Japanese Pattern Book Sizing

Stylish dress book - Japanese sewing patterns - csews.com

I’m participating in this year’s Japan Sew Along, which I wrote about earlier this month here. In that post, I expressed frustration at the sizing of Japanese pattern books. Based on the measurements in the Stylish Dress Book, it seemed to me that size L would be too small for me because I’m 5′ 8″ (1.73 M). But then I got an interesting comment on that post, which made me think I need to reexamine my assumptions of Japanese pattern book sizing. EmSewCrazy said:

I have sewn a couple things from Japanese sewing books. I’m 5′ 10″ and have a 37″ bust. The biggest thing I can say is MEASURE THE PATTERN!!!
I cannot emphasize this enough. They tend to wear their patterns with much more ease than we do and not being so “ethereal” we look like we’re wearing tents. So making the L size often works for me I just have less style ease than the pattern intended but I prefer that. The last dress I made in a woven that had sleeves so the broad shoulders came into play, ended up working well when I took a smaller tuck than the pattern called for and added a bit extra seam allowance in the shoulder area.

With knits I cut the large with no seam allowances and it ends up working well with the stretch of the fabric.

I have to add length in the appropriate areas but I have to do that regardless of what pattern company I’m using. The exception is if I want it to turn out as a tunic top instead of a dress. Then the length is pretty close for me. :)

… I just love Japanese patterns and I feel they get a bad rap because of sizing when if you do the flat pattern measuring there is enough room for us “bigger” women in them.

Her comment made me realize that I need to measure the actual pattern pieces and see how much ease there is. Maybe I jumped the gun in my 2013 post on Everyday Dresses, in which I complained that size L was too small for me.

So it turns out EmSewCrazy is correct about ease. I looked at the measurements for a shift dress in the Stylish Dress book, doing a rough approximation of where the bust, waist and hip would be and here’s what I got for size L:

  • Bust – 40.5 inches
  • Waist – 41.5 inches
  • Hips – 45.5 inches

My bust is 38 inches, waist 31.5 inches, hips 43 inches. So depending on how much ease I want, I don’t really need to add much to a size L. Also, I have a small bust, which is a benefit for working with Japanese patterns.

Thus size L may indeed be fit you quite well. Of course, it’s much easier to figure out fit when books give you finished measurements. The book Basic Black by Sato Watanabe does provide finished measurements. Some of the garments are fitted and some are designed to fit more loosely. She provides measurements for the different designs.

I just checked this book out from my local library. I really like the skirts and dresses in it. I do wear black a lot – though I think any of the patterns in the book can be made with any colors or prints you want. No need to limit yourself to one color!

Now I can’t decide which pattern book to use: Stylish Dress Book, Pocchari Girl’s Sewing Book, Basic Black? I think my fabric options will help me decide. It was my birthday last week and one of my presents from my husband was a gift card to my local fabric store Stonemountain and Daughter Fabrics. I went shopping last weekend and here’s what I got – a black cotton pique, a textured wool velvet, and this pretty cotton lawn print.

Fabric - cottons and wool - csews.com

I was thinking I could use the pique to make this A-line skirt in Basic Black. I like the panels in it.

A-line Block Skirt - Basic Black - csews.com

The wool velvet could make a really nice version of this vest in Basic Black. The book recommends making it in corduroy. Sorry for the odd cropping but the book doesn’t show the full vest – just these partial shots.

Whimsical vest - Basic Black by Sato Watanabe - csews.com

The cotton lawn could be one of the shift dresses in the Stylish Dress Book. Oh, and I just got a black cotton/linen remnant from Britex Fabrics today for about $20. The store is having a 30 percent off sale next Monday (President’s Day holiday). I didn’t want to wait until then because it’ll likely be gone by the time I get there. There aren’t too many linen remnants available.

I’m thinking I want to use the fabrics I just bought and make all those garments I mentioned above. If you’ve made anything from Basic Black or Stylish Dress Book, please let me know!

What are you making now?

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14 Responses to “Japanese Pattern Book Sizing”

  1. Annette
    February 18, 2015 at 11:40 am #

    So have you decided yet what to make with the cotton lawn? ! Annette

    • February 18, 2015 at 8:41 pm #

      Yes! I’m going to make a dress from Stylish Dress Book. Need to muslin first though!

  2. February 11, 2015 at 12:19 pm #

    Yey, so glad you are going to sew up some Japanese patterns. I love the stylish dress books. my favourite!

    • February 11, 2015 at 12:39 pm #

      Yes, I’m excited to get going! Nice to know you like the Stylish Dress series, too. I’ve only got this one so far.

  3. February 11, 2015 at 10:48 am #

    Yea! I’m so glad you figured out they would work for you! That vest is adorable! Can’t wait to see what you make! Your fabrics are lovely!

    • February 11, 2015 at 12:37 pm #

      Yes, thanks so much for giving me the push I needed to measure the pieces! I’m very happy with my fabric. I can’t stop petting that wool velvet. 🙂

  4. February 11, 2015 at 12:03 am #

    I do agree with EmSewCrazy too: After measuring the pattern I usually chose at least one size smaller than the size chart indicates for my body measurements. Her description of the more ease and the tent-like look is adorably concise.

    The cotton lawn is so pretty, I’m excited to see what you make of it 🙂


    • February 11, 2015 at 12:45 pm #

      How nice to be able to pick a smaller size! I really like that cotton lawn, too. 🙂

  5. February 10, 2015 at 7:42 pm #

    I agree with EmSewCrazy, although I tend to sew from the more ‘atypical’ books and I think their ease is a little tighter.
    I’ve made ‘semi-fitted’ shirt K in size M from Basic Black – it’s lovely that once the bodice that they use fits you (I had to adjust the bust apex), then they have a lovely selection of variations, by switching the collar/sleeve/skirts, you have styles k-t. The princess seamed bodice is lines drawn on the darted one – no seam allowances are included.
    The instructions are interesting, I wrote a review: http://dreamingdashie.blogspot.com.au/2014/08/basic-black-bodices-book-review.html
    By the same author is I am cute dresses where your bust/hip measurement is your starting point for drawing the pattern pieces – some of these have lots of ease built in.

    • February 10, 2015 at 8:47 pm #

      That shirt looks nice – I’m sure it looks great on you. I’ll definitely check out your review. Thanks so much for the link! I may have to buy Basic Black. I like a lot of the patterns in it.


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