Tips for Adjusting a Dressmaking Pattern

| 7 min read

Sewing Street guest designer and expert dressmaker, Rebecca Harrison, shares her tips for adjusting a dressmaking pattern to fit a question asked by Sue Beckett on Sewing Street Fans Facebook group. Have a sewing question you'd like answering? Join Sewing Street Fans and ask our group of fellow sewists.

A much asked question about dressmaking is how to make your pattern fit to your measurements. Firstly, you need to take accurate measurements of your body, it’s best to ask someone to help with this. The main measurements you will need is; BUST, WAIST and HIP. Measure the fullest part of your bust and hips and natural waist.

A lot of people have trouble with a commercial pattern fitting their bust properly, most patterns have a bust dart. It’s a good idea to check the bust point (apex) is correct for you as it may not be in the right place.

Moving the bust point on a pattern is relatively easy, you will need a tape measure and ruler. To start you need to take measurements to work out where your bust point will be on your pattern. If you have a mannequin you can plot these measurements on it and you will always know where your bust point is. The measurements you need to take are;

Bust Point to Bust Point:

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Nape to Bust Point:

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Base Neck to Bust Point:

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End of Shoulder to Bust Point:

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C/F Waist to Bust Point:

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You can now start work on your pattern. The below video shows me plotting the measurements on the pattern.

After you have made these changes to your pattern make a toile/sample to make sure you’re happy with the fit.


Most of us go between sizes on a commercial pattern, you may have a bigger bust, smaller waist, bigger hips than a standard pattern size. It’s difficult to decide which size to choose to make, you can amend your pattern by blending between sizes. For example you may be a size 16 bust, 18 waist and 20 hips.

Using a curved ruler you can blend from one size to another, again making a toile once you have made your changes to check the fit and how it feels. Watch the video to see how you blend between sizes;


You may find that when you have made your dress/top there is gapping around the front and or back armhole. This is because there is too much fabric around your high bust area, by taking in the front shoulder seam or front and back you eliminate this problem.

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As you can see in the photo the front is gapping but the back fits fine so I will pin just the front and leave the back. If both need to be taken up then pin together.

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If you are inserting a sleeve you need to make sure that it still fits the armhole, measure how much you have taken up you now need to transfer this to the sleeve pattern.

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I have marked either side of the centre line the amount I have taken from the shoulder seam I will then fold this amount over before I cut out in my fabric.

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If the measurement you have taken in on the shoulder is a bigger amount you may need to lower the underarm position. By taking the shoulder up you move the underarm up which will bring it too high under your arm. If this is the case then use the measurement you took on the shoulder seam and mark on the underarm part of the pattern. Blend this new seam line into the original arm hole. Make sure the sleeve pattern still fits by measuring both the armhole and sleeve pattern, adjust if needed.

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Ease is the amount of room a garment allows the wearer beyond the measurements of their body. Patterns all have different amounts of ease depending on the style. With woven fabric there are minimum ease requirements, generally about 2in at the bust, 1in at the waist and 1.5in at the hips. This allows us to move comfortably in our clothes ie raise our arms and bend our knees.

Understand the ease you like in your garments, on your pattern look for the finished garment measurements compare these to the size you want. What is the difference at the bust, waist and hips, how much ease does it have compared to garments in your wardrobe as I have already said if you are working with a woven non stretch fabric compare to a similar garment you wear. You can measure at the bust, waist, hips and compare the ease to your measurements.

That will give you an idea of how much ease you like in your garments, do you like your clothes to be closer fitted or looser fitted. This could change the size you want to make in your dressmaking pattern.

I hope you find these fitting tips helpful and you feel able to give them a go yourself, remember to always make a toile/sample to check your alterations are correct.

Happy Sewing x

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