You can’t work in fashion without understanding the basics of how to measure a garment and create points of measure (POM). Because POMs are the foundation of how well a garment does (or doesn’t) fit.
But sometimes, these skills are glossed over in fashion school. Eeek! Or, in my case, you didn’t go to fashion school and are trying to DIY your career.
Which is why I’m going to share everything I wish I had learned about garment measurement and POM code creation.
From identifying key points on a sample to creating point of measure descriptions, you’ll learn the basics of creating POMs, measuring a proto, and how these measurements are used to make sure the garment fits well.
The fundamentals of how to measure a garment and create points of measure (POM) is essential if you are:
We’re going to cover a lot about POMs and how to measure garments…
You will not become proficient in technical design and creating POMs just from reading a few articles. This is a refined skill that’s acquired over time from hands-on work and learning from experienced professionals.
I’m going to give you a high level overview of garment construction, POM descriptions, how-to-measure guides, and how they all work.
You’ll have a good understanding of how POMs are used and how garments are measured, but I am not claiming you’ll be able to create a POM chart from scratch after reading this.
(And if you’re reading an article that does make that claim, run fast. There is no way you could learn about what POMs are needed for various garments based on reading an article. You have to understand a lot more about fit, construction and patternmaking to make those judgment calls, and all that comes from hands-on experience. While this guide is ultimate, there’s no internet replacement for real life experience here!)
We’ll go deeper into how to measure garments and what POMs you may need, but first, the basics.
What does POM mean, how POMs are used in fashion, and why you need them.
POM stands for Points of Measure, which refers to specific locations on a garment where measurements are taken to ensure accurate fit and sizing. Patternmakers also may use them to create patterns.
POMs are taken when a garment is lying flat. The garment is not on a dress form or a model, but rather lying flat on a hard surface.
Lay the garment as flat as possible, straightening up seams and removing wrinkles. The side seams on this tank and are hard to line up as it’s been washed and warped a little, but it’s a good example to show because of the raw hem that rolls. When you have a garment like this, make sure to measure to the edge of the fabric, unrolled.
But what about other raw hems? Like frayed denim edges? The POM description should specify how to measure, like “includes frayed edge.”
POMs are used in the fashion industry two ways. They’re part of the entire development process and are a guide to make sure garments fit well and are made right.
If you have a sample garment that you want to use for fit, you can use it to create POMs. It can be a sample that you (or a patternmaker) sewed, or a sample garment you bought in the market.
You measure this garment (lying flat) to create a POM chart for your tech pack. The factory will then use the POM chart to create the pattern and make a sample.
Creating POMs and a graded spec from scratch is the part that takes time to learn. You have to take into account the fabric (knit vs woven, how much stretch, etc) and the type of garment.
This is where technical expertise and hands-on experience is essential. Knowing how many measurements are enough (but not too much) is a fine tuned skill.
Once the POM chart is created in your tech pack, it’s used as a guide to measure samples and finished production. Anytime a sample garment (or production) comes in from the factory, it needs to be measured.
Often done by a technical designer, the sample is measured and data is input into the POM chart in the tech pack. Sample measurements are compared to the original POMs. If measurements are within tolerance, it may be accepted. If it’s out of tolerance, it’s noted and sent back to the factory to adjust the pattern and fit.
Following a POM chart to measure garment samples isn’t really that complicated. A lot of brands I’ve worked with taught interns how to measure and input POMs. You can learn the basics in an afternoon.
Tolerance refers to the acceptable range of variation from the required measurement at each POM point. It helps ensure that all finished garments fall within an acceptable range of deviation from their intended size and fit specifications.
For example, if the waistband should be 30-inches, tolerance might be +/- 0.5 inches. This means any garment with a waistband measuring between 29.5-30.5 inches would pass quality control (QC).
A tech pack is the full set of instructions to create a garment. A spec sheet (or garment specification sheet) is part of the tech pack that contains the POM chart.
Pro tip: A spec sheet is also referred to as a graded spec. Graded meaning how the garment “grades,” or gets smaller and bigger. I prefer the name “graded spec” because this means the spec sheet doesn’t just have size M, but all of the graded sizes: S, M, L.
Patternmakers may use POM charts to create sewing patterns for a garment. They also are an easy reference chart to measure garments and make sure they have been sewn within spec.
But beyond garment production in the fashion industry, retailers also use POMs to provide correct sizing information to customers. You’ve likely seen a size chart like this – it’s a version of a POM chart!
Measuring a garment flat is great for a lot of things. But you also have to consider how well a design fits a human body.
Which is why during proto and sampling stages, the garment needs to be tried on a fit model. If parts of the fit are off, you may need to change POMs and ask for a new sample using the updated POM chart.
Like I said, creating POMs is a learned skill. I’ll cover how they’re created, but it doesn’t mean you can go grab your favorite garment and create an accurate POM chart that any factory could read tomorrow.
(I don’t want to discourage you, and I hope you’re still learning a lot, but I want to be realistic about what you can and can’t learn about POMs from a written article. Even after working as a freelance fashion designer for 10+ years, I always consulted with a trained technical designer to finalize POMs for my clients. Fit is SO important to a design, you don’t want to mess it up!)
Each type of clothing has its own set of POMs based on style and fabric.
For example, POMs for a dress shirt might include collar size, sleeve length from center back neck (CBN), chest width at underarm point (UAP), waist width at narrowest point, and more.
Pants or jeans would have POMs such as waistband circumference, hip 9″ below top edge along side seam, inseam length from crotch to bottom hem, and others.
Different types of garments may have unique points of measurement that need special attention. For example, if you’re designing a dress with an empire waistline, you’ll need additional measurements above your usual waist measurement spot for the perfect fit
POMs are also used for garment construction details and detail placements, such as pockets or colorblocking. This is especially true if the POM and detail placements will be a different size on different garments.
For example, a shirt pocket on a size XXS shirt might be smaller than a pocket on an XXL shirt, and it likely won’t be placed in the same location. This measurement would need to be included in the POMs so the factory knows what size the pocket should be for each size and where to put it.
If you didn’t have a POM for your pocket, it could look like this on different size garments!
The above shirts have the same size pocket and it looks a little small on the larger size. As size ranges grow, consider how garment details will be impacted.
Identifying what POMs a garment needs is where things get tricky. You need to have a clear understanding of the design, how each part will fall onto the body, and determine what areas might cause fitting issues if not spec’d correctly.
POMs are specific locations on a garment where measurements are taken. They’re measured with the garment lying flat. These can be anywhere from seams to hems to collars to waistbands.
Different garments have different POMs based on their style and construction. And different POMs are measured differently. There are a variety of ways to measure a garment, including:
These POM visuals should help you understand how these measurements differ:
A POM code is used to specify a point of measure. Each code should have a description that explains how to measure that POM. The POM description should include the location, measurement type, and start and end points.
It might look something like this:
E – Armscye (armhole): Measured 1/2 on seam line curve from top shoulder to side seam
Here’s how this POM description is broken down to include all the necessary parts:
This is what that armscye POM looks like in real life:
Brands often create what’s called a How to Measure Guide. This guide includes the detailed descriptions and a visual for each POM code (like the armscye description and visual above).
This way, everyone on the design team and the factory side are taking and recording each POM the same way.
You know that POMs must be measured lying flat, but what about stretchy fabrics? There are some industry standards for how to measure knits vs wovens.
For fabrics that have any type of stretch, whether knit or woven, the garment should be measured relaxed. That means you don’t want to measure right after a fitting when the garment may have been distorted or stretched.
Lay the garment on a hard surface and let it return to its original shape before measuring and marking down POMs.
There are a LOT of acronyms used in fashion. The common measurement point acronyms used for POM descriptions are:
Once you’ve measured a garment and input the data into your tech pack, you need to analyze it. The first step is to look for out of tolerance measurements. When using Excel or tech pack software, anything out of tolerance should automatically turn red.
Consider how the out of tolerance measurement compares to the garment a fit model and make a determination. If it fit well in real life, you may need to adjust the POM. If it didn’t, ask the factory to “return to tolerance.”
If you’ve gotten multiple samples or protos of the same garment, you’ll want to compare measurements to identify inconsistencies in production or intentional changes in style or fit.
What a lot of people don’t realize about fashion is that there’s a TON more to it than just designing beautiful clothes. It’s why there are often very specific jobs beyond just “fashion designer.”
Again, whether you’re working in house, freelancing, or starting your own brand, having a base understanding of what POM charts are and how they work is essential.