How to Take Measurements for Dressmaking

Updated April 17, 2017

Creating garments, which fit snugly and comfortably to the body, requires taking exact measurements of the body. Dressmaking is an art form which has been present for many centuries and continues to demand perfect fit and comfort. Whether you are making alterations to a dress or building one from scratch, taking the time to carefully measure each part of the body the dress is intended for will make the entire dressmaking process easier.

Measure the bust area first. Place the measuring tape horizontally around the bust at the widest point on the bust, starting from under the armpit and pulling the measuring tape around until it reaches back to the initial armpit again. Be sure to hold the measuring tape firmly in place so that it fits snugly on the body, but do not hold the tape so tight that the subject is cinched in. Note down the measurement in inches in a notepad a label the entry "Bust."

Measure the smallest part of the waist. This area is normally just above, or in line, with the belly button. Measure the circumference of the waist, once again snugly placing the measuring tape horizontally around the waist and enter the measurement in your notepad as "Waist."

Measure the hip circumference at the broadest point. Place the measuring tape around the broadest point on the hips, which normally hits right where the hip bone sticks out at the front of the torso. Obtaining the broadest measurement is essential so that the dress will not ride up the hips, or be too small for the wearer to put on the dress. Enter the hip measurement in your notepad.

Measure the length from the neck to the smallest part of the waist, along the subject's back. Place the tip of the measuring tape at the nape of the neck, just underneath the hairline and drape the rest of the tape down along the spine. Take the measurement from below the hairline to the small of the waist. Note this measurement as "Length, Neck to Waist."

Measure the length along the back of the subject from the small of the waist to the desired length of the dress on the body. Place the tip of the measuring tape squarely on the spine at the small part of the waist and drape down along the backside, marking down the length at mid-thigh, the knee, mid-calf or the back of the heel, depending on the length of the dress you want to make. Note this measurement as "Length, Waist to Hem."

Measure the inseam of the subject. The inseam is taken from the inside of the leg line starting at the crotch and reaching down to the desired length on the garment you will make. Have the subject stand straight in front of you and place the end of the measuring tape next to their crotch and pull the measuring tape down until it hits the desired length on the body. Write down this measurement as "Inseam."

Measure the crotch depth by having the subject sit on a chair, sitting straight and tall. Measure along the side of the subject's body from the small of the waist to where the seat of the subject hits the chair. Note the measurement in inches as "Crotch Depth."


Take the measurements twice to ensure that they are correct in all areas of the body. Keep the subject standing straight and tall at all times, with even weight on both feet. Take measurements with the shoes which will be worn with the garment to get the correct length and fit.

Things You'll Need

  • Measuring tape
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About the Author

Sarah Vrba has been a writer and editor since 2006. She has contributed to "Seed," "AND Magazine," Care2 Causes and "202 Magazine," among other outlets, focusing on fashion, pop culture, style and identity. Vrba holds an M.A. in history with an emphasis on gender and fashion in the 19th century.