Why do clothing sizes make no sense?

If you've tried a few sewing patterns, you may have noticed that size is arbitrary. The truth is that there is no current standard for clothing sizes. The measurement charts at your favourite store are actually chosen by the company itself, and can vary widely from shop to shop. A size 12 from one label can easily be a 10 or 14 somewhere else, which can make clothing shopping frustrating! 

This also allows for vanity sizing, where measurements are labelled with smaller numbers, in an effort to boost sales. After all, who wouldn't want to magically discover they're a size smaller than they expected?

Sizing in ready-to-wear garments just doesn't make a lot of sense.


A bit of history:

Before there were factories, new clothing was all made by hand, to your exact measurements. Standard sizing was developed for men during wartimes, to expedite sewing uniforms, which could be altered to fit. But though standards were also created for women in the 1940s or 1950s, the female form has more curves, and therefore, more variation in the relationship between body measurement and sizing. For example, two women can both have a bra size of 36D, but their waist and hip measurements can differ significantly if one is apple shaped and the other has an hourglass figure. (Source: Wikipedia!)


These variations make it difficult, though not impossible, to design clothing at larger sizes. Skinnier bodies are easier shapes to dress, so there is a lot more selection if you're a size 2 vs a size 20. This is true even with sewing patterns, and even patterns that fit "plus sized" women are not necessarily trendy or well designed. Altering a sewing pattern to fit your specific curves may help with fit, but that doesn't guarantee that the style is right.


How we see things:

Size is often given a lot more psychological meaning than it deserves, when in reality, we see it as just a number which can be used as a reference point for your sewing, and that's it! Your body is your body, and it's unique to you. Sewing gives you the opportunity to make something that fits, makes you look good, but more importantly, makes you feel good. The sewing community is full of normal people who make clothes to fit, and can be a great source of inspiration. If you're making something, try searching for it on your favourite social media sites, and see how it turned out on other people!

It's important to know your size in a sewing pattern, especially since many people are different sizes in different places, for example, Sandra is generally a "16" at the bust, but an "18" from the waist down, but can adjust for that in her makes. Size also has a connection with the yardage needed for a project: a larger body needs more yardage!

One of our primary goals at Fig and Needle is to promote body positivity through inclusion. We hope that our collection of wardrobe staples will be stylish and easily adaptable to any shape. With an extended size range, we hope to be able to fit a wider variety of bodies. We're designing two separate sloper sets and our aim is to create patterns that are easily adjustable to individual curves and shapes.

We're also designing our slopers with larger cup sizes to align with the current national average. A B-cup bra may have been standard a few decades ago, but the average American woman today wears a D-cup bra! Our patterns will be drafted with a D-cup in mind for our smaller size range, and a DD/E-cup for the larger sizes. 

We'd love to hear your feedback and thoughts on sizing and fashion today. Let's chat in the comments or send us an email!

10 (well, technically 9) of our favorite sewing tools

Hello lovely sewing people!

Today we wanted to talk about our favorite sewing tools. If you’re like us, you probably have a sewing room or area bursting at the seams with all forms of sewing-related gear. Some of it has never been touched, some has been tried once or twice before gathering dust, and then there are the few that probably never actually get put away because you use them so often.

Let’s talk about the more interesting ones of that third group.

Ping’s top 5 sewing gizmos:

    1. Bernina foot #10, aka the edge stitching foot: I’ve considered putting this on a chain and wearing it around with me. For those who aren’t familiar, it has a vertical piece that settles into the groove of the seam and guides the needle along the edge. It makes topstitching SO much easier. I always feel guilty when people compliment my topstitching these days. It wasn’t really me! It was the foot!
    2. Design curve: I only started doing “real” pattern drafting a few years ago and one of my favorite tools for drafting is the design curve. There are two that I’ve used and I haven’t been able to pick a favorite. One of them is shaped like a giant comma and the other looks like an old school telephone. Mine has separate areas marked for neckline, armhole, and hip curves. It makes it so much easier to draft curves that your body parts will be happy with.
    3. Blue box of a million Schmetz needles: Ok, it's more like 100 needles. You can find these on Amazon for about $30 per box and they're all the same size and I can't recommend them highly enough. When 5 packs of needles cost $5-10, it's kind of a no-brainer. 
    4. Fabric selvage: Ever since someone recommended this in class a few years ago, I've been saving the selvage off of a few different types of fabric to use as twill tape in garments. Depending on the weight of the garment I'm working on, I'll use either organza, muslin, or linen/canvas. I like to use it to reinforce necklines, pocket edges, and other areas where there might be fabric on the bias, or just a lot of wear and tear, to keep things from stretching out.
    5. Knee lever: I had no idea these existed until a friend at my sewing club in Boston introduced me to this and it forever changed my life. Some knee levers replace the foot pedal (which I still can't wrap my head around), but mine's attached to the presser foot raiser. It makes it really easy to work around tricky corners because I can use both hands and just use the lever to raise and lower the presser foot.

    Sandra’s top 5 sewing gadgets:

      1. Bernina #10 foot: Seriously. Though I wouldn't wear mine on a chain, because my toddler would probably try to eat it. Even when I have my walking foot set up on my machine, I gravitate towards the edge stitch attachment, because I know I'll use it. Even when I'm not edge stitching, I like the visual guide showing where the needle will land on the fabric.
      2. Clear rulers with grids on them: These are amazing. You can see through them! They measure things! The big ones hold fabric down and protect your fingers when you're doing large cuts! They're great for pattern drafting and quilting, and I have so many different sizes and shapes it's a little ridiculous.
      3. Rotary cutter and mat: I'm pretty sure my cutting time is cut in half (har har har) when I use a rotary cutter. I'm not fiddling with the fabric to get my shears into position, and I can just zip the cutter around the pattern piece.
      4. Pattern weights: If the rotary cutter halved my cutting time, pattern weights halved it yet again. I don't need to manipulate the fabric to get pins in place or take them out. I just place the pattern piece down, check the grainline, put the weights down, and cut. I made mine by gluing large washers together.
      5. Magnetic pin holder: When I do use pins, a magnetic pin holder is a life changer! The pins are all oriented the same direction on the holder, so I'm less likely to jab myself while picking one up (it still happens, though). And while I'm sewing, I don't need to look at the holder while taking pins out, so I don't need to stop as often while seaming--they just always land on the magnets.

      What are your favorite things in your sewing room?

      Welcome to Fig + Needle!

      Welcome! We're so excited to have you here!


      We (Sandra and Ping) met in 2015, at Cañada College in Redwood City, California, while we were both working on our Technical Design certificates. When we realized we had similar goals and interests, we decided to team up! Over the next several months, we'll be covering a variety of sewing-related topics such as: talking about our favorite sewing tools/tips/tricks, discussing the discrepancies of body sizes vs RTW (Ready-To-Wear) clothing sizes, and sharing behind the scenes snippets of the two patterns we're working on for Fall 2018. 


      You may know Ping from her blog peneloping.com where she's been blogging her sewing projects for the past several years. She's originally from California but moved to Boston for four very cold years before escaping back to warmer weather. In her down time, she enjoys taking pictures of other people's cats, not wearing pants, and playing computer games. 

      Sandra has been sewing since she was a kid, but spent her young adulthood in the tech industry before returning to textiles. She hails from Vancouver, BC, and while her Canadian accent is waning after a decade in California, she does insist that colour is spelled correctly, and her title at home is pronounced mum, not mom.


      We're pretty passionate about all women feeling good about themselves and their bodies, and we want our patterns to reflect that. We're working on patterns that are wardrobe staples with unique, customizable details, that are available in a broad size range, and are also simple to adjust to fit your body exactly. 

      You can follow along on the blog and our Instagram, and don't forget to stay connected by signing up for our newsletter!

      We have so much we want to share with you all, and we're so excited for the next few months!