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How to measure yourself

Hello fellow friends who love to sew – I’m Suzanne from Winter Wear Designs, and I am super excited to be here today!

All right, today I want to chat with you all about one of the most important and most commonly overlooked parts of the sewing process.  And it starts before you sew a single stitch or even drool over that perfect fabric that you are about to buy.  I am talking about measuring yourself.  WAIT…. before you say, ‘boring’ and head over to another post, give me just two minutes of your time – they may change the way you view sewing for yourself forever.

How to measure yourself

How to measure yourself with Suzanne from Winter Wear Designs

First you need to have a measuring tape and something to record your measurements.  You can grab my free printable for measuring yourself and your family HERE.

The most important measurements you will be taking are:

  • Full Bust
  • Over Bust
  • Waist
  • High Hip
  • Full Hip
I measure in my bra and underwear – you can measure over a thin tee shirt, but not over anything like compression leggings or shape wear (unless you always wear those articles under your clothing that you are sewing for yourself.)  Do not measure over jeans or a sweatshirt or anything else that is going to add a touch of bulk to your dimensions.  1cm difference could make the difference between 2 sizes and could mean the difference from a well fitting garment and something that makes you go ‘meh’.

Measuring your bust

Let’s start with your full bust.  Now I need you to be honest, are you wearing a good bra?  We might love lounging around in our sports bras (or braless) or that bra from when you were in college that only fits because it is so stretched out that it is being held together with safety pins and a prayer; but that is NOT the bra to measure yourself in.  You need a bra that hikes the girls up into place and gives them firm but gentle support.  Once the girls are in place, measure around the fullest part of your chest in line with your nipples.  Keep the measuring tape flat against your skin and level.  Pull the tape so that it is snug against your body but not making an indentation in your skin. Relax your shoulders with good posture and make sure your arm is hanging loose at your side (the one not holding the tape).  Mark where the tape crosses and record your measurement.
Now do your over bust – same rules as above, but this time you are going to leave the back of the measuring tape where it was, but angle the front of the tape up above your chest.  WHY?  Well, this measurement is how cup size is determined, and cup size will quite often tell you if you need a full bust adjustment, but it does much more than that.  The difference in your full bust and over bust will typically indicate if you need a shoulder adjustment.  For instance; your full bust, waist and hips might all put you in a size L, but you sew up the size large and the shoulders are just swimming on you.  Is it a badly drafted pattern? No.  Is your body just unfit to ever fit in clothes?  HECK No!  If you measure your overbust and have more than a 3 inch difference, chances are that you have narrow shoulders and actually need a M or even a S through the shoulders.  A simple blend of sizes will get you exactly where you need to be before sewing rather than in alterations after.

Measuring your waist

On to the waist.  We all wish our waist was smaller, but it is what it is – don’t suck in that gut, don’t pull that tape like a corset, and don’t measure where your pants sit.  All of those things will put you in a size that will be off.  You measure your waist at the naturally occurring thinnest part of your body.  For many people this is in line with their belly button, so that is a good rule of thumb, but won’t work for everyone.  If your natural waist is higher than your belly button, you might have a short torso – this may indicate that you will need to shorten bodices in patterns or do a sway back adjustment to get the perfect fit.

Measuring your hips

The high hip, now this is where most modern low-mid rise pants are designed to sit.  Find the tops of your hip bones and measure evenly around at this point.  Easy Peasy!
And last, but not least, the full hip.  You want to go around the fullest part of your hips and bum, once again make sure the tape stays even all the way around and do not measure over pants!

Choosing the size you’ll sew

Now that you are armed with your measurements, you need to pay attention to each designer’s size chart.  Most will tell you if the number on the chart is the starting number for the size range or the end number of the size range.  My size charts are all the starting number for the size range, so if you are between numbers, always go down.  So if you measure a 93cm bust, you are a M, not a L.  Look at the chart and circle where your measurements put you – believe the measurements not your street wear size in off the rack clothing.  I know it can be hard to make a different size than you are used to wearing, but it is better than wasting time and materials!  I check in on my measurements about once a month, and I re-measure my kids before each project.
If your measurements put you in different sizes for bust, waist, and hips, blend your sizes on the pattern pieces.  If you ever have questions about your measurements and what size you should make in a WWD pattern, just give me a shout out I am always happy to help!!!
Here’s to happy measuring and to all the amazing things you are going to go out and make for yourselves!!!!
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