When you ask hobby sewists why they started sewing, you often hear the desire for perfectly fitting clothes that you cannot find in the store. Since ready-made patterns only offer the same range of standardized clothing sizes as off-the-peg fashion, you will inevitably have the same problem here. At least until you know how to adapt the pattern to your own body and its characteristics. Because having to adapt a pattern is more the rule than the exception!

However, many beginners do not dare to make changes to the pattern and if the finished part does not fit perfectly, it is alternately their own body or the pattern to blame. It is completely normal to have to adapt a pattern. Adaptation is particularly easy with a basic block/sloper, as it is very figure-hugging and only contains the elements that are needed to adapt a two-dimensional pattern to the three-dimensional body. So, you can see the fit particularly well and adapt it perfectly to your own body with just a few adjustments. In the following, I’ll show you the most common adjustments that you have to make to a basic skirt pattern. But these can also be transferred to other skirt styles.

You basically have two options to check and adjust a pattern for its fit.

  1. You measure yourself and compare the measurements with the body measurement table and change the paper pattern before you cut your muslin.
  2. You sew a sample from a cheap fabric, such as nettle, and make the changes to the sample. You then transfer these changes to your paper pattern.

A combination of the two variants is of course also possible. With both variants, however, I would then sew a muslin to check the changes.

Find the right size

The first step for a well-fitting basic block/sloper is of course choosing the right size. To determine the right size for a basic skirt block, you need the measurements of your waist and hips.

Here are a few more tips for taking the right measurements:

  • It is best to have someone else measure you. But you can also measure yourself alone in front of the mirror.
  • You should only wear underwear and stand up straight. Let your arms hang loosely at the sides.
  • It is important that you do not pull the measuring tape too tight. Stand by your measurements, because only then can you sew perfectly fitting clothes!
  • Make sure that the measuring tape is flat and as horizontal as possible.

The waist is measured at the narrowest part of your upper body. Note that your natural waistline is probably well above your perceived waistline and well above the waistband of your normal trousers or skirt. When measuring the hip circumference, the tape measure is placed flat over the strongest part of the buttocks. Before reading, you should make sure that the measuring tape is actually still horizontally at the strongest point and that it has not slipped.

Now mark your measurements in the body measurement table of the basic pattern. If both dimensions are within the same size, you can start cutting the sample piece straight away. If your measurements fluctuate between two sizes, always take the larger size as a first step and adjust the different measurements. In the next point, I’ll explain how you can make these adjustments.

Your measurements vary between 2 sizes

It happens very often that one does not fit into the standardized size chart. As described above, in this case you select the larger size and adjust the different dimensions as follows. If the hips and waist differ by up to 1½ sizes, you can compensate for this difference at the side seam, see below. It is also possible to draw a line between the size lines if you only deviate ½ size or if both sizes are between the sizes in the table.

Adjust skirt pattern for a narrower waist:

If your waist is more than 1 ½ sizes smaller, it is necessary to insert an additional dart, otherwise the hip curve on the side will be too strong. At the side seam you take away up to 1.5 cm at the waist. You insert the additional dart in the back. Place the center line of the second dart between the side seam and the dart. On the side of the center line, you mark half the width. The new dart should be 1-2 cm shorter. To draw in the new dart, it is best to draw an auxiliary line horizontally at a right angle from the tip of the dart of the first dart. From this line you now go 1-2 cm upwards and connect the new end point with the dart width.

Adjust skirt pattern for narrower hips:

If your waist is more than 1 ½ sizes wider, you should also compensate for this deviation on the darts. At the side seam you can add up to 1.5 cm at the waist. You take away the missing width at the dart depth of the front dart. The length of the dart remains the same. You can also remove the front dart completely if you need the entire width.

You are very tall or petite

Patterns are usually designed for a height of 168 cm. If you are taller or shorter, the pattern will need to be adjusted accordingly. Unfortunately, with the basic skirt block, it is not enough to compensate for this difference in length at the hem, as the difference in size is particularly noticeable in the distance between waist and hips. That’s why you have to compensate for the size difference here as well. In my basic skirt block/sloper, a line is drawn to lengthen or shorten. If you have a different skirt style to hand, you can draw a horizontal line 10 cm below the waist at a right angle to the grain. To find out by how many cm you have to move the basic skirt block at this point, measure the distance between your waist and hips, the so-called hip depth, at the center back. The best way to do this is to mark your waist and hips with a tape measure with hooks and holes or a knotted elastic band and measure the distance between the two lines. For my basic skirt block, I assumed a hip depth of 21 cm. If your pattern does not indicate a hip depth, you can assume that you have to compensate for half the size difference at this point, as the remaining size difference is distributed over the upper body.

Lengthen skirt sewing pattern:

If you are taller, you have to pull apart the basic skirt cut at the line by the appropriate amount. Cut the pattern apart along the line and place a piece of paper the width of the difference under the cut edge. Tape the piece of paper with some scotch tape. Now all you have to do is correct the side seam.

Shorten skirt pattern:

If you are shorter, you have to push the basic skirt block together by the appropriate amount along the line. Cut the pattern piece apart again along the parting line. Above this line, draw a second line at the distance by which you want to shorten the skirt. Move the lower part of the basic skirt cut so that it touches the second line. Then glue the pattern pieces with some scotch tape and correct the side seam again.

You have to change the length for the front and back of the skirt in the same way.

I hope that these changes will help you with your skirt pattern. Part 2 will follow on January 21.

What fit problems do you have with skirts or what changes do you have to make? Please write it to me in the comments so that I can go into it in the second part.