Sizing charts are one of the most searched things on my website. This tells me a couple of things: the first is that it isn’t clear where people should look for the sizing charts, and second that we use different wording, so what is perfectly clear to me, isn’t always what someone else is looking for. We’ve had this conversation about other things. As I look at this, it occurs to me that they should also be in the Shop!
Sizing Charts: Theory
Every brand decides what their sizing looks like. Most women know which brands will fit them and which don’t. Companies have very specific guidelines and they use fit models to test the fit based on the measurements set out in those guidelines. The fit model must fit exactly within the measurement parameters. The variation comes in the garment itself and the vision of the designer as to how that garment should fit in relationship to the body underneath it. So if the bust measurement is 37″ for the sample size, the designer might want a moderately loose-fitting garment with 6″ of ease, or a finished bust measurement of 43″. Traditional sizing guidance would then grade the sample size to the other sizes, larger and smaller based on formulas for “growing or shrinking” the body at various points.
When I look at my pattern grading books, there are set amounts for growing the pattern at different points. Most of the calculations were created before the widespread use of alpha (XS-XL, etc.) sizing and before knits became 90% of our wardrobes. The principles remain the same. The changes for stretch or ease are made to the sample size, and are then translated to the other sizes as the pattern is graded from the sample size.
Sizing Charts: How It Fits You
If you are a designer looking for the secrets on my website, you won’t find them. You will find the measurements I use, but no secrets! I have taken the ASTM standards and adapted them to what I think an idealized version of my customer is–and applied it to alpha sizes. It is specific to my customer and how I want my garments to fit. You are welcome to look at the tables and extrapolate from them, but you should create your own tables, based on your customer. Did I mention there is no secret table anywhere?
If you are a knitter, and wondering what size to follow for my patterns, you are in luck! I base every design off my sizing tables. If you are generally a medium, small, x-large, you will likely always be that size. If I deviate in some significant way, I will always tell you in the pattern.
Sizing Charts: How I Use Them
You can, of course, take out your tape measure and compare your measurement to the measurements given to see if you are going to like the fit I have created. I do not tend to put a lot of extra ease into my garments. This is based on my personal design preferences. I give the bust measurements and length for each pattern on the pattern page on my website, so you can make a general assessment before buying. I give much more specific “as knit” measurements inside the pattern on the schematic included with every pattern.
I’m show two garments for comparison here: Flint Pullover is dk weight yarn, and I created this to be comfortable, but not at all a loose fit. The yarn is quite drape-y and lack some memory and I didn’t want it to get loose and baggy.
Bonaire is sleeveless, and designed to be worn in warm weather. Notice that I have put quite a bit more ease in this one. In part that is because of the cowl neckline and also because I wanted it to be relaxed. I wear both of these in a size M and am comfortable in both. Perhaps using a different yarn I would want a different fit, but if that were the case I would likely make a larger body, and decrease or increase to a medium for the armholes/neckline.
Wondering what your measurements are? Get out your tape measure and use my Jill Wolcott Knits® Croquis to discover your measurements. It is easy and informative. You don’t have to tell anyone.