For those of you here for the sewing, I ‘ll have some dresses up soon. But first I wanted to look at something that I discussed in my last post on why it makes economic sense for indie pattern makers to extend their size ranges.
In my last post I showed a couple of distribution curves that illustrate what percentage of the population could use a pattern with a given size range. But I thought it would be interesting to see what range of sizes existing indie companies are actually offering.
I figured I would just choose the top pattern makers, but how to choose? The ones on someone’s list? The most blogged? The ones I like the best? The hippest style, nicest drafting or most clever instructions? So I hopped over to pattern review.com, and looked at some of the patterns that have made their top ten patterns of the year, over the past few years. You may or may not agree that these are the top patterns, but they’ve been sewn by a large number of people, and have obtained many good reviews.
A reminder: In the following charts, I’ve shown size range in the general population, across a normal distribution. Then I’ve charted the sizes offered for specific sewing patterns as the area under the curve (the green area) to calculate what percentage of the population could use the pattern. See my previous article for a more detailed description of these concepts.
First shown is a range of pattern sizes (6-18) used by some indie pattern makers. About 43% of the population can use these patterns.
Next is a pattern from BurdaStyle magazine: 04-2009-101 “Skirt with Front Pockets”. Only 31% of the population can use this pattern. Considering this is a simple straight skirt, that would look good on a wide range of figures, it’s surprising that the pattern is offered in so few sizes.
The Cambie dress is similar to the curve used by indie pattern makers, shown above, with a couple extra sizes near the middle. However, since Sewaholic patterns are drafted for pear-shaped figures and I’m comparing pattern sizes based largely on bust measurements, in reality this curve is probably shifted a little to the right and probably covers a slightly larger percentage of the population.
The Archer shirt uses a curve similar to the Big4 pattern companies.
This is the Anna dress from By Hand London. Although their sizing system is slightly different, this dress goes up to the equivalent of a size 24. It’s a curve similar to that of used by the Big 4 pattern companies, but shifted up slightly.
Here we see the distribution for Colette’s Peony dress. It covers 61% of the population, just like the Anna dress above, but the pattern maker offers 10 sizes to cover the range, instead of 8.
Colette recently extended their size range with new patterns for knits. This is the size range for the Moneta dress. It covers 80% of the population, in only 7 sizes. This isn’t one of the top patterns on pattern review.com (it’s too new to be considered), but I think it’s interesting to look at, compared to the previous size range for this company.
The Tiramisu dress is also a dress for knits. It covers a slightly larger percent of the population (85%), but this time with only five individual sizes.
Finally there is Jalie. Their large size range is part of their marketing strategy and their patterns are often drafted for both kids and adults. Jalie 2919 can be used by 88% of the population. It’s the largest percentage, and they definitely have the largest number of sizes per pattern (27!). But, compared to some of the other companies, Jalie doesn’t offer the largest sizes.
These numbers are only approximations based on the model I described in my previous blog post. The same statistical caveats discussed in that article apply to these curves. Keep in mind, I’m using bust measurements, based on this chart, to do a comparison across various different companies, all of which use their own sizing systems. I used bust measurements because they are always listed, and because there is a historical precedent in vintage patterns. Using a different measure (waist, hips, etc.) would result in slightly different curves for each pattern. Overall, though, the differences between companies should be similar.
I’m choosing patterns from patternreview.com. It’s possible that there is a sampling bias. Maybe the people on that site prefer patterns of in a larger range of sizes, for example. There are probably many more patterns out there that have curves that look like the BurdaStyle skirt, than ones that look like the Jalie top.
Covering the entire ranges of sizes may not be the goal of a given pattern maker. In some cases, certain pattern companies may be marketing to specific niche markets, and so they may not intend to cover the largest range possible. In other cases, resources are limited. Nevertheless, I think it’s interesting to look at examples of what specific, successful pattern companies are doing.
Comments are always welcome! And I promise the next blog post will include actual sewing 😉
Shannon is a Canadian sewing, quilting and stitching blogger living in Montreal. Also mother of four.
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