How do I take my body measurements and why should I bother?


If you want to sew an item of clothing for yourself or someone else it is obvious that you will need the correct basic body measurements. You will need the measurements even before you purchase the pattern as commercial patterns don’t usually have all of the size options in one packet. They vary from one pattern company to another and even from one style to another. You probably won’t find a pattern with exactly the correct sizes for all of your body areas, so buy one which covers your sizes and be prepared to make some pattern alterations to it before you begin your sewing project. So knowing how do I take my body measurements is important in making a garment the right size.

When you are choosing which pattern to use it is worth remembering that not many items of clothing fit us as snugly as the set of measurements you will take. Most garments have shape and style which gives the body room to move about, so the set of size measurements for a size 10 for example, are not what the actual paper pattern or the finished garment will measure. You can also directly measure the paper pattern yourself to see how this compares to your size. Remember there will be a seam allowance on the pattern.


When you buy ready to wear clothing you will be used to seeing measurements for the bust, waist and hips, however to get a good fit on a garment which will be perfect and look exactly  how you want it to, there are other measurements you need to take as well. Considering some people, myself included here, choose to make their own clothes, or to have them made, is because ready to wear just does not fit them, this is important. RTW only cater for the average height and sizing, and people who are symmetrical. Most of us are not average but when we buy off the peg we have to make do with the best fit that we can find and it’s not always the correct fit.



So how do you take your measurements?


First of all you will need someone to help you. It is difficult to take accurate tape measure readings of your own body by yourself. So as well as a tape measure which is long enough to measure all of your body parts including your height, you will need a pen and paper to write it down. So dress in your regular fitting underwear and you are ready to begin.


Front Body Measurements
Front Body Measurements



Measure across the widest part of the bust,under the arms and across the widest part of the back with the arms hanging loosely by the sides of the body.

To measure your cup size, measure around the body just under the bust, take this measurement away from the first measurement and if the difference is one inch you are an A cup, two inches difference is a B cup, three is a C cup, four is a D cup and five will give you a DD cup.



Mark the waist by tying a string snugly around your middle. It will roll naturally to your waist. Take the measurement where the sting settles.



Keeping the tape measure parallel to the floor and level all of the way around, measure the fullest part of the hips which should be around eight inches below the waistline, depending on the individual.


Shoulder length

This is the distance from the base of the neck, shrug your shoulders to find this point at the neck, to the edge of the shoulder.


Apex of bust

The distance from the base of the neck to the point of the bust.


Back Body Measurements
Back Body Measurements

Back waist length

This is sometimes called nape to waist and is the distance from the prominent bone at the back of the neck to the waist.


Sleeve length

With your hand on your hip measure from the top of the shoulder to the wrist. Note this down as one total measurement and two separate measurements, top of shoulder to elbow and elbow to wrist.


Dress length

Measure from the base of the neck at the centre back to the desired hem length. The back of the knee is a good reference point if you are uncertain of desired finished length at this stage.


You will need the following measurements if you are making trousers/pants.


Seated Body Measurements
Seated Body Measurements

Crotch depth

Sit down on a firm chair with your feet flat on the floor and measure from the waist to the chair seat.


Side Body Measurements
Side Body Measurements

Crotch length

From the waist at your back under the body between your legs to the waist at your front. Also note down how this divides into two measurements, back waist to the centre point between the legs and the front waist to the centre point between the legs, This may not be an equal division of the overall measurement.


Inside leg

From the midpoint under the body to the finished hem length, if you don’t yet know this, measure to the ankle bone.


Outside leg

Measure from the waist, over the curve of the hip, down to the desired hem length or the ankle.



Now that you have all your measurements, keep them safe and check them every six months for any changes.


Happy sewing



Black Dress with Princess seams

Hi and welcome to this week’s blog.

Do you wear a lot of black clothes?

I know I do. It seems to be my default colour. If I can’t decide what to wear, I reach for the black dress!

So what do all the black clothes in the closet signify?

Some would say black is stylish, others would say unimaginative. Some people wear black because it is rebellious while others wear it to conform. It is the colour of mourning but also sexy and seductive. There are so many contradictions and ways to interpret our feelings and attitudes towards our black clothes but it is probably the one colour everybody has and uses often.

So I thought to myself that it was time to add another one to the collection.

If you managed to read the blog I posted a few days ago, “How To Sew A Princess Seam” you would have seen me piecing and sewing together beautiful princess seams on a black bodice.

Princess seam bust front

I continued with making the dress and the result is this blog for you.

This is the picture I have used as my inspiration. It is a gorgeous black winter dress by the fabulous Yves Saint Laurent. HERE

This style of dress never seems to go out of fashion, the hem line and the sleeve length may go up and down depending on the season, otherwise its a classic look which from the sewist’s perspective gives us scope to make so many variations from just one basic pattern.

Princess seams on a dress can be made to continue down the whole length of the dress or they can stop at the hips or at the waist. On this dress I decided that the skirt was going to be a full circle skirt so the curved princess seams would only extended down as far as the waistline. They are on both the back and the front of the bodice which gives a perfect figure hugging shape.

Working with the black fabric at this time of year was a bit of a challenge and demanded plenty of good quality artificial light. I recently invested in a daylight light bulb which actually gives off a blue light rather than the yellow light from a regular bulb. Still a poor substitute for real sunlight though.

I knew that I was happy with the fit of the bodice, except for the neckline which was a little bit high so I lowered it by three inches, before starting on the skirt. I took the waist measurement for the skirt from the bodice and used this to make a pattern. My fabric was not a large enough piece to allow me to cut the circle skirt in one which I would have prefered, so I had to make separate front and back sections, remembering to allow for a zipper. Having the side seams did have the advantage of allowing me to alter the fit easily when necessary.

As the skirt does have the side seams I played around with the idea of pockets in the seams but the fabric is really quite heavy and to add more fabric and more weight would be too much in this design. I’ll put some in-seam pockets into another project soon though.

Black Full Circle Skirt Dress - Lining Top of Dress
Black Full Circle Skirt Dress – Lining Top of Dress

The finished dress is fully lined, except for the sleeves. I am sure that there was more work in the construction of the dress lining than there was in the actual dress itself. I used a lovely black and white, antistatic, spotty lining fabric. I didn’t want the lining to show at the neck edge so I cut a facing from the black dress fabric and attached this to the neck edges of the back and front lining pieces, this was then under stitched.

Black Full Circle Skirt Dress - Sewing Avenue
Black Full Circle Skirt Dress – Sewing Avenue

Under stitching is done on the lining or the facing, inside the neck edge or sometimes at the arm hole edge. It is usually done with a slightly longer stitch length and by adding this extra row of stitching, about a quarter of an inch from the seam line, it keeps the seam edge in place and stops the fabric rolling out.

Black Full Circle Skirt Dress - Lining
Black Full Circle Skirt Dress – Lining

When I made the lining for the skirt of the dress, I made it as a straight skirt, not a full circle because I wanted it to stay in place when the dress moves about. Maybe when I’m dancing around! I also attached the skirt lining to the bodice the opposite way around at the waist so that the side seams would not be visible, they face inwards, against the legs. I was pleased with this little trick and will certainly remember to do it again on other dress and skirt linings. The other decision with this skirt lining was to leave it unattached to the dress. Linings are sometimes attached with a swing stitch or the hems can be joined together but in this instance that would not be a suitable option. As I said, I wanted the lining to stay in place when the dress moved about.

Black Full Circle Skirt Dress - Back
Black Full Circle Skirt Dress – Back
Black Full Circle Skirt Dress - Sewing Avenue
Black Full Circle Skirt Dress – Sewing Avenue

I have put in a concealed zip down the back of the dress. Don’t be put off using this type of zip as it is almost invisible on the garment and looks very neat and professional. You do however need the correct foot attachment for your sewing machine. You also need to make sure you are taking the correct amount of seam allowance when stitching it in place. there is a tendency when sewing in any type of zip to line up the edge of the zip with the edge of the fabric and this may well not be your seam allowance so measure it , check and make sure. You don’t want it baggy at the back!

Black Full Circle Skirt Dress - Finished Dress
Black Full Circle Skirt Dress – Finished Dress

I’m happy to make this dress another addition to my working wardrobe and possibly my socialising one as well.

Don’t forget to subscribe using the link at the to of the page.

Happy sewing