What is Ease?

What is ease in a dressmaking pattern? Why does the garment you’ve made not fit?

In my latest YouTube video I talk about ease, where to find it on a dressmaking pattern and share 3 sample garments, all with a different amount of ease included.

So let’s start with what is ease?
Ease is the difference between your body measurements and the garment measurements you have made / are wearing.

How do I know much ease is in a garment?
When it comes to dressmaking patterns you are going to want to find the Finished Garment Measurements. These are usually located on the back of the pattern envelope, in the instructions or on the pattern itself. These should be displayed for the Bust, Waist and Low Hip, but unfortunately they aren’t on every pattern.

Compare the Finished Garment Measurements to the Pattern size, the difference is ease.

What is the best amount of ease?
Ease is hugely based on personal opinion. But hopefully you can see the difference between these 3 images (from left to right).

0cm Ease
0cm or negative ease is usually reserved for stretch or knit fabrics. However it can be used on very fitted woven garments, such as a corset.

4cm Ease
This is my basic, minimum ease. 4cm (1 1/2”) of ease allows you to breath and move comfortably, whilst still having a fitted look. This garment shows 4cm of ease at the bust, waist and low hip. However you could choose to have less at the waist.

9cm+ Ease
For a comfortable fit you can increase the amount of ease. This will give the garment a looser look and comfortable fit. Of course garments such as jackets and coats, designed to be worn on top of other garments need more ease.

Minimum ease suggestions:
I am not going to give you fixed rules about how much ease should be in your garments. I believe it is a personal thing, and I also realise that you may wish to design something that doesn’t work in standard constraints. So, here is an idea of some minimum ease rules. Just think when designing garments such as jackets and coats, what are they designed to be worn on top of? How much extra ease do you need.

I would usually put about 4cm (1 1/2″) of ease on the bust. Unless I was drafting something very fitted like a corset, or a strapless garment.

The waist is the anchor point of the garment and you can get away with the least amount of ease.
For the waist of a skirt and trousers I will often put as little as 1cm (3/8″).  This is quite fitted and helps the garment to sit in position on the body. Dresses would usually have a bit more ease for comfort, perhaps 2.5cm (1″) minimum, unless you needed to anchor the dress at the waist.

Low Hip
You need to have enough ease on the Low Hip to allow you to sit comfortably. This is usually a minimum of 4cm (1 1/2″) in a woven, non stretch garment. However, I have made some pencil skirts with less in the past.

A minimum of 2.5cm (1″) usually works well for the bicep.

Try a minimum of 2.5cm (1″).

Save the images below to help you next time you need it.