These measuring tips for dressmaking are an exclusive from Chinelo Bally, a finalist on The Great British Sewing Bee. Chinelo impressed the judges with her ability to create stylish, fitted garments using a freehand cutting method that she shares in her new book ‘Freehand Fashion‘ published by Pavilion.
Making sure you are taking measurements correctly is of utmost importance when you’re dressmaking – if you cannot take accurate measurements then your clothes will not fit as they should.
When I started my sewing journey, I eagerly watched my aunty take her client’s measurements as I wanted to know exactly where the tape should be for each part of the body. I learnt to take my own measurements by constantly practicing on myself, then I moved on to practicing measuring on other body shapes.
Some people don’t think that you should take your own measurements, and I totally understand why. It is easy to distort your body and your measurements can be affected; my solution for this is to take your own measurements in front of a mirror – this way you will be very conscious of distorting your body too much as you measure.
Chinelo's Tips for Taking Accurate Measurements
Here are my 5 tips for taking measurements on yourself or others:
- Always stand up to take measurements, unless you are taking a measurement that requires you to sit down, as this helps you hold your body more upright.
- Wear the underwear that will be worn with the finished item. If you will be wearing a girdle, spanx, waist trainer, push-up bra etc. with the finished garment, wear it to take the measurements because these often alter one’s measurements quite significantly.
- Your waist is not where the waist of your trousers, jeans or skirt sits. It is the smallest part of your torso. To find your waist (natural waist) tilt your upper body to the side and the fold under your last ribcage is your waist. Familiarise yourself with this section, and you will easily locate it more accurately with time. It is marked as ‘7’ on the image above.
- To take your hip measurement, wrap the tape around the fullest part above your thighs, move the wrapped tape up and down to make sure you are taking the biggest measurement – see ‘8’ on the image above.
- Get someone to help you take the measurements you cannot do yourself, i.e. the ones at the back.
When using my freehand method, take the actual measurements without adding any ease as you can add the ease later, when sewing the side seams.
I’m a bit of an old woman sometimes (mentally) and I still think that women should know their measurements. I always encourage people to memorise at least their bust, waist and hip measurement.
Chinelo Bally xxx
For other dressmaking tips visit our techniques page and click on dressmaking.