Sunday, 21 April 2019

Half-size patterns

After my harrumph last week about a feature on half-size patterns failing to explain what half-size patterns were, I found this in a newly-acquired issue of 'Vogue Patterns', dated Summer 1972.

All is made clear

Interesting that although this is in a magazine devoted to Vogue patterns, it stresses that the same sizing is used by all the pattern companies. Half-size patterns are defined as being for a figure with a short back-waist length, and a larger waist and hips in comparison to the bust than on other patterns.

There's a lot of information on there, so to make it easier to understand (and to indulge my sad fondness for spreadsheets) I decided to look at how one size compares across the figure types. Ideally I would have used the same bust size for all comparisons, but this was not possible because Miss Petite only goes up to bust size 40", and Women's starts at bust size 42". So instead I used my bust size of 36" to compare Misses' patterns to Half-size, and 42" bust to compare Women's to Half-size. The metric equivalents are shown in green.

Misses and Half-size measurements, 1972

Because the Half-size patterns use bust measurements of odd numbers, it's not possible to make an exact comparison using the figures above. So I worked out the average of the two Half-sizes. (Well, I did warn you about the spreadsheets!)

Comparing all three figure types with a 36" bust

For the 36" bust at least, the hip measurement does not change between the Misses' patterns and the Half-size. The waist is a fair bit bigger, though. The back waist length is slightly shorter than for Miss Petite, which is in proportion to the shorter overall height.

Because the Women's sizing is described as "for the larger, more fully mature figure", I didn't expect there to be much difference between this and the Half-size apart from the back waist length.

Women's and Half-size measurements for a 42" bust, 1972

I was wrong. There is a slight difference in the hip measurement and a bigger difference in the waist.

Bringing things up-to-date, the Sew Direct website, which now covers all the main pattern brands, states that:
"Patterns have consistent, standardized sizing from pattern brand to pattern brand. This sizing is based off of body measurements that all pattern companies have agreed to, which haven’t changed with the passage of time. So believe it or not, a pattern size 10 from thirty years ago is based off of the same body measurements as a pattern size 10 today."
Certainly, a 36" bust has been a size 14 for as long as I have been doing dressmaking (which is rather more than 30 years!), so I didn't expect a comparison to modern sizing to vary from the 1972 figures. However when I looked at the current size charts I discovered that the waist measurements have been increased by an inch since 1972, which presumably reflects changes in body shapes. Women's Petite sizing has also been introduced. So it was back to the spreadsheets for a final comparison.

Women's and Women's Petite measurements 2019 compared to Half-size measurements 1972

There's not a lot of difference between Women's Petite and the equivalent Half-Size, but unfortunately for me Women's patterns start at a 40" bust. So now that I know what they are, Half-size patterns seem to be the way to go - I'm off to trawl the internet now!


  1. I have several posts on the history of half sizes on my blog, It would be interesting to know if the history of half sizes in Britain followed the same pattern.

    1. I'm not aware of half sizes in British ready-to-wear clothing at all, but I shall start looking out for it - along with dress patterns of course.