What is the difference between ready-to-wear sizes and sewing pattern sizes?

The size that will fit you does not necessarily have the same number as your ready-to-wear size. It can even be far from it. That is because they are not calculated the same way!

You may have noticed ready-to-wear brand don’t have the same sizing from one brand to another: each brand decides what an S means for them, and an M, an L etc. They adapt to the measurements of their average customers, and it can evolve over time. This is the reason why you may find some brands fit you better than others. From one country to another, sizing changes completely as well, which makes it even more complex…

In ready-to-wear, the gap between two sizes may be very different. For example, an S may be 2” bigger than an M, but an L may be 4” bigger than an M, and so on. ‘One size up’ does not always mean the same thing!

What about sewing patterns?

French Poetry, as most other brands, keeps the same gap between each size at bust, waist and hips. There is 4cm (about 1.6inch) difference at bust, waist and hips from sizes 2 to 16, and 5cm (2”) from size 16 to 34. Other parts of the body grow differently (for example, a few millimeters at shoulders, less and less as you go up in size).

All of this means your French Poetry size may have a very different number from your usual size! Don’t take it the wrong way: I could have given them letters instead of figures, or anything else. What matters is body measurements and the final result of a garment that fits you. You may be in between several sizes: it is the case for most of us. This is where the magic of sewing is: with a sewing pattern, you can just trace a line between your different sizes (example: a 12 at bust, a 14 at hips…) and fit the garment to your body shape. This is something you couldn’t do in ready-to-wear!

So, how do I chose the right size for me?

You will find below the table of body measurements. Take your measurements with a tailor’s tape. The tape must always be parallel to the floor. It is a good idea to have someone measure you instead of doing it alone: you must be relaxed, keep your arms to your sides, and the tape should not dig anywhere. You want the garment to fit you at all times, even after a good meal! When taking your measurements, only wear underwear or something lightweight like a leotard. Wearing jeans does make a difference.

Measure your bust at its fullest point, wearing the same kind of bra/underwear that you intend to wear with your future garment. To find where your natural waist is, bend to the side: your waist is where your body bends naturally. Then take the measurement at this point. Lastly, measure your hips at their fullest point (usually around the seat). The body measurements table indicates your French Poetry size.

You will then find on each sewing pattern’s page the finished garments measurements as well as indications on how to choose the best size for this garment (it is the case for all new sewing patterns, and I’m slowly updating all older sewing patterns). For example, for a dress that is very fitted at bust and flared at hips, I advise to choose the size closest to your bust measurements, and if your hips are one size bigger you may not need to adjust. This depends on how much ease the design of the garment has.

The picture shows a dress form with lines at bust, waist and hips

Measurements in centimeters (inches below)

Sizes 2 to 16

Size 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16
Bust 80 to 83 84 to 87 88 to 91 92 to 95 96 to 99 100 to 103 104 to 107 108 to 111
Waist 60 to 63 64 to 67 68 to 71 72 to 75 76 to 79 80 to 83 84 to 87 88 to 91
Hips 86 to 89 90 to 93 94 to 97 98 to 101 102 to 105 106 to 109 110 to 113 114 to 117

Sizes 16 to 34

Please note that not all French Poetry patterns are offered (yet) in this size range: check before purchase! For example, the Pleiades 1 dress is already available up to size 34.

Size 16 18 20 22 24 26 28 30 32 34
Bust 108 to 112 113 to 117 118 to 122 123 to 127 128 to 132 133 to 137 138 to 142 143 to 147 148 to 152 153 to 157
Waist 88 to 97 98 to 102 103 to 107 108 to 112 113 to 117 118 to 122 123 to 127 128 to 132 133 to 137 138 to 142
Hips 114 to 118 119 to 123 124 to 128 129 to 133 134 to 138 139 to 143 144 to 148 149 to 153 154 to 158 159 to 163

Yes, there are 2 sizes 16, one in each range, and they are slightly different… Which one should you choose? If you are a true size 16 at bust, waist and hips, or if you are in between size 16 and bigger sizes, choose the 16-34 range. If you are in between size 16 and smaller sizes, choose the 2-16 range so that you can grade up and down between your different sizes.

Measurements in inches

Sizes 2 to 16

Please note that sizes 2 to 16 were originally designed in centimeters. The table below was translated as accurately as possible, but the increment differs slightly between sizes to avoid too many decimals. If in doubt, please refer to the table in cm above.

Size 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16
Bust 31 to 32.5 33 to 34.5 35 to 36 36 to 37.5 38 to 39 39 to 40.5 41 to 42.5 43 to 44.5
Waist 24 to 25 25 to 26.5 27 to 28 28 to 29.5 30 to 31 31 to 32.5 33 to 34.5 35 to 36.5
Hips 34 to 35 35 to 36.5 37 to 38.5 39 to 40 40 to 41.5 42 to 43 43 to 44.5 45 to 46.5

Sizes 16 to 34

Please note that not all French Poetry patterns are offered (yet) in this size range: check before purchase! For example, the Pleiades 1 dress is already available up to size 34.

This size range was designed both in cm and inches: the increment is 2 inches between each size, which makes it as accurate in inches as in cm.

Size 16 18 20 22 24 26 28 30 32 34
Bust 42.5 to 44 44.5 to 46 46.5 to 48 48.5 to 50 50.5 to 52 52.5 to 54 54.5 to 56 56.5 to 58 58.5 to 60 60.5 to 62
Waist 36.5 to 38 38.5 to 40 40.5 to 42 42.5 to 44 44.5 to 46 46.5 to 48 48.5 to 50 50.5 to 52 52.5 to 54 54.5 to 56
Hips 44.8 to 46.3 46.8 to 48.3 48.8 to 50.3 50.8 to 52.3 52.8 to 54.3 54.8 to 56.3 56.8 to 58.3 58.8 to 60.3 60.8 to 62.3 62.8 to 64.3

Yes, there are 2 sizes 16, one in each range, and they are slightly different… Which one should you choose? If you are a true size 16 at bust, waist and hips, or if you are in between size 16 and bigger sizes, choose the 16-34 range. If you are in between size 16 and smaller sizes, choose the 2-16 range so that you can grade up and down between your different sizes.