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How to Find Your Waist and Other Measurements

Threads magazine - 173 - June/July 2014

Experienced sewers know accurate measurements are the basis for good garment fit. Learning to find your waist, as well as measuring shoulder width, armhole depth, and hip circumference all go a long way in getting a great fit.

It is, therefore, unfortunate that the measurement methods described by the sewing pattern industry, and even some fitting books, can be difficult to perform precisely. Further, the reference points can bear little relation to the way individuals prefer to wear clothes. Also, the more your figure varies from the pattern or garment industry’s standardized figure, the more difficult it is to take accurate measurements. For better garment fit, I think it’s time to reconsider where and how you take certain body measurements.

Throughout my years teaching fashion design and working with patternmaking software, I have witnessed the results of guesswork and inaccuracy when it comes to where and how measurements are taken. Based on my experiences, I believe that measuring methods should be flexible, not static.

Understanding how your body relates to the industry’s standard figure is vital to assessing pattern fit and making alterations, as well as to create flattering visual illusions through garment fit. Measuring to accommodate your figure’s proportions or to suit your fit preferences yields a better result than relying on the industry’s standard methods.

There are six measurements you may want to rethink. I’ll review the standard approach for each and explore alternative or refined measuring methods that better accommodate your actual body to help you achieve your best fit.

Taking the most accurate measurements requires patience, some knowledge, and a capable assistant. Compare your previous measurements with the ones taken using these methods, and then refer to your favorite fitting source to make the best alterations.

Accurate shoulder width


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Previous: How to Prepare Patterns for Fit Next: Q & A: Locating the Waistline


  1. dowserjaney | | #1

    Absolutely SPLENDID article! I have always known my shoulders sloped but didn't know how to measure for that -- and now I do. I know it's going to make a tremendous difference in the fit of my clothing.

    So many thanks!
    Jane Lienau

  2. catstexas | | #2

    Enlightening, especially on where is the side seam. Once I learned about shoulder slopes, front and back, it improved greatly the fit of my garments. Thank you.

  3. dagmaro | | #3

    This was a fantastic article! I wonder if you can clarify where to find your neck point. I am slightly longer in the shoulder to bust point area than "normal" yet have trouble figuring out by how much as I have never seen a specific guide on where to determine the neck point. As well, can the back neck point be clarified as determining my back to waist length is also confusing for me - where do I measure from?

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