Patternmaking: How To Make A Pattern Petite

I recently participated in a Instagram photoshoot where I and several other women modeled petite clothing. As I was having my photo taken, I thought, “how are normal patterns converted for petites? Maddie, you know this. You know this!” I did know this and it’s because somewhere over the past seven years, I got my hands on a chart that showed how widths and length were reduced for petite woman. During one of my moves to Philadelphia, to Savannah, to Miami, or during one of my sewing projects, I shoved it in a folder, book, or binder somewhere and now I had to find it. So that weekend, at the top of my to-do list was to find this chart. I retraced my steps and mentally backtracked until, AHA!, I found it! Every petite woman is petite in her own, unique way and these are standard reductions but I’ve used them as guidelines when working on my own patterns or helping petite women who email me with questions.

What is petite and who fits into this category? Well, let’s take a step back and define what is “normal” or “regular.” Regular female clothing is designed for a woman at least 5 ft 5 in (165 cm) tall (without shoes). Therefore, petite female clothing is designed to fit women of shorter height, typically less than 5 ft 3 in (160 cm) or 5 ft 4 in. Regular women’s clothing will not fit a petite woman because vertical measurements such as front length, back length, bust to waist, sleeve lengths, and leg inseam lengths are shorter and must be altered significantly to fit well. Unfortunately, non-petite clothing cannot be altered to be petite without introducing an unsightly seam, which is why the pattern, and not the garment, must be changed. In most cases, changing a pattern to be petite calls for width reductions as well but that’s not always the case. A women is an XL petite would need to add width. Therefore, some critical thinking must be done when using this chart – what applies to you and where? Again, this is a guideline (but a useful one!).

tags: Pattern Making Comments: 28

  1. Kirsty Maurits

    Interesting! What exactly is the definition of petite? I’m quite short (5’1″) but um, not very slim. I’ve worn Petite XL clothes before, but I wondered if the standard reductions you listed are more for height adjustments or weight adjustments, if that makes sense?

    • Maddie Flanigan

      You are correct – the reductions are mostly for height adjustments. You sort of have to compare your “petite-ness” and compare it with the chart. Are you more petite in width or in length?

      • Kirsty Maurits

        I’m definitely more petite in length, I think. Thanks for the response :)

        • Natasha Estrada

          Think of petiteness as being a bone structure issue. Even if you add extra flesh to your petite frame you’ll still have to do some sort of adjustment to things like bodice length and shoulder width. Maybe even more so since as sizes get graded up to fit your circumference the things that were to big to begin with get even bigger. The orange peel effect.

  2. Shel

    Cool, as a petite plus I will take circ measures with a grain of salt, but most of these seem to deal with length which is great. I’m 5′. I echo Kirsty’s question about plus considerations. : )

  3. Trish

    thanks for this! I saw this over on Kollabora and being 4’10 (& 3/4″) I am always having pattern issues. I’m usually a PP, but sometimes even that size is too large. I’ll be referring back to this chart for sure!


  4. Erica

    Altering patterns is something I’m working on now. I love having so much control over how the finished garment fits my body. I’m not exactly petite in height, but often have to take garments in at the hips a lot.

  5. Pingback: Freebie: Petite pattern alterations conversion chart | Sewing |

  6. LisaSmallThings

    Thanks for sharing, this is interesting!

  7. Erin

    Oooh! This is great – thank you! I’m petite (5’2) and I’ve found I struggle with the fit on most patterns. It’s kinda ridiculous – my bust measurement isn’t even on the size chart for Colette Patterns! :)

  8. Mary Carroll

    Thank you so much! I am petite in height and have an hourglass shape. My measurements indicate a proportionate petite figure. I have worked out some of the alterations through trial and error, but am now becoming more particular with my fitting. This will help!

  9. lisa g

    even though i’m definitely not petite (5’8″) i have to do petite adjustments from shoulder to bust otherwise necklines are way too low and darts are all sorts of wrongly placed… great chart!

  10. Pingback: Freebie: Petite pattern alterations conversion chart | Sewing Patterns

  11. Goodbye Valentino

    Thanks so much for sharing the petite chart! I find this particularly helpful for shaping the upper bodice and shoulders since patterns generally include petite alterations for the length only.

  12. sewingtidbits

    Ooooh this is great!! I usually stop at armhole and bodice length… I wish there was more petite-ready patterns out there, that took into account that petite is not synonymous with shapeless! I LOOOOOVE the sewing news thingie!!!

  13. June

    Oh, interesting! As someone who is not quite 5’4″, I thank you for sharing this.

  14. Britta

    thanks a lot for the size chart! :)

  15. Pingback: Free Sewing Patterns: Women’s Clothing | married to a bmw

  16. Le monde des petites

    Thanks for the chart, it will be very hepful!

  17. Dee

    From what size are these conversions made? A regular size 8/M?? Newbie patternmaker here :)

  18. Aiyonna

    I have an issue. I’m 5’3, but I have a relatively big bottom so when I try on pants my tail bone always show so I have to wear long shirts to cover it. any advice?

  19. Sarah Jarvis

    I’m only 4″ 11 and only made 2 items so far but both have a vent or split. The key thing I needed to do was make sure that is adjusted otherwise the split was right up to my bottom!

  20. Mary Catherine

    I have been looking for this!!!! thank you. HOWEVER. I’m a self-taught sewer and I’m not clear–for example in the adjustments in pants would you generally make ALL those adjustments for a proper petite pattern?? I’m 5’2″ and about 120 lbs so I’m guessing I would need to make some but not all of those adjustments? any info appreciated–thanks so much!!

  21. Linda

    I’ve tried Nancy Zieman’s “Solving The Pattern Fitting Puzzle” but being petite large I still couldn’t get a good fit. I’ll try using the chart maybe between the two I’ll get the fit I want. Fabric stores don’t carry petite size patterns. In Buffalo N.Y. Joann Fabrics is the only game in town they carry lots of premade goods & crafting supplies.


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