I am thinking of making a skirt as a birthday gift for my sister. Therefore taking measurements seems kinda impossible.

So is it recommended to use size charts in order to make the pattern instead, such as this one: https://www.brandsgalaxy.gr/ProductCatalogue/SizeChart.aspx?chart=0c41fabb-d9b1-419a-b750-21d5a1c8c63e

Or even the US standard clothing size: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U.S._standard_clothing_size

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    When my mother had that problem with me, she pretended to be making the garment for my uncle of about my size, and asked me to model it so he wouldn't know… D'you know someone very-much the same size as your sister? Failing that, can you sneak into her wardrobe and borrow another skirt? Commented May 24, 2021 at 0:15

2 Answers 2


I have a few suggestions to add to Elmy's excellent answer. In case you can only get a rough estimate of your sister's measurements, it will help if you choose a pattern that has some flexibility in terms of sizing.

The most extreme example of free-sizing is a wrap skirt. You can make a wrap skirt for someone with only a rough estimate of their waist and hip size. As an added bonus if you're a beginner sewer, wrap skirts are very simple to make. You can make them with all straight seams, which are much easier to sew that curved ones. Here's a link to a tutorial. Make sure there is plenty of room for overlap in the front, otherwise the panels will slide open while she walks.

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A slightly less flexible option is a skirt with a gathered waistband with elastic all the way around. I recommend adding a drawstring as well, otherwise the entire skirt can be easily pulled down if the hem gets caught on something. A tiered peasant skirt is one style that works well with an elastic waistband. Here's a link to a tutorial. A downside is that this is not the most flattering style. It works best with very lightweight fabric; the thicker the fabric, the more bulky the waistband will be.

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A more fitted and flattering option is a mostly-fitted skirt, with a small amount of elastic in the back of the waistband. That way the gathered fabric (which is the least flattering part of the waistband) is hidden in the small of the back, where it creates some extra room for the bottom, and in front you have a smoother, more flattering waist. One of my all-time favorite skirts uses this method. It's fits nice and snug, but it also stretches a bit so it's comfortable when I sit. Basically you just make a skirt with a larger waistband than necessary, and sew a piece of elastic across the back of the waistband. If your skirt pattern has a stiff waistband reinforced with interfacing, you may want to eliminate the interfacing on the back of the waistband. Here's a tutorial for a style of skirt that you could use this method with. The tutorial has you put elastic all the way around, but you could easily modify it to put the elastic only in the back.

All the above options will work with woven fabric, which is not stretchy. Woven fabric is much easier to sew than knit fabric, so it's a good option for a beginner. However, if you are willing to work with knit fabric, you can make a skirt with a stretchy waistband without any elastic. Here's a link to a tutorial. If you follow that tutorial, I would recommend adding an extra step to hide the fabric edges at the seam where the waistband attaches to the skirt. Otherwise those edges will be scratchy on the inside. Instead of sewing both layers of waistband to the outside of the skirt, I would only sew one layer on the outside. Then fold the waistband over, tuck in the raw bottom edge of the waistband, and sew it down by hand.

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You cannot trust those chart sizes because of a phenomenon called "vanity sizing".

Once upon a time women's clothes where all tailored to fit the individual person or altered (if bought second hand). When industrial mass production set in, manufacturers wrote a measurement into the garment to make it easier to find one that fits. That number was usually the hip measurement for skirts or the bust measurement for jackets and dresses.

Over time women became conscious and self-conscious about their sizes. Small numbers were fashionable and big numbers meant you were chubby. So manufacturers started writing wrong numbers into their garments, because they actually sold more if their customers where happily surprised to still fit into a size S.

Even today those sizes are just a recommendation and different manufacturers use different measurements for the same size.

What you should do is:

  • Find a skirt or pair of trousers in your sisters wardrobe that fit her well.
  • Neither the fabric nor the waist seam must be stretchy, or you get wrong numbers.
  • If possible, make a friend wear this item while you measure around the waist (smallest part) and the hip (widest part) and the desired length (traditionally to the top of the knee).
  • If that's impossible, lay the item flat on a table and measure the waist seam. Then look at your table of common sizes and find the corresponding hip measurement.
  • If you cannot find any suitable garment to take measurements, try to find a belt that she usually wears. Measure from the tip of the needle to the hole that is most worn out. You need a little extra length (2 cm) because belts are usually worn very tight.

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