A Complete Course in Dressmaking/Lesson 1/How to take measurements


The following measurements are necessary and after they are obtained, should be kept ready for reference all the way through in the making of a garment:

  • Bust measure
  • Neck measure
  • Width of chest
  • Width of back
  • Length of front from neck to waistline
  • Length of back from neck to waistline
  • Length of sleeve
  • Waist measure
  • Hip measure
  • Length from waistline to floor at center front, center back and each side

Remove the Dress to Take all Measurements.—Measure over the underwaist and petticoat. In ordering commercial patterns, always order by the actual measurement. Allowances are made in the patterns for different types of garments. For instance, a pattern for a coat is made larger than a pattern for a blouse, although they are both marked the standard size as thirty-six or forty.

Taking the Bust Measure.—Stand behind the person being measured and pass the tape around the form loosely. Hold it between the thumb and first finger of the right hand at the center back and with the left hand slip it down in the front over the fullest part of the bust. Bring it well up under the arms and high across the back over the fullest part of the shoulder blades. Draw up the tape snugly but it ought not to be really tight.

Note what the measurement is in inches.

The Neck Measure.—Also take this measurement from the back, passing the tape around the base of the neck. Draw it snugly.

The Width of Chest.—Measure across the chest at a point that would be about two-thirds of the way down the armholes of the finished garment. Do not continue the tape under the arm but take the measurement from arm muscle to arm muscle.

The Width of Back.—Measure across the back at a point about half way down the armhole. This gives you the narrowest point across the back and is the width that the garment ought to measure across the back.

Length of Arm.—The best way of determining the length of the arm, is to place the yard stick or a tailor’s square under the arm and note the length to the wrist. If a square is used, place the short arm of the square across the armpit and let the long arm extend along the inside of the arm. The sleeve length ought to be taken to the joint at the wrist.

The Waist Measure.—In taking the waist measure, you will find it a help to place a cord around the waistline to locate the smallest point. Make a loop in one end of the cord and place the cord around the waistline, pass the other end through the loop, draw up the cord tightly and tie it. It will naturally slip to the smallest part which is the normal waistline. Measure over the cord with the tape. Even if you want a loose garment or one with fullness, this measurement will give you the right basis on which to work.

The Hip Measure.—Before removing the cord from the waistline, measure down at the center front, center back and sides six inches and fasten pins to the skirts at these points. Measure around the skirt over top of the pins for the hip measurement. (Note.—The six inch point is where the hip measure is usually taken, however, some commercial patterns specify that the hip measure is taken at a lower point.)

Length of Front from Neck to Waistline.—You will find it a great help to know the length from the neck to the waistline. Take this measurement while the cord is around the waistline.

Length of Back from Neck to Waistline.—Measure from the neck bone at the base of the neck in the back to the cord at the waistline.

Length from Waistline to Floor.—It’s a poor plan to attempt to measure the length of the skirt that a woman is wearing. Measure from the waistline to the floor—it will give you a better guide to work with. Then if you want the skirt, six, eight or ten inches from the floor you can subtract it from the total amount. Have the person being measured stand squarely with her heels together and measure from the cord at the waistline to the floor at the center front, center back and sides.