Learning how to measure yourself is an essential skill. Whether you are planning to sew or buy your clothes, measuring yourself correctly is the first step to finding or creating a garment that fits. In this tutorial, we will demonstrate how to measure yourself along with a few tips on how to get the most accurate numbers. We’ve also included a video tutorial walking you through the entire process.
Once you know your measurements you will be equipped to choose the size that will give you the best start. Remember that bodies are in constant flux and it's normal to experience variation, so it is important to retake your measurements often to ensure you choose the right size (we suggest confirming your measurements at the beginning of every project). We only have one body, and we have that body now. Let's show it appreciation and respect by making clothes that fit!
You will need:
- Downloadable measurement sheet (get it here)
- Flexible tape measure
- Safety pin
- Comfortable and typical undergarments that you are planning to wear with this type of garment.
- Stool or chair
- Piece of elastic and safety pin for around your waist
- A chain or necklace with a pendant
- Hair elastic
- Masking tape
Prepare Your Tape
To facilitate taking your own measurements, we came up with a handy measuring tape hack. Open the safety pin and insert the spear of the pin through the end of the tape, place the tape inside the safety pin. Insert the spear of the pin through the end of the tape creating a loop through which the measuring tape is free to run. Close the safety pin. Ensure the units of the tape you want to see are visible.
Here are our tips before you get started.
- In this tutorial we will show you how to take all your measurements solo, but it is also helpful to ask a friend or family member for assistance.
- If you are someone who feels anxiety around numbers, it can be a useful to use a new/weird unit of measurement. If you recognize inches, try centimeters! Or if you are a metric lover, try inches!
- Keep it real! Breath regularly and relax, remember that this is a process of acceptance and respect for your body, so allow yourself to take space.
- Wear the undergarments you will be wearing with the final garment. If you are making a form-fitting dress that you plan on wearing with shapewear or a specific bra, wear that when you take the measurements. If you are making an everyday garment, wear whatever undergarments you would normally wear (sports bra, underwired bra, no bra, whatever!)
- When taking measurements, try to hold the tape taut (not tight) and level. The tape should sit close against your skin with no wiggle room, but also not feel tight.
Now, let's start with the most common and important measurements for choosing a pattern size: bust, waist and hip.
Full Bust Measurement
When sewing patterns give a bust measurement in their size charts, the full bust is what they are measuring. This measurement is taken horizontally around your body and across the fullest part of the bust (it often, but not always crosses the nipples). Keep your arms down and relax as you take this measurement. Make sure the tape is laying flat and level across the radius of your torso and ensure you're not holding it too tightly.
High Bust Measurement
This is an important measurement because it helps determine your sewing cup size. Please note that cup size in this context does not refer to bra sizing, but rather the difference in inches between high and full bust. A 2" difference between those measurements is equivalent to a B cup (a difference of 1"= A cup, 2" = B cup, 3" = C cup, 4" = D cup etc.) FYI, on our patterns, our 0-20 size range is based on a B cup bust, and our 14-32 size range is based on a D cup bust.
The high bust is taken by measuring your chest above your full bust. Wrap the tape around your back, and under the armpits, close the measurement at the front over the sternum. Use the mirror to ensure the tape lying flat around the back. Try and relax your arms to ensure you're not engaging your pectoral muscles which could alter this measurement. Breath and relax your shoulders.
A handy guide for having a consistent waist measurement as a reference point is to take a piece of elastic and pin it around the smallest part of your waist. This is your “natural waist”, and we will base a few measurements on this reference point. Decide if you are going to use the top or bottom of the elastic (for this tutorial we choose the top) as your reference point and be consistent.
This measurement is going to be taken over the elastic you are using as reference. It should sit at the smallest part of your waist, aka the natural waist. If you are unsure of where the natural waistline falls, you can choose a waistline based on where it looks best to you proportionately. Stand naturally, breathe in and out and measure.
This is a good measurement to also take seated. Take both and if there is a noticeable difference, record them both.
Where to take this measurement can be controversial. At CCP we recommend the hip measurement to be measured around your body at your widest hip. Using the mirror, try to ensure the tape is level front to back. You can slide the tape up and down till you find where you are widest. This is what we call full hip and is one of the main measurements that we use to find pants sizes or general sizes for a dress/jumpsuit etc.
It's also a good idea to take this measurement seated and to record it separately. If you plan on sitting down in the non-stretch pants you are making, you'll absolutely want to have the seated measurement to compare.
Now let's talk about some supplemental measurements you should have on hand! These are helpful if the sewing pattern provides a comprehensive set of finished measurements, and as you get more experience, these measurements may help you make preliminary adjustments to your pattern before you sew your muslin.
Shoulder Length Measurement
The shoulder length is the distance between the side-neck point and the shoulder point following the center of the shoulder, or the line where the shoulder seam would fall. A handy guide to measuring your shoulder length is to use a chain as a reference to mark your side-neck point, and to feel for the joint between the shoulder and the clavicle to determine your shoulder point. Measure from the side neck point to the shoulder point. Look at yourself in the mirror and stand naturally and relaxed.
Apex to Apex Measurement
Here we are measuring the distance between the apex point of each breast (the highest point of the curve). It can be useful to mark the apex of each breast with a point drawn on masking tape. This is a particularly useful measurement if you often do bust adjustments, as it will inform how to change dart placement and orientation, or where to do a Full Bust Adjustment (FBA) on patterns that don't include bigger cup sizes. If you are making very fitted bodices, lingerie, or bathing suits some of these measurements get taken into consideration as well.
Shoulder to Apex Measurement
This measurement is taken from the middle of the shoulder length, and is measured directly down to your bust apex. If you are fuller busted this measurement can change quite a bit depending on the support your bra offers so again, make sure you are wearing the undergarments you plan on wearing for the finished garment.
The bicep is taken around the fullest part of your upper arm. Ensure the arm that you are measuring is down and relaxed (unless you are a professional bodybuilder in which case you might want to flex while you take this so you don't hulk out of your fitted shirts?? Up to you!)
Center Back Length
This is one of the trickier ones to take by yourself but if you take the beginning of your tape and hold it against the chain at the back of your neck and let the tape fall down your back, you can grab the end with your other hand and lay the tape against the elastic at your waist. Once you have the tape against the elastic, use your fingernail to mark where the tape meets the elastic. That's your back length.
Center Front Length
This is taken from the top of your sternum to your waist. It's a good idea to take this measurement over a fitted t-shirt so the tape goes over the chest the same way a garment would. Super helpful for lengthening and shortening and choosing sizes.
This is definitely a tricky one to manage solo but we have a trick! Use an elastic (a hair elastic works great) and/or your masking tape to hold the beginning of the tape around your wrist. You'll want this to fall where your ideal sleeve would end. Drawing the tape up your straight (relaxed) arm, and behind your elbow, all the way up to your shoulder. Mark the measurement with your nail and subtract the measurement at the elastic to record your arm length!
This is another one that can be a bit tricky, but you can do the same thing we did for the arm but this time with the elastic or tape on your ankle. Measure along the side of the leg where the side seam will fall. The hem of pants usually falls 1/4" (0.64 cm) to 1/2" (1.3 cm) from the floor.
Total Crotch Length
This number refers to the length of your front waist down to your back waist, measuring in between your legs. This is helpful for pants fitting and is also called stride or crotch curve length. While you don't want to be too short with this, you want it to be relatively "true" since you will be adding ease to this area with most patterns. This is different than "Rise" which is traditionally the front measurement of the crotch from the waist seam to the inseam.
Front Crotch Length or Rise
The front crotch length, also sometimes called the rise, refers to the distance from the front waist to the inseam. It can be tricky to try to measure the front rise on your body since you don't necessarily know where the inseam will sit against your crotch. For a good approximation of what this measurement should be, imagine the inseam as a vertical line going down through the middle of your leg all the way to your ankle and locate the intersection between the inseam and the crotch.
We generally provide front crotch length measurements for our pants patterns because it provides an indication of how high the pants are supposed to sit on the body.
Thigh Circumference Measurement
This is the fullest part of your upper leg. That can vary depending on so many things so again, just make sure the tape is level and you are recording the widest part. You could also try sitting and seeing if this changes the measurement a great deal. If so, record both.
How to Take Your Own Measurements Video Tutorial
If a visual reference of the process is preferable to you, check out this video to see how to measure yourself in action!
In our next post we will show you how you can use these measurements to choose a pattern size.
We are hoping this blog post helped you understand how to take your measurements and you got away with a few measurement tips (especially for solo fitting)! We hope you feel inspired to pull the trigger and start making your next garment. Lastly, always try and remember your body is just right as it is right now, and it deserves to feel comfortable wearing clothes that fit!
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