Like everything else, there is an art to taking measurements accurately, consistently and professionally. Only take the measurements you need to create the required garment. Some people will tell you to take as many measurements as you can because you never know if you might need them later. I disagree. You discuss the design with the client before you get out the tape measure. Nothing screams “I’m not sure what I’m doing” louder than someone who is taking too many measurements. Measuring someone is a very personal experience that can make them feel uncomfortable. As a professional it is your duty to minimise that discomfort by being as fast and discreet as possible. Do not linger with the tape but move promptly and confidently from one measurement to the next. If you are confident, your client will feel more comfortable and be more likely to return for future garments and more measurements.
Do not measure a person who is stressed for whatever reason. Wait for them to calm down or suggest they return on another day. If your client brought her children along, have one of your staff members play with them for a few minutes so your client can relax and have their measurements taken.
Before your client attends for measuring, suggest they wear a good fitting bra and undies. This way they can anticipate having to undress and will wear something they feel comfortable in. I offer a robe in my dressing rooms so the client can quickly uncover and recover before going back to get dressed. Do not measure a fully dressed client. Items like T-shirts, jeans, and wooly overgarment obviously cause bulk and while you think you might be able to guess, it screams unprofessionalism. Generally, have the client remove their shoes as even small heels can affect the arch in the back. If your client is having the garment made specifically for wearing with heals then you need to suggest that they bring them along.
With the advent of breast implants has come a new fitting problem. If you measure such a client in a bra you have no idea how much lift has already been included in your measurements. Women with implants can only have the bust lifted so far before the perimeter of the implant begins to show (not a good look). Technically you need to measure these clients without a bra, which is easier said than done. Alternatively you measure with the bra, and ease your garment rather than add any more lift.
Never make a garment for “after the diet”. I can’t tell you how many clients will say they’re dieting and suggest you change your measurements a little. If you take that suggestion and make the garment accurately and it doesn’t fit then you’ll have a difficult time telling your client her diet has failed. Instead you’ll end up remaking the garment. Only make a garment from real measurements.
Some of the more important measuremnts are described below…
Bust is the most well known measurement so you’d think it was the easiest to measure. You’d be wrong. To demonstrate how difficult it is, I once had several people measure the same woman and found varitions in their measurements of as much as 22%. Variation came both from the client and the measurer. A woman being measured for bust or waist will automaticaly breathe in, puff out her chest and suck in her tummy, hence ‘optomising’ her size and shape. You need to get the client to stand upright with their arms to the side, breath all the way in, then half out and hold. Take the measuring tape from side seam, across each bust point and around the back in a smooth line that’s firm, but not so tight as to indent the breast. Have the client breathe in and half out again before measuring the waist.
Waist always refers to the natural waist and not where the waistband of whatever the current fashion is sits. This isn’t really a problem for women to measure, but it can be very difficult for men whose waistband probably hasn’t changed for 20 years plus.
Waist to Bust
The waist to bust measurement is rarely taken, let alone utilised. Yet it is probably the one true constant among women. It is almost always 16cm plus or minus just a tiny amount, and that amount varies as they breathe. It serves to verify whether or not the nape to waist measurement is correct. A woman with an abnormally high nape to waist measurement will have a waist to bust that is equally longer, assuming of course there is no obvious reason for the longer back, such as hunching. In other words, if your waist to bust is longer than 16cm then your nape to waist should be longer also. Now here’s the fascinating part. No matter what the woman’s height, the waist to bust varies little for other average measurements. With experience you’ll start to see this proportion and immediately estimate, with accuracy, how much you may need to stretch a standard block to suit your client. Note: the waist to bust measurement is taken against the sternum at the bust line to the true waist.
It is essential to locate the bust point on your blocks and patterns. To do this you need at least one horizontal measurement and one vertical measurement. I use bust point to bust point (also called bust separation) for the horizontal because I can discreetly sight it while taking the bust measurement. Mid shoulder to bust point is most commonly used for the vertical as it simply follows the average bra. Some people use center front neck to bust point, but this has shown to be open to interpretation as to where exactly the center front neck actually is. A variation of even 2-3cm can equate to a 10% error. You can use whatever system you like for made to fit clients, just be consistent. If you are working for someone else or on subcontract you will need to use whichever system they prefer.
Chest & Underbust
Not often used in swimwear, these measurements can be used to verify your patterns around a complex bust construction. Chest is taken above the breast from arm hole to arm hole on the front of the body. Underbust is taken from side seam, across the ribcage at the underwire line to the opposite side seam and back around. Underbust is sometimes referred to as the empire line. This measurement is useful to verify patterns with empire line designs, bandeaus, bras and shelf bras. It’s also possible to estimate cup size by comparing chest and underbust measurements to bust measurement.
Waist to Waist, Crotch & Gusset
One of the more difficult measurements is the waist to waist measurement. Take a tape measure and place it at the center front waist and run it between the legs and up to the center back waist without the tape falling between the cheeks. If you were measuring for a thong back you’d allow the tape to sit between the cheeks. Of course these aren’t measurements you can easily take from a female client so it’s recommended instead you place the tape at center front waist and hold it vertically so you can sight horizontally to the lowest point of the crotch. This is called the waist to crotch measurement. You can be discreet by focussing on the tape rather than the body. If you compare this measurement to the table and find the corresponding gusset measurement you can calculate waist to waist by the formula: Waist to Waist = (2 x Waist to Crotch) + Gusset.