Updated on December 19, 2022 by Sarina Tariq
Measuring is the last thing I like about sewing. It is fun only if you think about the final fitting garment you get – otherwise, it can get tedious, especially when taking sewing measurements of wiggly kids like mine. Why is it that most tedious things ends in stunning results – remember your grades in school.
First things first – Do you know how to read a tape measure – check it out if you do not.
General guidelines for taking body measurements
- General guidelines for taking body measurements
- Ideal body measurements for men
- Ideal body measurements for women
- Mind the Ease
- Different methods of measuring
- Basic measuring / Chest measuring
- Direct measurement method
- Shoulder measurement method
- Body Measurement List.
- Measurements to be taken for making shirts, tops
- Measurements to be taken for making jacket for men/women
- Measurements to be taken for making dresses
- Measurements to be taken for making Trousers, pants
- How to measure body -Professional’s method
- Main body measurements – detail
- The person being measured should stand straight, on both feet, feet some 15 cms apart.
- It is better to wear fitted clothes when measuring. Absolutely no baggy clothes. This can skew the measurements.
- It will be perfect if you can wear the lingerie you intend to wear with the final garment while taking the measurements. This is especially important for perfectly fitted clothes like a tight gown or fitted blouse/corset. A push-up bra will make all the difference in your final look. Remember that if you intend to wear underwired, padded, push-up, or other figure-altering bras, this should be considered.
- If you plan to wear heels and you are making a long gown, do not forget to wear the heels or a similar one when taking measurement.
- Choose a good and accurate tape measure. Keep it level (parallel to the ground) all the time you are taking horizontal measures.
- Adhere to the old saying – Measure twice and cut once.
- It is best if you can get another person to take the measurements.
- The person taking the measurement should be on the right side of the person.
- All circumference measurements should be taken with tape measure parallel to the floor and with enough slack in tape to slide two fingers under the tape.
- Do not assume that just because you sucked your breath in, the garment will turn out to be perfect. It will not. You should not lie to doctors and the tape measure.
There is an ideal body measurement for men and women. Your body measurement will have differences from these ideal body measurements, of course. But it is nice to know. Read on.
Ideal body measurements for men
Ideal body measurements for women
Mind the Ease
Earlier I used to take measurements according to how much loose or tight I wanted the dress to be.
Since then, I have learned that this is absolutely the wrong way. Since then, I have learned about ease too.
You should take the measurement correctly, then add ease to the pattern according to how much ease you want. Very loose, slightly loose, fitted, tight – options are many.
If you are measuring someone else, as soon as you have taken the measurement of a person, inquire about what ease they need for this particular garment.
Write it down.
A minimum of 2 inches is needed for comfort, as I have added in the bodice pattern here. This is my opinion and very much dependent on personal preference.
Ease chart – you can add your ease according to this.
Deciding on ease also would depend on lots of elements like their age, cultural background, etc. Read more on ease in clothing here.
Different methods of measuring
There are 4 different ways of taking body measurements in a professional set-up.
- Chest measuring
- Direct measuring
- Compound measuring
- Shoulder measuring
Basic measuring / Chest measuring
Under this system, you will be taking the basic measurements.
For a blouse, you will be taking the full length, shoulder, bust round, waist round, and the sleeve length.
For making the pants, you will be taking just the waist round, hip round, full length, and the bottom flare.
For a jacket, you will take bust round, waist round, hip round, sleeve length, waist length, full length, neck and back width.
Direct measurement method
This is a more elaborate system. Under this system, for a jacket you will take more detailed measurements like armscye depth, across the chest, over shoulder, etc.
Shoulder measurement method
This method takes 4 extra measurements – Upper shoulder, middle shoulder, lower shoulder and nape of neck to waist.
Body Measurement List.
Here is a detailed list of measurements that professionals take. You can use it as is needed.
For an elaborate dress like your wedding gown all of these measurements may have to be taken, but for some other, not all.
- Bra Size
- Total Height
- Center Back Neck to Waist (from the bone at the base of the neck)
- Center Back Neck to Floor
- Waist to floor at Center Front
- Waist to floor at Center Back
- Waist to floor on Right Side
- Waist to floor on Left Side
- Waist to knee
- Knee to Floor at Center Front
- Waist to Ankle
- Ankle to Floor
- Front Width (measured across the chest from one underarm crease to other)
- Shoulder to High Point ( taken vertically from neck edge of shoulder seam to high point of Bust) Right & Left
- High Point to High Point ( taken horizontally from one high point to other)
- High Bust ( around the body under arms )
- Full Bust
- Midriff ( around the body where bottom band of regular band of bra would ride )
- Waist ( around the body where elastic waist pants would naturally settle)
- Abdomen ( around body about 4 ” down from waist)
- Hip ( around the body at the fullest part of the hip area )
- Front Shoulder Width (from shoulder bone to shoulder bone)
- Back Shoulder Width (from shoulder bone to shoulder bone)
- Shoulder to Neck (from shoulder bone across shoulder to neck edge)
- Arm Length Right & Left ( arm slightly bent)
- Right Shoulder to Elbow
- Right Elbow to Wrist
- Left Arm Length
- Left Shoulder to Elbow
- Upper Arm circumference
- Fore-arm circumference
- Wrist circumference
Approximate Heel Height to be worn with garment
Measurements to be taken for making shirts, tops
Bust round, waist round, Full length of the blouse, Sleeve length, Upper arm measure, Shoulder, Neck, waist length, Back width
Measurements to be taken for making jacket for men/women
For men : Neck round, Overbust, chest round, Natural waist, Across Shoulder from back, End of shoulder to neck, Bicep (around), Elbow round, wrist around, Arm length (shoulder to wrist), Center back (neck to wrist)
For women : Other than the measurement for men, Under Bust, Elbow round, Bust (Nippel-to-nippel), Bust Depth(Front shoulder neck-to-nipple).
Measurements to be taken for making dresses
Bust round, Waist round, High hip round, Hip round, Distance from nape to waist, Armhole depth, Shoulder length, Shoulder point to point, Bicep round
Elbow round, Wrist round, Height, Dress length, Waist to knee length, Waist to hip, Nape to bust point
Measurements to be taken for making Trousers, pants
Full length( side length) Leg length (Inseam length) Waist round, Seat round ( Hip round) Bottom measure.
How to measure body -Professional’s method
The professionals always take the measurements in a particular order. When I go to a tailoring shop they write down the measurements without writing down the ‘what’ of it – it seems like they know it by heart, as they take the sewing measurements always in a particular order
It is in this order for the vertical measurements, I assume
1 Body length
2. Waist length
3. Shoulder to shoulder length
then the horizontal measurements
1. Bust round
2. Waist round
3. Hip round
4. Neck depth
5 Arm round.
Main body measurements – detail
Neck round – Measure around the base of the neck (slightly loose; do not take this too tight)
Shoulder to shoulder – This is measured from shoulder bone on one side to the other side shoulder bone.
Wrap the measuring tape around your back and across the fullest part of your breasts. Do not pull the tape too tight or hold it loose. It should sit smugly, without it slipping off
Waist round ( waist measure)
Wrap the measuring tape around the smallest part of your torso at the waist. This is mostly just above the belly button ( about an inch above).
Waist length – Measure from shoulder to waist which is the narrowest part of the torso.
Hip length – Measure from shoulder to hip. For women, In ready to wear clothes it is usually 7 inches from the waist; when you measure on the body this may vary. It can be upto 9 inches for someone who is bigger or taller
For men, take this measurement 8 inches from waist ; for small boys take this 6 inches from waist and for teenage boys take 7 inches.
Hip round – Measure around the hips ( where it is the broadest)
Check out the post How to measure your hips? 6 types of hip shapes for more details on this.
Sleeve round- Measure around the arms where the sleeve should end.
Length of the garment-Measured from the shoulder (close to the neck, where it is highest) to where you want the garment hemline. Tape should go over the fullest part of the bust. If it is a pant or skirt, measure from where you want it to be tied at the waist, to the hemline you want.
Sleeve length – This is according to your preference . Where your sleeve should end. If the sleeve length is past the elbow you should bend the arm slightly when taking the measurement.
Neck Depth – From the base of the neck, measure how much depth you want for the Front neckline and Back neckline. A comfortable neck depth for the back is from 1 inch to 3 inches, but you can go as deep as you want; For the front neckline, do not go too deep ( for reasons you know). A 6.5-inch is what I usually use; again, individual preference and also depends on the pattern.
Neck width – This is usually taken as 1/12 th of the bust round – so if you have a bust round of 36 inch you should take a neck width of 3 inch. This is a very close width and you can add a 1/2 inch for a relaxed neck.
Armhole depth (Armscye) – Armscye is basically the measure around your arm joint – it is taken about 1/2 inch further from the armpit (as per the individual preference of fit). The armhole depth refers to the measure from the back nape of the neck to the bust line. This is taken according to the bust round, or as per the measurement you have made on the body. For this measure, you can easily calculate bust round/8 + 3.5 inches.
More on the armscye and measuring the armhole here
Trouser length – From waist to 1 1/4 cm above the ground/floor (for full-length pants)
Trouser Bottom round – This refers to the measurement of the flair of the leg for pants – Usually taken upwards of 12 inches.
Inseam – Measured on the inside leg from the crotch to where you want the hemline ( to 1 1/4 cm above the ground/floor ( for full-length pants)); More on measuring inseam here.
Body Rise: You can measure this in two ways
1. Hold the tape at the center of the front waist. Take the tape to the back of the waist between your legs
2. Another way is to sit comfortably in a chair and measure from the waist to the place where your bottom rests on the chair. I prefer the second way.
For some pants, measurement from waist to knee and knee round should be taken (leggings, Chudidhar)
Upper waist round – This is taken just under the bust. Needed for making bras, bralette tops, etc.
Waistband round – Decide where you will wear your skirt or waistband. Wrap the tape loosely around the spot. You should be absolutely comfortable with this measure.
Bust length – Measure from shoulder to bust point. (For fitted blouses – sari blouses)
Bust to Bust – This is measured from one bust point to the other bust point. Usually, for a person with a bust round of 36 inches or more, this is taken as 4 inches on a folded pattern, and for less than 36 inches, take this as 3.5 inches. This is needed for placing darts.
Back width – Taken on the back just under the shoulders. This is usually needed for making jackets, and coats.
Slit cut – Decide on where you want the slit of your tunic or top to be on the side seams.
Measurement under the knees – This maybe needed for trousers, etc.
Calf round – Measure under the knees.
Ankle round – Measure around the ankle – this is needed for leggings, pants, etc.
Some other sewing measurements, like the placement of pockets, buttons, trims, flare, etc should also be noted down.
If you have the height of a person there is a calculation prevalent with which you can find out a person’s body measurements – this assumes that he or she has average body measurements which are in the normal range.
These calculations maybe flawed, because who is normal, anyway!
Bust/chest round = (1/8 of your height in inches + 1″) * 4
Waist round = Bust round – 4 inches.
Hip round = Bust round + 2 inches = waist round + 6 inches.
Shoulder measure for men = 1/2 of chest round.
Across back measure = 1/6 of chest round+ 1″.
Sleeve length (Full) = 3/8 * height in inches.
Waist length = 1/4 of height in inches + 1/2 inch.
I have learned that it is well worth the trouble taking all these measurements; Clothes that fit properly are their own reward – don’t you think so?
If you find any measurement I have skipped, do not forget to mention in the comments.
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