Part 1: Measuring Properly!!

Happy Memorial Day!!  I thought this would be a great day to start this pattern fitting series!! Welcome to Part 1, “My Approach to Successful Pattern Fitting”.  In this part of the series I will be showing you how to measure properly.

I’d like to preface this series with a couple of important points for you to please keep in mind.

  1. I prefer that you don’t refer to your fitting issues or challenges as “fitting problems”.  Once you attach a negative context like the word “problem” to anything, it becomes a sensitive topic.  Let’s leave the “problem solving” to the therapists.
  1. None of you are a fitting problem.  It’s because you lack the knowledge and good information to fit yourself properly. There are no two figures in the world that are the same. There are NO correct, standard measurements!!  Everyone is unique and has to use varying degrees of fitting to manage their own shape.  Let’s look at what you are going to learn in these terms.
  1. Please be realistic with your expectations.  This is an Internet series and I can’t see you.  I will do my best to address things in general terms and answer specific questions the best I can even though I would prefer to have a one on one session.

Time to enlist the help of a measuring partner. This step is very important. They don’t need to know anything about sewing or fitting, just someone with your best interest at heart to assist you in measuring correctly. There are lots of measurements to focus on. I don’t want you to get overwhelmed so I’m going to break the whole process down in segments.  I will be focused on showing you how to achieve accurate measurements at the proper positions on the body. Most people only focus on the horizontal (circumference) measurements. I have had much success fitting because I have found that the most important measurements can be the vertical (linear) measurements.

It’s important to wear a proper foundation garment ladies, to get the most accurate measurements. If you like wearing your bust lower, I would suggest you consider getting measured in the lingerie department of your favorite department store for a proper under garment fitting.  Many stores offer this as a free service to help you determine your size.  You’d be surprised to find out that as many as 70% of women wear the wrong size bra.  Please consider doing this, it does make such a difference in how your clothes look and fit with the proper foundation.  If you’d rather measure yourself privately, check out Breakout Bras.  This page is a wonderful resource for information on proper fitting and measuring loaded with pictures. For the purpose of measuring, I suggest wearing undergarments only. Please wear nothing that will add inches like a baggy t-shirt or anything tight to distort the body shape in any way.

I’m going to go one by one now and show you exactly on the mannequin where to measure for the most accurate measurements.  For each of the following measurements, please make sure to keep the tape measure as flat horizontally and even all the way around the body as possible.  You will need a good tape measure. By this I mean one you use often and is complete.  Over time tape measures will stretch so make sure you maintain consistency with your tape measures.  You will also need several yards of soft elastic. Cut one piece to fit around the fullest part of your bust, one for around the waistline, one for around the high hip and lastly one for around the fullest part of your hips.  Add a few extra inches to each piece of elastic for overlap.  These are not to be pulled tight around the body.  They are simply markers for particular points on the body and to help maintain accuracy while measuring.  All of your circumference body measurements will be measured in two ways:  1/2 of the body either front or back and then the full circumference of the body.  The front and back 1/2 body measurements will add up to the full body measurement.  This is to determine the balance of your shape.  Many of us have less balanced shapes and this can cause fitting issues.  By measuring each 1/2 of the body separately, you can see exactly where you need more or less.  For example: 2 bodies may both measure 40″ in the bust, however one shape may have a full bust with a narrow back and the other a broad back with a smaller bust.  This principle can be applied to any area of the body to determine where to make fitting corrections.

I’ve made a measurement chart for you to record your measurements.  It’s important to note the date, your weight and current height.  It’s amazing how in short periods of time not only these measurements can change, but your weight and height can change as well.

At this point you’re ready to place your 4 marking elastics on your body fastened with a safety pin as shown in pictures below.  Please make sure each of these elastic marking bands in parallel with the floor.  It’s helpful to use several loops of tape to hold each elastic firmly in place.  It’s imperative that once you mark your measuring points that the elastics DO NOT shift.

Raise and hold your right arm straight out from your sides and have your partner mark on the 4 pieces of elastic where the side seams would be on the body. Side seams usually are just a 1/4″ to 1/2″ toward the center back. Also mark the center front, center back and the apex points. Now copy all those measurements to the left side of the body by measuring from the right side seam to center front or center back to the right side seam at each marker elastic point.
 Horizontal Measurements:

Front Bust:  Measure from side seam straight across the bust line at the fullest part of your bust to the other side seam.

Front Waistline:  Measure from side seam straight across the navel to the other side seam at the waistline.

Front High Hip:  Measure at the side seam 3″ down from waistline to the other side seam.

Front Hip:  Measure at the side seam of the body at the fullest part at the hip line to the other side seam.  The proper position is usually 7″-9″ down from the waistline.

Back Bodice Width: Measure from side seam to center back 1″ below armpit.

Shoulder Blade Width:  Measure down center back to the center of the armhole. Measure across from armhole to armhole.

Back Waistline:  Measure from side seam across the back waistline to the other side seam.

Back High Hip:  Measure from the side seam around the high hip to the other side seam.
Back Hip:  Measure from the side seam around the fullest part of the hip to the other side seam.

Shoulder Length:  Measure from neckline at the shoulder to the end of the shoulder.  *NOTE:  Not to the outer part of the arm.

Apex:  Measure from bust point to bust point.

Bust:  Complete Circumference (equals front and back measurement)

Waist:  Complete Circumference   (equals front and back measurement)

High Hip:  Complete Circumference  (equals front and back measurement)

Fullest Hip:  Complete Circumference  (equals front and back measurement)


Vertical Measurements:

* Center Front Length:  Hollow to waistline


* Front Length:  Neckline at shoulder seam down over the apex to waistline.


* Front Length to Apex Point:  Neckline at shoulder seam to apex point.
* Side Front Length:  Shoulder point to front waistline.

* Center Back Length:  Top bone at spine to waistline.

 * Side Back Length:*   Shoulder point to back waistline.
Shoulder Slope:  Take a piece of pattern paper or plain paper approximately 18″ x 24″.  Mark a straight line down the center of the paper and have your partner tape the paper to the wall behind you with the center following the center point of your body.  Stand straight against the wall and have your partner trace your shoulder slope.  Many commercial patterns and RWT garments will use a very squared shoulder slope.  If you’ve ever had extra fabric at the top shoulder seams and your sleeve pulling up under your arm, the shoulder slope is incorrect for your shoulder line.  This tracing in combination with measurements I’ve suggested will help correct the shoulder and sleeve areas.
Arm Measurements

Arm Bicep Circumference:  Fullest part of the arm.

Arm Length:  Shoulder point to wrist.

Cap Height:  Shoulder point to bicep line.

Wrist Circumference:  Around wrist.

Elbow Circumference:  Around elbow.

These are the basic measurements you will need to continue on with this series.  Take your time measuring.  The  more accurate you are, the better fit you will achieve when apply these measurements later on.  Just remember not to measure too tightly or too loosely.  Moderation is the key.

Don’t forget I will conclude this series with a Give Away!! In order to qualify for the prize you will need to become a registered “follower” of my blog AND “like” my Facebook Page.  Thanks!!

Thank you for taking the time to read part 1 in my new series on Pattern Fitting.  This is the first in an 8 part series and I plan to post weekly with a new part in the series.  I hope you will not only read the content but will give my information a try by actually measuring.  I will do my best to answer all questions in a timely manner. Good luck!!  

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This entry was posted in balancing shapes, body measurements, Breakout Bras, ease, fitting class, fitting patterns, mannequin, measuring, Pattern Fitting Series, Pattern Review, professional fitting, Strikes My Fancy, tape measure. Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to Part 1: Measuring Properly!!

  1. Bunny says:

    Fabulous! I am going to tell all my sewing friends about this series. I know how much effort goes into such an undertaking and thank you profusely.

  2. Rosieq says:

    I'm excited to absorb some of your knowledge in order to begin sewing for myself after years of not….and not being that "perfect" size 10 any longer. I'm really clueless in alterations, and already have hope after reading all the detail on measurements. thank you.

  3. KathyD says:

    Looks like a great series that you have planned. I can't wait to see part 2. In the meantime, I need to enlist a friend to help with the measuring. 🙂 Thanks for all the work on this!

  4. This is such a detailed post! Thank you so much, I think it is going to be very very informative for me as I have only sewn for my kiddos but I want to start sewing more for myself.

  5. TerriB says:

    What a nice and informative blog posting. Looking forward to your series.

  6. Angela Lee says:

    This couldn't come at a better time. I've recently started sewing for my grown dd and myself. These tips are wonderful! Thank you.

  7. wendyrb says:

    You have a great balance of a clear professional approach and a warm welcoming attitude. Thanks for generously sharing all your hard-earned knowledge. I'm sure I'll benefit.

  8. Judie says:

    Thank you for all your hard work putting this together. I guess I've always been too afraid to measure myself correctly because I live in denial about weight gain (medication induced mainly). Might have to put my big girl panties on and do it.

  9. Thank you ALL for the kind remarks! I'm happy you've found my efforts helpful and are looking forward to the series.

  10. Hi Bunny! Thanks for sharing my series with your friends. I hope you all enjoy it and find the information helpful.

  11. waikikimum says:

    I am a bit late to this but thank you for taking the time to write such an informative post. I have been sewing for about 10 years but have really only understood fit in the past few. I will be reading your posts with interest and will taking my measurements even if the numbers are scary!!!

  12. Hi waikikimum!! Welcome. It's never to late to join in. I'm glad you've found my information helpful.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Fantastic, what I have needed for ages!

  14. Thanks!! Glad you're finding it helpful!!

  15. Anonymous says:

    I am so happy to find your blog! Thank you for putting your time and talent into this much needed topic. Can't start Part I right away as I will be nursing child having surgery. After that this will be my next project. Thanks again! Linda from TN

  16. Hi Linda! I'm glad you found me! You're so welcome. I hope you find all my efforts helpful! Speedy recovery for your child too!!

  17. Paceda says:

    This is fabulous! I have been sewing for all of my adult life—-that's a long time, by the way—and as I have aged my body has definitely changed. I can no longer make an 8 right out of the envelope and go along my merry way. My sewing resolution for 2013 is to learn to properly fit myself. Here it is July and I have not yet done so. Your approach and your photos make it seem like an attainable goal. Thank you!!!!!
    Nashville, TN

  18. Welcome Paceda!! Thank you so much for the kind remarks! Jump in and let me know if you have any question!!

  19. Sandra says:

    I really enjoy sewing but, it seems that everything I make does not fit properly and I was about to give up on EVER getting anything to fit. I hope this gives me encouragement to try again.

  20. Hi Sandra! Glad to hear you enjoy sewing. I hope you find my series helpful. Feel free to comment with any questions!

  21. Anonymous says:

    I'm joining a few years late, but I LOVE your blogs and have benefitted enormously from your tutorials. Thanks so much!

  22. Such a comprehensive guide to measuring, Roxanne. I've featured your post today.

  23. Floss says:

    Wish I had found this post years ago. Amazing detail. Can’t wait to start. Just one query -” use several loops of tape to secure “, I am a bit unsure about this. Where do these”loops” go, does the tape stick to the skin to keep the elastic in place? Sorry to be so dense. Now I just have to train hubbie to measure accurately. At least I know he will be honest about the measurements where I might lean towards ‘tighter’ aka smaller Subscribing to your site right away

    • RoxanneStitches says:

      Hi Floss. The tape is just to secure the elastic in place while taking your measurements. Glad you found this helpful!

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