How to take Measurements

Dear Daisy,

I have been asked by a friend to take her measurements for a costume she is ordering online.  Can you tell me what are the common measurements needed and how to take them correctly?

–          The Measurer


Dear Measurer,

Taking measurements can be daunting task however if you follow a few simple rules I’m sure you will manage fine.


Some websites have their own instructions for the specific measurements they require, while others give you only a basic idea of what they need.  Below is a description of some of the most common measurements you might need to take and how to take them.    Remember that most online stores want their product to fit you when it arrives so always feel free to ask questions if you are unsure how to take a measurement that’s required.  Also make sure you know if the measurements are required in inches or centimetres, most companies use inches but some work in centimetres so it is always good to double check.


When measuring you will need a flexible dressmaker’s measuring tape and a pen and paper to jot down the measurements as you go.  Make sure that all measurements are taken with the measuring tape snug but not tight, if you pull the tape tight you can get an incorrect final number.


When taking measurements get the person being measured to wear either, just the bra and underwear they would wear with the garment they are being measured for, or a very thin t-shirt and exercise pants.  Any heavy clothing or thick waistbands will create inaccurate measurements and can lead to an ill-fitting final garment.


Common Measurements for Women:


1. Over Bust:

Place your measuring tape under the arms and around the chest above the breasts, making sure the persons arms are at their sides and not raised up in the air.  Draw the measuring tape snug then make sure that the person can still breathe normally before you write down the final number.


2. Bust:

Measure around the fullest part of the breasts making sure to keep the measuring tape level  do not let the measuring tape slip higher or lower at the back than it is in the front.


3. Chest:

Place the measuring tape around the chest directly below the person’s breasts.  Again make sure that when you draw the measuring tape snug it does not restrict breathing.


4. Waist:

This measurement is taken at the natural waist which is the narrowest part of the torso and falls between the bellybutton and the lowest ribs.  Note this is not where you wear your pants and skirts, this is your actual waist. Sometimes it helps to wrap a string around the natural waist to help determine where the narrowest point is.


5. Upper Hip:

Measure the upper hip around the hip bones, just below or on where you would normally wear a low ride pant or skirt.


6. Low Hip:

This is measured around the fullest/largest part of the hips, usually 8”- 9” below the actual waist.  Make sure the measuring tape lays flat around the hips and over the bottom and does not tip up or down in the front or back.


7. Back Length:

Measure from the last vertebra in the neck to the natural waist line; remember this is not where you wear your pants.  It sometimes helps to tie a belt or piece of string around the natural waistline while measuring as this gives you a visual reminder of where the waist line really is.


8. Shoulders:

Measure across the back from shoulder to shoulder.  You want to measure about ½” in from the point of the shoulder across the back to the same spot on the opposite shoulder.


9. Arm length:

Measure from the point of the shoulder to just past the wrist bones, along the outside length of the arm.  Make sure to do this with the arm bent at the elbow or the sleeves will be too short when the person goes to bend their arm.


10. Skirt Hem Length:

This is the distance from where you will wear the skirt waist band of your new garment (this varies person to person and garment to garment and is mostly due to personal preference) to where you would like your hem to end.  This can be brushing the floor or as high above the floor as you would like.  Just remember that most skirts can be hemmed up if you decide they are too long but they cannot be let down.  I prefer to take this measurement at the centre front, on the side at the hip, and in the centre back going down over the bottom.  I find that often there can be more than a 3” difference in the skirt hem length from front to back so it is often advantageous to have all three measurements.


11. Shoulder to Floor:

Measure from the top of the shoulder down the back all the way to the floor.  Make sure the person is standing level and does not drop one shoulder while taking this measurement.


These are just some of the basic measurements that you may be required to take.  Hopefully this quick synopsis helps you to feel more comfortable taking measurements and if you have questions please ask them, most companies are very helpful if you approach them politely and are more than willing to describe how to take any additional measurements they might require.


–          Daisy

Back To Articles
Measurement Chart