How to Take your Body Measurements for Clothes
Taking accurate body measurements is one of the critical success factors when fitting and sewing your own clothing. Our bodies are all different and that’s ok! We all want clothing that fits. In this blog I’ll explain where and how to measure the body parts that are important for constructing a garment. You don’t want to spend hours in your sewing room making clothing that doesn’t fit, right? Even if you start from a commercial sewing pattern, having accurate measurements is key to a great fit. Everytime you sew a new pattern, you should compare your body measurements to the size chart and the finished measurements chart. This gives you an idea of which size to draft and if you need to lengthen or shorten certain pattern pieces.
Although measuring your body might not be the most pleasant thing to do, having clothing that really fits you is very empowering and makes you feel fantastic!
You don’t need much to measure your body, a simple tape measure, a pen and some paper and you are all set. It is a plus to have someone around to help you when you need to take your own measurements, but with the help of a mirror you can perfectly do it on your own.
Prepare and Get the Right Tools to Measure
Ideally, taking measurements is done while wearing as few garments as possible. The person that is measured - you, your (grand)child, your friend - should only wear undergarments or some close-fitting clothing. It does make a difference when it comes to accuracy if you measure on top of jeans or a big sweater! The goal is to have as natural a state as possible with nothing too squished or too loose.
Use a tape measure that is soft and flexible and that is no wider than 1 cm. Metallic tape measures you use for construction work are not suitable for body measurements. You can use an old school yellow tailor’s tape measure or check out the nifty little tool that we recently added to our store: The Body Self Measuring Tape is a flexible thin tape measure designed to measure yourself in an easier way. You can click one end in the plastic holder, tighten the tape a bit so it snugly fits around your leg/arm/waist and read the size. Check out this short Body Self Measuring Tape YouTube Video which shows how to use it.
If you want to go full tech, a company called ZOZO developed a suit + an app that will make a 3D scan of your body and give you very detailed body measurements. Crazy right? You put on the special suit that has a lot of dots, take pictures from different angles and you get all the measurements you need. But, a tape measure is definitely cheaper. A suit costs 70 dollars.
How to Take Your Body Measurements
Take all measurements while standing, unless your pattern indicates otherwise. Stand in a neutral position. Don’t twist or contort your body. Let your arms hang neutrally by your side. Keep your back straight, shoulders down, chin up, and look forward. If you are measuring yourself, stand in front of a mirror, wiggle around a bit to relax and don’t forget to breathe!
The tape has to be straight and in line with the body part you are measuring. For circumference measurements, for example, the tape needs to be parallel to the floor. For length measurements it has to be parallel or perpendicular, depending on the orientation of the measured body part.
Hold the measuring tape snug against your body, but not too tight.
The Different Body Parts To Measure
You don’t need to take all the measurements listed below. Depending on the clothing you are making, you will need different measurements. Check your pattern or instructions to see what measurements you specifically need.
Most sewing patterns list 3 basic measurements to help you choose the size to sew: bust, waist and hip. The other measurements will help you with fitting.
The Basic Body Measurements for Sewing
Start with the waist. This is your reference point for some other measurements. You can put an elastic around the waist so you always use the same reference for different measurements.
For the circumference, measure the smallest part of the torso. This is below your rib cage and usually above your belly button, where the body bends. Do not take this measurement on the waistband of your clothing.
For women breast measurements will be most accurate when wearing a well-fitting, unpadded bra. Measure around the fullest part of the bust, often on your nipples. This circumference measurement is taken above the band of your bra. Keep the measuring tape straight (you can check this by looking in a mirror).
3. FULL HIP
The hip measurement is taken at the widest part of the hips, around your bottom. The full hip is not measured on your hip bones, as a lot of people might think. That is the high hip or the upper measurement, number 8 below.
The full hip measurement determines the size of pants you will start from when starting from a commercial pattern.
Other Interesting Measurements
4. SHOULDER + SHOULDER SEAM
Measure from the point where your shoulder meets your neck to the top edge of your shoulder. You need this measurement in case you have narrower or wider shoulders than the sewing pattern you are using.
Some patterns use the complete shoulder seam. For the shoulder seam, go across the back from the corner of one shoulder to the corner of the other shoulder. For this measurement, you can also measure on a jacket you already have that fits well. Lay the jacket flat, measure from shoulder seam to shoulder seam, where the sleeves start.
5. FRONT BODICE
This measurement is also called the front (waist) length, and is taken from the shoulder (next to the base of the neck) down to the waist, over the fullest part of the bust. Some take this measurement from the center. It is useful to make changes to the length of a bodice.
6. BACK BODICE
Measure from the base of the neck, in the center, to the center of the waistline. This measurement is also known as the back waist length or center back length and is also used to construct or make changes to the length of a bodice.
7. ARM LENGTH
Start from the corner of the shoulder, the bone at the top of the arm, and measure down to the wrist, the bone at the side of the wrist, with one arm down at a slight angle. Your elbow is bent. This is important to allow movement when you are making a sleeve. You can use a shirt that fits you well to take this measurement. Just lay it flat and measure from the corner shoulder seam to the end of the cuff.
8. UPPER HIP
When fitting a slim skirt or skinny pants with a finish above the hip, you can also measure the high hip, 2-3 inches below the waist. This way you get a more accurate idea of the shape of the hip and the belly.
9. UPPER BUST
Measure all around your bust under your armpits for doing small adjustments to bodices.
The inseam gives you an indication of how long pants need to be on your body. Start measuring where your crotch seam intersects with your inseam. This is easy to find on a pair of leggings for example. If you are doing this on your own, pin, clip or tape the measuring tape in this spot and stand up straight. Read the bottom of the tape measure, using a mirror.
Measuring the outseam is similar to the inseam, except you are measuring from the waist on the outside seam of the pants.
12. RISE + CROTCH DEPTH
Place the tape measure between your legs, beginning at the waist in front and ending at the waist in the back. This is the full rise or crotch depth measurement. If you need the front rise, measure along your crotch curve from your waist to the inseam. To get the back rise, subtract this from the full rise.
Measure all the way around your neck above your collarbone. This measurement is useful when constructing a polo neck or collar.
The thigh measurement is the circumference around the fullest part of the thigh. This can be used for skirts, dresses and trousers.
If you are constructing a pattern from scratch, you might need even more measurements, like the wrist circumference or the upper arm circumference, etc.
Here is a little overview of the measurements you need for trousers, a blouse and a skirt.
Lenght of Skirt
This article is especially useful if you want to start sewing clothing. Knowing how to take body measurements is a sewing basic. Hope you learned something new in this blog and we’ll see you again here or somewhere else on our website. There is so much to discover and learn!
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