How to Take Your Body Measurements

Hey, you!

If you’re here, then that means that you’ve done one of the bravest things a woman can do…

Strip down to little or nothing and get visually friendly with how your body really looks!

And if you’ve done that, I applaud you!

But before you can choose your starting pattern size, I have to ask you to muster just a bit more courage and now embrace every inch that is you!

Gulp! I know.

But I have faith in you. You got this!

So let’s start with the rules…

NOTE: If you’re ready to begin this journey and would like to buy my recommended tools and supplies, please click HERE!

The Rules

There’s only ONE: Be nice to you! I mean it!

What You Need

required tools for taking body measurements

Before we begin, we need the following:

How to Measure Your Body

Now, take a deep breath in for truth and out for B.S.

The numbers aren’t important! What is important is that you’re investing your precious money and time into your craft and you deserve a garment that fits you!

Start by stripping down to your bra and panties, a leotard, or if you can stand it, buck naked. Because these numbers are scary enough without adding unnecessary and unwanted bulk!

And before we face the dreaded numbers, you need to mark five landmarks on your body…

  • First, tie a length of ¼-inch elastic around your waist. Then, bend side to side until it settles where it wants. This is your natural waist or the smallest part of your upper torso.
  • Next, place a ¼ adhesive dots on each shoulder point. To find your shoulder point, just trace straight up from your armpits.
  • Place one dot on each nipple.
  • And then, bend your head forward and place a dot on the prominent bone at the nape of your neck.
  • Finally, place a thin necklace around your neck.

Sew easy tip: You’ll sometimes see the advice to wear the same bra you plan to wear with the finished garment. I think this advice is nonsensical. It is likely that your garment will outlive your bra. And what if you forget which bra you wore to measure for that dress?! Instead, I just make sure that I’m wearing skivvies that are close-fitting and a good bra that makes my “girls” say a happy, “Hello there!”

Okay, now you’re ready to measure accurately…

  • Make sure your measuring tape is snug but not tight around your curves. This is not the time for fudging!
  • Also, make sure that your measuring tape is level or parallel to the floor all the way around your body!

What to Measure & How

To choose your starting pattern size, you only need four measurements:

  1. High bust: across your back, under shoulder blades and your arms, and over your bust
  2. Full bust: across your back, under your arms, and around your nipples
  3. Waist: the smallest part of your body (REMEMBER: Do NOT suck in your tummy or hold your breath!)
  4. Full hip: the fullest part of your lower body, which may or may not be your hips (look both straight ahead and sideways)

body measurements required to choose your starting pattern size

I want to share some secrets about measuring a woman’s body in the real world that very few sewing resources address…

First, if you have a tummy (even a little tiny one), you’ll need to hold a 12-inch or longer ruler vertically at your center front (CF) and wrap your tape measure around it and your hips when you take your full hip measurement. Because if you don’t, fitted skirts or the bottom of dresses will curve under your tummy!

Second, the four measurements above only work if you have a very average body–not too busty, too hippy, or too bootylicious.

That is, for those of you with extra helpings in these areas, you will need to treat the front of your body separately from the back of your body!

So for example, let’s say you and J. Lo have a lot in common. Then, you would not take your full hip measure in one go. Instead, determine where your side seams are, and then measure your full hip in two passes like this:

  • from one side seam to the other side seam at the front of your body; and
  • from one side seam to the other side seam at the back of your body.

This way, you’ll be able to adjust your pattern so that you get the extra width where you need it: in your caboose!

Anyhoo, while we’re here, let’s go ahead and take some other measurements so we can end this agony…

Other Body Measurements

If you’re to get a fantastic fit, then you’ll need to take a few more measurements. These along with the measurements above will be used to make the initial adjustments to the paper pattern so it is closer to your body shape.

Now, let’s get this over with…

Once again, if you have a relatively average body, where nothing is too anything, then you’ll likely be able to get away with just the following:

body measurements you will need to adjust sewing pattern

  1. Back waist length: from the bone at the base of your neck and down to your waist to the top of the elastic
  2. Shoulder length: from your neck point (necklace) to shoulder point
  3. Mid-shoulder point to bust point (also known as bust depth; this is key for dart placement!)
  4. Bust point to bust point or nipple to nipple (divide this number by 2)
  5. Bust point to waist
  6. Waist to full hip (also known as hip depth)
  7. Sleeve width (fullest part of your biceps)
  8. Shoulder point to elbow (bend your elbow before taking this measurement)
  9. Elbow to the wrist bone (bend elbow before taking this measurement)

These measurements are an excellent start. But you should know that if your body shape is especially unique, then you may have to take other measurements to bring a sewing pattern into perfect harmony with your body.


We’re done measuring!

Sew easy tip: Because our bodies have the nerve to change from day to day, month to month, year to year, meal to meal, we need to retake our measurements every six months. Drats!

The End

Sorry, but I can’t even pretend that wasn’t brutal!

But you survived. I hope!

Now you know that you only need a handful of measurements to choose your starting pattern size — high bust, full bust, natural waist, and full hip.

You’ve learned that if your body has been blessed with an abundance of curves what you need to consider.

And you’ve taken the additional measurements that provide a fine starting point for fine-tuning the fit of any pattern to YOUR unique body shape!

Alright! Now that you’ve taken your measurements, it is time to use them to choose your starting pattern size

And remember…

Life is the ultimate red carpet event. Dress for it!

RELATED: Click HERE to read An Ultimate Guide to Measuring Tools!

RELATED: Click HERE to learn everything you need to know about sewing with patterns!

RELATED: Click HERE if you’re ready to begin this journey and would like to buy my recommended tools and supplies!

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