Adjusting Patterns for Height

SED patterns are drafted for a total height of 5’5” and a side waist length of 8”.  Make any necessary grading adjustments before height adjustments. 

When we think about how tall we are, we typically don’t go any further than thinking about our total height. We don’t break our height down by body sections. Why would we? Well, because we all carry our height differently.

Let’s say you have two people, both 5’5”, standing beside each other. One has a long torso and the other has long legs. Even though they are both 5’5”, without alterations, the pattern will not fit them the same, because they carry their height differently.

We know that height is the measurement taken from the crown of the head to the floor, but what is side waist length (SWL)? SWL is the measurement taken along the contour of the body from the armpit crease to waist. Having your SWL is a very important measurment when adjusting your patterns for height. Since the smallest part on a bodice is generally the waist, making sure the bodice waist hits your natural waist, as the pattern intends, is crucial for proper fit.

An easy method to find this measurement is to take either elastic or ribbon and tie yourself off at the upper bust and the natural waist. Then follow the contour of your body with a tape measure, as shown in the image below.  

A quick tip for finding your waist: Tie elastic around the area you feel is your waist and forget it’s there for a few minutes. The elastic will settle at your natural waist. 

When altering a pattern for the SWL, the amount added or removed, is a 1:1 ratio. If you have a 9” SWL, you’ll add 1” to the front and back bodice pieces. On the other hand, if you have a 7” SWL, you’ll remove 1” from the front and back bodice pieces. For your convenience, SED has indicated the location of the waistline on all of our patterns to help when adjusting the SWL.

Once you have adjusted for your SWL, you can use the 1/2” for every 1” rule. This typically means you would add/remove, 1/2” for every 1” that your total height differs from the height the pattern is drafted for. Keep in mind that this 1/2” for every 1” rule, is only a general guideline, since everyone carries their height differently. So, after adjusting for your SWL and before adjusting for overall height, take your pattern piece and hold it up against your body. Determine if the pattern hits you where you want the final garment to hit. Make sure you account for your seam and hem allowance. If you adjusted for your SWL, you will also want to take this into account when determining how much additional you need to add/remove from the pattern. 

If you have an 8” SWL, no matter your total height, you will not add/remove any length above the marked waistline point.


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