The fitting workshops I run are always filled with “aha!” revelations for the participants, but it’s one of the simplest tips I share within the first hour that always seems to have the greatest impact. And that tip? Sit down when you’re taking your waist and hip measurement.
Why should you sit down when taking your waist and hip measurements?
The simple answer is: because almost all curvy and plus size women (and many others!) spread when we sit down.
Depending on your figure and proportions, you may spread more at the waist or hip, but the chances are you’ll spread, and potentially quite a lot – I go up at least 3 – 4″ (for reference, I’m a size 18 – 20).
The reason this is so important is because you want to be able to sit down in your clothes! And, if you want them to fit, well, you’ll need to take your measurements in a sitting position. I don’t know for sure why this technique isn’t more well-known; the only thing I can think of is that because straight size women *tend* to spread less or not at all, it’s not even considered by the majority of fitting books which assume that straight size women are the norm (when in fact we know that plus size is average).
What about your bust and other measurements?
It’s unlikely that your bust changes size when you sit down, although if for any reason it does, then absolutely, sit down first. On your bust, the crucial thing is to wear the bra you’re going to wear with the final garment – at the very least, the same *style* of bra (e.g. t-shirt bra, wired, non-wired etc.). The reason is that the bigger the boobs the more… malleable they are to their container! Which means their projection, size, shape and height can all be radically different depending on your bra or lack of one. If you measure braless then wear an underwire the garment’s not going to fit correctly, for instance.
For other measurements, think about how they’re impacted by sitting. I wouldn’t expect your bicep to change, and probably not your calf, but your thigh measurement may well alter.
How do you actually do it?
Start by standing up and putting the tape around you at your waist or hip. Hold it firmly but not tight, so that the tape can slide between your fingers in a controlled way.
Now, carefully sit down, letting the tape expand but keeping it at the same point around your circumference.
You may need to try a couple of times to keep it in the right place. I actually find this is easier to do by yourself than with a fitting buddy, but you may want to do it in front of a mirror to make sure the tape is staying in the right point. Below, you can see that my hip measurement increased by about 4″.
Is it equally important for all garments and fabrics?
It is absolutely critical for fitted, woven garments – like the Cashmerette Upton Dress (shown below) or a pencil skirt – which have minimal ease. If you make a fitted skirt in a woven to the measurements you take when you’re standing, as soon as you sit down it’s going to pinch and be incredibly tight – unlikely the result you want! Same with the Upton Dress, if you tend to spread at the waist – you may well find it tight at the waistband if you measure standing up rather than sitting down.
In wovens with lots of ease, like the Cashmerette Webster Dress, (shown below), it’s much less important, because there is lots of room within the garment to spread out.
In knits and stretch wovens it’s also less critical, because the garment stretches to fit your body as you move around and sit down. However, depending on how comfortable you are with negative ease, and how stretchy the fabric is, you may still want to consider your sitting measurements to avoid the garment pulling uncomfortably on your body. For instance, if you have a significant spread when you sit, a stretch denim may still feel very tight when sitting, and you’d want to use your sitting measurements.
For this reason, I recommend having TWO sets of body measurements for yourself: one seated, and one standing, so that you can refer to whatever is most relevant for the garment you’re making. It’s also always a good idea to take your measurements before every sewing project – we fluctuate so much, it’s a shame to make something that doesn’t fit just because you didn’t realize your body changed a bit.
I hope this was an eye-opening tip for you! Do you have any questions about this technique?