How to Resize a Pattern

By Jennie Chancey

No matter how well designed a pattern may be, it cannot fit each individual perfectly. Each human body has its own quirks, and each person has different fitting needs. You may find that you need to enlarge a pattern beyond the sizes available on the sheet, or you might need to shrink it. Perhaps you would like to reduce a woman’s pattern to fit a little girl. Or maybe you found an out-of-print pattern you’d love to make … but the sizes are too small for you. Anything is possible once you know the basics of resizing patterns! And it isn’t hard at all — it just takes a bit of time and work. I’m here to show you how it is done so that you will never be limited by pre-printed pattern pieces again!
The method for shrinking or enlarging the pattern pieces is similar for each piece. Throughout this section, I will assume you are starting from a size 12 and will show you how to size down one size (to a 10) and up one size (to a 14). From there, you will be able to do all the rest of the sizes!


The Tools of the Trade

Before you begin, I recommend that you have the following tools at hand:

  • Cardboard cutting surface with one-inch grid (available at any fabric store)
  • French curve(s) — plastic curves to help you trace your armholes, necklines and other curves (you can get these from Sew True)
  • Swedish interfacing (available at Birch Street Clothing) or heavy-duty pattern paper (like vellum)
  • Tracing paper (available by the roll from architectural supply stores)
  • Sharpie markers for tracing
  • Pins
  • Scissors

Getting Started: The Bodice

First, let’s start with a bodice front. If you want to enlarge the bodice, first trace the bodice piece onto Swedish interfacing or sturdy tracing paper, so you have a piece you can slash for resizing. To size up to the 14, slash the bodice front like this:


Notice that you are splitting down the center of the underarm, the center of the shoulder and the center of the neckline/bust. You will split the back bodice piece in exactly the same manner. Now, the difference between size 12 and size 14 in the bust area is two inches (12 is 34″; 14 is 36″). You want to add evenly to the front and back bodice pieces, which means adding a total of one inch to each piece. Now half that again, since you are adding to only one half of the bodice, and that means you have a total of 1/2″ to add to the bodice front and back pieces. Here is what the pattern piece will look like when you spread it apart:


In your typical Simplicity pattern, the computer splits up the half inch and adds 1/3 of it at each place where the pattern has been split. I do not recommend this! This method often creates a very bad fit, particularly in the shoulder area. The biggest complaint I hear from women over a size 22 is that shoulders on most modern patterns are way too wide for their size. Just because someone’s bustline is larger does not mean she has linebacker shoulders! So my suggestion is that you size the shoulders up only slightly and only for size 18 or 20 (then just keep that new width for the rest of the big sizes unless you do happen to be particularly broad in the shoulders). Same with sizing down — just make them smaller for sizes 10 and under — and only slightly smaller. I’d recommend that you add nothing to the shoulder split to go from size 12 to size 14 (or 16). Instead, add 1/4″ to the bust split and 1/4″ to the underarm split. For size 18, add 1/8″ to the shoulder split, then 1/8″ to the underarm split and 1/4″ to the bust split. Most women find they need more room in the bust — not in the shoulder area.
To draw the newly sized pattern piece, first roll out your tracing paper (not interfacing) on your grid board. Pin the starter pattern piece (in your starting size) to the tracing paper, using your grid lines to help you keep things straight, like this:


Now trace around it so you have your first piece “set in stone.”


Now split your first pattern piece and spread it as I explained above to go up to your next size:


Here’s a close-up so you can see the 1/4″ spread:


Now trace all the way around the spread piece, omitting the shoulder for now, and you end up with this:


Here’s a close-up of how the shoulder and neckline will look:


Now, most patterns add about an eighth of an inch to a quarter of an inch to the top of the shoulder and the neckline, since you assume that larger sizes need more room in the bustline and will need more length in the bodice front. Even this small amount at the shoulder adds a helpful amount to the overall fit of the bodice. Now, you add to the neckline because you added to the shoulder — if you didn’t add to the neckline, it would be lower, and you don’t want to do that.
So, adding to the shoulder looks like this:


Adding to the neckline looks like this:

Okay, let’s go ahead and size down before we talk about some other issues around the neckline and shoulder area.
Pin your split pattern down again, this time overlapping where you had spread the pattern last time, like this:


Here’s a close-up of that overlap:


Trace around this pattern, then “shrink” the shoulder and neckline, so your final pattern looks like this:


Okay, now you’re probably wondering about that shoulder area. The shoulder “moves” a bit with each size, as you can see. You end up with a jumble of lines running from the neckline to the shoulder as you go. If you’ve looked at my patterns (and practically any other pattern on the market), you know that I have one smooth line running from the neckline to the shoulder for all sizes together. That’s because doing things “by the numbers” (which is what a computer design program is going to do) always turns out patterns like that. What you want to learn to do is to smoothly blend the pattern pieces together so that you don’t have a neckline that is “all over the map.” The first way to learn to do this is to trace each new pattern size individually (not on top of the last one). When you have all the pattern sizes traced out, you can lay them down, one on top of the other (largest on the bottom, smallest on the top) and line up the neckline edges so they meet. Then you trace your master pattern off this conglomeration, and it will look something like this:


After you’ve been working on pattern sizing for a while, you’ll just get an eye for how sizing works, and you will not even need to split patterns any longer. You will be able to trace your master piece, then add to it at the appropriate places (armhole, shoulder, side seam, neckline). Splitting patterns and spreading will be your “training wheels” until you become confident enough to just draw out the new sizes using your measuring tape and french curves!


Special Help for Long- and Short-Waisted Ladies

If you are as short-waisted as I am (15″ from nape to waist), you already know that the waistline of just about every average pattern hits you on the hipline. To correct this, there is usually a “Miss Petite” line across the pattern to show you where you can shorten the bodice (or lengthen it if you’re long-waisted). You can do this on any pattern with or without the “Miss Petite” line. Just pick a spot about two inches above the waistline and draw a horizontal line across the pattern, like this:


If you are short-waisted, you can just fold the pattern down at this spot to match your waistline (plus 5/8″ for a seam allowance). If you are long-waisted, you just slash and spread like you’ve been doing above.

For bodices of unusual shapes, like the one in my 1940s “Swing” Dress pattern, you’ll need to tweak a few lines after folding down the bodice. I’ve illustrated this below:

This image shows the bodice as-is with the lengthen/shorten line across the center in red (you can click any of these images for a larger version):

In the next image, you see the bodice folded down to accommodate a short waist. I’ve circled the “problem” area this creates:

As you can see, the long line of the bodice front no longer matches. To fix this, simply use a straightedge to redraw the line so that it runs smoothly from above the shorten line to the lower point:

As you see, this shaves off that problem line that is sticking out, but you still have the continuous line of the bodice front from top to bottom. For the bodice back, you’ll do the same thing. First, here’s the bodice back with the fold line in red and the arrow pointing down to show that you’ll fold the bodice down the required amount for your nape-to-waist measurement:

The next image shows the bodice shortened, and I’ve again circled the “problem” area:

The size lines no longer match up at the side seam, so you’ll once again grab your ruler and simply smooth them back out:

That’s it! Always start at the top and work your way down to keep the sizing accurate, since the size just below the armohole hasn’t been altered in any way by shortening the bodice. By the time you reach the bottom of the bodice side seam, your new line matches up perfectly.


Further Tips for Making a Child’s Pattern

To shrink an adult pattern down to fit a child, you will slash and spread not only vertically, but horizontally, as shown here:

The armhole of an adult pattern is going to be far too large for a child, so you will need to shrink it by overlapping the pattern at the upper line (you can fold, but I think it is easier to slash and overlap). To determine the correct depth of the armhole, measure the child from the top of the shoulder down to her underarm “seam.” An easier way to do this is to find a garment that fits the child nicely (a tailored shirt or dress with a comfy armhole), then measure that from the shoulder seam down around to the underarm seam. Add 5/8″ to the shoulder and side seam for your seam allowance, and there is your front armscye (armhole) measurement. You can repeat this for the back, then just double-check to make sure the side seams of the bodice front and back match correctly. Use your french curve to redraw the armhole curve (which will look a bit funny after you’ve overlapped the bodice at this point!). The old armhole will be a guide to help you see where the new curve needs to go…only the new curve will be a miniature of the old.
The rest of the adult bodice is going to be too long-waisted for a small child as well, so that’s where you’ll use the other vertical line. Just shorten the bodice as you would for a short-waisted woman, taking up as much as is necessary to place the waistline at the child’s waist (or empire waist, as the case may be), plus 5/8″ for your seam allowance. Ta-da!


Make Muslin Your Best Friend!

Now, obviously, testing pattern pieces in muslin plays a very important role here. You want to test your new pattern pieces and fit them to a properly sized mannequin (or yourself or the person for whom the new pattern was made). You sometimes discover fitting quirks (like shoulders that are too wide for the average) when you do this, and you can adjust the toile to fit. When the toile is to your liking, you take it apart and trace it as your final pattern piece.


The Rest of the Pattern

Okay, I can close up this section with a few quick instructions on sleeves and skirts. Skirts are easiest to size up, particularly if you are just using a basic two-piece skirt (front and back). You don’t need to split the skirt at all, just add the appropriate amount to the side seam, like this:


Obviously, your french curves will be your best friend on hipline curves!

Now, for a gored skirt, you only need to add to the gores that have the side seams (side front and side back, usually) until you get up around size 22. At that point, it is a good idea to distribute the amount you’ll be adding evenly between the side seam gore and the center front gore (so the center front doesn’t look ridiculously small in comparison).

Now, if you are one size in the bust or waist and another in the hips, you’ll need to “grade” between sizes in order to make the skirt (particularly a more fitted skirt) work properly. This is not at all difficult. Here’s an example using my Regency Gown pattern. Let’s suppose you measure at a size 20 in the bust for this empire-waist style, but you measure at 24 in the hips. My original pattern goes up to size 18, but you can use the 18-26 supplement to give you the larger bodice. From there, you just need to draft the skirt, sizing up from the original. First, measure out from the 18 and mark a line for a 20 “waist”:

Now go down to the hip and measure out to the correct amount for a size 24:

Now use a hipline curve tool to connect the 20 waist to the 24 hip, smoothly transitioning between the two, then following the 24 all the way down to the hem:


What about resizing sleeves?

For sleeves, you split the pattern piece in three to spread it, like this:


You will add to the sleeve only the amount that was added to the side seam of the bodice, since only the armhole enlargement affects the sleeve. Measure that amount (say 1/4″) and divide it into thirds. You need the least amount added at the curve and the most at the underarm/sleeve seams. On the smallest sizes (6-12), you really don’t need to add to the curve at all — you can just add 1/8″ at the splits on each underarm curve. For the larger pieces where you’ve added more to the armhole of the bodice, you can add 1/8″ to the curve, then divide the rest of the amount evenly between the splits at the underarm curves. These rules apply to any kind of sleeve — long, short, fitted, puffed. Whatever you added to the bodice armhole must be added to the sleeve. Obviously, you can get away with fudging a puffed sleeve, but that won’t work on a fitted sleeve! And, obviously, if you’re making a child’s sleeve out of an adult sleeve, you’ll need to slash horizontally as well as vertically to shrink the sleeve overall.

That is it! It really isn’t hard at all — just work. I freely admit that this is the part of pattern drafting I like the least. It is just “grunt work.” But once you have your final pattern, the sense of accomplishment is immense! There is nothing like a custom-fitted pattern to take your sewing to new heights of accomplishment!

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248 Comments on How to Resize a Pattern

  1. fraggle313
    August 24, 2011 at 7:48 am (3 years ago)

    Hi,
    Your infomration is very useful. I am trying to up size a vintage pattern that only comes in 1 size. I am wanting to make standard sizes for my children as they grow bigger than the size 1 pattern. Do you have any advice or calculations for how to make a pattern a whole size bigger for children? I am most concerned with the crotch/length as I do not know what their height/length will be.
    Thank you so much for a great info site, Jenny

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      August 24, 2011 at 9:22 am (3 years ago)

      Hello! All you need to size up to the next level is a set of reliable measurements. You can always use a “standard” measurement chart (like the one at THIS LINK), but I’d personally wait until the children grow bigger and you can take their measurements, as standard sizes rarely match the age they are supposed to. My 7-year-old daughter fits a size 5 in the chest but a 7 in length. My 9-year-old daughter fits a 7 in the chest but an 8 in length. So even with a set of “standard” measurements, it’s still better to measure the actual child for whom the pattern will be used. Then you can size up to those exact measurements for a perfect fit. Hope this helps! ~ Jennie

      Reply
  2. Jan
    September 11, 2011 at 7:45 am (3 years ago)

    Hi, i have a vintage pattern of a dress i wish to make, plus there are various designs from the one pattern.
    The thing is i want to upgrade it from a size 14 to a size 22, do i use the method you have given above, but adding the appropriate measurements? i am getting back into dress making after many years of not doing so, so would appreciate, your help. Many Thanks Jan

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      September 11, 2011 at 2:43 pm (3 years ago)

      Hi, Jan! Yes, you’ll just follow the instructions here to size up from the original 14. Just be sure to measure carefully and test your results in muslin to make any needed tweaks. Typical areas that call for tweaking are shoulder width and armholes. You want to make sure the shoulders do not end up so wide that the sleeves are hanging down off the shoulder instead of sitting at the shoulder edge. Hope this helps!

      Reply
  3. Lorraine
    September 13, 2011 at 4:45 pm (3 years ago)

    This has been incredibly helpful and I’m about to try it out for the first time on a fitted jacket. The problem I have is with my proportions. The bust needs to go up by 2 sizes and the waist by 4! I’ve mixed sizes before, but not on a pattern without a line to follow. Can you offer any advice please?

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      September 14, 2011 at 2:20 pm (3 years ago)

      Hi, Lorraine! Sizing up differently in two different places just involves what is called “grading between sizes.” Size up for the bust first, as that is smaller than what you need in the waist. Then see how to grade from the bust up to the waist in my tutorial for the Regency Gown pattern alterations (the principles apply on any kind of garment). Hope this helps!

      Reply
  4. Ann-Marie Meyers
    September 15, 2011 at 5:55 pm (3 years ago)

    Jennie, thanks so much for this. I have a larger tummy, but am small everywhere else. I think I understand what I need to do now to fit a pattern to myself.

    Reply
  5. Tara Brian
    October 2, 2011 at 2:24 am (3 years ago)

    Do you think it is possible to re-size a doll dress pattern for an adult? I make costumes for a local Jr. high, and found the PERFECT costume wedding dress pattern. It is an old out of print pattern I found at the thrift shop, and would love to make it for the play. any advice?

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      October 2, 2011 at 3:46 am (3 years ago)

      Hi, Tara!

      Fashion dolls tend to be proportioned rather unrealistically, meaning the waist will be much smaller in proportion to the bust. You can definitely size up, but you’ll also have to do a lot of tweaking to make the proportions more realistic. If you have a local architectural printer, call to find out if they can scan and enlarge the pattern for you. You’ll have to do some math to figure out how far up to scale the pattern pieces, but it’s not too difficult. If the bust measures 8″ on the doll and you need to go up to 32″, you can see at a glance that you’re just going to need to quadruple the size of the original pieces. Then you’ll need to tweak from there to get the proportions correct. I hope this helps!

      Reply
  6. Mirian S. Tatum
    October 4, 2011 at 11:02 am (3 years ago)

    I thank you so much for sharing your knowledge feely. I want to resize a renaissance outfit corset and skirt. This information is going to help me enormously.
    Thank you!
    MST

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      October 4, 2011 at 11:49 am (3 years ago)

      You are most welcome, Mirian! Have fun!

      Reply
  7. Tamela Vickery
    October 15, 2011 at 1:47 am (3 years ago)

    Hi Jennie,

    I am very NEW to sewing. I have found several vintage patterns that I will need to size up from a 16 to an 18. I am considering buying a dress form. Do you think this would better serve me for re-sizing patterns?

    Thank you,

    Tam

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      October 17, 2011 at 7:49 am (3 years ago)

      Hi, Tamela! If you plan to size up patterns for a wide range of sizes, an adjustable form is a good investment. If you only plan to size up for yourself, I recommend creating a Duct Tape Double instead–inexpensive and works great!

      Reply
  8. megan
    October 23, 2011 at 6:41 pm (3 years ago)

    Great tutorial, I learned all this stuff in school but have not had to use it until now and have looked every where for this information.This going to be so helpful, thank you.

    Reply
  9. Mary W.
    October 27, 2011 at 11:29 pm (3 years ago)

    I am new to sewing and am using your tutorial to resize a childs 7/8 to a size 4 for my daughters Halloween costume. The bodice has a yolk with a curved bottom that ends mid-chest, and has a gathered skirt. I’ve determined that I need to overlap 1 inch (to take off 4 inches total. I am not sure what to do about yolk, particularly the shoulder. I have three main questions: 1. When I move in, to line up the new piece with the bottom line or the shoulder line? 2. How much do I shrink the shoulder? 3. Do I consider the amount that I took off the shoulder, when shortening the rest of the dress to my desired length?
    This is the pattern if it helps: http://mccallpattern.mccall.com/m9424-products-7183.php
    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      October 30, 2011 at 11:17 am (3 years ago)

      Hi, Mary! All you need to do is treat the yoke as the bodice piece slashing and overlapping at the neckline, shoulder, and underarm as shown in my illustrations. You need to take off two inches from the front and two from the back. If you divide that over the three areas specified, you’ll overlap 2/3″ at each spot. Treat the gathered area below the yoke as the skirt, since that’s what it really is. Since it is curved to match the yoke, you’ll need to slash and overlap at the same places along the curve (taking the gathers into account, as the skirt is obviously wider than the yoke). When you sew the yoke front to back, you’ll match it at the shoulders, since they will match after slashing and overlapping the pieces equally. Finally, yes, do consider how much you’ve subtracted from the shoulder when you alter the overall length of the skirt. Hope this helps!

      Reply
  10. Heather W.
    November 8, 2011 at 1:57 pm (3 years ago)

    I recently found a vintage sewing pattern at a thrift store that I want to use, but it is way too big. Is it even possible to downsize it from a size 22 to a size 6-8? The pattern is for a shirt-dress type garment if that helps at all.

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      November 8, 2011 at 2:06 pm (3 years ago)

      Hi, Heather! Yes, it is completely do-able. Because there is such a big difference in the sizes, you will especially want to check the shoulder width and armhole size in muslin, as they will likely need extra tweaking for a perfect fit. Other than that, go for it!

      Reply
  11. Fran
    November 15, 2011 at 9:52 pm (3 years ago)

    I am looking for tips on how to make costumes that will fit up to 3 sizes since the same person will not always use the costume from year to year.

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      November 16, 2011 at 2:13 am (3 years ago)

      Hi, Fran! It will depend upon the costume, but my advice is to make the garment in the largest size you believe you will need, then use drawstrings or ties to pull in fullness for a smaller wearer. For more fitted garments like men’s trousers or jackets, you can leave out the lining and sew the side seams with basting stitches. This allows the garment to be let out for a larger wearer in the future. I made costumes for a Regency Era play many years ago and used hook-and-loop tape for the fastenings, as it was easy to “take in” the dress at the center back by simply moving over the tape. Fake buttonholes and buttons were sewn onto the upper back closure to look like an authentic gown, but it was easy to adjust the costumes for a smaller person by simply overlapping the back more. Hope this helps!

      Reply
  12. Shanna
    November 17, 2011 at 1:24 pm (3 years ago)

    Hi, thank you so much for your tutorial. I am wanting to use a child PDF coat pattern and resize it to a women’s pattern. How challenging will this be since this is a PDF pattern and not a traditional one? Any advice would be helpful. Thank you

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      November 18, 2011 at 5:33 am (3 years ago)

      Hi, Shanna! You usually print PDF patterns onto paper and go from there. Or do you have a gridded pattern in PDF format? Let me know, and I’ll see what I can tell you. :)

      Reply
    • janet
      November 26, 2011 at 7:21 pm (3 years ago)

      Hi!
      I would like to know how to size up from 18 to 28 on a simple jumper pattern. It is a Butterick pattern. Please let me know. Thanks! janet

      Reply
      • Jennie Chancey
        November 27, 2011 at 12:22 pm (3 years ago)

        Hi, Janet! The same principles apply, even to a simple jumper. Just slash and spread from top to bottom through the neckline, shoulder, and armhole. Hope this helps!

        Reply
  13. Gigi Schnepp
    November 22, 2011 at 6:56 pm (3 years ago)

    When I reach forward, my sleeve hole binds….is this problem taken care of with your slashing the bodice method?

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      November 23, 2011 at 2:14 pm (3 years ago)

      Hi, Gigi! This depends on the sleeve type and even the armhole type. Is this a historical design or modern? I’ve got some fitting tips online at “Why Doesn’t This Look Like the Pattern Cover?” that might help. See the section on shoulder width especially, as that will probably solve the issue. Let me know if you have any more details on pattern type, and I’ll be happy to help!

      Reply
  14. Carolyn
    November 25, 2011 at 9:45 pm (3 years ago)

    I bought 4 Child’s Christmas Vests. It’s a cloth pattern with a design on it that you cut out the pieces and sew it together. The size is for 6-8-10-12. What I needed was 3-4-5-6. So how do I cut the size 6 vests down to a size 3,4 & 5? HELP!

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      November 27, 2011 at 12:25 pm (3 years ago)

      Hi, Carolyn! My instructions are for pattern pieces and obviously won’t work for fabric that’s already been cut out, or you’d end up with seam lines in odd places from all the slashing and overlapping. ;) The best thing to do is to find a similar vest pattern in the right sizes and lay out the pieces over top of the fabric vest pieces you have to guide you in cutting them down. The shoulders and neckline will be cut down, as will the armholes and side seams. If you feel confident doing this from the smaller measurements without pattern pieces to guide you, you can do it, but you’ll want to pin-baste the pieces together for a try on first to see where the cutting down needs to be done. Hope this helps!

      Reply
  15. Joy
    November 27, 2011 at 5:27 pm (3 years ago)

    Carolyn, would so much appreciate any advice you could give me. I have a ‘gentle giant’ for a son-in-law. He wears a size 5XL shirt. I would like to make a simple vest for him but could not find a pattern that large, so I bought one that only goes up to XL in hopes of enlarging it. I do have one of his shirts here with me to give me a better idea, but need some expert advice. Thank you for any help.

    Reply
  16. vicki
    November 29, 2011 at 3:03 am (3 years ago)

    thank you very much,
    most usefull info,and so easy to understand .
    i will try this with confidence,and i thought it was tooo hard! hehe
    thanks :)
    have a nice day

    Reply
  17. Rainer
    December 4, 2011 at 7:15 pm (3 years ago)

    A newbie sewer here, and want to purchase a dress form any recommendations ?

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      December 5, 2011 at 2:49 pm (3 years ago)

      Hello, Rainer! I use a Singer adjustable dressform with the Fabulous Fit system. FF will work with any inexpensive dressform and is utterly fantastic, as you can get the exact measurements/shape you need for your form. It’s also soft and pinnable, which is very helpful. Have fun!

      Reply
  18. donna
    December 5, 2011 at 12:12 pm (3 years ago)

    Hello, I am going from a chest size 30 to 38 on a nehru jacket, can you tell me what I should do about the collar and the sleeves. thank you for your help

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      December 5, 2011 at 2:51 pm (3 years ago)

      Hi, Donna! Any time you adjust neckline or armholes, you must also adjust sleeves and collar. Just follow the instructions given here, and you’ll be set. Split the sleeve in three places as shown. Collars are split in the center and then on either side. If your collar has a center back seam, you just add to the seam allowance, then split and spread the collar between the center back and the front point. Have fun sewing!

      Reply
      • donna
        December 6, 2011 at 8:58 pm (3 years ago)

        thank you for your help…

        Reply
  19. Jessi
    December 7, 2011 at 6:59 pm (3 years ago)

    Hey there! I’m going from a 12 to a 14 with a long, double breasted coat. I’m assuming the same divisions apply, but thought I’d ask first. Thanks so much! :)

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      December 7, 2011 at 11:37 pm (3 years ago)

      Yes, that’s right, Jessi! Have fun! :)

      Reply
  20. Francisca
    January 5, 2012 at 5:17 am (3 years ago)

    Hi Jennie,

    Thank you so much for your great tutorial! Suddenly I find myself in need of resizing because one of my pattern pieces doesn’t fit. This is the dress: http://www.etsy.com/listing/87245672/vintage-40s-mail-order-1808-shaped. The Front Waist (the part that has to be gathered) is just as big as the Yoke and the front Girdle. So there’s not much gathering possible.
    It’s an unprinted pattern so I don’t have any clue of the size it has now. Could you tell me how many sizes up the piece would have to be?
    Thank you so much and vriendelijke groeten uit Nederland

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      January 7, 2012 at 7:21 am (3 years ago)

      Hi Francisca! I checked the link. What a gorgeous pattern! By the bust and hip measurements, the dress is a US14 up top and a US14.5 in the hips. If the yoke needs more room for gathers, I recommend just adding that by splitting the pattern piece vertically down the center and spreading it one to three inches. The amount depends on how much fullness you need across the bust. I’d experiment in muslin until it looks right. Hope this helps!

      Reply
  21. Sandy Alger
    January 12, 2012 at 11:31 am (3 years ago)

    The neck area is too small, I need to enlarge only this area on a pajama top or would it be easier to cut it in the front to have a slit?

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      January 14, 2012 at 12:34 pm (3 years ago)

      Hi, Sandy! You can just cut the neck opening wider or add a slit. I like the slit idea, personally. :)

      Reply
  22. Becky Starnes
    January 14, 2012 at 9:11 pm (3 years ago)

    Hello Ms. Chancey. I am so thankful I found your information as I’ve been searching for the best way to alter patterns. Your directions were so helpful and I am totally confidant now and excited to get sewing. Again,I thank you for sharing your knowledge.

    Reply
  23. Shakisha
    January 26, 2012 at 5:08 pm (3 years ago)

    Thank you for sharing this information. I have a daughter who loves girly clothes and is a little bigger than the patterns of the dresses she likes (pdf) now I can resize them!

    I do have one question my Daughter has a tummy that sticks out a bit…we have made a duct tape double but how do adjust the patterns to take care of this? Lastly, some pattern bodices stick out and don’t hang as nicely on her how can I correct that?

    I would love to hear back from you thanks so much.

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      January 27, 2012 at 6:11 am (3 years ago)

      Hello, Shakisha! To adjust for a bit of a tummy, you just need to add a bit of length to the center front of the bodice and a little bit more width to the last two inches of the side seam. Basically, this is like “flaring” the side seams out a tad to accommodate the tummy, then the length prevents the bodice front from pulling up too high over the tummy. To adjust any bodice to fit perfectly, be sure to cut out a muslin bodice and baste it together for a try-on. This allows you to check the changes you have made and locate any other problem spots before cutting into your fashion material. Hope this helps!

      Reply
      • Shakisha
        January 27, 2012 at 12:56 pm (3 years ago)

        Thank you so much….I think I got it.

        – Make the center of the bodice longer
        – Make the last 2″ of the side seams wider….

        Reply
  24. beka
    January 28, 2012 at 7:49 pm (3 years ago)

    Do you have any tips on resizing a one shouldered dress or top? I only need to go up one or two sizes

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      January 30, 2012 at 2:01 pm (3 years ago)

      Hi, Beka! The steps are the same, as you want to slash and spread the pattern just as if there were two shoulder straps. All you need to do is “visualize” where the missing strap would be when laying out the pattern pieces and make sure the slash line runs through the same part on that pattern piece as it does on the piece that does have the strap. Hope that makes sense! As long as you are slashing and spreading the same areas symmetrically and spreading the needed amount over all the pieces, you’ll be fine. Hope this helps!

      Reply
  25. Ryan Erwin
    February 9, 2012 at 12:53 pm (3 years ago)

    Great post Jennie. Answered most of my questions.

    QUESTION: All of these systems like “Fabulous-Fit System” and “Singer Adjustable” Dress forms look amazing, but what kind of forms/auto-adjusting mannequins are available for men’s clothes?

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      February 9, 2012 at 2:59 pm (3 years ago)

      Hi, Ryan! Fabulous Fit also sells dress forms for men, so be sure to check out their site!

      Reply
  26. Sherry Ramsey
    February 15, 2012 at 10:05 pm (3 years ago)

    how do I resize an adult wedding dress to fit a 22 inch doll?

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      February 16, 2012 at 3:11 am (3 years ago)

      Sherry, if the doll is a half-sized fashion doll proportioned like a real woman, then you simply take a woman’s size 12 and reduce it by 50%. This is easier to do with a large format copier that can reduce, as it’s very time-consuming and tedious to do the math and reduce to grid paper.

      Reply
  27. morag
    February 18, 2012 at 10:04 am (3 years ago)

    I am short-waisted and would like to follow your advice. However the pattern has small pleats/gathers at one side of the lower bodice (between underarm and waist. Will I have to redo all of these, by making each a little smaller?

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      February 18, 2012 at 10:34 am (3 years ago)

      Hi, Morag! Measure how much you’ll be subtracting from the bodice, then measure the tucks. If you need to take out one inch and have several quarter-inch tucks, then you can just omit two of the tucks (each quarter-inch tuck is half an inch before folding). If you prefer to keep the same number of tucks, you can, indeed, make them smaller. Hope this helps!

      Reply
      • morag
        February 24, 2012 at 11:17 am (3 years ago)

        re 18th February short waisted and tucks — thanks for the reassurance. I think I would like to line this dress — do I make the lining with all the same tucks? If so, do I iron them in the opposite directions from those of the dress, or do I slash them — to avoid the area becoming too bulky?

        Reply
        • Jennie Chancey
          February 24, 2012 at 12:56 pm (3 years ago)

          Hi again! I wouldn’t put tucks in the lining. Instead, you need to cut the lining to the actual length (so subtract all the tucks). Hope this helps!

      • morag
        February 24, 2012 at 4:14 pm (3 years ago)

        Does this not mean I will have a “flat chested” lining? (there are only two long vertical darts at the back of the dress, and the rest of its shaping comes from the tucks at the front side.)

        Reply
        • Jennie Chancey
          February 26, 2012 at 2:38 pm (3 years ago)

          Sorry–I thought you meant horizontal tucks across the front! If the tucks are vertical, you do not need to make any changes to them, as they will shorten when you shorten the bodice. You would only get rid of tucks if they were horizontal and adding to the length of the bodice. Inside the bodice, you can gather of pleat the lining rather than tucking it. Hope that makes sense!

  28. خياطة وتفصيل
    February 20, 2012 at 8:29 am (3 years ago)

    The neck area is too small, I need to enlarge only this area on a pajama top or would it be easier to cut it in the front to have a slit?

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      February 20, 2012 at 10:52 am (3 years ago)

      Hello! All you need to do is cut the neckline a bit wider and/or deeper. Cutting a slit in the front would also work, but that would mean binding the slit or creating a placket, which is more work. Hope this helps!

      Reply
  29. Joan Howell
    February 25, 2012 at 7:57 am (3 years ago)

    I have a 1910 pattern which just says to include seam allowance. Does that mean that the the seam allowance is already in the pattern or must I cut the material biggier to allow for the seam.

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      February 26, 2012 at 2:33 pm (3 years ago)

      Hi, Joan! If it tells you to include an allowance when cutting, it means you have to add it. A lot of early patterns did not include a seam allowance. Hope this helps!

      Reply
  30. Morag
    March 6, 2012 at 4:12 am (3 years ago)

    You were right first time– the tucks are mostly horizontal, fanning out like the rays of the sun!
    I agree I should omit these from the lining, but was asking if I should add two vertical darts to the lining to give a more shaped bust and waist (to the lining), or if I should just have it flat (to mirror the dress after it has had its tucks taken in). I do wish Patterns would give lining instructions too!

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      March 6, 2012 at 4:47 am (3 years ago)

      Ah ha! Yes, I would add a dart in the lining to make it fit smoothly. Sounds good!

      Reply
  31. Jessie Filter
    March 13, 2012 at 10:42 am (3 years ago)

    Great tutorial! I am making the Simplicity 2373 (http://www.simplicity.com/p-5094-misses-sportswear.aspx) for someone who has a 54.5″ bust and 55″ hips. How do I change the top because the front is in 3 pieces. She lives in a different state, so I can’t easily try it on her either. Also, for the back would I just add on or cut it?

    Thank you for all your help!

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      March 13, 2012 at 1:48 pm (3 years ago)

      Hi, Jessie! If the three bodice pieces cover each area you’d normally slash, just slash each one and add the needed amount. If you have a bodice front that includes both neckline and shoulder edge, you can slash that one twice, then slash the underarm piece once. The third piece would, presumably, be the side front of the bodice and only contain the shaping for the side of the bust–so no need to slash that one if the front is spread in two places. Definitely slash the back as shown, since you want the additions to be evenly spread over the entire piece rather than all at center back or side seam. Hope this helps!

      Reply
  32. Klaske Adema
    March 19, 2012 at 2:22 pm (3 years ago)

    Hi,

    I would like to know how to make a pantalon wider from the waist till knee (not longer or shorter).
    Can you please help me out, thank you!

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      March 19, 2012 at 2:27 pm (3 years ago)

      Hello, Klaske! Since pantaloons are just straight up and down, you can split the pattern piece vertically down the middle and spread it to add the needed width. Hope this helps!

      Reply
  33. KMccalope
    March 28, 2012 at 2:01 pm (3 years ago)

    Such a great tutorial! I have a ton of vintage patterns that I would love to size up.My question is, if the back bodice is done in the same way? From the looks of things it is I just want to be certain.

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      March 28, 2012 at 2:06 pm (3 years ago)

      Yes, indeed! You split the bodice back in the same three places (neckline, shoulder, side seam). Have fun!

      Reply
  34. Betty
    April 1, 2012 at 2:47 am (3 years ago)

    Hi there,

    I hope this isn’t a silly questions, but I am completely new to sewing and dressmaking!

    I have a vintage pattern that is fine on the bust but needs to be at least 2in bigger on the waist. What would I do about this?

    Please let me know (in as simple terms as possible). Thanks!

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      April 1, 2012 at 9:28 am (3 years ago)

      Hi, Betty! I show how to grade out from one size in the bust to another in the hips (it would work for the waist as well) at this link. The tutorial shows the Regency Gown, but the principles work for any pattern. Just test (and retest, if necessary!) in muslin or inexpensive cotton before cutting into your fashion fabric, and you’ll be fine! And remember to add the extra two inches to the skirt (if there’s a skirt) as well. Have fun!

      Reply
      • Betty
        April 1, 2012 at 12:15 pm (3 years ago)

        Thanks, Jennie! though I’m a little confused- I had read that other article, but I thought it was about altering the bodice so that it opens in the front… am I missing something? I must be! Could you clarify? Thanks!

        Reply
        • Jennie Chancey
          April 1, 2012 at 1:05 pm (3 years ago)

          Scroll down to where I show how to “grade” the size between bodice and skirt. :)

  35. someone
    April 3, 2012 at 9:53 pm (3 years ago)

    What about vertical darts on the bodice? how do you move and resize those?

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      April 4, 2012 at 2:31 am (3 years ago)

      The best way to determine where the darts go is to simply resize the full bodice, trace off your new piece in interfacing, then pin-fit to your mannequin (or yourself), placing the darts where they fit best and marking them when you remove the toile. That’s how I do it, and it’s far more accurate than just trying to eyeball the darts! :)

      Reply
  36. someone
    April 3, 2012 at 10:58 pm (3 years ago)

    Also, I also couldnt find the grading thing in the regenecy article, unless you’re talking about the gathering? Also, I have a bigger bust area, but a smaller waist area, and the pattern is an empire waist pattern.http://mccallpattern.mccall.com/m3954-products-2117.php?page_id=521.(the pattern i have is a size 10) I need to add 4 inches to the bust, but only 2 inches to the waist. Sorry about all these questions, but I need the dress by Easter!

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      April 4, 2012 at 2:42 am (3 years ago)

      Well, I am sitting here with my mouth open, as I just realized those photos aren’t on the page anymore! They really belong in this resizing article, so I am putting them up now!! Thanks, and I apologize for the confusion. :P

      Reply
  37. Jennie Chancey
    April 4, 2012 at 3:16 am (3 years ago)

    Okay the photos that show how to grade between sizes are now back in place above the last image of the sleeve. :)

    Reply
  38. someone
    April 4, 2012 at 10:00 am (3 years ago)

    Thanks for your quick response. You must be very organized, doing this in addition to 9 kids and homeschooling. You’re amazing!

    Reply
  39. jena
    April 9, 2012 at 10:14 pm (3 years ago)

    hey i found some patterns on a store online but they are kids pattern but its just soo cute! i can technically fit into the 14 they have but it would be close i just want to go up two sizes to make a better fit. is this possible?

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      April 10, 2012 at 2:48 am (3 years ago)

      Hi, Jena! Yes, if you are already pretty close to the size 14, you can just size up from that one. Just be sure to double-check the room in the bustline by making a muslin toile of the bodice and trying it on. Should work fine!

      Reply
  40. Jillian
    April 13, 2012 at 10:16 am (3 years ago)

    Quick question for you, Jennie. If I only need to add an inch to the waist of a bodice, is it wise to size up the entire piece and adjust from there or is there a way to just add to the waist?

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      April 13, 2012 at 12:46 pm (3 years ago)

      Hi, Jillian! If you need to size up the waist and not the bust, then you “grade” between sizes as I show above (look at the images just above the last illustration of a short sleeve with slash lines). That’s the best way to go if you don’t want the upper part of the bodice to be too big. Hope this helps!

      Reply
  41. Jenna
    April 13, 2012 at 6:58 pm (3 years ago)

    I am unable to find a dress shirt pattern to fit my son that I like. He is apparently a size that nobody designs dress shirts for right now! LOL He needs a junior 14, the closest I can find is a 10/12 boys or an x-s men’s. I have 2 questions.
    1. which would be easier to re-size to fit him?
    2. Are the steps/instructions the same as above or do I need to take additional things into account for a dress shirt?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      April 14, 2012 at 4:06 am (3 years ago)

      Hi, Jenna! If he is broad through the shoulders, I’d go with the men’s XS and size it down for him. I have a 14-year-old son as well, and he seems to outgrow everything in a month these days, so I’d be more inclined to choose a men’s pattern anyway! And, yes, the instructions above apply to a dress shirt as well. Have fun!

      Reply
  42. Holly
    April 21, 2012 at 7:59 pm (3 years ago)

    I am a beginner first of all and have found moat of what was said about increasing patterns very helpful. But I didn’t see anything about pant patterns.

    Reply
  43. Susan Wales
    April 22, 2012 at 3:34 pm (3 years ago)

    Thanks very much for this. I bought a dress pattern online but when it arrived I found it is a size 8 and I need 12 to 14. I think I can manage to follow your instructions – thank you again.

    Reply
  44. Elizabeth
    April 22, 2012 at 4:32 pm (3 years ago)

    Hi,

    I have a question. I want to make a dress, but my measurements don’t match up to one pattern size. My bust measurement is 32″, which falls under XXS in the pattern. My waist is 28″ and hip is 38″ which both fall under size S in the pattern. How do I adjust for this? I plan on making a muslin first, but I am fairly new at sewing with patterns. Thank you!!

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      April 23, 2012 at 6:09 am (3 years ago)

      Hi, Elizabeth! You can “grade” between sizes to make the bust smaller and the waistline larger. See the images of the skirt cutting lines I have just above the last illustration on this page of the sleeve. Essentially, you can size the bodice down (using my method), then draw a graded line between the underarm and the waist so the waist is larger. The hipline will follow naturally from the waist (if the skirt is separate, you can just size it to a S to match the waist). Hope this helps!

      Reply
  45. Lisa Bruce
    April 26, 2012 at 8:08 pm (2 years ago)

    Im a virgin sewer of clothes, and I need help please. I have a pattern in a 1 and would like to up size it (standard is fine) to a 2 and also a 3. How do I do it?

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      April 28, 2012 at 2:54 am (2 years ago)

      Hi, Lisa! Just follow the instructions in this tutorial, and you’ll be able to size up your pattern to a 2 and a 3. :)

      Reply
  46. Tina C.
    May 18, 2012 at 12:56 pm (2 years ago)

    Hello! This tutorial is great and makes total sense! I have one quick question, however.

    I’m a full busted lady (my cup measurement is a C/D). Moat patterns are drafted with a B cup in m ind. Is there any way, when grading a pattern up a size, to also include a FBA?

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      May 19, 2012 at 9:54 am (2 years ago)

      Hi, Tina! I have instructions for going up to a D or larger cup in my Romantic Era Dress instructions. The same principles apply in taking a B to a C/D, but you won’t need as much length. If you’re making a tailored blouse or something with a more fitted bodice, you’ll also want to see about adding a horizontal dart from the underarm area to bust. Hope this helps!

      Reply
  47. TSLF
    May 23, 2012 at 12:05 am (2 years ago)

    Hi!
    I am making a child’s sundress which buttons from the top to the bottom. The pattern calls for 1″ buttons, but the buttons I have selected are about half that size (14-16 mm.)
    Should I stick with the pattern markings for button placement or place them closer together? What is the rule of thumb for downsizing or upsizing buttons?
    Thanks for your help!

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      May 23, 2012 at 4:57 am (2 years ago)

      Hi there! You can keep the same pattern markings/spacing, even if the buttons are smaller. I’d only suggest adding more buttons if the jumper is fitted firmly to the body, as you don’t want any gapping. Hope this helps!

      Reply
  48. GEM
    August 11, 2012 at 8:36 pm (2 years ago)

    Hi,
    What a wonderful website I stumbled upon while trying to find culotte patterns for kids from size 6 to 16. I have found one that is for an adult and wonder how to go about sizing down for the sizes I need. Would there be any special concerns to be aware of? I also found a pattern in a child’s size 4. Which pattern do you think would be easier to adapt to the sizes I need? Thanks very much for your tips!

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      August 12, 2012 at 12:38 pm (2 years ago)

      Hi, Gem! My recommendation is to use the child’s size 4 to size up to a child’s 12. Then use the adult pattern to size down to the 16 and 14, particularly if the wearer(s) have already reached puberty and gotten their adult shapes. Just remember to test-fit in muslin before making any garments, as you’ll be able to catch anything funky–like hips being too tight, which is common when you size up from a toddler size to a larger child’s size. Hope this helps, and have fun sewing!

      Reply
  49. Natalie
    September 9, 2012 at 11:49 am (2 years ago)

    Hi Jenny, I sew for my two boys who are 6years apart and often end up having to buy two of the same pattern in different sizes so I can make them both something and it gets expensive. I’m most concerned with grading the crotch area for trousers. If I buy only one size what are some tips to size up or down the crotch area? I’m very confident in resizing hip and waist and length. By the way made my swing dress and thank you for your tips. I have to say it is the best fitting an flattering garment I’ve sewn myself! Thanks Jennie I’ll post a pic of it.

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      September 10, 2012 at 1:19 am (2 years ago)

      Hi, Natalie! In resizing the crotch, you basically treat it like you do an underarm area on a bodice. Slash it through the curve and spread it to add more room front to back. You also need to check the vertical seam, as a taller boy will need a longer “rise”–the area between the crotch and waistband. That can be slashed horizontally and spread. But I find you do not need to add as much room as you think vertically unless you’re grading between a size 3 and a size 6, for example. Sizes closer together aren’t that much different. Hope this helps!

      Reply
      • Natalie
        September 10, 2012 at 2:26 am (2 years ago)

        Thanks Jennie!

        Reply
  50. Kelli
    September 11, 2012 at 12:43 am (2 years ago)

    Jennie,
    Do you have pattern grading guides for slash method on men’s vintage patterns? Men surely get bigger differently than women!

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      September 11, 2012 at 1:14 am (2 years ago)

      It’s identical, because slashing and spreading doesn’t change the manly proportions of a guy’s pattern. Women’s patterns have curves in the right places. Men’s don’t. Just slash and spread to add the needed room, and the other lines remain the same. Hope this helps!

      Reply
      • Kelli
        September 14, 2012 at 9:30 am (2 years ago)

        Yes, thank you for the response. I’ll be giving it a try.

        Reply

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