If you’re a fashion designer (or technical designer, pattern maker, etc.) knowing how to take and interpret body measurements is a must.
You’ve probably seen master pattern makers at work and be in awe of how quickly they can take body measurements without a sweat.
Well, the truth is, unless you’re a pattern maker or custom tailor doing this regularly, it’s easy to get rusty on these skills.
So, in this article, I’ll cover the basics of taking body measurements on a model (or a dress form!) to help you create size charts, measurement specs, and also measure fitters.
Let’s get started!
Why am I qualified to write about this stuff? In my 15 years of experience in the fashion industry, I’ve journeyed from being an in-house designer, starting my own brand (yep!), to growing my freelance career to $100,000+. Now, with all the knowledge I’ve learned along the way, I want to help fashion designers (and PDs, TDs, etc.) like you make it in the industry.
Before diving into measurement taking, make sure you have these tools on hand:
Taking body measurements is not as simple as just whipping out your tape measure and going through all your POMs.
Here’s’ a comprehensive guide to help you out:
The first step to getting accurate body measurements is prepping your model or dress form. Dress forms are an ideal choice if you’re working solo, but if a real person is available, take advantage of it as you can get more precise fittings.
You want your model to wear fitted clothing like skin-tight leggings and a tank top. Baggy clothes can skew measurements, leading to inaccurate results.
Make sure that your model is standing straight but is relaxed. It’s common for your models to feel tense while taking measurements, so a good exercise I always do is to have them shake their entire body to loosen up. (You can join in just for fun! 😉).
Before we get started, here are some more tips to make sure you’re hitting the right measurements.
1. Use fixed points to stay consistent: Make sure you’re always measuring from the same points including the following key body measurement points:
2. Put a ribbon to mark the waistline: One of the fixed key body measurement points in taking body measurements is the waistline. Make sure you’re measuring from the same point by wrapping a ribbon or tie around the natural waist. If you’re using a dress form, you can also go ahead and mark the other fixed points with pins (HPS, shoulder points, bust points).
3. Put one finger behind the tape measure: This helps maintain tension and prevent slippage, ensuring accurate and consistent measurements.
4. Take your time: Be mindful and do not rush when taking body measurements, as doing this haphazardly might just lead to errors.
POMs are specific areas on the body that serve as reference points when taking measurements. If you’re not very familiar with POMs yet, I recommend checking out my Ultimate Guide to Measuring Garments and Creating Points of Measure.
There’s a long list of POMs that can be taken for body measurement, but unless you’re a custom tailor, you’ll only need the basic ones to get you by in your day to day work as a fashion designer regardless if you’re working in-house or as a freelance fashion designer.
To make it easier, I divided the POMs into three sections; body measurements, sleeve measurements, and pants measurements.
To give you a bit more context, here’s an explanation of how these measurements should be taken:
A. Shoulder Width: Measure from the tip of one shoulder straight across to the other side.
B. Neck Circumference: Wrap the measuring tape around the base of the neck.
C. Chest Circumference: Measure at the fullest part around the chest area.
D. Across Front: Measure from the mid-armhole on one side straight across to the other side.
E. Across Back: Similar to D, measure from the mid-armhole on one side to the other from the back.
F. Bust Height: Measure vertically from the highest point of the shoulder down to the bust point.
G. Bust Distance: Measure the distance between the bust points.
H. True Waist: Locate the waist circumference at the narrowest part of the waist and measure around.
Pro Tip: If it’s difficult to locate the waist, ask your model to bend sideways, the fold is where the true waist falls.
I. 1st Hips (High Hip): Measure around the largest part of the stomach, typically 3 inches below the waist.
J. 2nd Hips (Low Hip): Measure the hip circumference around the largest part of the buttocks.
K. Full Figure Front: Measure from the highest point of the shoulder, over the bust, down to the waistline.
L. Full Figure Back: Similar to K, measure from the highest point of the shoulder to the waistline from the back.
M. Armhole Circumference: Measure around the armhole. Keep the measuring tape snug to the armhole, but not overly tight, to allow for ease of movement without causing discomfort.
Note: The next set of measurements from N. to R. will require BOTH length and circumference measurements:
N. Cap: Measure right at the armpit.
O. Short: Measure at the bicep, halfway between the elbow and underarm.
P. Elbow: Measure at the point of the elbow.
Q. 3/4 Sleeve: Measure between the elbow and wrist point.
R. Long Sleeve: Measure the arm length from the shoulder edge down to the wrist, with arms slightly bent.
S. Pants Waist: Measure around the waist where the pants will sit.
T. Crotch Length: Measure from the waistline down under the crotch to the back waistline.
U. Thigh: Find the point between the knee and crotch, measuring around the widest part.
V. Knee: Measure around the center of the knee bone.
W. Calf: Measure between the center of the knee bone and the ankle.
X. Inseam: Measure from the inside of the leg down to the ankle.
Pro Tip: If you want a deeper dive into taking body measurements and pattern making, there are TONS of resources available for you to tap into, including one of my fave books, Pattern Making for Fashion Design by Helen Joseph-Armstrong.
Now that we’ve covered everything you need to know about taking body measurements and POMs, feel free to practice with your full-body dress form or even your friends!
And always remember, everyone has a different body type, so it’s essential to be mindful of how we measure each time as every experience is unique.
It might seem intimidating now with a long list of measurements to take, but trust me, with a little bit of practice, taking body measurements will feel like second nature in no time!