Is there a way to adjust a pattern to fit an apple-shaped body without sacrificing the look?
The standard body shape for drafting sewing patterns is the hourglass. The narrow-waisted, balanced shoulder-hip ratio is the base for most clothing and sewing patterns. And that wouldn’t be an issue if it weren’t for the fact that most of us are shaped more like a convex column or a vertical oval, also known as the apple shape.
Wearing an hourglass-shaped garment on your oval-shaped body results in draglines and bulges, and the fit feels off. Therefore, making sure that the pattern you’ll sew will work for your body shape is crucial.
So, here you are with a pattern that’s drafted for the hourglass. Is it even doable to adapt it for your apple-shaped torso?
Great news! It’s totally possible and pretty simple too.
This guide will show you how, but first, let’s have a look at the definition of the apple shape.
The “apple” is sometimes confused with plus-size, but It’s actually not the case. Instead, it’s called an apple when the upper body has less than 18 centimeters, or, 7 inches difference between the bust and waist circumference.
A person with an apple-shaped torso can be tall or short and of any weight, as it has nothing to do with size. The waist curve is straighter than the standard measurement charts suggest, and the mid-section is rounder. The hip or bust (or both) measures about the same as the waist and belly.
Together with the column, the apple shape is the most common female body shape in the western world, closely followed by the “pear shape.”
The defined waist is definitely a trend factor. The vertical placement, definition, and visibility of the waistline are changing all of the time.
In the 1950s, the so-called wasp waist was extremely narrow. It’s the perfect example of an hourglass pattern. All seam lines point towards the waist, and the cropped jacket and wide skirt add to the illusion to make it look even narrower.
A Vogue vintage pattern dress design from 1954 with a distinctly marked waist.
In the 1960s, the trend changed to a straighter waist. The “ideal body” hardly had any curves at all. This example pattern shows no seam lines or shaping at the waist, and the design does its best to resemble a column.
A Simplicity original pattern from 1963 with a very straight waist.
In the 1970s, everything changed again. The times called for a softer and more natural waistline that wasn’t so restricting. Curves were back in fashion but not exaggerated.
A Simplicity original pattern from 1975 with a naturally curved waist.
Thanks to the Internet, trends aren’t so impactful anymore, and we can choose what to wear without being dictated by unattainable ideals if we don’t want to. So whether you like a garment with a defined waist or not, there are plenty of options.
Now that you know the definition let’s look at altering the pattern with a defined waist to fit the apple-shaped torso.
If you want to keep the look of the original design, then you don’t want to remove any essential details of the pattern, for example, by removing darts or seams.
To change a pattern without sacrificing the look, limit your adjustments to the side of or inside the pattern pieces, keeping them as close to the original seam lines as possible.
Before you start, there are some basic patternmaking rules to get the best result:
First, make the full or small bust adjustment if you need one. Then check how much to add to the waist.
Measure waist and belly
The circumference and the vertical distance between the waist, the high hip, and the lower hip give the exact placements for where to add ease.
The pattern’s center front and center back must stay intact. Only add width to the sides and seams inside of the pattern.
What you add to the front, you need to add to the back. Again, keep the integrity of the seamlines and avoid distorting the seams.
Don’t add more than10 centimeters/4 inches of total width; pick a larger size instead.
Now grab some printer paper, a pen, and a ruler, and let’s alter the waistline of your pattern.
There are several ways to increase the mid-section of a sewing pattern. There’s an option independent of you having a pattern without darts, with waist darts, or with princess seams.
The simplest alteration is to add ease directly at the side seam.
If you want to keep the original curve at the side seam, you can reduce the dart width.
This alteration works best for minor changes.
Especially helpful if you sew with very thin fabric where the grainline would be distorted if you added the total width in one place.
Distribute the width evenly to the princess seams below the bust.
Small changes can make a big difference no matter what body shape the original pattern was drafted for.
Wearing clothes made with your own hands that fit your unique body beats a ready-to-wear garment any day.
The short time it takes to learn the adjustments you need will benefit you for the rest of your sewing life. And you’ll feel and look like a rockstar.