Ginny (ginger_kitty) wrote in egl,

"How Do You Measure Up?" : A 'How to' on obtaining accurate measurements

I wrote this roughly a year ago, along with a few other articles pertaining to Quality Sewing-- aimed at the sew-ers of the frilled community, and in some cases, their clients.
Since one of the recent concerns with commissioners has been quality, I think it's about time to finally share them. Starting off with one of the most basic issues: Measurements


"How Do You Measure Up?"
A 'How To' on obtaining accurate measurements for sewing, commissioning, and buying

The first step in sewing, whether you are making garments for yourself, for a friend, or professionally, is starting off with a complete and accurate set of measurements. This is also important if you are having anything made for you, and even the most basic measurements are a must in buying Lolita online.

Items that you will need are:
  • a flexible but sturdy measuring tape (you should be able to find this anywhere that sells sewing supplies)
  • a short necklace to find your neckline.

Items that are recommended are:
  • a piece of elastic large enough to tie around your waist
  • a washable marker
  • small stickers, and/or pins to mark reference points as you work
  • a friend to help

To identify the neckline: Select a short, fine chain necklace and allow it to hang just below the hollow of the throat at the base of your neck.

To measure the bust line: With your bra on, measure directly over the nipples, and keep the measuring tape parallel to the floor as you move over the back. Do not allow the tape to drop to follow the bra line, as it will change your measurement.

To measure the waistline: Since Lolita skirts sit at the natural waist, this will be your most important measurement, and must be measured at your natural waist. If you do not have a naturally indented waist, a "chosen waist" will be have to be found. The easiest way to find the natural waistline is tie a piece of thin elastic around where you think your waist to be. You should not tie it too snugly, but you also do not want it to be too loose, and it is best to tie this over bare skin. Once it is in place, do a bit of wiggling and bending, side to side, to allow it to settle into the smallest portion of your waist at the middle of the body. Once this is found, do not measure directly over the elastic, as it could possibly shift during measurement. Rather, the best way to measure your waistline is to mark a few dots around your waist with either washable pen or marker, or attach a few adhesive dots. When the elastic is removed, measure over your markings.
If you are making a chosen waist, then I suggest measuring over your bellybutton, or just above. Also, if you tilt to the side (from your waist, not your hips. I know their fabulous, but for our purposes, don't jut those hips out), find where your side dents inward the most. This is a good indicator to where you should mark your waist.

To measure armholes: My suggestion is to go through the tops in your closet. Find a slightly fitted t-shirt that is not too particularly snug. Try it on, to ensure that there is not any major gaping at the bottom of the armhole where the sleeve is attached. You may need a friend or relative to help, but follow the measuring tape around the seam line where the sleeve is attached to the shirt.

To measure shoulder width: Keep the t-shirt from where you measured armholes. Measuring across the back, between the seam lines for the armholes is one way to get a rather close to accurate measurement. To ensure that this measurement is completely accurate however, you should feel for the flat bone at the very end of your shoulder. Or, you can raise up your arm until you see a dimple appear, and you should feel for the bone in this hollow space. This is the shoulder point. If you're still wearing your t-shirt and this does not fall at the seam line, mark the spot with a sewing pin on each side, and measure across your back between the two pins.

To measure your underbust: The most accurate underbust measurement will be to follow the bottom edge of your bra all the way around. This is important if you are making or buying high waisted skirts, underbust jumperskirts, or empire waisted dresses, etc.

To measure your hips: Your hip measurement does not seem so directly important to Lolita, since skirts sit at the natural waistline and flare out from there, ultimately hiding the hips. But, it is useful for knowing how much stretch you need to give items with elastic waists, and for knowing how long to make a zipper (a dress zipper should open enough so that it may be pulled over your shoulders or over your hips, while a skirt zipper should open enough to go over your hips). Your hip measurement should, contrary to what the name suggests, not be taken over what most people identify as their hips, which are the very top of their pelvic bones (this measurement, however, can be used for the waist of a petticoat or bloomers). Really, it's just a much more polite term for your butt measurement, as it should be taken around the widest part of your lower body. The exact location of this varies from person to person, but you want to find the very largest measurement, keeping the measuring tape parallel to the floor at all times.

A complete list of measurements for Lolitas to keep handy (some are optional, as stated below)
  • Shoulder Width: Most important to know is your shoulder measurement across the back (when shopping for blouses, if you see a shoulder length listed, that is the measurement they are stating), but it may also be handy at times to have the same measurement across the front.
  • Neckline: Following the necklace used to find your neckline.
  • Neck Circumference: Taken around where a choker or high collar would sit.
  • Neck-to-Waist: Both front and back. This should be down the very center of your body, from the bottom edge of the necklace used to find your neckline to your natural waist.
  • Arm Length: Taken over the top of the arm, from your shoulder point to your wrist bones. (Note: if you are purchasing or making a jacket, the actual length of the sleeves should always be a little longer than this)
  • Bicep/Upper Arm Circumference
  • Wrist Circumference
  • Bust Circumference: All that is usually necessary is the full bust circumference. However, when working on patterns, it is usually also good to divide this measurement into front and back sections (between side seams)-- Especially if you or your client are of a unique size (ex: small boned with a large cup size / large boned with a small cup size)
  • Underbust Circumference: Again, not always necessary but it may be useful if you are making or altering your pattern, to divide this into front and back sections.
  • Waist Circumference: This is usually a lot more close to even between front and back, but to ensure that side seams hit at the proper side point, you may again wish to take a front and back measurement.
  • Waist-to-Knee: You want to measure to the very center of your knee when judging for skirt length, or wherever else you may want your skirt to end. You may also want to keep a record of your measurement from your waist to directly above the knee, for long bloomers, and from waist to mid-thigh for medium length bloomers, etc.
  • Above Knee Circumference
  • Mid-Thigh Circumference
  • Hip Circumference: Separate front and back measurements are only useful in our cases for bloomers, or a pair of trousers or prince pants if one is opting to go boy-style. If making a petticoat or bloomers, may also be handy to measure around the top of the pelvic bone.
  • Crotch: This is only necessary for bloomers or pants, but it can be handy to keep on record all the same. I suggest measuring from a pair of pants that you already own (preferably snug fitting or made of a thin material, so not to skew ), from the front of the waistband to the back, along the center seam. Front and back measurements are very important, so also take note of front waistband to inseam, and back waistband to inseam, again along the center seam of the pants.

Additional Notes:
  • Never make a garment exactly to your (or your client's) measurements. Always add a bit of ease. Not too much, but just a bit. After all, you need to be able to move and breathe, and a skirt or dress should be able to accommodate a blouse beneath. If you are buying or altering from a commercial pattern, the pattern will already accommodate for ease. If you are commissioning work from a professional seamstress, never bump up your measurements to include this ease. They will normally do it for you.
    • If you're unsure, talk to the seamstress and make sure and specify that your measurements do not include ease.
    • Also be sure to take into account the fabrics being used, and if they have any stretch, as this can decrease the amount of ease needed. Fabrics cut on bias will also naturally stretch.
  • It's good to retake your measurements every so often. I don't retake all of my measurements frequently (about once a year), but I do check things like waist circumference every other month ~ every few months, and things like bust circumference and hip circumference a couple of times a year.
    • It is also good to know how our measurements might change during the month (main ex: bloating during our menstrual cycle), and note whether or not it's a significant difference from your normal size. If so, you may want to use/request shirring, waist ties, lacing, etc.
  • When working with a commission, whether you are the seamstress or the customer, you can assume that more measurements, and more specific measurements, are always better. This is especially important when dealing with a unique size or body type (and really, aren't all of our bodies unique?), as the seamstress will most likely not be able to conduct personal fittings, and (if the seamstress has one) a dress form only helps so much with proportions, and is not a perfect representation of the human body.
    • As a customer: Don't be afraid to take the measurements of garments that fit you well and pass them along as "comfortable fit measurements" to the seamstress you are working with. However, be sure to note that these are measurements of finished garments, and these should not replace your set of measurements for your actual body. 
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