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Lets Get Measured: How to Measure Your Body

When it comes to making fashion pieces for yourself, it is essential that you know how to measure your body accurately. The wrong measurements mean the start of an incorrect fit, and that is not what we’re about!

By not measuring your body at the get-go, you’re setting yourself up for a few sessions of tears. Truly. There is nothing worse than buying a pattern, selecting what you think is your size, cutting out your super awesome and snazzy fabric, only to sew it up and find it doesn’t fit. After all that work…

And why does it not fit?

Because every designer and brand that designs a pattern, has a specific ‘customer’ in mind. What do I mean by this?

  • Take Topshop. Who is their target customer? A teenager / early twenties gal, looking for casual / smart wear for work, and snazzy party pieces. Topshop’s ‘fit model’ will represent this ‘target customer’.
  • Lets think about M&S. They’re known for having multiple fashion lines. Autograph, Limited, Per Una… These different fashion lines all have a different fit model, based on the target market for that collection. Limited? Mid 20’s to 30s. Autograph? 45-55 years.
  • What about Boden? The Boden buyer is either a mum looking for easy care clothes at a higher price point for her kids, or an older demographic – lets say 40-55yrs – that are looking for a less fitted look.

The ready-to-wear and couture designers have even more skewed sizings, and their fit models are more likely to be in the size 6-10 (UK) range. The idea being that people who can afford those clothes are more likely to a) take care of themselves, or b) have enough money that they can suck it all away until they do fit. Balmain, Balenziaga and Chanel would be three that size their collections super small.

So, when the high street retailers and the ready to wear brands are both vying for opposite ends of the size spectrum, what’s left for you and I?

A Sewing Revolution!

That’s right. I suggest a date. Me, you and our trusty machines. Who needs Chanel? Who needs Topshop? With the right guidance, a working sewing machine and a lil’bit more patience than some of us have, we can all look better, and hotter, and more amazing than if we were to squeeeeeze ourselves into clothes that just weren’t us.

Seriously. I once bought a pair of teeny tiny Calvin Klein trousers. On sale at Bloomingdales. It was when I lived in NYC. I thought I was tiny. They were in the sale. I believe they’re a size 4 (US). They have NEVER been worn by me – or anyone else. 😮 I keep them in a drawer back home to remind me of how silly it is to buy ‘designer’ things in the hopes you’ll eventually fit into them. Why force such misery upon ourselves?

We have the ability to look amazing, whether we are a size 8, a size 12 or a good curvy size 18. The trick is in knowing what suits your body, and how to get a great fit.

So, with a swizzle of my tape measure, I say.. Lets Get Measured! 😃

Tools Needed for Good Measurements

  1. A tape measure – preferably one with a solid metal start point. I find these help me to grip the tape!
  2. A human body – your own would be a good start! Failing that, a dress stand of some sort. 🙂
  3. Notebook for recording the measurements.
  4. Pencil for making the notes.

Metric or Imperial

I like to work in cm as I grew up in a metric world, but I know some of you who are older than me, or from other countries may prefer imperial measurements.

And in all honesty, the thought of figuring out fractions of inches? No way! Centimetres just seems way less time consuming from a thinking point of view for me! 😉

Key Measurements

The three key measurements to start with are:

  • Bust
  • Waist
  • Hips


Remember not to pull the tape measure tight. We’re not looking for the smallest number. We want to look amazing and rock our newly created fashion pieces in style!

Other Measurements

There are quite a few more measurements we can take, the simplest being:

  • High bust
  • CF – Center front length
  • CB – Centre back length
  • Inside leg length
  • Chest – find 2.5cm / 1″ above your mid armhole and measure across your chest to your center front
  • Back – center back to 2.5cm / 1” above the mid armhole point.

And there are many more than this!

Getting Measured – The Ones we Want!

When it comes to being measured, its a good idea to wear little more than your underwear. We want to have the measurements as realistic as possible. This means that if you wear a bra with a bit of padding every day, be sure to wear it when measuring. It will give an accurate idea when we come to fit the garment later. 😃

You should also wear a fitted vest top. This makes it easier to define the bust, waist and hips with tape.

Occasionally, we can’t do it all by ourselves. Sometimes, we need to call for help, so it is a really good idea to have a partner or a friend close to hand. They don’t need to be expert with a tape measure, but ability to follow directions is key! 😉


The bust measurement is a key measurement when measuring your body, and is taken along the fullest part of the boobs. Place the measuring tape under the arms and around the back, meeting up with the start of the measuring tape at the front to give the number. Do not pull the tape tight. We want to be able to breathe after all! 😃

(This measurement will also be taken in two parts later, and slightly higher up, as chest and back.)

Natural Waist

The waist measurement is the natural waist. That’s the thinnest part, where your chest comes in before it heads back out towards your hips.

Low Waist

It’s also good to take a low waist measurement too, I do this near my belly button!


The hip measurement is approximately 20cm down from the natural waist, and should be the fullest part of your hips and bum area.


This is from the back neck. Drop the tap measure all the way to the ground for the height.


Make sure the tape measure is circling around the neckline, quite low down – it should be touching the collar bone nobules.


Measure from the neckline to the shoulder tip.

Across Shoulder

Measurement is taken from your shoulder tip to your center front neck and again for center back.

Neck to Waist

From the back nape to the waist, so we can know where to place a seam on a waist seamed dress.

Arm Width

This measurement is taken by placing the tape measure around the bicep.

Arm Length

After all, who wants (or needs) sleeves that are too short? 😉 Measure the arm relaxed, from the shoulder point to the wrist.

Waist to Floor

Yep, literally place the 0 of the tape measure at your waist and allow it to drop to the floor. You’ll probably need someone else to take this reading; if you bend down to look at the number, you’ll get a false reading! 😃

Final Task

Once you’ve go the hang of how to measure your body, go buy a pattern. There are many patterns available in stores and online. You can try Butterwicks, Vogue Patterns, McCalls and a whole bunch of Indie Designers that are producing digital patterns too.

My suggestion is to find a pattern that grabs yours attention, check your measurements against theirs to see if you’re likely to fit, and if so, give it a whirl. Don’t forget though, there is a difference between the brand’s sizing chart, and the actual finished garment size. Its called pattern ease and you can learn more about that here.



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Thursday 18th of August 2016

I'm not going to lie Eve, I didn't even realise there were so many parts of the body that you could measure!! Maybe this is why all my sewing attempts have been so futile in the past?!

Eve Tokens

Thursday 18th of August 2016

Hey Toni! I'm afraid to tell you - there are even MORE measurements than what I covered here. These are the basics really. When you get into making something really made to measure, like a bespoke gown or a tailored jacket, well, that's when the measurements get craaaaazy! :)

Fortunately, I have a habit of draping on my clients so that there's less measuring involved. It is so much more fun to make a pattern through draping! I'll be covering it in a much later post this year! Stay tuned for more!

Have a great weekend! Eve