Patterns and garments cannot be made for the exact body’s measurements, because such clothing would not be comfortable to wear and would even restrict your movements. The extra width added to the body’s measurements in garments is called ease. It is a pattern feature you should be aware of, as it affects the fit of a garment.
There are two kinds of ease. The first one is essential to make garments wearable – allowing for regular movements and comfort – it is a construction or wearing ease. It defines if the closing is well or loose fitted. The second one is design or style ease. It is additional room added beyond the wearing ease to create an intended fullness for a given design – creating a style effect. Design ease is very adaptable and changes with fashion trends. Wearing ease recommendations also vary, but not so much. Both kinds of ease are treated as total ease and provide a valuable information while choosing the pattern size and fabric type. The information about ease usually refers to the full bust circumference for the blouses and to the hips for skirts and trousers. All MySizePatterns have information about the (total) ease. Read it carefully.
The information about ease gives you an idea how the garment is intended to fit, if you choose the right size of course. Never use wearing ease to accommodate for a smaller size. The proportions will be lost and you will not be able to move comfortably – surely if you sew from woven fabrics. Use your own size and reduce ease, if you really need to get a closer fit. Please bear in mind that too tight clothes are not flattering to any figure, not to mention the wearing comfort that you may compromise.
Also, an assumption of taking a much larger size (two or more) in order to get an impression of an over-sized garment may not work, as pattern grading is based on an hourglass shape. You are likely to end up with a garment that will be simply too large all over instead of some extra room in one area. It is much better to play with ease with a pattern in your size (you need to make alternations before cutting the fabric). You need to increase the ease usually by making the seam lines less profiled.
It seems very complicated, but it really is not. Moreover, if you are familiar with the concept of ease, you will see that your sewing and fitting efforts benefit from that enormously. Understanding how it works is really much easier than start working with a wrong size and trying to fix the issues during sewing – it is not always possible, by the way.
So what defines ease?
Functionality. Think about a dress for a formal evening gala and a dress for attending a wedding party. Both dresses would be constructed by a designer bearing in mind the purpose these garments would serve and the movements that most likely are going to be made during wearing. In the first dress you will be probably sitting or standing still and in the second one – you will be dancing. Casual clothes have more ease, while formal garments are usually more fitted.
Fabrics. It is crucial that a pattern is constructed with a specific kind of fabric in mind. This determines the amount of ease to be included in the pattern. A woven fabric has totally other qualities than a stretchy knit. A dress, which is meant to be made from a woven fabric needs to be larger than a person, otherwise it is impossible to fit it in and make movements. A dress to be sewn from stretchy knits can be even smaller than a person’s measurements as it has give – it stretches to match the body’s measurements. In such cases, we can even have NEGATIVE ease, yes that is correct – ease can be negative and garment can be smaller than the body’s measurements. It is quite an extreme example, but in general, garments from knits have no or very little ease. Therefore, never use a pattern designed for knits to make garments from woven fabrics.
Fashion. Probably the most influential factor with regards to the amount of (design) ease. Fashion comes with a wide range of styles ranging from close-fitting to a very loose fit. One day over-sized garments and ‘sack dresses” are in style and then more tailored models are trendy. Pattern designers and clothing companies respond to trends by adjusting ease in their products – adding or subtracting the additional room in garments.
Personal preferences. Probably the most important factor in determining the ultimate ease in your garment. To put it simple, this is the amount of room that makes you feel comfortable and is in your opinion the most flattering to your silhouette. Some people like tight clothes and others like loose-fitting clothes. Moreover, there are no golden rules such as full figures preferring a medium-fit and small sizes preferring a close-fit. You will find all possible combinations here as it is just “like” or “not like”, a matter of taste and personal preferences. When you make a garment for somebody else, you need to listen to them very carefully to hear what their preference is. You may give your advice and opinion, but be prepared that your comments may be ignored. On the other hand, when making clothes for yourself is – you can also make what YOU like.
You will easily find in many books and online resources various tables listing the amount of ease that should/would/could be applied per garment type. These ranges are usually referred to as recommended or advised or suggested ease. You may find opinions that you need to follow these rules strictly and you will also hear voices that these numbers are merely general guidelines.