Let your wardrobe be your guide

Have you ever come to draft something, or hack a pattern, and realised you have no idea what size a part of the garment should be? Like, how long should a shirt placket be? How wide should a collar be? What’s a “standard” waistband width? The beauty of sewing is that “standard sizes” go out of the window, as it’s all a matter of personal preference. That’s why, in moments like these, I look to my wardrobe for guidance.

For example, I am gearing up to make some more shirts and shirt dresses. I feel it’s time. I’ve cut out some patterns. I’ve done all the Instagram-stalking of the pattern hashtags. I’ve sketched out some ideas for self drafting.

To help me gauge whether to make any pattern adjustments, I decided to spend a little time with three of my favourite shirts to get a sense of my preferences for the sizing of certain elements.

What did I learn?:

  • The collar stands were all 1 1/8″ wide.
  • The collars ranged from 1 1/2″ to 2″ wide at centre back, but they were all 2″ wide at the ends of the collar.
  • Two of the shirts had plackets and one had a bound opening. One placket was 4″ long, the other 4 1/2″. The bound opening was 3″ long.
  • The cuffs on the shirts with plackets were 2″ and 2 1/2″ long, and the cuffs on the other blouse were 3 3/4″ long.
  • The distance from the top of the sleeve opening, down to the wrist, therefore ranged from 6 – 7″. All the shirts feel comfortable, so if I’m trying a pattern with a similar sort of length here, I think I should be fine.
  • The shoulder seam width was 5″. This is slightly longer than my shoulder width, but blouse and shirt shoulders usually are. I really like the fit of all three shirts, so I will check for this shoulder width on the patterns I’ve lined up (except patterns which include dropped shoulders).
  • The shirt front plackets were all 1″ wide, and buttons were 3/8″.
  • None of the under collars had a seam at centre back, which leads me to believe that they weren’t cut on the bias.
  • One of the shirts had a nice bit of bias trim in the collar seam – I’m definitely stealing that idea!
  • I’ve also measured the circumference of the shirt at the bust, waist and hem, and the shirt length from the nape at centre back. These can help me to select the right size on a pattern, or get a sense of how much ease I like, if drafting from my sloper.
  • I didn’t bother measuring the sleeves – the one downside they all have is that the sleeves are slightly too short for my long arms. I have the same problem with RTW jackets! I’ll use my body measurement / sleeve sloper for length comparisons.

So you see, I really gained a wealth of information just from spending 20 minutes with some clothes and a tape measure! I find this a really helpful way to get a steer as to how I like garments to fit and what sort of measurements I should be aiming for, which in turn can tell me what alterations to make to a pattern before I make a toile or sew it up.

Do you ever measure your clothes? Who knows what you could learn!

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