What is normal sizing?

Ok, so the question is a bit vague but I have a load of sub-questions that I’m sure some of you experts will know answers to…

When making female tops, with short sleeves, what circumference of arm is considered OK for the pattern?

I ask this because I have chunky, (now more muscley, but always big) arms and have found shirt sleeves, blazer sleeves and elasticated sleeves a nightmare.

Similar with long sleeves but why are they so long!!

If I was to make something with sleeves, how would i go about adjusting the armholes to allow the sleeves to fit over my arms without being compression clothing?

Does anyone (pref UK / EU, but I know this isn’t really predominate on this forum) know of good clothes suppliers that consider arms that are not twigs?

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I get a bunch of my clothes from Torrid. They’re made for US size 12 and up, I believe. I’m not sure if this helps at all…

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When you sew, you can measure the sleeve pattern for both width and length and make adjustments. The sleeve itself can be made larger to go around a bigger arm.

I always have to do this when I sew. For ready to wear, I try to find stretch fabric or a style that gives me wiggle room. I have also bought the next size up and take in the sides.

How to increase a sleeve


Oh hey, I bought a men’s shirt of the Letter People online today because the women’s shirts had weird-looking triangle short sleeves and really caved in at the sides. Buying the next size up totally makes sense.

I’ve found it really helps to look at where a brand (of clothing or patterns) comes from. In the UK for example, people tend to be much shorter than in the NL, so British clothing brands are usually too short for me. I don’t even have to try Italian or Spanish brands (no Zara for me!).

Dutch, German and Scandinavian brands usually work for me. One of my favourite brands is King Louie, a Dutch brand that makes sustainable clothing for people who are not built like twigs and ride bikes every day. It’s pricy so I try to buy it used, and it’s also has a bit of a retro vibe which isn’t for everyone. But the sleeves have never been an issue for me. You’d think a Scandinavian brand like H&M would also work but their sizing just seems completely random.

As for patterns, Dutch Knipmode patterns are known to be quite ‘big’ for their size, they are also geared towards more inexperienced sewists. Burda patterns from Germany are a bit smaller than Knip, the patterns are much more fashionable, but they’re still much bigger than American patterns. For an average fit you usually have to make one size bigger than sizing chart says. I don’t even have to try American patterns because they’re all at least 10cm too short for me. And I’m a UK size 14, continental size 42, 1.70m, also with fairly big arms and thighs. I’m basically the average Dutch woman, absolutely not big or tall.


I lift weights so I have larger shoulders and arms than most women my age. I try to buy looser sleeve shapes, like raglan or flutter sleeves. T-shirts are horrible on me because if I buy the size to fit my arms, they are too large in the body and are way too long.

@Immaculata What an interesting post! I think we forget that sizing is not universal and that women in other countries are not necessarily the same shape due to genetics, etc. I know when I buy clothes made in India, I have to consider height and also bone structure. You would probably be considered smaller sized in the USA. I think they upped the average size to 16 now…we are getting heftier!


I’ve ordered clothing online, and it turned out to be Asian sizing, with no hope of fitting. US size Large is an Asian size 6xl or something. I read the descriptions very carefully, look for size charts, and don’t order direct from China any more.

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This is my problem, that and I used to play rugby! :roll_eyes: :thinking:


I mean, that is a good thing, but it does make buying ready to wear clothing a bit challenging. I had been buying sleeveless clothing and having one or two shrugs or cardigans to wear over them. So you have to buy TWO things…lol…


I think here in the NL we often forget just how very tall we are compared to most of the world, but it’s really clear when you try to buy clothing from foreign brands! If you’re 4 inches taller, your hips and waist are also going to be wider even if you’re built the same as a shorter person.

I imagine in the ethnic melting pot that the US is, genetic differences between different countries of origin are not as clear, but if you travel from one European country to another, you can really see the difference. Obviously not everyone fits the stereotype but you can usually clearly tell who is from which country. There’s even a striking difference between those from the north of my country and the south (and that’s a 4 hour drive) and you can see those differences in the UK as well.

@steiconi I have a friend who is very short for the NL (about 5’) and also very slender. She orders all of her clothes from Japan, in this country she has to buy from the children’s department!

I read that Europeans can always tell Americans because no matter our ethnicity, we are heavier than most. I think I confuse people because although I appear to be Asian (Japanese), I am 5’6" tall. I think that is changing as well…when I was there is 2004, many Japanese women were as tall or taller than me. But, most were so small boned, so maybe they just looked that way. My niece is 4’11" but her daughter is 5’9". My brother is the tallest of the living relatives at a little over 6’. The average is 5’4" for everyone else.

I remember my first time in Germany back in the 1990s we attended a Pearl Jam concert in Berlin. I’m tall for an American woman of my generation at 5’ 9.25" (almost 176 cm) and it was the first time I had ever been in a crowd where everyone was my height or taller. It was really unsettling to not be able to see over most people’s heads or at least over their shoulders.

With American patterns in the last 10-15 years I have not found that I have to add length to anything but pants and then not always. I have long limbs, too. Same for when I made a costume suit for the MisterT who is taller than the average American male his age and long limbed, as well. The one Burda pattern I have used recently, I have found to run larger and longer which was nice.


I’m 5 foot 5 inches and pants are usually still too long on me. I end up rolling up the cuffs until I can get them to my mom to do her boss hemming.

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That’s good to know! Honestly I haven’t made a lot of American patterns recently, so I’m just repeating what my sewing buddies keep complaining about. My most recent experiences with an American pattern are two vintage style aprons I made, which were a bit shorter than I would have liked them to be, but I’m not sure if I can blame it on the size or just on my personal preference.

I’m a bit shorter than you and I never see anything at concerts! I spent some time studying in Finland when I was in college and I remember being so surprised that most men were at eye-level! Most men here are much taller than me. Mr Imma is a bit taller than I am, around 5’10" , and he’s definitely considered to be a short guy.

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Ah, my husband is 6’2", but my sister (who is quite a bit shorter than me) met a guy she likes that is 6’6". I can only imagine what they look like walking together, heh. I have to get onto a step to be the same height as my husband. It’s pretty nice when that happens.

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