Taking accurate body measurements prior to purchasing your pattern is the first step to ensure a great fitting garment and is well worth the time and effort. When possible, take your body measurements wearing the undergarments you intend on wearing with the finished garment. The type of bra you are wearing will affect your bust level and circumference; therefore, selecting a bra that is well suited to the finished garment is very important. A great example of this can be seen with strapless and padded bras.
The clothing you wear can also affect the accuracy of your measurements, so when taking your measurements consider wearing form-fitting clothing (like a tank-top and leggings). Also helpful for taking your measurements is a full-length mirror or having someone to assist you in taking those difficult to see measurements.
What You Will Need
- Dressmaker or tailor’s measuring tape
- Elastic or string (optional)
- Paper (note book)
- Pencil (with eraser)
Body Measurement Chart
Create a body measurement chart or enter your measurements in a sewing journal. This will make it easy for you to reference your measurements as needed. Your measurements can be used to help purchase the correct size for your sewing pattern. Your measurements can also aid in purchasing the right style pattern to best suite your body type. There are several areas of the body you can measure for a perfectly tailored fit. However, for the purpose of purchasing a sewing pattern and making small adjustments, this post will focus on the standard measurements you will need.
On the back of a commercial sewing pattern envelope or in the pattern catalogue you will find a list of required body measurements. These measurements will guide you to the pattern size you need to purchase. You may find that your measurements falls between two sizes, so ensure that the range of sizes you need are included in the pattern envelope. Always use your measurements to determine your pattern size versus going by the size you wear in an off-the-rack garment.
Tip: When taking your measurements stand comfortably with your legs together. Breathe normally and do not suck in your tummy. Remember you need to get true body measurements for the best possible fit.
Taking Body Measurements
There are three basic measurements that are generally listed on the sewing pattern envelope or in the pattern catalogue. Depending on the garment, the pattern “body measurement” chart will refer to the bust, waist and hip measurements.
The pattern may also list the “back waist length” and may also provide some “finished garment measurements;” which are helpful when selecting the pattern size. The measurements you take should be true body measurements, so measure closely but comfortably. When taking your circumference measurements, make sure your measuring tape is parallel to the ground.
Full Bust – Measure around the fullest part of your bust with the measuring tape around your body and going across the bust apex (nipple).
Waist – Take this measurement around your natural waistline. Generally this is the narrowest part of your body, usually near to or just above your belly button. You can often find your waistline by bending your body to one side and placing your hand on the naturally occurring crease on your side. An elastic or string can be helpful in marking this location on your body for this and other measurements.
Hip – Your hip is several inches below your natural waistline and just above your crotch line. Generally it is the widest point around the lower part of your body. To take this measurement, stand and place your legs together then place the measuring tape around your hip.
Back Centre Neck to Waist – Measure from the base of your neck (nape) to your natural waist along the centre of your back (you might need help with this).
Additional Body Measurements
To make adjustments to your pattern you will need additional body measurements. The measurements you require will be based on the amount of details in your pattern and the adjustments needed. Here are some of the additional body measurements you may want to take.
Neck – Wrap your measuring tape around the circumference of your neck and make sure it is resting comfortably on the back of your neck (nape), side neck and collar bone.
Shoulder – Measure from your side neck point and across your shoulder muscle to the top of your shoulder.
High Bust – Place your measuring tape above your bustline, under your armhole and around the circumference of your body.
Underbust or Rib Cage – Measure under your bust around your body where the underwire of your bra normally sits.
Front Side Neck to Waist – Start this measurement from your side neck point, then go over your bust and down to your waist.
Back Bodice Width – At approximately 5 3⁄4 inches down from the nape of your neck, measure across the back of your body from armhole to armhole.
Arm – Place your measuring tape on the circumference of your upper arm just past your armpit.
Sleeve Length – Slightly bend your elbow and measure the entire length along the back of your arm from your shoulder, over your slightly bent elbow and to your wrist.
Crotch Depth (seated) – While in a seated position, measure down from your natural waist to the seat at the side of your body.
Inseam – This is the measurement from your inner crotch, down your leg and to your ankle. You can also add a second measurement to the floor.
Side Pant Length – Measure down from your natural waist to your ankle while standing with legs together. You can also add a second measurement to the floor for a full floor length.
Back Pant Length – Standing straight with legs together, measure along the back of your body from your natural waist down to the back of your ankle. You can also add a second measurement to the floor as described previously.
Tip: Review your measurements if you have not sewn for a while, as measurements can and often do change over time.
How To Use Your Measurements
You can take lots more measurements; especially if your are drafting your own pattern, making something fitted or sewing a tailored garment with lots of design details. The measurements listed above will go a long way in getting you the right pattern size. However, your pattern size can vary from one pattern to another, so always check the individual pattern envelope.
After you have purchased your pattern, you can use your measurements to make any adjustments needed to the pattern. Measure the individual pattern pieces and use your measurements as a guide prior to cutting your pattern and fabric.
Remember to account for the easement of the pattern. Easement is the difference between your body measurement and the “finished garment measurement.” The amount of easement will determine how much room you have in the garment for movement. If the back of the pattern envelope does not provide any “finished garment measurement;” then measure your individual pattern pieces, subtract your seam allowance and this should provide you with an idea of what to expect from your finished garment. I also recommend updating your body measurement chart on a regular basis to document any changes over time.
Size Charts and Ease Chart can be found on some pattern manufacturer’s website (see examples below):
Click here for Kwik Sew patterns Size Charts
Click here for Butterick patterns Size Charts
Click here for Butterick patterns Ease Chart
I hope you have found this post helpful. If you have any questions, please feel free to comment below, email or connect on our social.
*This is an updated post. The original version of this post was originally published on our previous blog on September 24, 2015.