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Teach Yourself to Sew

How to Get Accurate Body Measurements

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Mark the body so you'll have consistent reference points while you measure.

Use our printable measurement chart and instructions to guide you through the process of taking and recording accurate body measurements


The first step in sewing the right-sized garment for yourself or someone else is to start out with a complete and accurate set of body measurements. In the instructions for marking reference points, I’ll show you how and where to mark the body so your measurements are consistent; print out the Measurement chart and use it to record your measurements. For more details on measuring, have a look at “How to Take Measurements,” in the April/May 2003 issue of Threads (#106).


Marking and measuring tools you’ll need include the following:

• A short, fine chain necklace- to establish a natural neckline
• Washable markers- to draw lines on skin and/or undergarments
• 1/4-inch adhesive dots
• Pins
• Narrow elastic- to locate and mark the waistline
• Flexible but stable measuring tape
• 12-inch ruler


• A form-fitting T-shirt with set-in sleeves- to help identify an armhole
• Twill tape/cotton cording- for marking crotch length

Marking Reference Points

Mark the body so you’ll have consistent reference points while you measure. (The solid lines on our leotard are extra-bold for photography purposes.)

As you measure, be sure to check the points of intersection. Be sure all horizontal markings clearly intersect all vertical markings so you’ll be able to identify the exact center front, center back, and side seam locations. (Note the center front of your waistline may not be in line with your navel.)Helpful hintsA. Neckline
Identify the natural neckline with a short chain necklace that settles comfortably, just below the slight hollow at the base of the neck.
• Mark the exact center front of this neckline with a small adhesive or pen dot.
• Mark the prominent vertebra at the top of the spine with an adhesive or pen dot. (Bend the head forward to make the vertebra easier to find.)
• Mark a point on each side of the neck, in line with the hollow just behind the earlobe.

B. Bust point
Mark the nipple location with a cross of two pins on the bra fabric or with an adhesive dot.

C. Shoulder point
Feel for the end of the flat bone at the end of the shoulder, or raise your arm until a dimple appears at the end of your shoulder and feel for the shoulder bone in this depression. It is important to identify an exact shoulder point.
• Mark it with an adhesive or pen dot.

D. Shoulder seamline
Draw a series of dots (more accurate than a drawn line) on the body, from the side-neck point marked on the neckline, along the top of the shoulder, to the shoulder point.

E. Waistline
Depending upon body proportions, there are two possible waistlines: a natural waist or, for people who do not have a naturally indented waist, a de facto (chosen) waist, where the top of skirts or trousers sits. Find the natural waist by tying a piece of elastic around the person’s waist, and having her bend from side to side until the elastic settles comfortably in the hollow around the middle of her body; take the waist measurement here. If the person does not have an indented waist, adjust the elastic on her body to sit at the de facto waist. This often entails moving the elastic above or below the natural waist, sometimes to be higher at the back and lower at the front.
• Once established, mark the waistline on the body with a pen; the elastic can shift while measuring.

F. Armhole
Mark with a dotted line. Start from the shoulder point, down into the crease formed by the body joining the arm, on both the front and back. (If locating the armhole is difficult, duplicate one from a form-fitting T-shirt, slipping one hand under the sleeve to trace the seamline onto the body.)

G. Abdomen
Mark a line parallel to the floor across the fullest part of the abdomen.

H. Hips
Find the widest part of the lower body by wrapping a measuring tape around the hip area and sliding it down the body, note that the widest part may be anywhere from a few inches to more than 12 inches below the waist.
• Where the measurement is largest, mark a line exactly parallel to the floor all around the body.

I. Side seams
Draw a series of dots perpendicular to the floor from the underarm to the ankle on both sides of the body.

J. Center front and center back
Draw a series of dots perpendicular to the floor from the hollow of the neck to the waist. Repeat from the nape of the neck.


Measurement chart

The chart below allows space to record dimensions for both the left and right sides of the body, which may be helpful when fitting an asymmetrical figure. (Click here for printable version)


Shoulder length/left:___________ right:___________



Back width:___________

Front shoulder slope/left:___________ right:___________

Back shoulder slope/left:___________ right:___________

Neck to waist/front:___________

Neck to waist/back:___________


Arm length (over arm)/left:___________ right:___________

Biceps/upper arm circumference/left:___________ right:___________

Armhole depth/left:___________ right:___________


Bust circumference:___________

Upper bust circumference:___________

Under bust circumference:___________

Chest width:___________


Natural neckline:___________

Neck edge to bust point (bust depth)/left:___________ right:___________

Neck edge to waist/left:___________ right:___________


Outer seam/left:___________ right:___________


Waist to floor/front:___________

Waist to floor/back:___________


Crotch length/total:___________

Crotch length/front:___________

Crotch length/back:___________

Crotch depth:___________

Waist and hips

Waist circumference:___________


Abdomen depth:___________

Hip circumference:___________

Hip depth:___________

Fullest part of hip:___________

Fullest hip depth:___________


Barbara Emodi is a contributing editor of Threads. Photos: Joseph Kugielsky

More on fitting:

• How to Reset Sleeves for a Better Fit
• 13 Essential Fitting Tips & Tricks
• Grade Your Pants for a Perfect Fit

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  1. silly_husband | | #1

    Help - I'm confused. My wife asked here to help gathering these measurements for her sewing class, but I can't figure them out. The instructions list the points to mark, but the measurements don't correlate with the points. For example, how do I measure shoulder length? What's the definition of shoulder length? If I search the page for shoulder length, I only get a match on the measurement, not the instructions. What I need is something like the following

    Shoulder Length (from the natural neckline side point (A.3) to the shoulder point (C) on the same side)_____________

    Does this make sense? Am I being too literal? I'm a computer programmer, so I expect instructions to be 100% complete (like a computer program). Maybe that's too much to expect. Any help would be appreciated.

  2. User avater
    _nikki_ | | #2

    The shoulder length is found by measuring from the side-neck point to the shoulder point on the same side.
    I hope this answers your question, and good luck to your wife in her sewing class!

  3. ryilli | | #3 will allow visitors to the site to be able to create a “body profile” with specific measurements ranging from arm length to torso length to upper-leg length and beyond. Businesses will also be able to add apparel they wish to sell on the website by measuring clothing with specific measurements that will coordinate with the body profile measurements. A shoe company can add a pair of shoes and input the length, width, and ankle circumference of the shoe. A user can then conduct a search with their foot length, width, and ankle circumference and the closest matches will show up in their search. is also free to use, so a small business owner will be able to compete with larger businesses when selling their items. In addition to specific measurements, the brand name and size show up in the product description, as well as the price, up to four pictures, detailed descriptions and a space for the URL to be posted so that a potential buyer can link directly to the page where the item can be found.

    For more information regarding Get My Size, visit their site at:

  4. evilandaheathen | | #4

    Not loving the color of the unitard on the unfortunate model who was forced to wear it. Guide looks useful and I look forward to putting it to practice on my many clients. Orale!

  5. soseal | | #5

    Perhaps you could create a page with the instructions for measuring a body for those who have never done it before. I know that when I first saw one of these cheat sheets, I had to look up this information. Or if you already have this information somewhere, put a link on the page for the instructions. Thank you.

  6. soseal | | #6

    1) Neck: Measure the neck circumference. To find the base of the neck, have the person tilt his or her head forward. You'll see a knobby bone in back . If the person being measured doesn't like a tight fit here, add a pinch of breathing room.

    2) Chest: To measure the chest circumference, place the tape around the fullest part of the chest or bust, under the arms.

    3) Back: To measure the length of the back, start at the base of the neck and make a straight line down to the waistline (see number 6 for waistline measurement).

    4) Arms:
    FOR HER: To measure arm length, start at the base of the neck, then go over the shoulder, down to the slightly bent elbow and then to the wrist bone.
    FOR HIM Begin this measurement at the shoulder tip.

    5) Shoulders: Measure from the base of the neck (from the side, where the neck meets the shoulder) to the upper-arm bone.

    6) Waist: Wrap around your waist starting from your belly button.

    7) Hips: Measure the circumference. The person being measured should stand with feet together.

    8) Leg outseam: Measure vertically down the outside of the leg, from the waistline to the lower part of the anklebone (or the desired hem length).

    9) Leg inseam: FOR PANTS ONLY Measure from the crotch to the lower part of the anklebone (or the desired hem length), running vertically down the inside of the leg.

    10) Thighs: FOR PANTS ONLY Measure the circumference, parallel to the floor.

  7. User avater
    Scheri | | #7

    I love your magazines. This is exactly what I have printed from your Issue May 2003 Number 106 of Threads. I carry it with me in my purse at all times.

    I can suggest this link to pictures for these measurements:


  8. ABSew | | #8

    I’m teaching myself how to take complete body measurements, and I struggled a bit.

    This article says I need to measure:

    Front shoulder slope, Back shoulder slope, Chest width, Crotch(the entire crotch section), Abdomen depth, Hip depth, Fullest part of hip, Fullest hip depth.

    The problem is, I don’t know how properly measure those. I’ve googled how to do it and looked for images, but I still don’t have a clear understanding of how to measure them.

    *also as a sidenote* What do they mean by Fullest Part of Hip? Wouldn’t that simply be the same as the Hip Circumference. The site list both of those as separate measurements.

  9. Patchjacket | | #9

    Thank you for this article. I only wish that in addition to this lovely proportionate model you would use a plump, lopsided, stooped model so that we could learn to take measurements on not-so-perfect people.

  10. chsewer | | #10

    Please provide the measurement chart in Word format.

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