How to Take Your Body Measurements

In this article, you will learn the #1 rule of taking your body measurements; tips for taking accurate measurements; what supplies you need; and the four critical measurements you must take.

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…

The Rules

Rule #1: Be nice to you! I mean it!

What You Need

Before we begin, we need the following:

  • a fiberglass measuring tape
  • Two lengths of ¼-inch elastic for waist and hip
  • a good, supportive bra
  • enough courage to fill up the bowels of a mega cruise ship

See the image a the top of the page if you have any questions.

How to Measure Your Body | Basic Body Measurements (BMs)

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!

Accuracy is critical here.

So start by stripping down to your bra and panties or putting on a close-fitting leotard. Because these numbers are scary enough without adding unnecessary and unwanted bulk!

And before we face the dreaded numbers, you need to mark the following 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. Make sure the elastic is level all the way around your body!
  • Second, tie a second length of ¼-inch elastic around the fullest part of your lower body. Make sure the elastic is level all the way around your body!

You’ll 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 very good bra that makes my “girls” say a happy, “Hello there!

Okay, you also need to keep the following in mind if you want to take accurate BMs…

  • Stand naturally. Do NOT cheat by sucking in your tummy!
  • Stand in front of a full-length mirror.
  • As you take your measurements, make sure the measuring tape is snug but not tight around your curves. This is not the time for fudging!
  • Make sure that the measuring tape is level or parallel to the floor all the way around your body!
  • Minimize contorting your body as you take your measurements!

What to Measure & How

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

Choosing Your Starting Pattern Size
  1. High bust: across your back, under shoulder blades and your arms, over your bust, and right up under your armpits
  2. Full bust: across your back, under your arms, and around your nipples
  3. Waist: the smallest part of your body
  4. Full hip: the fullest part of your lower body, which may or may not be your hips (look at your body both straight on and sideways to determine where this is)

Once you have these measurements, you will compare them to the Body Measurement chart on the pattern envelope…

Choosing Your Starting Pattern Size

Bonus Tips

I want to share a couple of 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 the center front (CF) of your body over your navel 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 dresses will curve under your tummy! By using the ruler as directed in the tip above, you factor your tummy into your full hip measurement!

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 measurement in one go. Instead, determine where your side seams are (just put on a garment that you think fits you will or a leotard), 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!

Repeat in the same manner if you are busty or have a thick waist.


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 how you need to split up your measurements.

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

RELATED: Click HERE if you’re ready to unleash your dressmaking superpowers and learn how to sew a simple dress! Warning: This is a MEGA 5-part series!