If you’ve browsed through any pattern catalog, you’ve possibly run across a reference to patterns with different cup size options. But what does this mean? Patterns used to nearly all be drafted for a B-cup pattern cup, meaning a woman whose difference between her high bust and full bust is 2 inches. Thankfully for many of us with larger busts, in recent years, some pattern brands have been expanding beyond drafting for a B-cup pattern cup.
Pattern cup sizes are different from bra cup sizes. Just because you wear a D-cup bra does not necessarily mean that you will need a D-cup pattern or always require an FBA. Unless otherwise stated by the pattern maker, pattern cup size is always based on the difference between your high bust and full bust measurements.
Bra cup sizes, on the other hand, vary by bra maker. Most methods for measuring bra size involve measuring your under bust area, doing some math (or not) and subtracting that from your full bust measurement. To confuse things further, the volume for a particular bra cup size increases as bra band size increases. For example, the cup of a 36D and a 38C bra will have the same volume. Along the same line, the volume of a 40DD cup will be considerably larger than a 32DD cup.
Thankfully for those of us who sew, pattern companies have a standard method to measure pattern cup size:
- Measure your full bust. Wrap the tape measure around the fullest part of your bust. Don’t pull the tape measure too snugly, or you will end up underestimating your full bust measurement.
- Measure your high bust. Wrap the tape measure around your chest and under your arms. Pull the tape measure snugly.
- Subtract your high bust from your full bust, and use the difference to figure out your pattern cup size:
- 1″ = A cup
- 2″ = B cup
- 3″ = C cup
- 4″ = D cup
- 5″ = DD cup
- 6″ = DDD cup
For those of us with very large busts (larger than a D cup), the only pattern company that goes beyond a DDD is Cashmerette Patterns, which goes up to H.
Why is pattern cup size important?
If you’ve ever gone to a pattern’s size chart, picked a size by your bust measurement, and had the garment that you’ve sewn end up too large in the neck and shoulders, then pattern cup size should be important to you. If you have a large difference between your high and full bust, for example, you have a 6″ difference between your high and full bust instead of the standard 2″, most patterns that you select by your full bust measurement will be much too large for your neck and shoulders.
If your cup size is larger than the pattern’s cup size, you’ll usually get a better fit by selecting a pattern that fits your neck and shoulders and doing an FBA to increase the bust size. The following fitting issues are clues that your fit might improve if you start with a smaller pattern size for your neck and shoulders:
- Gaping at the neckline
- Shoulder seams that extend past your own shoulders
- Gaping armholes
- A pinch or wrinkle of fabric forming at your armhole above your bust
In my opinion, patterns with larger cup size options are a GREAT option for those of us with large busts. We might still need to perform an FBA, but we have a much better starting point.
Determining your starting pattern size
If you’re a B cup choosing a B cup pattern, select a pattern by your full bust size. If you’re a D cup selecting a pattern by a company that drafts for a D cup (for example, Bluegingerdoll), select your pattern size by your full bust. From there, things get a little more complicated:
- If you’re a D cup selecting a B cup pattern, choose the pattern size whose bust measurement corresponds to your high bust (not your full bust) measurement. This size should give you a decent fit through the neck and shoulders. Depending on the ease of the pattern, you may need to then do an FBA to increase the bust size of the pattern.
- If you’re a D cup selecting a pattern that has separate cup size options, such Vogue’s Custom Fit patterns, determine what your pattern size would be if only the B cup option was available. In other words, choose your normal Vogue Patterns starting size (typically, going by your high bust measurement), but then select the D cup pattern piece for that size.
What happens when your pattern cup size falls outside of the range of the pattern itself, though? For example, what if you’re a G cup (9″ difference between your high and full bust measurement)?
- If you’re selecting a B cup pattern, select by your high bust measurement and expect to do a large FBA, depending on pattern ease. (I’ll talk about options for a large FBA in future posts.)
- If you’re selecting a pattern that has separate cup size options, like the aforementioned Vogue pattern line, select your starting size based on high bust size, then choose the D cup pattern piece for that size. You will probably still need an FBA, but your FBA will be much more reasonably sized.
- If you’re selecting a pattern from a pattern line that drafts for a D cup, remember that the patternmaker is assuming a 4″ difference between your high bust and full bust. Add 4″ to your high bust measurement and start with that size.
Let’s walk through this example with real numbers. We’ll assume that you have a 51″ bust and a 42″ high bust measurement, for a difference of 9″, then pick your starting size for a Bluegingerdoll pattern, which will be drafted for a D cup:
Take your high bust measurement of 42″ and add 4″ for a hypothetical bust measurement of 46″. Find the 46″ bust measurement on the above size chart and see that it corresponds to a size 20, which is the size that I’d suggest starting with for these measurements. You’ll likely still need an FBA, but it will be a smaller FBA than if you were to start with a B cup pattern. Now, you might have other methods that you use to select your starting pattern size; however, I usually use the method that I’ve just described, and it works well enough for me.
I do highly recommend making a bodice muslin unless you’re really familiar with a company’s sizing. You may find that you need to go up or down a starting size based on your own personal body.
Cup size reference chart
A question that I see frequently asked in the online sewing community is “What cup size does [Pattern Company] draft for?” I compiled a chart of the most popular and a number of larger-bust-friendly pattern makers to help sewists evaluate what pattern size to start with and identify companies that help make FBAs a little less painful:
|Pattern Company||Cup Size(s)||Comments|
|Bootstrap||Custom||Custom pattern draft based on your own measurements.|
||B5917, B5966 have cup sizes D-DDD in the Women’s range.|
|By Hand London||B|
|Cake||Custom via grading||Connect-the-dots and lines to grade Cake patterns to your own measurements.|
|Cashmerette||C to H||Each pattern comes in 3 cup sizes, C/D, E/F and G/H.|
|Closet Case Files||B|
||Sarai has mentioned in blog posts that she officially drafts for a C-cup, but makes sure that her patterns will fit her own D-cup figure. Colette’s plus size block drafts for a DD-cup.|
|Deer & Doe||C|
|HotPatterns||C (for base size 16), Increases and decreases with pattern size||Cup size decreases and increases as the pattern is graded for smaller and larger sizes, respectively.|
||Early patterns were drafted for a straight-up D-cup. More recent patterns have cup sizes A-D included.|
|Lekala||Custom||Custom pattern draft based on your own measurements.|
||M6436, M6473, and M6927 have cup sizes D-DDD in the Women’s range|
|Petite Plus||D||Petite Plus are drafted for curvier women 5’4″ and under|
|Seamster Patterns||C (for base size 6), Increases and decreases with pattern size||Cup size decreases and increases as the pattern is graded for smaller and larger sizes, respectively.|
|Sewaholic||B||Sewaholic patterns are drafted for a small-busted, pear-shaped figure.|
|Silhouette||B, C, D||All patterns have options for cup siszes B-D|
|Skinny Bitch Curvy Chick (SBCC)||B (smaller sizes) DD+ (larger sizes)||SBCC patterns are drafted for women under 5’4″. Here’s a great blog post explaining their cup size draft: http://www.sbccpatterns.com/boobs-math-and-margaritas-what-cup-size-sbcc-patterns-are-drafted-for/|
I used three methods to compile the information on this chart:
- Some pattern companies list cup size information their websites.
- I contacted a handful of indie pattern makers directly to ask about cup size drafting.
- A small amount of information came from Pattern Review threads (e.g. Kwik Sew), but I have not been able to find/verify that information elsewhere. I did, however, want to include those entries for the sake of completeness.
If you think that an entry contains an error, let me know, and I’ll follow up. If the entry does, in fact, contain an error, I will correct it on the chart.