Halfmoon Strand Dress/Top / Choosing a Size
One of the great things about this pattern is that it comes in an extensive range of sizes and has two cup sizes, which helps us sewists get a better fit. However, with all those sizes to choose from, it can initially seem a little more confusing, so today I'm going to share my measurements, how I chose a size, and some tips for fitting.
Size Chart and Finished Measurement Chart
First, let's talk about the size range. In the issue, the Halfmoon Strand Dress pattern shows nine sizes (2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, ,18) and notes that additional in-between sizes are available in the full pattern download, which means this pattern has sizes: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 (eighteen sizes total). If you're used to US sizing, this may be a little confusing, which is why it's important to check the measurements for each size when deciding which to sew. To learn a little more about the Halfmoon ALTIER size chart, hop on over to Meghann's site and read her page about Sizing.
In my early sewing days, I didn't pay much attention to finished measurements because I didn't realize how valuable they were. These days, I always compare my measurements in the size chart to the finished measurements because this tells a lot about how a garment will fit. Additionally, finished measurements provide a sense of where there may be areas to pay closer attention to when choosing a size.
Usually, a pattern maker designs a garment with a certain amount of ease (space between your body and the garment), which determines fit. With garments made from woven fabrics, you'll want positive ease, more space, because the material doesn't stretch. With garments made from knit fabrics, there is often negative ease, less room, because the fabric will stretch. In this pattern, Meghann explains that it's designed with approximately 2 1/4" ease around the bust with significant ease throughout the rest of the garment. If you didn't have a photo or diagram to look at, visualizing these measurements in relation to each other would help you to create a picture of your own. For example, if it's fitted around the bust, that means there isn't a lot of extra room there, but since it isn't fitted around the waist and hips, that would mean the dress goes out as it moves down, which might make you think of a tent or a-line shape.
Choosing a Base Size
The most important measurement when choosing a size for this dress is the bust measurement, followed by the hip measurement. Since the bust is the main area where the dress is fitted, you'll want to make sure to have the most accurate measurement possible, so it might be a good idea to retake a few of your measurements before getting started.
Take your high bust measurement (which is measured around the upper part of the chest right under the underarm) and use that to determine your base size. For example, my high bust measurement is about 32", so my base size would be a size 4. Now, I also know that my hip size is 34", so before settling on size 4, I check the hip measurement in that size, and it shows 38.5", so I'm fine cutting a straight size 4. Now, if my hip measurement fell under a different size, I would make a note that my bust is a size 4 and the size that my hips fell under so that when I cut out the pattern, I could grade it from a size 4 at the bust to my corresponding hip measurement.
Choosing a Cup Size
Now that you have your high bust measurement, you'll need to compare that to your full bust measurement to determine your cup size. The full bust measurement is the measurement around the fullest part of the bust, which is often considered the standard bust or chest measurement when only one is required. Meghann notes in the pattern that if your full bust measurement is 2" wider than your high bust measurement, you'll be a B cup. If your full bust measurement is 4" wider than your high bust measurement, then you'll be a D cup. We can use my measurements as an example. My high bust measurement is 32," and my full bust measurement is also 32". In this case, since there isn't a difference, I would choose what would be the closest, which is the B cup.
So, going back to my measurements, I'm a base size 4 and cup size B. When cutting out the pattern, it will be important for me to pay attention to which pieces correspond to cup size and base size, and which pieces correspond to base sizes only.
Grading Between Sizes
A note about the yoke: In the instructions, Meghann says that if you're between sizes, you can size down at the yoke. Since the bottom portion of the top is gathered and then attached to the yoke, it won't pose any problems if the yoke is slightly smaller, and all pattern pieces will still fit together. For example, since my high bust is 32", I could technically be considered between sizes since size 2 is 31," and size 4 is 32 3/4" bust.
Sewing a Muslin
Because this dress has some important fitting details, I'd recommend making a muslin first to get a desirable fit. Plus, since this pattern is rated as intermediate, it's always good to practice sewing techniques that may be new to you.
If you are making a muslin specifically to focus on the fit of the top portion, to save fabric, you can cut out only the pieces required for the top. If you're also concerned about the fit of the skirt, you might want to sew the whole dress instead.
P.S. If you'd like to make a wearable muslin, perhaps try using an old bedsheet, thrifting for these can be fun, so that you have a garment you can wear after as pajamas, or you might just like the fit so well that you love it enough to wear as a top/dress!
What I learned from the Muslin(s)
Given the information I shared above regarding measurements, for my muslin, I decided to cut a size 4, with a B cup for the pieces that required cup sizing.
I sewed up almost the entire top portion, excluding attaching the straps in the back, which I pinned in place because I know that straps are typically too long for my petite height. After I had the straps pinned in place, I tried on the top to see how it fit, and some areas needed adjusting. The straps definitely needed to be shortened, and the overall width around the high bust was too large. Being petite, my shoulders aren't typically as broad, so sometimes I remove width from the center back and/or the center front (which would be the "place on a fold" line on the pattern). I pinned away about an inch at the center back and shortened the straps an inch, and the fit was much better, almost satisfactory enough for me to cut into my real fabric. However, from past experiences, I know that sometimes going down a size can solve many fit issues, so I decided to sew up a size 2 to see how that would fit. Sometimes sewing a second muslin can feel a bit tedious, especially if you're like me and don't like sewing muslins (feels like a waste of fabric and takes a lot of time), but in this case, it was worth it and is always worth it if you want to get the best fit possible.
After sewing up the size 2, I tried it on, and the fit was overall much better. I still needed to shorten the straps, but other than that, I liked the fit. The only area that felt a bit tight was at the underarm/side seam, so I decided that when I sewed up the real thing, I would use a smaller seam allowance there.
Overall, going down a size solved most of my fit issues and made the garment feel more comfortable for me. I'd still recommend sewing the size that most accurately corresponds to your measurements before going down a size. This is because you may prefer a looser fit, and it's always better for a garment to be a little big than it is for it to be too tight and unwearable, especially if you decide not to sew a muslin first.
Final Fitting Adjustments:
- Sewed a size 2 instead of a 4.
- Removed about 1" from strap length at the back.
- Sewed side seam and where straps attach to back yoke with 1/4" seam allowance instead of 3/8".
- Removed about 2" from the length at the hemline.
I hope this post was helpful! If you have any questions about fit, comment below and I'd be happy to help if I can. Stay tuned for next week's post, because I'll be sharing my sewing notes and tips! - Emily