Measuring yourself for a perfect fit.

So, you’ve picked out the perfect Pattern, or your making your own during Pattern Month, you’ve chosen your fabric & are generally wildly excited about learning how to make your own clothes, but where to start?

The very first thing to do is to take some measurements, in order to figure out what size is best for you.

Before buying or making a pattern, it is necessary to have the measurements of the person for whom the garment is intended […] With the help of the chart & a friend, this operation should not present any difficulty.

The person being measured should stand straight & easy […] Commence by tying a tape round the waist, as all bodice measures finish & all skirt measures begin at the waist.

To take the measurements, hold the [measuring] tape firmly between thumb & finger of the left hand, & pass round the figure, taking the measurements in the order indicated by the number on the chart, i.e. neck, bust, waist hips; the across shoulders at back & chest front, & so on, until all measurements are completed.

From Modern Needlecraft

WELDONS The Correct Way to Take Measurements MODERN NEEDLECRAFT How to Measure Yourself

A lovely illustration from Weldon’s Encyclopaedia of Needlework (left), with numbered illustrations for the relevant measurements, and a gorgeous 1920′s illustration from Modern Needlecraft (right) showing the many varied measurements you can take. Number 22 illustrates the positioning of the Bust measurement, number 3 the position for the Waist measurement & number 4 the Hip measurement.

Wear the undergarments you expect to wear with the garment you plan to make. Tie a ribbon around your waist. The essential measurements for determining figure type & size are : bust, waist & hip.

To measure the bust, place the tape over the fullest part of the bust, running it under the arms & straight across the back. For the waist measurement, place the tape snugly around your natural waistline. For the hip, measure around the fullest part, usually seven inches (or approx. 20cm) below the natural waistline.

From McCall’s Sewing in Colour.


A fabulous set of illustrations from Practical Home Dressmaking Illustrated showing the correct positioning of the tape measure for measuring the bust (a and b), the waist (c), the hips (d) and the nape to waist (e).


Further illustrations from Practical Home Dressmaking Illustrated showing how to take the chest or accross front measurement (a), and the accross back measurement (b).

As you can see from any pattern envelope, each pattern comes with a variety of sizes which informs the amount of fabric you need & ensures you make something which fits. Firstly, choose the style you wish to make up, then take your Bust, Waist, Hip etc measurements. Circle the nearest matching measurements in the pattern, then cut from the pattern pieces the largest you match.

Obviously you may end up with a pattern which may need a little adjustment in some areas however; this is something you can rectify in the fitting stage of sewing up, and is why I advocate the sewing up of a toile before you cut into that all important fabric. Patterns always seem to make up slightly differently than the measurements given but it is incredibly important to cut out according to your measurements where possible as you can always reduce but you can never add fabric in once a dress is cut too small!

x Laura x

7 thoughts on “Measuring yourself for a perfect fit.

  1. Hm, my issue is always measuring nape to waist. For some reason, when I compare my measurements to the pattern size it seems to suggest that I have an abnormally short back. Where is the nape exactly? I’ve always thought it was that bony bit that sticks out at the back of your neck.

    1. Hello! Yes, this is an odd one, and yes the nape is the bobble at the base of your neck… you may be thinking your waist is too high? If you get a piece of ribbon and tie it about your wait, leave it for a while and it should ‘find’ your natural waist. Then take the measurement again. Good luck! xxx

  2. Greetings from Ohio! I’m bored at work so I decided to check
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    1. I was looking at my site earlier whilst out for a coffee (obsessed with stats, moi?!) and I was shocked too! Must be a WordPress thing? Thanks for the positive feedback, hope you join us for Pattern Month!! Remember to comment on the Pattern Making Musings to stand a chance to win a Pattern xxx

  3. Greetings from Cleveland, Ohio! I stumbled across your site searching for tutorials on how to take measurements. Your writing, photography, your teaching style – everything – is just fabulous. Thank you for such great content!

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