Sewing for Giants

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Hi! I am Wendy from CoserCosas.es and apparently, I am a freak… just kidding… I’m only slightly above average height with my 177cm (5’9″).

The discussion started here on the Sewcialist blog about identity is very interesting. I am not going to list all my identities here, so let’s just keep it simple with white, middle-class female. And apparently I should add ‘tall’ to that list.

I never really consciously think about my height or other parts of me, it is just something that is. Just like I never think about my glasses, the shape of my toes (BTW, I think they are cute, although they are often referred to as sausages), the big birthmarks on my back, or even my nationality. They just are.

Now that the Sewcialists made me consciously think about it, I guess I am above average height?

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I am from Belgium, but now live in Spain. In Belgium I am considered average to tall. My husband is 2 cm taller than me (for those non-metric people, that’s ¾ of an inch), which sometimes bothers him. In Belgium he is considered average. He would have liked to be a bit taller, but I don’t mind. It makes it easy to walk hand in hand or to put my arm around his back or my hands in his coat pockets. Most of my friends in Belgium are slightly shorter than me, but I also have a few friends that are taller than me. Nobody ever comments on my height in Belgium.

However, in Spain where I live now, I am considered tall. I don’t think I personally know any other woman in Spain who is taller than me. I get a lot of comments on my height, so here I am considered tall. I guess it all just is in the eyes of the beholder. I do notice that, when in Belgium I can easily buy RTW clothes, but in Spain, the waist sits too high and thus the dresses and hems are too short.

When I first started sewing, I never considered my height to be something to be taken in to account. Now that I know a bit more, and am a bit more confident in adjusting patterns, I do lengthen patterns.

Height adjustments are probably the easiest of them all. It all starts with knowing yourself and your body proportions. I have relatively long legs, so I don’t have to add much to bodices, just a few centimeters. I usually add 1 – 3 cm (again, 3/8” inch to ¾”) to the waist. For skirts and pants I add 5 cm to the hem and then before hemming I see how much I chop off again. Although I sometimes skip this for hems of dresses or skirts because, well, I like ‘em short.

Something I have to start doing consistently, is adding length to sleeves.

I think the most important thing in fitting for a taller than average person, is to take the following measurements and then compare those to the pattern pieces.

  • Full height
  • Leg height
    • Ankle to waist
    • Ankle to hip
  • Torso height
    • From neck to hip
    • From neck to waist
    • From shoulder to hip
    • From shoulder to waist
  • Arm length

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There is also a cultural difference in pattern brands (I think)! Some brands share the height their patters are designed for, and others don’t.

  • For example, Named Patterns work perfectly for me, but Pauline Alice Patterns or La Maison Victor Patterns are always too short in the bodice (La Maison Victor designs for 168cm tall women in my size, and is a Belgian sewing magazine).
  • I recently found a new-to-me pattern brand Dressy Talk and they actually make their patterns in 2 different heights; one for 164cm (5’4”-5’5”) and one for 170cm (5’7”).
  • Burda also has a few patterns for tall people, they use a reference height of 176cm (5’9”), so those are worth checking out.

Do you know any other brands that make patterns for different heights? I really do love that approach since size is more than circumferences, it is also height and proportions! I would love to see more pattern brands make this distinction. If any of the mentioned pattern brands could share the standard heights used in their blocks, that would be great!

So that’s it for me, nothing earth shattering (after all, I am only slightly above average) but I hope this was of use to someone.

Happy sewing!


24 thoughts on “Sewing for Giants

  1. Proportions are so important! I’ve steered clear of making dresses with defined waists. (Which never fit in RTW either.) But I just may give that a try, lengthening the torso as you do. I find pants very difficult to fit. (Hemmm. Common theme.) I’m tall, but my crotch rise is very short. Low rise pants hit my belly button, so you can imagine where high rise pants hit. (Somewhere just south of my armpits, ha ha!) I think you have a strong argument for pattern companies having more “standard” measurements available for comparisons sake.

    1. Lengthening the torso has definitely been a game changer for me! And what’s more, it’s one of the easiest alterations out there. Pants are a whole different matter. There are a few good resources about pant fitting, one of them is the guide from Closet Case Patterns.
      It bothers me that a lot of pattern makers don’t put in their measurements chart or in the finished measurements charts the height for which they design. Finished measurements are more often than not limited to bust, waist, hip…
      I would definitely love to see a picture of you in high rise pants 😉

      1. Heather at Closet Case Patterns may do jeans workshops in her new Montreal studio at some point in the future. I live 4 hours south of her, and my passports (U.S. and Pfaff) are waiting! As for the photo, I must sneak a dressing room selfie – that would be hysterical!

        1. so nice to read about an other tall, short rise sewist! I’m in the same position and it makes jeans so intimidating, but in 2018 I will conquer!

          1. Hi Anne, I just finished the Ginger Jeans and will add at least 5cm next time… These will be left for spring and summer when I can roll up the legs a bit…

            1. Thanks, That’s good to know! I’m also 177cm, not very uncommon in the Netherlands, bit still taller than average.
              I’m planning to make Gingers with the help of the guide. Especially because my short front rise makes me ‘scared’.

  2. I remember feeling tall in Spain, and I am only 5’6″. For designers who make “tall” patterns, you might want to check out Oki Style. She’s originally from Mongolia and now lives in Germany. Her patterns come in short, regular and tall. Her designs are a bit edgy and modern – maybe not your taste – but I can recommend the “Joker” shirt. Very well drafted and a great project.

    1. Hehe, another Spanish giant 😉 I checked out Oki Style and it is super cool! I love the Joker Shirt! The Tim Shirt and Salt Jacket also look very promising!

  3. With Burda, they also have very straightforward instructions for making the average patterns tall! I’ve taken a tall size down to average (I’m 5’5″) several times now!

    And I think 5’9″ is tall! I wish I were that tall!!!

    1. I like the Burda sizing and they have a lot of resources available, but their instructions are just terrible which used to turn me off completely… Now I wouldn’t mind so much, maybe I should give them another chance…. Now if they could only do something about the spaghetti on their pattern sheets…

  4. I am over 6 ft tall , so I definitely always take length into consideration. Although I have been known to add length and then get distracted and chop it back off- one of the dangers of just adding to the hem I guess!

    I had the habit since I first learned to sew to measure all of the lengths on the paper pattern. I guess because you never know whether the length is proportioned correctly for you even if the overall pattern is long enough. It always seems strange to me when someone complains about the length when they do a pattern review, because it is so easy to double check, it doesn’t need to be a crap shoot.

    1. I think if the only thing you have to worry about in the alterations, is height, you are a lucky person… I have been known to chop off length again as well… Or to not add length, knowing full well that the result might be borderline indecent… (I am right now thinking about the Laurel Dress… That one is ridiculously short). Proportion is always a difficult one, I always try to find different body type examples… I feel like Colette is doing a great job there nowadays with their different models for one pattern…

  5. You make an excellent point about location. I don’t know about other continents of course but in Europe this is really a thing. I live in Amsterdam (and am of fairly average height for a Dutch girl, 1.72m or 5’7), where I have two friends who have trouble finding clothes that fit. One is about 10cm shorter than me and has to go to our neighboring country Belgium for her shopping, the other is 20cm longer than me and has it way easier up in the north of the Netherlands.

    Mind that the Netherlands are ridiculously small, maybe a four hour drive from the one far end to the other, and there’s already such a difference!

    1. Erika, I’m originally from Belgium, from a small town on the border, very close to Terneuzen… I’d love to go check out the north of the Netherlands to see how tall they are… You have me intrigued 😉
      1.62m is on the short side in Belgium as well, but 1.92m is really tall! (When I was younger, I always wanted to be super tall…) I think it’s crazy that there is such a difference between the south and north in the Netherlands… In Belgium there is no geographical divide between tall and short…

  6. I am considered tall as well, and have always added length. As you mentioned, it is one of the easiest adjustments. It is a treat, however, when I can get a tall pattern and not have to fuss. Seamstress Erin will be coming out with two new patterns soon, one for leggings and one for a cami. I pattern tested the tall version of the leggings, and they are a perfect fit. They would be an excellent beginning pant pattern for anyone to try. The patterns will also have maternity options, so I can see them becoming TNTs. I like how you said you just are. I am just me, too, and it is a happy thing.

    1. I love tall patterns!!! No cutting and then making sure everything is parallel… A cami for tall persons sounds interesting, because they usually make me look like a teen who wants to show of a bit of bellybutton…

      It is definitely a happy thing to not have to think about parts of your identity. I guess the bright side of growing up in a small town in Western Europe is that girls get the same education and chances as boys (even though there is stereotyping and a wage gap) and that race is not really an issue, because -when I was little, things have changed over the last 30 years, and I think that’s a good thing – everyone I knew growing up was white…

  7. Check out the german sewing blog elle puls. Elke is tall herself and creates sewing patterns for tall women. I think i saw her patterns at indie sew aswell.
    Greats, Anna
    PS: i love your barbara dress. it is on my to-sew list. Unfortunatelly I never had enough fabric at home till now…

    1. I will definitely check that out! The Barbara Dress was a lot of fun to sew, I think we were a group of 7 sewing it at the same time… I really like the neckline of the dress!

  8. I’m 5’9” so I know your pain. Chuleenan of CSews has a pattern company height chart she’s been updating as she can. I send her measurements when I find one she doesn’t have. http://csews.com/sewing-2/sewing-pattern-height

    It’s not perfect. I’ve sewn quite a few Papercut Patterns and find their own discrepancies to be true… I’ve added length to some tops and bottoms, and not others.

    Your advice to know our own height distribution is really good. I found out the hard way this summer with a cup-size based pattern… the bust dart for a D cup was ridiculously high! It’s comical.

    Megan Nielsen is based on 5’9” and I own a good half dozen of her patterns but keep bumping them down on my queue (not helpful, I know.)

    Closetcase fits me in Ginger jeans perfectly but my torso is longer than her top block. My inseam is only 30” on a good day, so that’s about right, and again fits with your advice of knowing our own height distribution…even regardless of height that’s probably a good idea!

  9. Ah, the joys of being tall in a (mostly) vertically challenged world. It’s great for seeing over the crowd at parades and concerts, you don’t even have to stand on tippy toe. I was actually excited last year when Christmas shopping with my daughter our salesgirl was 6’3″! I was lucky tho, as my mom was a sewing fanatic and a whiz at fitting. I remember when I was about 15 we decided it was time for me to learn all about fitting. We measured everything and made a list I still keep for reference.
    Years ago she gave me a wonderful book, The Vogue fitting book, still available today. If some point on your piece of clothing doesn’t fit, feel or look right, you just look it up and you will find pictures showing your issue along with the perfect solution. It has never failed me yet.
    I have never been able to buy a dress rtw as I find it annoying to have the waist ride just under my armpit. And pants may occasionally be long enough in the leg (tall jeans?), But never long enough in the crotch . Bust darts? Nope. I appreciate this discussion and wish you all happy sewing and perectly fitting cothes. It is a very rewarding journey.

  10. Thank you so much for identifying several pattern lines that design for tall. The American Big 4 design for 5’6″, and I’ve added length all my life to sleeves, bodices, pant and skirt lengths. I’ve been looking at both Named and Megan Neilson patterns recently. I think I’ll have to give them a try.

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