to find images of those women who don’t). In from about the 16th century until the 1910s, most fashionable clothing was built off a stayed/corseted/girdled body. Even into the 20th century, women who didn’t have the “ideal” figure would shape it with bras and girdles to get what was fashionable (bandeux in the 20s, bullet bras in the 50s, etc). We even do that now, to a lesser extent, with wonderbras and spanx.

But, now my brain won’t shut up–I keep thinking, there MUST be a way to make a good plus sized pattern. With computers, maybe there’s a way to key in measurements and make a custom pattern based on that. Accounting for size, because I’ve noticed not all details and cuts look good on everyone–like bubble hems. :P

Heidilea heidilea.livejournal.com

Well, maybe bubble hems. To me, they only look good on very tiny women, but I’m imagining a royal purple and magenta formal gown with a fitted sweetheart bodice and tea-length bubble hem…

Alyson Clair clairvintageinspired.com

Good for you on the Frankenstein patterning. I joke that is how I make all patterns in general! In fact I put the world “Frankenpattern” in the Urban Dictionary. http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=frankenpattern

Mary young-broke-and-fabulous.blogspot.com

It pisses me off, though, that larger sizes are the exception, when the average American woman’s body is a size 14. In RTW. Not pattern sizes. In Big 4 sizes that’s like a 20. What REALLY pisses me off is how so many great indie companies have such teeny tiny sizing that stops anywhere from just one up to FOUR sizes below mine. I don’t consider myself to be large, so it’s rather insulting.

Heidilea heidilea.livejournal.com

This is why: it comes down to dollars in most cases: http://www.cleveland.com/style/index.ssf/2010/08/size_14_is_average_american_wo.html

“For years, readers have told me they don’t shop at small, local boutiques because their sizes aren’t carried. But during these very same years, local boutique owners tell me that their size XLs and 12s-14s are usually the last to go. It’s a classic Catch-22 — people don’t go into the shops to see if their sizes are there, so store owners don’t see the demand and then shift their buying dollars to the sizes that are in demand. “

Alyson Clair clairvintageinspired.com

Hi Mary! (Love your blog BTW). Things sold at retail are an entirely different discussion. Currently 97% of apparel sold in the United States is NOT made in the United States. In the 90’s 50% was made here and sold here.
Sadly what this translates to is there is a huge lack of knowledge in patternmaking and grading that still lives in the United States. What this equates to are a lot of people not experienced with the nitty gritty of getting into pattern shapes. I am/was horrified to see how many apparel companies don’t even have a patternmaker at them. It is all done in factories in Asia.

Then what happens with indie companies, it is VERY hard to find patternmakers to help you with your patterns and grading. Often times they find themselves at the mercy of whomever is manufacturing the garments.

Not that any of that is an excuse (it frankly frustrates me very much), just an explanation.

Mary young-broke-and-fabulous.blogspot.com

Thanks! It’s just horribly frustrating for myself, and I would assume even more so for women who truly are plus-size. I learned how to sew to make clothes for myself that I couldn’t find in my size affordably, if at all. Then I learned that in many cases, I’m out of luck with sewing patterns too for the same reasons. I would hate to be even just a couple of sizes larger because then it would be pretty much impossible for me to find patterns that I like without having to grade them up. The fact of the matter is that larger sewists HAVE to become better sewists than smaller ones because otherwise we have no more choice than what we would have if we bought clothes RTW.

Alyson Clair alysonclair.com

Hi Mary. That theory was one of the ones that started my clothing line. I’m a pretty damn good knits sewist. :) And I am plus sized.

Mary young-broke-and-fabulous.blogspot.com

Knits are SO my favorite. And your clothing line is FAB. I would love to do something like that myself one day. Need to get the hang of pattern drafting first. >.<

Corinne

The point of this article as I see it is that even if the Colette team would like to draft a second base size from which to grade, it would essentially double their workload, which is already quite full! They are still a growing company with only a handful of employees, they have lots of ideas and ambition, and I bet if we’re patient they will continue to delight and amaze us with more new products.

Fiona M seamedstraightforward.wordpress.com

And in the meanwhile, we wear what, exactly? We can’t find what we want in RTW, and we can’t find nice/desirable/fashionable patterns in our size either!

Re the hoo ha over the use of the words ‘actual range’, well, someone seems to have touched a nerve! The pattern is offered in sizes 0 -16, but the actual size range of those wishing to use it is 0 – 30 and beyond. There no need at all to take issue with the use of the word ‘actual’, it’s use in this context is entirely correct. Sorry if you’re insulted by that, but some of us feel insulted every time we try to find something nice to wear!

Offering a larger range of sizing may not be straightforward; it might even be inconvenient, but would surely be mutually beneficial and economically good sense?

Stephani

I second that!

Paige @ LPD luxperdiem.com

The why even bother addressing it only to dismiss it by saying it would be too much work? That’s a real kick in the teeth, especially when reading this blog title and thinking there would be useful information on how to grade up, or news that they would offer extended sizing.

Sarai colettepatterns.com

Paige, it sounds like you’re saying that we shouldn’t even try to discuss this.

It would be easier not to talk about it, but I think many people are interested in hearing about these issues and how we might work through them. In fact, I’m finding some of the feedback and ideas people have tossed out really helpful.

Paige @ LPD luxperdiem.com

I understand that you are a small company and that it’s not feasible for you currently. It’s just very very frustrating to have the issue of why people don’t do plus size be told to plus size women over and over again. It’s the same thing they’ve been telling plus size women forever, but what are the steps that need to be taken to make it better? That the tone, that I very well might perceive differently than the author intended, just irked me. That and the author of the article doesn’t address anything about Colette or it’s plan or non plans in the area.

I’m really not trying to be the confrontational jerk I’m sure that I’m coming across as. This isn’t a problem that starts or ends with Colette, but I think of all the pattern companies I love this is the best community. I want EVERYONE be to able to take part.

Alyson Clair clairvintageinspired.com

Hi Paige. I think dialoguing about sizing is really great. One thing to keep in mind is that a size 22 can be very different if you are 5’0 or 5’11. It is not as cut and dry as grading up or down. Also, the material usage can almost double in a garment when going from a 4 to an 18. To offer that much can be a huge financial risk.

The steps to making it better? Talking about it! Write letters to companies and let them know there is a demand for product. Give good quantitative details when talking about it. Such as “The armhole are too loose on this size”, “The body length is too long”, “The shoulders are too small for how much the body is growing.”

The intent of the article was to explain they “why” of how things are. I don’t work for Colette, I just have a small clothing line in Portland, and like to talk about cats with Sarai.

autumn

I don’t think that the problem is that your offended audience doesn’t want these issues discussed, its the way this discussion was initiated, and the original post’s delivery. The guest blogger basically restated some topics that have already been discussed here and in a less elegant way than before. It was as if you got together and said “maybe if we say it slower and louder ‘they’ will finally get it. ” If you truly want to discuss the topic in a forward thinking way, maybe have a guest post from someone who IS ACTUALLY grading and producing PATTERNS for plus sizes, talk to us about how they were able to do it successfully. I know, slim pickin’s, but studying these models is what you do if your goal is to join their league, not this random retail clothing designer.

Alyson Clair alysonclair.com

Autumn that was not the intent of the post, it was to talk about how grading works.

I myself am plus sized.

I am new to this blog in the past few months haven’t been involved in the past discussion on here about sizing.

Westmoon sewingnovice.blogspot.co.uk

What this entry is basically saying is “We only have so much time and money, and we therefore make patterns mainly for our target market. Plus size sewers are not our target market, it would cost us too much time and money to do good grading and include them in our target market, and so we are not going to do it.” And that is all fine, honestly. It’s good economic sense. To survive in business, you have to decide what not to do just as much as deciding what to do. I don’t blame Colette or any other business for choosing how to allocate their resources.

The problem, and the frustration for many of us who are plus-size sewers, is that we don’t seem to be ANYBODY’S target market. I mean, I want to buy patterns! I want to support indies! But apparently nobody wants my money, just like very few shops on the high street want my money.

This being the case, I find it profoundly irritating to be told not to get “frustrated” by the fact that so many indies don’t offer much at all for plus-sized sewers, because to me that just reads as silencing: “Don’t keep asking us for stuff! You’re not our target market! We’re not going to do the work or spend the money to make our products work for you!”

Like I said, that’s a perfectly reasonable position for you to take as a business. However, unless we ask — nicely, hopefully, and without stigmatizing sewers who are not plus-sized — and keep asking, how are we ever going to find the company or indie who decides that they COULD make money from serving us? How else would they know that yes, there’s a pool of plus-size sewers ready, able and willing to cough up the cash for a pattern graded properly to our size?

Sarai colettepatterns.com

I think you are reading a lot into this post about our intentions, particularly this: “Plus size sewers are not our target market, it would cost us too much time and money to do good grading and include them in our target market, and so we are not going to do it.”

There is no indication of that at all. This is purely about the technical and business challenges that exist currently… not just for us, but in patternmaking in general. It’s not a completely intractable problem by any means, but there are challenges.

And no one ever said to stop asking for it. As I said above, I’m finding lots of the suggestions here helpful. If you ask for it, why not expect an honest answer so that we can work through the issues together, through discussion?

Heather sewingonpins.blogspot.com

Thank you so much for summarizing how I felt about this article. While I fully appreciate the extra work involved in plus-sized grading, and can appreciate the explanation why it’s not feasible for some of these companies to do this (yet, hopefully – although there are some fantastic indy companies out there who are, Cake Patterns for one), boy was I rubbed the wrong way when I was told not to be frustrated about that fact.

Well written article (even if the post title was a bit misleading – I thought it was going to be about actually grading patterns for plus sizes), but those last few lines were just plain frustrating themselves.

Jeanette lazyseamstress.blogspot.com

I’m so happy to read this, I get so frustrated trying to explain to non dressmakers how sizing really works…and I hate the whole vanity sizing in stores.
And on a totally unrelated subject, you made me smile because other than my mother, I have never seen another Ayson with a *y*. :)

karin dotsstripesandflorals.wordpress.com

Thank you for this post. At least you are thinking about it and addressing the issue! I am right on the edge of your range, and too big for a lot of indie patterns. It is frustrating certainly, but learning to sew has actually increased my understanding of how difficult it is to make patterns that fit a really wide range of sizes. There are a lot of companies that do grade way up, both RTW and patterns, but you can tell that there wasn’t much thought given to the fact that larger bodies often have different proportions as well – so while they “fit,” they usually don’t look quite right. I completely agree that people should be working on this issue, but now I understand how difficult it is to fit such a huge range of people.

On a side note, I now also understand why plus-size clothing is usually more expensive – it actually takes a lot more fabric to cut a larger size!

Jeanette lazyseamstress.net

Ok, should really read all the comments before posting. I have made plus size clothing, and recently made a plus size prom dress, it took some tinkering with the pattern, but while researching patterns for the project I was recommended this site where you do just key in your measurements and get a custom fit pattern…how it really works I’m not sure, but it’s a start for those wanting that kind of thing? http://www.lekala.co/ Hope I’m not breaking any rules posting this link, I don’t work for them or anything, just thought they might be useful to someone.

Heidilea heidilea.livejournal.com

It’s too simple. Once you get past a standard 18, the usual B-W-H doesn’t work as well. More measurements and shapes need to be factored in.

Paige @ LPD luxperdiem.com

I would be willing to donate money/time to help get extended sizing off the ground for Colette, as I’m sure others would as well. Maybe a kick starter is in order?

Sarai colettepatterns.com

That’s a cool idea.

Kate blogspot.com

A Kick Starters is a fantastic idea. What an exceptional way to work to everyone’s benefit – Colette can raise the capital they need to expand into the plus size market while growing their business, and the impassioned plus size sewists on this comment thread will have a real way to express their support and interest through their pocketbooks and promotional energy. Each group is dependent on the other for success so we will operate in a symbiotic fashion (haah, a pun!).

Liz C.

I third this suggestion — A kickstarter is a great way to get you, if not the TIME necessary, at least funds required to get assistants to do the plus grading job for you for existing patterns. Could make stretch goals of new patterns in plus ranges, based on time/dollar cost for the assistance you’d need in order to get that done on top of business-as-usual.

I have been personally very sad to see so many bloggers and fashion sewists talking about all their Colette patterns, knowing that I cannot sew or wear any of them, being far outside the standard range and not yet confident enough in my ability grade patterns up for myself. Not to mention having limited time to craft in the first place; adding on the time spent grading patterns up means no sewing gets done at all, and thus it’s a vicious cycle.

I would be so very happy to see Colette patterns in particular making their range available in sizes to fit me and my body, and I’d gladly pitch in for, and pimp out to my social network, a Kickstarter meant to accomplish this goal.

Serai, I have a contact for you of someone who has done several wildly successful kickstarters who might be able/willing to provide you with any information you needed about how to navigate those waters, if you’d like that.

Elle busyellebee.wordpress.com

I know some shops try to justify the extra cost of plus sized clothing, but as most of these clothes are factory made using a dye or computerised machinery to cut the fabric, there is very little extra cost involved in cutting and sewing the garments. In any case, such extra costs are usually clawed back when making petite clothing.

No, I think one of the reasons why plus sizes can be very expensive, is due to the frustration of the customer. By keeping the range limited, when a plus sized lady finally finds an outfit that doesn’t make her look like a walking tent, she believes she should pay over the odds. As a tall person, I would often make do with an item of shop clothing, just so I have something to wear. I have loads of expensive, ill fitting clothes as a result. Hence clothes shopping became a chore and why I started seriously making my own clothes.

The clothing industry as a whole is also guilty of alienating shoppers if they dare to deviate from the ‘norm’. In the UK, size 16 (US size 12 or 14 I think) is the average size for all women aged over 18, yet this is regarded as a ‘plus’ size. In fact I have started to see UK size 12 regarded as a ‘plus size’. The whole thing is simply ridiculous.

Maybe instead of following a sizing template, which varies from store to store and designer to designer, pattern makers should produce a base design, with instructions how to grade the pattern to the particular individual. It will eliminate all the sizing issues, and people will be encouraged to love their own body shape, as opposed to being encouraged to conform to an impossible norm.

Alyson Clair clairvintageinspired.com

Hi Elle! Both working in apparel manufacturing and for some larger brands, the #1 cost for making plus, is the additional cost of raw materials. The fabric. If you add more sizes it is more labor to cut. A large majority of items are still cut by a person, not a machine or die. This is why the cost is more. If I were to offer in my clothing line sizes 2X and up, I would have to charge at least 20% more. You do not make up the costs on the smaller sizes, because usually stores to do not order very many, an some even skip the XS.
I do like the idea of grading to the individual, but that really gets into the realm of custom clothing. The time it takes to make something, does not always equate to what needs to be charged for the garment. You may be able to find a nice dress shop in your area that could do alterations or custom pieces for you. Here in Portland several of my fantastic stores ask for that, and a few designers will do it.

Paige @ LPD luxperdiem.com

I wasn’t able to respond to your comment above. I think the main issue I have with the argument of pattern modifications versus pattern grading is that we as consumers sewists pay for pattern grading, where as there are expected modifications with any pattern. But there’s a big difference between having to grade a pattern up six sizes and having to lengthen a skirt or do a FBA. I myself have to do many alterations on all patterns I use. Expecting plus size women to have to obtain the knowledge to grade something is marginalizing an already much dismissed area of fashion. Again I’m not saying any of this is Colette’s fault or responsibility. By posting this article I assume that the blog wanted a discussion on the subject, and here it is.

Also, I’m not talking about buying ready made or even couture clothing, I’m talking about sewing. As far solving the problem by talking about it, that’s what I’m doing now.

A better titled for this article might have been “The challenge in designing for plus sizes and why it’s not currently feasible.” I was disappointed that there wasn’t any practical knowledge (or probably less realistically Colette offering an extended range of sizes) in plus size grading.

Elle busyellebee.wordpress.com

Hello Alyson,

I know that many fashion businesses, especially the small to medium sized ones, economies of scale doesn’t work in the same way as for the mass producers. However, I am to be convinced that mass producers do not take advantage of economies of scale, to our, the customers disadvantage.

I agree that there are many problems with the idea of producing 1 main pattern and then issuing instructions for the individual to customise – for one, it assumes a high skill set. For beginners like me, that can be very off putting. But then again, what did people do in the 1920s? Homemade clothes then were made to fit the individual, not someone else’s idea of the perfect body shape.

Would it be possible foto consider the idea of designing simple garments that can be easily graded down or up for as many sizes as possible (i.e. a gathered skirt, a pencil skirt, the Sorbetto top) adding unique features, like the pockets on the forthcoming Colette pattern? That may help eliminate potentially complex pattern alternations for beginners, as well as being more inclusive regardless of sewing ability or body shape.

Alyson Clair alysonclair.com

Hi Elle. That is actually a great idea. I’d actually suggest creating a template tool to assist people needing to grade up/down in areas. It’s a mini pattern that has actual grade jumps marked at points. The patternmaker I replaced when I worked in an apparel factory had many of those from the days of table grading.

Heather sewingonpins.blogspot.com

Thank you for the explanation. I was aware that there can be some redrafting needed, but I didn’t know about the base size and how patterns are graded up and down from there. That explains a lot when I’ve knitted a pattern in a XL size that someone has created based on their XS pattern, and the proportions are way off and the whole thing just doesn’t work. (I’ve learned that knitted patterns are very similar to sewn patterns!)

I can’t say that I took issue with the “actual size range” comment, because it would be nice to be able to buy any pattern in sizes that fit the actual size range of all women, not just the smaller range of sizes, but I can see how that could sound off. I did take more issue with being told not to get frustrated about limited choices. I understand the reasoning behind only drafting for the smaller half of the size range (for now, hopefully), especially after this article, but you can’t expect people to not be frustrated by that fact.

Thanks for a very interesting article. I’d love to see more articles on grading up sizes down the road if possible. I got really excited when I saw this post title, only for it to not be what I expected (but still interesting!)

Fiona M seamedstraightforward.wordpress.com

Yes please! If you aren’t planning to offer us patterns that fit any time soon, please do tell us how to go about making the necessary adjustments to the existing range to make them fit us.

Elisha

Hmm, I easily fit into Colette’s top two sizes, so this doesn’t really apply to me, and yet it does. My measurements and BMI are considered “plus size” to many. BUT, I’m pushing 6′, so in many ways I myself am just a “graded up” version of a shorter person who wears a size 12. In other words, I’m not BUILT anything like a plus-sized woman and get annoyed when people assume I need more room for like, fat rolls or something, or that the bust-to-waist-to-hip ratio is somehow more barrel shaped, when in reality the fitting issues I have have nothing to do with my weight; DD breasts, extremely long legs, very squared-shaped, and very short-waisted. In fact, when I inquired with another indie pattern maker about a slightly larger sized version of one of her patterns, she gave me this same speil contained in this post, and it was the first time I’d ever been really called “plus sized”. I don’t shop in the plus sized section for RTW.. So it stung. I think what I’m getting at is that the fitting issues for tall women can be just as much of a challenge, especially when coupled with plus-sized measurements.

But what compelled me to comment was the idea that I should spend extra money for an indie pattern and still be expected to grade it. Again, I fit within Colette’s sizing so this does not apply here. But the other indie designer I just mentioned made that suggestion, and it annoyed me. I can pay .99 cents for a Big Four pattern and work with the fitting issues there, or spend $20 on an indie and still have to grade, THEN fit? No thanks. (Thanks for making patterns with larger measurements and at least “C” cups, Sarai.)

Elisha

I felt like my initial comment was getting too long, but thought I’d add this for anyone dealing with the same issue as me (fitting proportionally into the smaller sizes but not measurement-wise). I recently read a sewing blogger who experimented with just re-sizing a pattern using a copier vs traditional grading. She had great success with the copy method once she accounted for seam allowances being screwy, etc. I found it pretty compelling, she’s not a regular that I read so I can’t provide a link.

Lisa

I think styles also have to be considered. I’ve talked about this with a friend who is plus size, and she looks for completely different features in a garment. No high neckline, no horizontal stripes or pleats, etc. If I were to offer plus size patterns, I would want to make sure that the designs would be flattering. It’s not as simple as just grading up or making a new base pattern.

Paige @ LPD luxperdiem.com

a lot of people in the plus size community don’t believe in dressing in what is flattering though, only what they like. My friend has a video on the very subject if you’re interested. http://fat-aus.com/2011/08/26/fuck-flattering/

Heidilea heidilea.livejournal.com

This is operating on the idea that “flattering” excludes people, or that “hourglass” is the only acceptable shape. But it doesn’t! If you wear clothes that fit, IT IN ITSELF IS FLATTERING.

I’m sorry, I listened to the video, and your friend just sounds like an angry young person. I used to be that angry young person. And I looked stupid in my clothes. And when I was overweight, I wore sacks, because I didn’t know would look good on me. Thank gods for What Not To Wear.

Paige @ LPD luxperdiem.com

We’ll have to agree to disagree then, because I myself, as well a large majority of the feminist community believe that deciding in what is flattering is also deciding in what should be shameful about your body. I believe there’s every reason to be angry about that, there shouldn’t be anything shameful about dressing exactly how you want to.

Heidilea heidilea.livejournal.com

So, is the feminist community against wearing clothing that fits? Because to me, that’s the biggest factor in “flattering” clothing.

Heidilea heidilea.livejournal.com

I should have said “thank gods for WNTW and Roller Derby.”

KatO

Flattering is often politespeak for “slimming.” I’m not slim, no style or amount of clothing is going to make me look thin.

I can use outfits to be comfortable at yoga class, or to look professional, or playful, or look classy at a wedding, or (try a mock turtleneck + 56 inch bustline) to “bring all the boys to the yard.” Clothing is a language, and I want to say more than “I’m so sorry I exist!”

Paige @ LPD luxperdiem.com

IAWTCA

Nora

I’m sure those concerns are important to your friend, and her preferences are surely right for her, but they are not universal for fat women. I find that within the community of fat-people-who-are-into-clothes, one of our major frustrations is that plus size lines are different from straight size lines from the same company. Old Navy is a good demonstration of this. The plus-size dresses are decidedly frumpier than the straight size ones.

I think there’s also an expectation that fat people want looser-fitting clothes to “hide flaws,” which is a problematic phrase in itself. But as we sewists know, a good fit makes anyone look awesome! I and many fat people that I know are truly sick of plus size stores/pattern lines full of tunic after tunic. Not that there’s anything essentially wrong with a tunic, but a girl wants some variety, and maybe something a little more professional looking for work.

This is totally not to criticize your friend! It looks like she takes great care in her choices and I’m sure she looks lovely.

Lisa onlythesmall.blogspot.com

I have to say I was always surprised by the fact that half of the plussize patterns seem to be tunics. My friend does look amazing most of the times, yes :) BUT I do understand also that this is because she dresses as if she should make sure to look thinner than she is, or at least not bigger. So even though she looks good, and feels good in her clothes, she still acts from the underlying assumption that thin equals attractive.

Karpura

Thank you for the information about multi size pattern drafting. I particularly found the idea of base size useful to know.
I learn a lot from the tutorials on Collette Patterns blog. for eg at the end of the email I received with this post I saw ‘Roobois Sewalong: Grading for larger hips’. Fantastic tutorial !

I empathize with the frustrations expressed in some of the responses. I think the title of the post was not a good fit for the content. It was an effective hook.

Maddie madalynne.com

Great post – very informative and most importantly, understandable. Thanks Alyson and Sarai for breaking it down into simple terms.

As a former technical designer, I understand the tedious process of determining a base size and grading up and down from it. There’s a lot of considerations and behind-the-scenes work that goes into getting that final “nested” pattern. I know that by not including plus size patterns, you’re not discriminating against the size set and that if you could, you’d make patterns for everyone. I’m very petite but would never get upset that Collette doesn’t provide petite patterns.

Grace restlessgrace.blogspot.com

I’m a tech deigner too! The thing that bugs me about production grading and size ranges is that I am a very tall “missy”…. meaning, I wear a 12~16 (depending on the brand) and that veers close to the top of the missy size range. My body SHAPE is not that of a “woman” (plus) size, so sometimes I fall into this grey area where there just aren’t RTW clothing that fit me. Thank goodness I sew and know how to draft and modify patterns!

lin linniedarling.com

As a super dinky petite that has a frustrating time with most patterns being too large (the opposite end of the vanity sizing issue) I can sympathize with those plus sized women–Where on earth to find clothes? Where to get a decent sewing pattern?

One route, although not for everyone, is to learn pattern drafting skills. My mom taught me sewing skills and basic fitting. It wasn’t until I took classes in pattern drafting and draping that my clothes started to really fit.

Most metro areas have some resources for classes and you should not have to enroll in a degree program to take basic pattern drafting. Draping is another method and might be best for someone with particularly difficult fitting problems. For anyone near San Francisco, Louise Salinger is a great micro school.

There are many books out there, usually of a textbook size and scope, for someone interested in teaching oneself; my standard tomes are by Ernestine Kopp and Helen Joseph Armstrong. Make sure to get a late edition so as to get the section on knits and negative ease.

Another route is to take a workshop by Peggy Sagers of Silhouette Patterns. Peggy is the Queen of Fit..

Even if you don’t wish to draft all your own sewing patterns the information will allow you to take any pattern and make it work for you.

Although some may balk at the cost and work of classes or textbooks you really have to contrast that with the frustration and cost of ill-fitting clothes and the time spent searching fruitlessly.

Finally, never, ever, ever get rid of a RTW garment that fits well. Some of my best clothes are made from copies of worn out favorite garments.

Marcy

I’m within the standard size range so I can buy almost any big 4 or indie pattern based on my measurements – but they never really fit, so I agree with this comment. Drafting skills can be a necessity if you vary from the average proportions whether you are petite, plus-sized, large-busted, etc.

I can understand the frustration with having to grade up a pattern before making fit adjustments – that’s definitely an extra step, but if instead you start with a block that fits you and adjust the block to get the design you like, you’ll have awesome fitting clothes and I personally enjoy the block modifications – it feels like a fun puzzle.

I’ve modified my blocks to make pencil skirts and cowl neck blouses that fit on the first try – without pulling across the hips or bust )or having weird extra fabric due to an FBA that adds length and circumference all over…). I haven’t had nearly as much success attempting to make fit adjustments to existing patterns.

Juli Williams julispicksandstitches.blogsopt.com

I am a plus-size that cannot even buy the Big 4 anymore without major grading. Even their plus sized designs stop at a 52 bust(I have a 54). I find that most of the plus sized designs are not flattering to my body shape. So I have a tendency to buy “tent” sizes and alter. Altering the RTW tends to create less frustration than trying to grade a pattern that I’m not sure will look good even though I like the artistic rendition.

Chris

As much as I hate to admit it, I am a pattern plus size. The image of myself in my mind just does not match the image the pattern makers sizing would have me make of myself. I get very frustrated when I pick up a pattern and realize the pattern sizing doesn’t extend to my measurements.
I’m very much a novice sewer. I learned the basics of sewing in 4-H nearly 40 years ago. (OMG! Am I really that old?) I sewed a very little bit in my early 20s, but became so frustrated by my poor results, general lack of technique (HOW do you do a FBA again?) and poor availability of assistance to learn to improve, I just gave up. The rather expensive sewing machine my husband bought as a gift has sat gathering dust ever since.
Until VERY recently. Thanks to sewing blogs such as this one, I was recently bitten by the sewing bug again. Gratefully, I’ve found that while the basics of sewing have stayed the same, my how I have changed in 20 years!! What used to be a “girlish” figure has become plus-size and developed “mature” proportions. Patterns that used to only require a FBA to fit now require multiple alterations I’ve never even HEARD of! What DOES make it easier this time around is the availability of Youtube and blogs such as this one. Now when I have questions about a fit problem, how to do a particular technique, or make a pattern alteration, I can finally find answers – and usually more than one so I can fit my particular situation!
HOWEVER. When it comes to patterns I want to use that aren’t available in my size, and having to grade up a pattern so I can use it, and then fitting those changes: I consider those abilities to be a very advanced skill. Far beyond my capabilities at this time. I’ll stick to my basic and still painfully performed FBAs, waist increases/hip reductions alterations.
BTW – recently found my UFO pile from 20 years ago. I was amazed at how many projects I had cut out and ready to sew. While I have moved well beyond the sizes in those patterns, I’m always thinking about ideas of how to use some of those projects/fabrics now. Once upon a time, I would have scrapped that pile. Blogs have made me realize I could maybe find a use for that fabric someday…
(OK, I have to ask about the dress form! It looks so adjustable compared to most I’ve seen – is it an antique, or something you can buy?)

Laura C blogspot.com

I wonder though why pattern makers, if you only want to have one size range) don’t start with a larger median size and grade from there. The truth is there a whole lot more size 20’s out there than 0’s and 2’s. Why exclude the larger sizes, which there a more of just to make sure you include the smaller sizes?

lin linniedarling.com

Actually I wondered that myself. My theory is that indie patterns start with their author’s size and shape.

A few pattern lines bear this out: Loes Hinse, Christine Johnson, Petite Plus.

If I were going to start a pattern line I would start with petite sizes because I’m petite.

Sarai colettepatterns.com

There are different sizing systems for different body shapes. So, for example, you have a petite size range, a plus size range, a misses size range, a petite plus range, etc. Each of these is best suited to fit a different body shape. Each will have a different draft at the base size.

In essence, if you want to create a pattern and grade it appropriately, you start in the middle of one of those ranges and grade from there. So if you are doing a misses line, you’ll go down to a size 0 and up to a 16 or 18 (or thereabouts). If you start with a 24, you could grade down to an 18 perhaps, but not a size 8. Those are different shapes in different ranges.

Essentially, you have to pick which range to work with, or you can create create 2 or 3 ranges. I can absolutely see why this is frustrating when it seems like things are heavily skewed towards a smaller segment of women.

Yvette

Totally agree…..you will have to use the regular grade rule for your size range small thru XL then
if you do not have a plus size grade rule available that you are happy with you will have to re-write the book. In other words you will have to come up with all of your own grading increments for your own plus size grade rules. It took me about 3 months of 8 hour days to come up with a grade rule that was from XL to XXXL that was similar to the commercial grade rules out there but tweaked to remove or correct the rules I hated like hardly any grade in the sleeve length- because it is thought that larger woments arms dont grow in length, only in circumference. It is alot of work to sew, fit and tweak grade rules over and over again. Not to mention if you are dealing with a CAD system, you need to assign a grade rule number to each point or x/y coordinate that will be graded.

Mary Danielson idlefancy.com

As someone within Colette’s standard sizing range, though on the upper end, this post really rubbed me the wrong way. There are certain Indie pattern companies that stop their sizing just a little below me, so from the title, I’d hoped this would be a post about specific pattern adjustments and grading techniques to keep in mind for the “plus-sized sewist.” Instead, I feel like I was just lectured about being too hard for designers to fit…and I’m not even out of the range of normal patterns!

I understand that it’s a more complicated process than simply grading things up, but when the average Western woman is a size 14, it seems completely insensitive to admonish women over that size for being vocal about a hole in the marketplace. There is a gap in the market, period. Until it’s properly filled, consumers will and should be vocal about their desire for products that fit them. It’s understandable that Colette wouldn’t be able to encompass larger sizes right now, given the size of the company, but why be dismissive toward larger sewists? They are a market that needs serving, not nuisances to be talked down to.

We’re also (obviously) on the internet, so the intention of this post is easy to run away with in a negative fashion. Nonetheless, a bit of sensitivity toward women put in the “other” category would go a long way, even if they aren’t a market you’re able to serve.

In other news, I am very excited about the next pattern. Hooray for buttons!

RavenNemain

This is such a tricky issue, and I feel like neither side is wrong in this one. On the one hand, I know how even the tiniest of adjustments can add a huge cost and labour burden to a small business, but I also feel the frustration of being “too fat for fashion”. I am in the upper range of Colette sizes, and too big for many other indie companies such as Deer and Doe and Megan Nielsen, which can be incredibly frustrating – it can feel, at times, like I am not considered worthy of wearing such clothes, even though from a logical standpoint, I know that this is not the intent.

I think that the fact that fat-shaming is such a widespread and acceptable practice also makes many of us more sensitive, and perhaps quicker to take offence. For every well-intentioned discussion of the thorny issue of size, there are companies like Abercrombie & Fitch and their publicly expressed desire to exclude so-called fat and ugly people. That said, I find that the sewing community is so much more welcoming and inclusive than most, so I want to give the benefit of the doubt here. Colette patterns, more than those of any other company, really have helped me to accept my body in a way I was never able to before I learned to sew, and I appreciate that you do not back down from difficult discussions. Hopefully, it does eventually become feasible to expand the size range (the PDF-only, limited pattern trial run was a great idea posted above) so more lovely ladies of all sizes can take control of their style.

Rachel raywuwei.me

I appreciate your thoughtful comment. It is a tricky topic, but we don’t feel that warrants sweeping it under the rug.

The PDF-only idea sounds easy enough, but it would still require another full time pattern designer on our team. Hopefully people will continue to support us so we can make that happen in the future.

lsaspacey lifeisexamined.blogspot.com

Could it work if you replaced one of your scheduled pattern releases in your original range with a pdf pattern in the larger sizes? Also, do you mean you would need to hire an additional pattern maker who is already skilled in grading for larger sizes instead of having your current patternmaker take the job on?

Kathy

I bet you have never had such an engaging response to a post. I am eagerly looking forward to a plus size pattern from Colette !!

Lucy

Frankly, I found this article insulting.

Shelley

I’m a petite plus and echo those who have recommended Petite Plus, Barbera Deckhart’s classes and her book. I would like to also add another indie who is trying to cater to the petite crowd..both the slim AND the curvy. http://www.sbccpatterns.com/
I’m hoping she’ll try pants soon.

While we’re talking fit, I also loved Lynda Maynard’s Craftsy class on fitting..very hands on and works well IF you have help OR a dress form that mimics you. I have a freestanding DTD that I use.

Another book I just got and am totally blown away with is the newer 2010 edition of Pattern Fitting and Alteration by Leichty & Rasband ( yes the one that’s around $70 currently). There’s some adjustments for plus figures that were not in the earlier versions like how to adjust for the hanging belly and high abdominal contour. The other awesome was the part on how to apply a traced crotch curve to a pattern and there’s one extreme curvy plus contour used and the special considerations on how to handle it are explained.

Like someone else said above, I also have been trying to learn drafting, but I also use pattern software that gets me 85% there out of the box. The irony is I thought I wouldn’t have to learn anything to get the most benefit from it, but the more I educate myself the easier it is to work with it and know what things I must do by hand in it’s CAD editor or in hard copy vs. messing up the 85% of good that’s already working. Or in some instances, when an upgrade happens, the a new setting/s makes stuff like a forward shoulder tweak possible without redrawing. The outward rotation of the elbow, however, is definitely a do by hand alt. ; )

I admit I was surprised to see plus size grading as a post here and for all of 3 seconds wondered if there was going to be some tutorial about it. I know there must be some technical differences for drafting plus sizes and this article reaffirmed that. I hope one of these days there will be a Colette plus pattern, but in the meantime, there’s always measuring and muslin.

Lynda

I will stay out of the plus-size pattern fray, but I think that the recommendation of Lane Bryant as a store to shop at for upper end plus sizes was made by someone who has never tried to buy clothes there. Sure, if you are a 16 or 18, those clothes will be fine, but if you are a 24+, you are likely to find armholes that reach your waist, sleeves that need to be cut off, necklines that overexpose, etc. You would think with the sizing starting at size 14, they would be able to get it right. However, the pattern grading at Lane Bryant is _atrocious_. Other brands do a much better job. Ralph Lauren is wonderful, as is Coldwater Creek and Jones of New York. Just my two cents (yes, a frustrated plus size who no longer tries on clothes at Lane Bryant because they make her cry).

Signe Marie

I think the kickstarter campaign is a wonderful idea for an indie company to try launching plus size patterns. Maybe ask your readers which, say, 3 patterns from your line they wish came in a new plus size range and raise money for a freelance pattern designer to redraft just those 3 as a start. Or just pick them out, what do I know?

You will not go out of business if it doesn’t work out financially and you will gain solid knowledge in what an extra size range cost to design and produce in actual numbers and sales. What’s not to like?

I also want to say that I found this post informative, especially your followup on comments, Alyson. Thank you for taking the time to reply :-)

Irene

If I’m understanding the post correctly, the reason Colette does not offer plus size versions of their patterns is that they do not have the resources, staff, and time to create and grade two “base size” patterns for the same design. So Colette chooses to spend their resources and time focusing on creating 2 standard size patterns instead of spending it on creating a plus size and standard size version of 1 pattern.

What if Colette created a pattern that was only available in plus size and not available in standard size? Or like suggested in a comment above, what if Colette released a plus size version of their top selling pattern?

Or maybe let customers vote on which standard size pattern they would like to see released in a plus size version? If we could vote today, I would vote for Hazel.

Anna

When I read the post I found it interesting but boy, the comments!
Nevertheless, I believe there is a solution to nearly everything so, us sewists being a nice community, lets find them!

As I read it, Colette would theoretically like to cater the plus size market but lacks time and money. Well, Kickstarter has already been mentioned. I know that there are indie pattern companies out there that kickstart each of their new patterns. So why not try it and start a kickstarter for a plus-sized version of ***insert pattern of choice***? If enough people invest: brilliant! If there are not enough: probably too few would buy the pattern anyway.

This still might not solve the time-problem though. What I have found out is, that usually, if there is a market, there is someone willing to cater it. So maybe Colette can team up with someone who would be willing to start a sister-company (Wouldn’t “Gigi” be a brilliant name?) that sells Colette patterns in plus-size (or petite!).

On a third note, and I know that this will not solve the actual scaling up but still would help somewhat: Would it be possible to indicate more clearly how to do some alterations on the patterns you have now? I recently saw a post on Megan Nielsen’s forum where she explained in detail where to cut for a long body adjustment, for pregnancy and how to do this and that alteration etc. I thought it was brilliant because it would save me a lot of time researching (although her patterns don’t fit my shape so it’s only theoretical anyway). I believe that it would not require too much extra effort to add something like “to lengthen/ shorten the body we recommend you cut on the dotted line”. Alternatively a page added to the back of the booklet and providing such information also could help the “newist sewist”.

I am sure there are many more people out there who have useful ideas.

Teresa

I also wondered if there was a way to work Colette with Patterns by Coni. I love the name Gigi for it!

I would love to find out how to make armscyes larger and sleeve caps also. My daughters and I range in height from 5’8″ to 6′ tall, the larger armscye would be my greatest challenge. I already know how to add height and length elsewhere.

My 6′ tall daughter wears Colette sz 18 perfectly (other than length). Thank you, thank you, thank you, Sarai!!! I just have to add about an inch at the back waist for my 5’9″ daughter. I might add that I thought the armscye was going to be an issue when I made my first Colette for my dd, and it wasn’t. She fit it right out of the pattern, except for that back waist. (See my Pastille dress in Flickr.)

For larger women, like myself (sz 26 in RTW), I like the advice and inspiration at Diary of a Sewing Fanatic. She has found her TNT base pattern, then adds current style from there. I suggest that any plus size ladies that love Colette Patterns like we do, would go with this idea. Patterns by Coni is a great source, as well as Martha Pullen. MP’s patterns go up to 32, I think.

Nora

I’m probably rather late in joining this discussion but there are some things I just have to say.

Firstly, I totally sympathize with the challenges of being a small company. In my post college career, I’ve been with a company that has at times only had 4 members of staff, and it can be hard to explain to people what that’s really like. Secondly, I’m a big fan of Colette’s work – from afar, as I’m a fat woman who is out of reach of your sizes. But I love reading the blog and following the line as it expands (Hawthorn’s your best yet! I sigh over it often).

That being said, this post, and the attitude of the garment industry in both small and large companies, treats plus sizes as some kind of special concession. As many above have pointed out, the average American woman is a size 14 or 16 (the data varies) in RTW, higher in pattern sizing. We are not a special category. We are a common part of the clothes-buying world. I am as legitimate a customer and as real a person as a size 8 woman, and she is as legitimate a customer and as real a person as I.

Fat people who are into clothes are actually quite familiar with the grading issue you’ve laid out here. We’ve heard it again and again. I know this is not your intention, but the message ultimately is “you’re not worth it.”

We’re told we have plenty of specialist shops. But these shops take advantage of their “niche” by charging a premium on cheap material, while offering the same range of tunics and palazzo pants and shapeless dresses season after season. A whole lot of us fat folks, especially the significant number of us who are under forty, would like cute, more fitted clothes. Clothes with shape and thoughtful design. Clothes of the kind our smaller friends can make from your awesome, attractive patterns.

We’re all also dealing with the issue that people’s judgement of scale and size is pretty much crap. It’s just a human thing! I think you lovely ladies who write this blog, as slim women, may have skewed perceptions of what sizes above a pattern 18 are like, even given your industry expertise. People are getting taller. People are getting bustier (and if people make sizing choices by one metric alone, it’s usually bust size). That complicates perception as well. I, for example, am just shy of 5’10” and have a 50.5″ bust, but apparently do not fit into people’s perceptions of what a 50.5″ bust looks like. I’ve surprised many a shop assistant or friend when the number came up. They look at how my weight is distributed on my frame, and the difference between my chest and waist size, and think I must be smaller. And I’m no hourglass bombshell.

I think it’s possible that slimmer folks see people on the street but think that they don’t see people with a 52″ or 53″ bust very often. But they’re probably seeing them every day. Folks who are, say, a size 6 or 8 are so removed from the plus side of the scale that it’s easy for them to think that sizes over an 18 RTW are rare, or must be for people who are the “very special episode of a talk show” kind of fat, because those sizes just aren’t a part of their frame of reference. It’s not malicious, but in my experience, it’s a real phenomenon. And really, why shouldn’t “talk show fat” people [a cruel phrase but I’ve heard it several times from ignorant people] have nice clothes?

The variation in fat bodies is a very real thing, yes, but there’s also variation in slim bodies. Given that you produce patterns, and your audience is that of enthusiastic sewists, your customer base is largely comfortable with making small adjustments to suit their particular form. A lot of us enjoy that aspect of home sewing most of all. But grading up a whole pattern, as an amateur, before one even starts to think about the subtler pattern adjustments – oy vey.

(If anyone is wondering what the heck I’m on about when I talk about our tendency to have a skewed sense of scale as well as the variation in fat and thin bodies, I highly recommend checking out My Body Gallery. You can go through and see the many kinds of size 14 bodies there are, or the varied sorts 130 pound bodies there are. It’s meant a lot to me, and can be helpful for people struggling with body image issues, whatever their size.)

The assertion that adding plus sizes would mean doubling the work is disingenuous. It’s double the pattern grading work, no question, but that is not the only work involved in offering a pattern for sale. No separate photo shoots would be required, unless the plus version really is vastly different from the original. The instructions would be the same. Site edits would be minimal. Fat folks shop primarily on the internet, as several studies have shown, so having PDF-only patterns for any theoretical Colette plus patterns would not phase us and would save you time and money. Adding plus patterns would definitely be a big task for you all, but it should not be portrayed as Sisyphean.

If you ever decide that plus size Colette patterns definitely aren’t going to happen, you should be honest about that. It’s a legitimate business decision. Clothing oneself as a fat person is pretty much a second job, so knowing what we no longer need to spend our time keeping tabs on is quite important to us. I do know you’re not ready to make that decision yet – it must be done in the proper time.

Again, I know you gals and guys at Colette do not mean this post unkindly. I have respect for you, your time, and your abilities. But I think you need to examine what you’ve posted and how your choices on this matter are made, and consider how it comes across to those of us who are fat.

I remain a big fan, literally and figuratively.

Elle busyellebee.wordpress.com

Hello Nora, I just wanted to say to you, “nice post”. Thank you, I agree with everything you say.

It is a sad situation that in 2013, the ability to express your unique personality through clothing is still so heavily and negatively influenced by designers, who regard anyone who is not a standard size as a problem. I refer primarily to the couture fashion design houses and large clothing companies, who have yet to embrace the concept of diversity.

Yes it is difficult for small companies to create designs for every size range, which I understand, but it is not impossible. What’s impossible is for everyone to conform to size 4, 5ft 10 (although if you were to look at the models on the catwalk shows, you would be forgiven if you believe otherwise).

I appreciate this discussion because the mistake many make is focusing on the ‘difficulties’ of creating non-standard pattern sizes. Let’s instead explore positive ways to make pattern designs more inclusive. Start by creating base sizes which actually reflect true average sizes (16-18), not the misleading sizing that major fashion design houses and corporate stores create for their own, often negative purposes.

Roxanne blogofalltrades.wordpress.com

Nora,

Your comment is pretty much perfect and everything I was looking for the words to say when I first read this post. Particularly the following:

We are not a special category. We are a common part of the clothes-buying world.

Thank you!

Lianne

I just wanted to say thanks for acknowledging that all bodies are in the range. I found the post fascinating, as I am learning to draft patterns, and I learned a lot!

Alyson Clair alysonclair.com

To ALL-

For the record, I am plus sized.

lsaspacey

“… Your patterns seem like a fantastic place to start – except that your size range falls short of what I wear. What are your plans for extending your patters into more inclusive sizing that reflects the actual range of bodies in need of adorable, inspiring, handmade clothes?”

Does no one see the “extending into more {inclusive} sizing” part of the comment? Combine that with the “actual range of bodies” part, I read the sentence as calling for more than just the 0-18 sizing range of Colette or whomever’s pattern and striving to create for more sizes upwards while {still} including the original sizes. Right? Did anyone else read it that way? I have a hard time reading it as self-centered. She is calling for inclusivenss which if I know the definition means everyone who wants to be included could be included. Right?

KryptoBunny

A few years ago my frustration with retail shopping and a deep desire for adorable vintage-style dresses led me to a decision — I was going to learn to sew! I bought some books, looked at a few websites, and started looking for patterns, but I didn’t really know what I was doing. I remember looking at the Vintage Vogue patterns on their website, and the absolute euphoria I felt when I saw the drop-down menu — “E5 (14-16-18-20-22)”. I was a size 18! I could just buy this pattern and sew it up and have the gorgeous vintage-style dress of my dreams!

I was wrong, of course. I guess it’s good that I realized that before I bought the pattern (which was too advanced for me, an absolute beginner, anyway). But the experience was sort of heartbreaking. I read everything I could about grading patterns, but while learning to sew generally was a fun challenge, the idea of adjusting my own patterns in so very many ways just seemed utterly insurmountable. I realized that it would most likely be quite a while before I was actually able to sew and wear any of the beautiful Colette Patterns I had bookmarked. And then I kinda gave up, because I’m just not that interested in sewing pillowcases and utensil-rolls without the promise of something pretty to wear in the fairly-near future.

It’s not anyone’s duty to make patterns in my size, but it’s hard to hear the indie clothing, lingerie and pattern companies constantly saying “We wish we could, but we can’t!” Logically it makes sense, but emotionally it’s like being picked last in gym, where gym is getting to choose how you present yourself to the world.

As leaders in the indie-pattern world, I think Colette has an opportunity to actually change the game a bit (kind of the way ModCloth did when the introduced a plus section). I would be beyond happy to help fund a collection of plus patterns on Kickstarter!

KryptoBunny

Just wanted to add that the size range Colette Patterns cover is significant already considering the market, and it’s not unappreciated. I would need to make far fewer adjustments to a Colette pattern than most, and I quite feel lucky for that!

Eileen

I think people are getting way, way too sensitive about this post, and it says more about them than about the author or colette patterns.

I’m SUPER tall for a woman (almost 6′) while also being kind of slim. I have to adjust lots of patterns. I don’t write passive-aggressive emails to companies asking why they don’t include a tall line of patterns. Even though I’m pretty sure I’m not the only tall girl out there who likes indie patterns! I trust that they know how to run a business and will either do it or not. I’m sure CP has heard of market research.

The fact that they get questions about plus sizing now and then probably DOES indicate that there is a market out there. And it seems that it’s in the future goals of Colette Patterns. I don’t see how anyone can expect more.

This post explained quite clearly what the technical issues are, so that people could understand that it’s NOT a choice based on “not liking fat people” or something utterly ridiculous like that. I thought it had some interesting insight into the challenges that I had not thought of before.

And I think it’s ridiculous to jump on the author for wanting to do something right, or not at all. How many of you would be jumping here to complain if you made a plus size pattern and it turned out horrible and ill-fitting? Ultimately it’s a business, and they don’t want to turn out an inferior product.

Jeri Sullivan mymodernvintage.wordpress.com

Read an interesting review on the different “sets” of sizing at Lolita Patterns. This is a new Indie company that is tackling the issue head on.

http://www.lolitapatterns.com/sew-thats-why-lolita-patterns-sizing/

Alyson Clair alysonclair.com

Jeri, thank you for sharing this! It’s a fantastic post.

Jeri Sullivan mymodernvintage.wordpress.com

I thought so too. I support many different indies but certainly appreciate the ones that already plan to address the “plus size” issue!

Alfrun Unndis

Stated plainly, fat people are an oppressed people. We are laughed at, shamed, belittled, ignored, overcharged and assaulted. Nothing better than a good fat husband or mother in law joke right? Ask a former fat kid how they treated in school, expect to be shocked. Just last week there were two stories in the news one about the teenager told to leave a store because they didn’t have clothes in her size and the food market that put mirrors in the carts so you could see yourself and be shamed into buying healthy food instead of junk.

Who would want to be associated with people so weak willed and sick that they can’t simply stop eating so much? Why would anyone want to help these people feel comfortable about their condition. Then they would never change.

Few would admit they feel an aversion to fat people. Even to themselves. Even if they themselves are fat.

No fat people are just oversensitive. Surely they know no offense was meant. Fat people should just calm down, have a cookie. Hah, just kidding. Really we’re working on it, things will change soon be patient.

I have been fat most of my life, nearly sixty years. Things have not gotten better for fat folks. Even though now there are more of us.

Can’t we just have nice clothes that fit?

The folks here have open up this discussion because they have seen the edge of the problem. Many of the commenters here have been given an opportunity to show their frustration. But we need to do more to get change than vent and return to normal. What shall we do?

Natacha

I am not in the “plus size” range but a couple of my friends are and one of them would probably loooooove one of your patterns in plus size. And I can tell you I think it’s even more difficult to find nice and pretty “plus-size” clothes in France!!!

So go for the kickstarter thing and I can tell you have me go for it (and probably some of my friends as well) !

Stephanie erniekdesigns.blogspot.com

I sew because I want clothes that fit me, in styles I like. When I learned to tailor and alter, my clothes fit better. When I learned how to draft patterns, the world changed forever.

As sewists, we open the ‘alteration/grading’ door the minute we open a pattern envelope. I think everyone who sews for themselves has learned to grade/alter/frankenpattern in one way or another. I’m always surprised that anyone expects any pattern to fit right out of the gate, unless you want the same bad results you get shopping. If I spend that much money on fabric, spending more for a pattern that really works just seems to follow.

MaryEllen

I will just tell you this:

I have not purchased Hawthorne, Anise and the Companion, Laurel, Juniper, Iris, Hazel, Clover, Peony, Jasmine, Ginger, Crepe, Macaron, Chantilly, Parfait, or the Collette Handbook because of the size issue. I am one person and your style matches mine very well and I was prepared to purchase all of these patterns but not if I have to make my own pattern to have the garment fit when I am done. I did buy Sencha figuring that I could attempt an adjustment which I was able to do with hours of work and retrying and recutting, etc. The point of the expense that has been raised is a good one but as a person who doesn’t like cheaply made poorly fitting clothes and who doesn’t fit in the buckets that people assume is “normal” I am prepared and do spend a lot of money on the clothing that I wear, off the rack and created. I was prepared to spend the considerable cost to buy your patterns but until they are made available to me in sizes that at least come close to my RTW size I won’t be spending my money or time with your patterns.

Consider how much money I alone have not spent with you on all of the patterns and books that I listed. I am serious in that I was prepared to buy every singe one listed and I am not alone in this. You are foolish not to figure out a way to address these concerns because consumers like me will make whoever it is that does address our market first in a quality way a very rich and successful pattern shop. I hope when you do figure this out it isn’t too little too late. It isn’t a threat, it’s just the way the market is.

Heather heatherhartmandesigns.com

I work as a pattern maker for a company in NYC and we have a fit model who is a size 8 and a size 18. The patterns are different. Someone makes the “Missy” size pattern and someone else makes the “Large” size pattern based on the missy size. I wish more company carried larger sizes not only online but in stores. It seems like a lot of places are forgetting all our curvier ladies!

Kate blogspot.com

Wow. What a vibrant topic. Lots of opinions and emotions and bold statements here. I have many thoughts of my own as a plus sized sewist who falls outside an unaltered Colette size, but this is my main thought to share:

Sari, Alyson Clair, and the Colette team – You are talented professionals with a strong creative vision and an exceptional focus on building a vibrant, modern sewing community. I have been a wholehearted supporter of your effort since the beginning and I look forward to your future work, plus-sized focused or otherwise. You run a business with a keenly honed aesthetic, a focus on quality, delivery of a superior user experience, and with a financial restraint that ensures you stay in business and continue to deliver a much valued product in the long term. Thank you for all that you do, and thank you for engaging in these interesting conversations. You have my support now and you will have it in a future plus size line if you choose to expand. Best to you all!

robin

Lots of comments here–I’m sure I am echoing what’s been said. I understand designing from mid-range , however, plus sizes patterns and rtw also have a mid-range. You cannot take a size 12 and size it out to a 32. Most plus sized women have different builds from Straight sized women. Therefore, a new mid-range for plus sized women must be established. I ditto some of the comments I’ve read regarding Ms. Deckert and other online resources. Taking a 22 or 24 and grading it out to 28 or 30 is a lot easier than taking an XL pattern and grading it out to 4X. Unless they’re professionals, most sewists in the cyber community don’t have those kind of skills.

Natasha E sewunnecessary.blogspot.com

I was able to successfully grade my Anise up to size 22 based on the grading pattern already established but not sure I would have wanted to have gone any further out. It worked well and its is a very flattering shape. The problem with larger sizes is people get larger in different ways and the more weight you put on the more variety of places that weight you can go.

Barbara Deckert barbaradeckertcouture.com

Thanks Rachel for your great post and for the link to my class!

http://www.craftsy.com/plussizepfd

Best,
Miss Barbara

Rebecca

This post actually made me cry. I’m trying rather desperately to find patterns for my wedding dress – Peony is in fact almost perfect. Except I’m too big for it. I’m a very good home sewist; I know I’m going to be adjusting any pattern to fit me – but I don’t have the skills to completely re-grade a pattern. If I could do that, I wouldn’t need to buy patterns anyway.

I get it’s more work to make a pattern in a larger size, but all this working around to justify it…well, all you’re really saying is that you don’t think that people outside of your already established size range are worth serving. Which is actually what the big pattern companies and RTW suppliers have said, so I don’t think this is just because you’re a small and growing company. You’re making an actual decision to not serve potential customers. You’re telling me, as a potential customer, that I’m just not worth your time, and that you’re not interested in serving customers who are larger. And that’s heartbreaking.

It’s also another reminder of why I so rarely sew clothing and have mostly kept my activities to the “crafty” arena. Because at least with them, I don’t have a constant reminder that I am, as far as the world is concerned, ugly and not worthy of consideration.

Natasha E sewunnecessary.blogspot.com

You didn’t leave any contact info Rebecca. Maybe one of us could help you and walk you through the grading process. Not too hard.

Rebecca

I did put my e-mail (westrj@gmail.com), but I guess it only shows for the people who run the blog. I appreciate the offer of help, but I found Sense and Senibility patterns last night when I was done feeling terrible about myself, and while it’s not as perfect, their 1950’s Party Dress pattern comes in all sizes from 6-26…and that company has never tried to justify not carrying a wide range of pattern sizes on the basis that it’s too much work to serve a larger customer.

Your blog is lovely and I’m happy you were able to get the Anise jacket to work for you.

justdroppedin

The phrase “actual range of bodies” means just that: a range. The original poster was asking that the range of pattern sizes be widened to be more inclusive of the actual range of bodies that exist. It doesn’t make much sense to say that “all ranges are actual ranges. No body is the same” when, in fact, 72% of U.S. women are size 12 and above.

Rose

Hi, I hope someone is still responding to this post. I’m a teacher who has decided to take up the hobby of sewing. I’ve started taking a class at Joann’s until I can find a more detailed sewing class. The problem I am having is I am a size 32w / 34w. I am having a really hard time finding patterns in the books at the store: ie..McCall, Simplicity, what are the names of pattern companies that have a variety of extended plus size. Most patterns stop at 22w that are really cute, then there are a few up to 28w and then it’s downhill from there.

Thanks

Mary Beheler

I wonder what ever happened to this gizmo?
Could it be taught to generate a perfect base pattern?
Could different styling details then be specified? “Empire waist,” “3/4 length sleeves.” “round neck” etc?

Michael imcurvy.com

A truly wow piece of information for plus size women. It literally enlightened me about from where to and how to shop internationally. And, these dresses are really gorgeous, I loved these.

Adrina imcurvy.com

Awesome tips here! really looking forward to get attractive dresses Waiting to get some more style & fashion inspiration. Love this inspiration.

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