Friday, June 8, 2012

How Do You Pick Patterns That Will Flatter You?

I have trouble picking patterns because I don't really know what will look good on me and what will not.

For instance, I like this pattern (Butterick 5782) but with the exception of the collar, it is the same as all my dresses.
And this pattern is nice too; but, again, it is similar to what I already own(Butterick 5609)

 But what if I want to try something new?

On the Vogue Patterns website and on the pattern covers themselves, vogue has a guide to styles that flatter four different figure types.

               From the VoguePatterns Website:    

Figure Flattery

Determine your body shape from the explanations below and use our KEY TO FIGURE FLATTERY diagram to select styles that are particularly flattering to your figure. Choosing styles suited to your body shape can also eliminate the need for most pattern adjustments. Look for the figure symbol that indicates your body shape, then proceed with confidence, knowing that your pattern adjustments will be minimal and your finished garment will be pure figure flattery.
THE INVERTED TRIANGLE: Large bust and/or broad shoulders with narrow hips.

THE TRIANGLE: Small bust and/or narrow shoulders with full hips and/or thighs.

THE RECTANGLE: Balanced on top and bottom, but boxy, with little or no waist definition.

THE HOURGLASS: Equally balanced on top and bottom, with a trim waist.

I’ll be damned if I can use the figure symbols on patterns. Every time I read it, I come up with a different guess on what I am supposed to be. And the truth is, it ticks me off a little to be putting myself in any of these categories at all. I have figure flaws/assets that don’t neatly fit into one category or another. My body does not fit into the 4 "normal" body shapes. I have to look at the line drawings and visualize how it would look on me.
Vogue 8811

This pattern, Vogue 8811, claims to be suitable for all figure types. It is a radically different dress for me (and I really like it).

I also notice that Vogue only considers the width-wise measurements. What about vertical measurements?Surely, your height affects how the pattern will look?

When I compare my measurements to standard ones, I find I have narrow shoulders (triangle), a big bust (hourglass?), and only a minimally defined waist (rectangle). My hips and thighs are not particularly full (inverted triangle?) I’m also short-waisted with long legs. I don't match any of those categories.
V8648 - the pattern envelope is for triangles (both types) and hour glass. Rectangles are not encouraged.

Then I signed up for a fabulous Craftsy course by Susan Khaljie. It is called the Couture course, and I highly recommend it -even though I have only watched it (not made the garment). What I want to call your attention to is the pattern that accompanies the course. It is Vogue 8648 which has the figure flattering guide for triangles and hour glass. But Susan Khaljie says that it is a dress that flatters everyone. And it definitely works on me!

This is V1199. It doesn't look like something that would flatter me but again, the pattern says it is for all (meaning four) figure types.
So I am back to my original question (and the title of this post): How do you pick patterns that will flatter you?

Things I have learned to look for:

  • Lower necklines - cowl necks, boatnecks and scoop necks look good but generally not v-necks.Also, turtle and mock necks and shirt collars are your most flattering necklines.
  • Blouses/shirts/tops that can be worn untucked at hip length.
  • Waist shaping (even though I need to let most things out 4-5” at the waist in order to breathe!)
  • Draping fabrics
  • Skirts/dresses that end from 3” above the knee.
  • Five-pocket jeans are great! Front pockets on jeans help disguise a tummy problem, while back pockets can help define a flatter rear common to top-heavy women.
  • shorter (an inch above the knee) skirts.

    Things I avoid:

    • High necklines
    • High waists on pants and skirts
    • Boxy jackets
    • Anything boxy for that matter 
    • Double breasted coats
    • Horizontal lines at waist
    • Minimal structure knits - especially loose tops and dresses


    1. Go to the shops and try styles on before you spend time and money sewing them up. That is the only way Nothy!

    2. I have a book called Flatter Your Figure, it is an awesome book, you get a couple of 4 foot dowels and a mirror and with a friend, get to it. I did it with my Mom many years ago, we both learned a lot, for instance she thought she had long legs, they were not, they were short. It was very interesting. I highly recommend it.

      1. Thanks I will get that book!

      2. I'm going to look into getting that book too, Ellie.

    3. I stick with the clothes and patterns that I know works for me and change things up with colour

    4. I always take a good look on how it looks on the model. If she's size 0 and lots heavy then I can't wear it.

    5. I agree with the "avoid" list but I think some of those items should be universally avoided. Boxy jackets and shirts look awful on everyone.

    6. Vogue is only trying to give you some idea of what might work on you. Personally I find structured garments and garments that elongate the form are best.

    7. Hi, I just found your blog- and what a great post this is! I think this is such a common problem for people who sew- unlike with RTW, we can change pattern styles a bit to work better for us, but that's a pain in the backside and can require major time =P
      Personally, I have found several celeb "fashion icons". I've looked for people that have a similar build to myself (I know I'm much closer to a Meryl Streep than a Heidi Klum, for example) and look at shapes that they wear that look good (or bad!) on them. Then I look for things that have similar shapes.
      Works for me, at least! =)

      1. That's a good idea. Thanks, Cathy. I'll try it...



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