NMSU: Pattern Alteration
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Pattern Alteration1


Guide C-228

Wendy Hamilton

College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, New Mexico State University


Author: Extension Grants and Contracts Development Specialist, New Mexico State University (Print friendly PDF)

 

A comfortable, attractive garment fits properly. It is neither too large nor too small and conforms to the contours of the body without binding, pulling, sagging, straining, or wrinkling.

Pattern adjustments and alterations are often necessary to achieve a good fit, especially in a form-fitting garment. Making adjustments or alterations before the garment is cut from fabric will eliminate many problems later. Use this collection of alteration guidelines to solve women’s most common fitting problems.

A pattern can be altered and adjusted three ways:

1. By folding out excess fullness to make an area smaller.

2. By slashing and spreading or overlapping along pattern lines to increase or decrease dimensions.

3. By redrawing darts or seamlines.

Illustration depicting three ways for pattern alteration of bodice

Fitting problems usually involve one or more of these basic body areas: neckline, bustline, hipline, arms, shoulderline, back waistline, or abdomen.

As time passes, you may find that the problems of fitting your figure may change. Because of this, you will want to compare your current body measurements (Table 1) plus ease2 to the particular pattern you are using. The amount of ease in a pattern is determined by how close- or loose-fitting the pattern design is.

Table 1. Determining Total Pattern Measurements Using Personal Measurements Plus Ease

Measurements

How to Take Body Measurements

My
Measurements +

Ease* (inches) =

Total
Measurement

 

Remove clothing or wear only undergarments; gently wrap tape around body keeping tape level

 

 

 

Bust

Measure at fullest point

 

3–4

 

High Bust

Measure just above breasts, under the arms, and across the fullest part of the back

 

3–4

 

Low Bust

Measure just under breasts and around back

 

3–4

 

Neckline

Measure neck circumference 1 inch above base of neck

 

0.5–1

 

Shoulders

Measure from base of neck to top of shoulder bone

 

0.5

 

Back

Measure shoulder to shoulder across back

 

1–1.5

 

Shoulder cap (depending on sleeve length, you may need up to 4 measurements)

Measure with arm slightly bent (as if you were going to slip your hand into a front pants pocket)

 

 

a. Shoulder Cap

Top of shoulder to 0.5 inch below wrist bone

 

N/A

 

b. Upper Arm Length

Measure top of shoulder to outside center of elbow

 

N/A

 

c. Upper Arm Circumference

Measure around upper arm at armpit

 

0.5–2

 

d. Wrist

Measure around widest part of hand

 

0.5–1

 

Derriere

Measure widest part of hips

 

2–4

 

Back

Measure down your back from the prominent bone at base of neck down to your waistline

 

1–2

 

Thighs

Measure 9 inches down from waistline, around heaviest part of single thigh

 

1–3

 

Inseam

Measure from crotch to ankle bone on inside of leg

 

0.5–1

 

* The chart provides a range of ease measurements for constructing a fitted garment. Be cautious when determining the exact amount of ease to include with your measurements. Ease amounts vary depending on your pattern instructions, the type of fabric used, and your fit and style preferences.

Make appropriate adjustments or alterations when you find differences between your measurements plus ease and the pattern. After adjusting or altering the pattern, do a careful pin-fitting to further ensure that your garment will fit well.

As you alter the pattern, remember these guidelines:

• Keep all fabric grainlines, the center front, and the center back on the fabric’s straight of grain.

• Make adjustments carefully in order to preserve the garment’s original style or design lines.

• Maintain ease allowance for comfort.

• Whenever possible, use adjustment lines already provided on a pattern.

• When you alter a pattern, make corresponding changes on all related pieces.

ALTERING BODICE PATTERNS

Full Bust (large cup size)

Slash across the pattern along bust dart foldline to center front. Slash across the pattern from waist to shoulder along waist dart foldline. Spread the desired amount at center front and bust area. Do not spread at shoulder seam. Redraw seamlines and darts. (New darts will be larger than the original darts.)

Illustration depicting pattern alteration of bodice for full bust (large cup size)

Small Bust (small cup size)

Slash across the pattern along bust dart foldline to center front. Slash across pattern from waist to shoulder along waist dart foldline. Overlap darts the desired amount to decrease the bust area. Do not overlap at shoulder seam. (New darts will be smaller than the original darts.)

Illustration depicting pattern alteration of bodice for small bust (small cup size)

High Bust

Slash below dart and up to armscye (or armhole) level. Fold out desired amount above the dart. Lengthen the waistline dart as needed. Redraw seamline below dart.

Illustration depicting pattern alteration of bodice for high bust

Low Bust

Slash above dart and down to waist. Fold out desired amount below dart. Shorten the waistline dart as needed. Redraw seamline above dart.

Illustration depicting pattern alteration of bodice for low bust

Small Neck

Redraw neckline to raise it the desired amount. Add the same amounts to the facing and collar patterns.

Illustration depicting pattern alteration of bodice for small neck

Large Neck

Redraw neckline to lower it the desired amount. Alter the facing and collar patterns to match the new neckline.

Illustration depicting pattern alteration of bodice for large neck

Gaping Neckline

Slash from neckline down through bust area to waist. Overlap the desired amount on neck edge; the waistline dart will become larger. Remember to alter the neckline facing and collar patterns to fit the altered neckline.

Illustration depicting pattern alteration of bodice for gaping neckline

Sloping Shoulders

Redraw shoulder seam and armscye seams, sloping and lowering them the desired amount. Be sure to redraw seams on both front and back pattern pieces.

Illustration depicting pattern alteration of bodice for sloping shoulders

Round Shoulders

Slash across the back from center back to armscye. Slash down from middle of neckline curve. Spread the desired amounts, making the addition at the neckline a new dart.

Illustration depicting pattern alteration of bodice for round shoulders

Narrow Shoulders

Slash from midpoint of shoulder down and across to middle of armscye. Overlap pattern the desired amount, and redraw. Be sure to complete alterations for both bodice front and back.

Illustration depicting pattern alteration of bodice for narrow shoulders

Broad Shoulders

Slash from midpoint of shoulder down and across to the middle of armscye. Spread pattern the desired amount. Redraw seam from neckline to armscye. Be sure to complete alterations for both bodice front and back.

Illustration depicting pattern alteration of bodice for broad shoulders

Square Shoulders

Redraw shoulder seam and armscye seams, raising them the desired amount. Be sure to redraw seams on both front and back pattern pieces.

Illustration depicting pattern alteration of bodice for square shoulders

Narrow Back

Slash from shoulder to waist. Slash from underarm side seam to first slash. Overlap pattern sections the desired amount, but do not overlap at shoulder or waistline.

Illustration depicting pattern alteration of bodice for narrow back

Broad Back

Illustration depicting pattern alteration of bodice for broad back

Slash down from midpoint of shoulder to bottom of armscye and across. Spread pattern the desired amount. Redraw side seam and shoulder dart. (The new dart will be larger than the original one.)

Sleeve Cap Too Narrow

Slash from top of sleeve to elbow, then across to side seam. Spread the desired amount at the top. Redraw cap. Add 1/2 the amount added to the shoulder cap to the shoulder seam on both the bodice front and back.

Illustration depicting pattern alteration of bodice for large upper arm

Large Upper Arm

Measure the length of the original seam at the top of the sleeve and record the measurement. Slash sleeve down the center from top to bottom. Slash across cap. As you pull the sleeve open to make it wider, the cap will become shorter; redraw the cap to its original height. Measure the length of the new seam at the top of the sleeve. Figure the difference from the original seam. Add 1/2 of the difference to the underarm seams of both the bodice front and back.

Illustration depicting pattern alteration of bodice for small arm

Small Arm

Measure the length of the original seam at the top of the sleeve and record the measurement. On the pattern, fold out the desired amount along a line from top to bottom of sleeve. Redraw lines at hem of sleeve and cap to make a smooth seamline. Measure the length of the new seam at the top of the sleeve; figure the difference from the original seam. Remove 1/2 the difference from the underarm seams of both the bodice front and back.

Illustration depicting pattern of bodice alteration of bodice for large arm alteration for large arm

Large Arm

Slash sleeve down the center from top to bottom and spread the desired amount. Add 1/2 the amount added to the sleeve to the bodice front and back side seam.

Illustration depicting pattern alteration of bodice for large arm

Altering Skirt Patterns

Protruding Derriere

Slash from waistline to hemline parallel to center back through waistline dart. In hip area, slash across pattern from center back to side seam. Spread the pattern the width and length desired. Redraw dart and seamlines. (The new dart will be larger than the original dart.)

Illustration depicting pattern alteration of skirt for protruding derriere

Flat Derriere

Slash parallel to center back from waistline to hemline through the waistline dart. In hip area, slash across pattern from center back to side seam. Overlap pattern in hip area the desired amount to reduce width and length. Redraw dart and seamlines. (The new dart will be smaller than the original.)

Illustration depicting pattern alteration of skirt for flat derriere

Sway Back

On bodice back just above waistline, fold out desired amount and redraw side seam, dart, and center back seam. On skirt back just below waistline, fold out desired amount and redraw side seam, dart, and center back seam.

Illustration depicting pattern alteration of skirt for sway back

Protruding Abdomen

Slash from waistline to hemline parallel to center front through waistline dart. In the abdomen area, slash across the pattern from center front to side seam. Spread the pattern the desired amount to increase in width and length. Redraw dart and seamlines. (The new dart will be smaller than the original, and the waistline seam will curve up.)

Illustration depicting pattern alteration of skirt for protruding abdomen

Bulging Thigh or Wide Hips

Slash parallel to the side seam from hemline up to thigh or hip area, then across to side seam. Spread the desired amount. Redraw seamline from waistline to hem.

Illustration depicting pattern alteration to skirt for bulging thigh or wide hips

Flat Side Hip

Fold out the desired amount along the side seam of skirt front and skirt back. Fold should be parallel to center front and center back.

Illustration depicting pattern alteration of skirt for flat side hip

Altering Pants Patterns

Protruding Derriere

Slash pattern back from waistline down center of leg parallel to grainline. In hip area, slash across from center back to side seam. Spread to add desired amount. Redraw darts. Redraw crotch seam and inseam to add needed length.

Illustration depicting pattern alteration of pants  for prodruding derriere

Flat Derriere

Fold pattern at center back to decrease fullness the desired amount, tapering waistline to the side seam. Fold out desired amount at side hip of back pattern piece only.

Illustration depicting pattern alteration of pants  for flat derriere

Sway Back

Fold out the desired amount below the waistline to decrease the length of center back crotch seam. Redraw side seam, darts, and center back seam.

Illustration depicting pattern alteration of pants for sway back

Protruding Abdomen

Slash at center front and spread to add the desired amount at waistline. Taper the waistline to the side seam and redraw darts. Redraw crotch seam and inseam to add amount needed to front crotch length and leg.

Illustration depicting pattern alteration of pants  for bulging thighs

Bulging Thighs

Slash at front side hip and spread pattern the desired amount. Redraw to smooth seamline. Repeat for back side hip.

Illustration depicting pattern alteration of pants  for bulging thighs

1These guidelines pertain to women’s fashions only.

2Ease is the amount of give or movement a pattern has allowed beyond actual body measurements for flexibility of movement (e.g., a pattern may be sized to fit a 36-inch bust but may also include 2.5 inches of ease in the bust, providing a pattern bust measurement of 38.5 inches).

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Original author: Susan Wright, Extension Clothing and Textiles Specialist.

Photo of Wendy Hamilton.

Wendy Hamilton is an Extension Evaluation and Accountability Specialist at New Mexico State University who provides expertise for program development and evaluation. She has worked at four land-grant universities, and has a diverse background in textiles and clothing, adult education, 4-H youth-at-risk, horticulture, evaluation, and grant writing.


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New Mexico State University is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer and educator. NMSU and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating.

Revised July 2015 Las Cruces, NM