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How to Measure Yourself Correctly for Garment Making

Updated: Oct 18, 2020

It is very important to get your measurements right to achieve a well fitted garment and one that you enjoy wearing. Sometimes it can seem easier just to guesstimate or go for your ready to wear dress size but this just leads to huge disappointment as the garment you have spent hours making does not fit. It is important to take the time to measure yourself correctly, once done you can keep a note of them somewhere handy and refer to them for each make.

I hope, therefore, that you find the information below a helpful and insightful read.

These are all the basic measurements you will need for dressmaking whether for yourself or family member or friend.

Source for the images:
Source for the images:

First, if alone, stand with a straight back in front of a full-length mirror. Use a sewing measuring tape that is soft. When reading the tape measure, don't bend over to see it, look in the mirror to read the number, while maintaining an erect posture.

But, for best results, find someone you trust, swear them to secrecy and then enlist their help!

1. Height

Stand erect with back near a wall, get friend to place a book on your head, with one end touching the wall. Ensure book is level. Mark the lower edge of the book, measure from this to floor.

2. Bust

Wearing your best fitting, non-padded bra: Wrap the tape measure around the fullest point of your chest (normally in line with nipples), keeping the tape measure parallel to the floor. Ensure no fingers are included in the measurement, and that the tape is flat against the skin. Keep your arms at your sides. Breathe normally!!

3. Waist

Wearing only non-cinching underwear: Place the tape around the narrowest part of the waist - this is normally where your body creases when you bend side to side & forward. Keep the tape parallel to floor, keep it flat against the skin, don't include fingers in the measurement. Don't hold your breath, nor suck in your stomach. Stand erect and don't pull tape too tight, it should feel roughly like a pair of fitted trousers would if the waist band went around your natural waist. A good way to find your natural waistline is to tie a piece of ribbon around your waist (not too tight) and dance around. It will drop down to your natural waist. Measuring your waist daily, and the resultant dancing, may help reduce this figure :) Keep that piece of ribbon around your natural waist for further measurements!!

4. Hips

Wrap the tape measure around the fullest part of your hips and buttocks. Keep the tape parallel to the floor. Keep your legs together with your feet touching.

5. Back length

From most prominent bone at base of neck, along body to ribbon

6. Sleeve Length / more commonly ARM length

If possible try and enlist some help with this measurement. This measurement needs to be taken with the arm slightly bent as shown in the above diagram (H). If you are on your own my top tip is to use a piece of ribbon or string, place one end where the top of your arm meets your shoulder then run the ribbon down to your gently bent elbow and from the elbow to your wrist. Mark on the string or ribbon where the wrist point is and then measure the ribbon or string and that will give you your arm length measurement.

7. Neck width - Neckline

This one is best done with a short chain or similarly weighted necklace placed around the neck, where it falls naturally will give you this measurement. The necklace should be short, but not a choker. If you do not have a necklace use a piece or ribbon, tie it in the position you want your neck line to be, remove ribbon and measure. It should fall just above your Suprasternal notch.

8. Side Leg / Outseam

From ribbon at waist along side of leg to desired length for trousers.

9. Front waist length

Place tape measure at the top of your shoulder, at the base of your neck, and along the front of your body, over bust to ribbon. Dress length is from same starting point to desired length

10. Bust point

Measure from side of neck - same placement as for 9. along bust to nipple.

11. Upper arm circumference / Bicep

Measure around the widest point of your upper arm, keeping the arm in an upward right angle, but don't flex your muscles.

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