Plus Size Sewing 911

Have a plus size sewing 911 emergency? Just ask Barbara Deckert. Barbara Deckert, dressmaker, author and plus size sewing expert, is here on GrandStyle to answer your questions on sizing, pants and finding a dressmaker.

Plus Size Sewing 911: Tips from Barbara Deckert

Barbara Deckert is the author of Sewing for Plus Sizes: Creating Clothes that Fit and Flatter and Sewing 911: Practical and Creative Rescues for Sewing Emergencies. She has been seen on segments of Sew Much Better, an HGTV sewing show hosted by Susan Khalje. Barbara has also written dozens of articles for national sewing and fashion magazines.

Barbara is a retired custom dressmaker with over 30 years of sewing experience. For more information on Barbara, check out her website and blog.

All these sizes confuse me. What the difference between a size 18, an 18W and a size 18 1/2?

Nowadays in ready-to-wear there is no consistency whatsoever in sizing. The numbers mean next to nothing. In pattern sizing, however, they mean something!

  • A size 18 refers to misses sizes, which are drafted for women 5’6″ – 5’8″ tall, with erect posture and a fairly hourglass shaped figure.
  • An 18W is for the same height but is drafted for a rounder and fuller figure with a defined waistline.
  • A size 18 1/2 is designed for women who are 5’2″ tall with a relatively shorter back waist length and a pear shaped figure.

Are there any tricks or tips to get the right fit on plus size petite pants? I wear a size 28; but, I’m only 5’3,” so I always need to shorten the legs, arms and skirt length.

Adjusting patterns for petites is easy! Just use a tape measure to check all your body lengths, such as back waist, sleeve, waist to knee, waist to floor, and so on. Then measure the corresponding areas on your pattern pieces. Just fold out the extra length wherever needed and tape the pleat down. Some of us may have long legs but short torsos, or long torsos and short legs, for example, so be sure to measure!

Sewing for Plus Sizes: Creating Clothes that Fit and Flatter has a handy chart where you can record all the adjustments for quick and easy future reference.

I don’t sew; but, I’d like to find a seamstress for alterations and maybe a little dressmaking for special items. How do I find a good one? How do I know if I’m paying too much?

You’re in luck! There is an army of neighborhood dressmakers waiting to serve you! Check out the web site of the Association of Sewing and Design Professionals (ASDP), for a free referral to a dressmaker in your area. Also, read the ASDP’s Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for some great advice about how to choose and work with a dressmaker.

About prices: In general, custom clothing should cost more than a similar off-the-rack garment. But, remember that custom clothing is of much finer quality and fit than even every expensive ready-to-wear. For alterations, you can call around and check prices, but often the best alternationists can command higher prices, while the cheapest may be less experienced and may only be skilled enough for the simplest of alterations. You get what you pay for.

For custom dressmaking services, call several dressmakers and tell them your budget. If they can work with it, they will. If it is unrealistic, they will say so politely. Remember that someone who is not a member of a professional organization and sews “on the side” may charge less, but her work may not be the quality that you would want to invest in!

Editor’s Note: Barbara has agreed to answer your questions as long as her busy schedule permits! If you have a question on plus size sewing, just email your questions to Barbara. Barbara can’t answer individual questions, but she will answer as many as possible here on GrandStyle.

GrandStyle also has great resources for books and patterns for plus size sewing, knitting and crochet patterns, tips on finding more info on plus size knitting and crochet and helpful information on international sizing.