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Taking measurements is a vital element in the creation of a perfectly fitting block or garment. Extra care at this stage can save you an extraordinary amount of time, effort and extra expense later. So before we begin, I need you to make me a few promises:
- You will be honest about your measurements. Telling little white lies will only result in a garment that does not fit. I can guarantee that you will not be satisfied with the resulting block if you have not given your true measurements.
- You’ll take it seriously – too often, a costumer is left working with inaccurate measurements because she had a measuring party involving herself, her best friend and a few too many glasses of wine! Make sure you get it right, I can’t stress that enough!
- The measurements have been taken whilst you’ve been wearing what you would normally wear under a the finished garment, as much as possible (a slip and well-fitting bra are fine but there’s no point measuring yourself for a fitted bodice block whilst wearing a sweater.) It may help to wear a close-fitting top with sleeves since you'll need to know where your "armscye" (armhole) is.
Do we have a deal? Right, here goes!
Tie a string or ribbon around your waist, where you bend naturally – not too tightly, just snug, and horizontal. This will help you to take the vertical measurements accurately. Move around, bend from side to side and so on until it sits comfortably.
Remember to stand up straight (but not overly so) with your weight evenly distributed.
Bust (1) – measure horizontally around the fullest part of your bust along the nipple line, and straight across your back. It helps if you stand with your back to a mirror, with the person measuring you in front of you, so that they can see in the mirror that it’s straight across your back. Remember to lower your arms.
Natural waist (2) – breathe normally, and don’t suck in your stomach. Measure around your waist along the ribbon, horizontally.
Hips (3) – measure horizontally around the widest part of your hips. Note the level where you’re taking this measurement at one side.
Waist to hip (4) – measure down your side from the waist tape to the level where you took your hip measurement.
Front shoulder to waist (5) – measure from the middle of the top of your shoulder down over the apex of your bust, straight down to the waist tape.
Chest (6) - Measure across your chest from armhole to armhole, about 7cm (3”) below the hollow of your throat.
You're halfway there!
Shoulder (7)– Measure from the base of your neck to your shoulder bone.
Neck size (8) – measure around the base of your neck, touching the collarbone below the hollow of your throat.
Nape to waist (9) – bend you head forward and feel around for a protruding bone at the back of the base of your neck. Put the end of the tape measure here and straighten up, then measure down the centre of your back to the tape around your waist.
Back width (10) – measure the width of your back around 15cm (6”) below your neck bone. The ends of the measurement fall where the armhole seams of a close-fitting top would lie.
Armscye depth (11) – The “armscye” is the armhole, the fabric edge to which the sleeve is sewn. Measure from that bone at the back of your neck straight down your back to a point level with the bottom of your armhole. It may help to place a ruler under your arm, but make sure it’s level and not too snug (you don’t want the armhole to be too tight!)
Dart – for our purposes today, this is a standard measurement that's related to your bust size. Refer to the table below to find the "dart" for your bust size.
As you can see, this chart gives only the mid range of bust sizes, but you can see that the difference between sizes is 5cm (2") and the difference between dart sizes is 0.6cm (1/4"), allowing you to work out the dart for bust sizes that fall between entries in the table or outside this range.
This "dart" measurement is used to determine the size of the dart at the bust. The table makes the assumption that the bigger your bust size, the bigger the dart - in other words, the bigger the bust size, the bigger your cup size. Any woman wearing a 32F or a 46A will know how flawed this logic is, so here you can see what I meant about sacrificing accuracy in favour of simplicity. We'll work to make this measurement more accurate by getting a little more complex in a future episode...
Write down any other fitting issues that you think you might need to allow for.
Now check all the measurements again – even I find this helpful when measuring clients, just to be sure!