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How to Take Body Measurements for Perfect Fit

Taking accurate body measurements is one of the keys to great fit.  Whether you choose to make your pattern block from a commercial fitting pattern or draft it from measurements, having accurate measurements is critical to the success of your block.  (And a well-fitting block is critical to the success of everything you make!)

All you need is a tape measure!  While it's easiest to have someone else take your measurements, it can be done by yourself.  Just stand in front of a mirror so that you can see that you have the tape in the right position.

Ideally, you should be measured wearing only your undergarments.  However, a leotard or close-fitting clothing will be fine.  Do NOT measure yourself wearing jeans, sweats, or other bulky clothing.  It DOES make a difference!

If you have trouble measuring yourself, this handy tape measure will help.  It's self-adhesive and removeable (and re-positionable), so you can hold it in place easily while you write down your measurement.  It's like having another set of hands!

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Because the body is made of soft tissue, it can be a bit difficult to know exactly how tight to pull the tape around the body. The tape should be a bit snug, but not tight - it should not "dig in" or make an indentation in the body.  It should not be loose, either!  Just wrap the tape around the area of the body being measured and hold it in place.  You should be able to put a finger behind the tape, but no more than that. 


sketch showing where and how to take body measurements for fitting clothing

A - Bust - Measure the bust at the fullest part. Measure all around the body (total circumference).

B - Waist - Measure the waist where the body bends.  It helps to bend side to side to identify exactly where to measure.  You can put an elastic band around the waist to mark the correct placement.

C - Hip - Measure the hips at the fullest part, usually around the seat.

D - High Hip - Measure around the fullest part, about 3 - 4" below the waist. This is helpful when fitting a slim skirt or pants (to get an accurate idea of the shape of the hip, or the belly).

E - Front Waist Length - Start at the shoulder (right next to the base of the neck), and measure to the waist, measuring over the fullest part of the bust.

F - Back Waist Length - Measure from the base of the neck (in the center, not the side), to the center of the waistline.

G - Arm Length - Measure from the top of the arm (find the bone at the shoulder/top of arm) to the wrist (find the bone at the side of the wrist), WITH THE ELBOW BENT.  It's important to keep the elbow bent to allow for movement when you make a sleeve.

See? It's not hard, and you don't need a lot of measurements to get started.  You could also measure from the waist to the knee and/or the ankle for skirt length, but I usually just try on the garment at that point to decide where I want the hem.

What's the Next Step?

Now, it's time to get your fitting pattern (you'll get the right size, using your body measurements!) - or take the plunge and draft a block from your own measurements. Then stitch it up, and start fitting!  Oh, and make sure you have all the tools you'll need - there aren't many and you can get started for around $25 (with free shipping from Amazon!).  If you choose to use a body form for future fittings, be sure it conforms to YOUR measurements, and your SHAPE!  Check the link for Padding the Body Form, below, to see how this can be done. 

Let's get started!

Step-by-Step: Making and Fitting Your Block

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