Christine Jonson Designs Sizing for the Plus-Sized Woman
by Sarabeth Chambers
Reprinted from Life in the Little Black Dress
When I found Christine Jonson patterns I was very impressed with the simple style lines and straightforward construction. I wanted to look like the drawings on the front of the patterns, so I bought them – all of them, to see what I could do. This was a bold choice for someone who is much larger than the patterns are designed for, and who has plenty of “big girl” figure flaws to hide.
Since then, I have made quite a few of Christine’s Patterns in much larger sizes than the patterns are designed for. I have found that sizing up exactly the difference in your measurements from the largest size works perfectly for most 100% cotton interlocks and LYCRA blend fabrics. For less stretchy the fabric, I add bigger seam allowances and spend a little extra time fitting the outfit after assembling it, so far, no problems.
I started with the Boyfriend Jacket and an inexpensive stretch woven that had previously been washed, my version of muslin. I used the measurements of the back of the pattern and found that I needed to add 7” to the bust, 8” to the waist, and 11” to the hip for the XL size to fit my body. I also wanted to add another inch because I was using a stretch woven instead of a knit. I found that the difference between the size medium (MD) and XL was 8” in the bust, 9” in the waist, and 8” in the hip. Just the differences I needed in the bust and waist, and a little small on the hip.
I traced the XL pattern lines on the fabric in chalk, including the line at the waist. As soon as I had the first piece traced, I went to each corner and moved the pattern piece so that the chalk tracings were lined up under the MD pattern lines and retraced the XL outline on the fabric around the corner. After I had completed re-tracing all the corners and curves, I connected the new lines smoothly for my new cutting line.
Please note that for the hip area, I re-traced by lining up the original chalk line under the small (SM) pattern lines to get the 12” difference I needed.
Once I had all the pattern pieces traced, I did a measurement check. I checked the length of the shoulder seam to my actual shoulder and the front and back shoulder-to-waist measurements. This verified that sizing the pattern up would still fit my body. I really didn’t have any changes to make, but I am kind of tall. I do this measurement check before I cut any fabric because I sew for different shapes of large women and waist length measurements are different for every body.
From that point on I followed the directions for construction without measuring or fitting until the jacket was complete. The pieces went together beautifully and the resulting jacket fit very well.
This method worked very well for the Tapered Pant, Shell, and Straight Shirt, 3 Tees and Swing Jacket. This method worked even better for the Fitted Jacket and Slit Skirt,
the two patterns that I really thought they were only for thin women.
I have a big tummy that prefers to stick out and pants just show it off even more. This leads to adding layers to hide it. I started wearing shirts untucked and big jackets to
hide it, but then I just looked bigger and bigger. I wanted to look as small as possible and very professional at work.
I made up the Slit Skirt in Christine’s Black Cotton/LYCRA expecting to have to wear it with something that covered me down to my crotch. But when I put it on and tucked in a white turtleneck, I looked like I had lost 20 pounds. (Note: A push up bra doesn't hurt this look at all) I wore the waistband flat to give a longer line and minimize
horizontal lines across my waist. Even when I walked around, my tummy was pretty well disguised no matter what length I made the skirt or what I tucked into it. (Knee
length out of ponte or Ottoman fabric is fabulous) That is when I made the fitted jacket to go with it for a professional look.
The Fitted Jacket is a big girl’s best friend. Whether you have a well-defined waist or not, you appear to have one. I decided that I like the feminine curvy look and started
making it in all different lengths and fabric weights. I made a coatdress, a short sleeve linen dress, a winter coat in polar fleece, a long fitted jacket, and a short, very
fitted zip-front jacket. The Fitted Jacket is very good in most any fabric and in whatever length you choose to make it. I like to interface the entire jacket if I am making
out of a real drapy fabric and want a more tailored look. This was the pattern that really inspired me to try different types of fabrics and pattern alterations.
Other surprisingly good looks for large ladies are:
1) The 3 Tee’s pattern cut off at about the waistline and sewn to the top of the Slit Skirt waistband, just like the skirt is sewn to it.
2) The Straight Shirt cut off an inch or two above the waistline with the front slip stitched together and small darts that line up with the Pencil Skirt darts, sewn to the top of the Pencil Skirt. (Note: Add little extra ease to the Pencil Skirt and try it in a different color than the top, great for big hips)
3) A Shell made out of the same fabric as the Slit Skirt or Cuff Pant, and tucked in, and worn under the Swing Jacket or Straight Shirt.
4) The Slit Skirt with a little walking ease added and the kick pleat removed, for a very feminine curvy look.
There is NOTHING frumpy or baggy about the clothes I wear now, or the clothes I make for other large ladies who can’t find nice business clothes to wear.
Finally, an important issue for big girls is undergarments and will a knit fabric hanging up on them, especially when used for the Slit and Pencil Skirts. I prefer cotton
undies and the skirts seem to hang over them without bunching up or sticking to them. I think that is why I am such a big fan of Cotton/LYCRA, Rayon/LYCRA,
Slinky and Ottoman. I hate having to wear special undies and feeling uncomfortable, just to look good in the clothes over them. These fabrics do a lovely job of hiding all my
less than perfect lumps without making me look like I am wearing a large sack and the wrong underwear.
I have made the Fitted Jacket, Shell, and Slit Skirt or Cuff Pant as a set for women with a bust measurement up to 68” and 70” hip, from 5’2” to 6’ tall, and with all
different body types and shapes. I am not a professional seamstress, nor have I been trained in anything remotely resembling design or pattern drafting. I just love sewing.