Taking measurements

Each successful sewing project starts with taking accurate body measurements and translating them into the sewing pattern. Our body is a combination of marvelous shapes and curves. It is a three-dimensional sculpture and we need to be able to identify its length, width and depth to achieve a good fit.

Once we know and understand these contours, we can search for a pattern that corresponds to them. The purpose of taking your body measurements, therefore, is choosing a pattern size that will give you the best fit. It may not be the size that you are used to while buying ready-to-wear clothes. Do not get attached to a number of the size – it is only a label.


Please find below some basic rules for taking body measurements:

  • horizontal measurements (width or circumference) should be taken parallel to the floor, if not stated otherwise.
  • vertical measurements (height or length) should be taken at right angles to the floor, except when noted otherwise.
  • if measurements are taken from certain points/lines of the body, these reference points should be clearly indicated so that the same location can be used each time. Read below about a very important reference point at the base of your neck.
  • in general, it is much easier and better if somebody can assist you in taking the body measurements. Some measures may be simply difficult to take alone. By the way, your measuring assistant would probably help you to be brutally honest about the “real truth” of your measurements.
  • when taking measurements, wear properly fitted underwear. Wear the undergarments that you normally would when the garment is ready. The bra style you wear is important, because your bust fullness and position can change with different bras. Especially at the later stages of fitting wear your “evening” bra for checking the fit of evening dresses/tops.
  • wear no shoes so that your posture will be “normal”. Never measure over an outer garment. Put no finger under the measuring tape as this will distort the measurements.
  • make sure that the tape measure is held straight and close to your body, but not too tight. Stand straight.
  • never, ever (!) let the person whose measurements are taken to see herself/himself at the mirror during this process. They will automatically adjust their posture to look more correct, trying to stand more straight, leveling the shoulders or hips etc.
  • always measure to the closest 1cm or ½ “ and do not bother differences of 6mm/ ¼ “ or less. It is accurate enough. Most of our measurements fluctuate slightly and we never make a garment that is going to be your second skin. You may find an article about ease quite interesting Understanding ease.
  • double check the measurements for accuracy.

There is a whole range of body measurements defined as standards per given size (check our detailed sizing tables MySizePatterns size charts – Ladies) and we encourage you to check most or all of them, at least once. However, some of them are more important than the others, as the starting point to determine the size you need. As you will work through specific sewing projects, you will need to take some particular measurements into account as well –  we will pay your attention to that in our Full Sewing Guides.

Now, let’s focus on the absolutely crucial horizontal dimensions

FULL BUST – measure around the fullest part of the bust, keeping the measuring tape straight across the back (over the shoulder blades in the back).


BELOW BUST = RIB CAGE this is the measurement introduced to MySizePatterns sizing system as the sparring partner for the full bust measurement while defining the BUST SIZE. Yes, MySizePatterns patterns are available for various bust sizes, read more on that in the article Bust size matters. It is the circumference taken just below the bust. It does not go over the shoulder blades in the back. See an example how to determine the pattern bust size in our article Choosing the bust size.


WAIST –  measure around the body, over a piece of a narrow elastic tied (not too tight) around your waist. To make sure it indicates your natural waistline, bend from side to side until it settles in the final level. The deepest resulting wrinkle is your natural waist. Read Non-standard waist line to see how to choose the most appropriate waist size for our skirts and trousers.


HIPS – measure around the fullest part of the hip or around the thighs if they are fuller than the hips.


Before we start with the most important vertical dimensions, let’s learn how to find the very important reference point on your body –  the base of your neck. It is the prominent, the 7th bone of your spinal column (some of you may be happy to know its official name: vertebra prominens). Bend your neck forward so you can locate it better. We will refer to this point at the base of your neck. This point is a very good reference for back length measurements and the lengths of the upper front parts. Measurements starting there are much easier to take than the ones starting at the “top of your shoulder”, where the starting point is difficult to locate and therefore the measurements are less reliable.


BACK WAIST LENGTH – measure from the prominent bone at the base of your neck to the elastic at your waistline.


FRONT TO BUST LENGTH – measure from the base of your neck at the back to the bust point.


FRONT TO WAIST LENGTH – measure from the base of your neck at the back to the elastic at your


INSEAM – the measurement taken up from the floor to the inside of the leg at the crotch. A key measurement while making pants.

WAIST TO FLOOR – the measurement taken up from the floor to the elastic at your waistline. A key measurement while making pants.

Note your measurements first, then check by looking in the sizing table MySizePatterns size charts – Ladies which standard measurement is the closest to your result(s). You will get first hits what size you should take. Remember, no judging, just measuring, pure facts – we want to end up with a garment that fits you.

MeasurementMeasuredStandard measurement lower than yoursStandard measurement higher than yoursIndication of the size based on the smallest difference against the standard

Full bust (ladies)

Chest (gentlemen)

Below bust (ladies)    

You can apply a similar logic to check what pattern height you should take. By the way, did we mention that MySizePatterns patterns are also available at different heights? Well, they are. And not only for ladies, but also for kids and gentlemen.

MeasurementMeasuredStandard measurement lower than yoursStandard measurement higher than yoursIndication of the height based on the smallest difference against  the standard
Back length    
Front to bust (ladies) / chest (gentlemen)    
Front to waist    
Waist to floor    

Please note that taking these measurement and filling up the tables above is not enough to state for sure (and once) which pattern size you need to take. You could be strongly mislead if you would do so.

First of all, you may find there various size indications. It may not work to assume that taking the highest size is fine. Choosing the right size starts with the body’s measurements and awareness of your silhouette (the article Perfectly non-standard is strongly recommended) and includes at least:

To sum up, having your true and accurate measurements in place is just the starting point in determining which size you need to take for a sewing project. Do not jump too quickly into conclusions, this is a very important part of your sewing project. For the sake of achieving the best possible fit in the easiest possible way, it may turn out that you need to take different sizes for different types of garments. Nothing strange here, strangely enough – it is quite common.

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