How to Get 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
• 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.)A. 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.
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.
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.)
Mark a line parallel to the floor across the fullest part of the abdomen.
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.
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:___________
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:___________
Upper bust circumference:___________
Under bust circumference:___________
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:___________
Waist and hips
Fullest part of hip:___________
Fullest hip depth:___________
Barbara Emodi is a contributing editor of Threads. Photos: Joseph Kugielsky
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