Elizabeth from Oh, Fransson! worked with her sister Margaret to share this fantastic, step-by-step process for taking measurements:

My sister Margaret is an avid knitter, but hasn’t ever sewed anything for herself. She wanted me to help her make a summer dress or two, so I helped her take her measurements, following the guidelines found here (brochure PDF) via Simplicity.com.

If you’re doing this at home, you’ll need a tailor’s tape measure, a retractable tape measure and a buddy. For best results, the person being measured should remove her shoes and wear only the undergarments she intends to wear under the finished clothing. (Since pictures of the process were going to be posted online, Margaret is also wearing a fitted top and yoga pants.)

Waist Elastic, part one: Start by tying a narrow piece of elastic around the waist of the person being measured.

Waist Elastic, part two: She should then dance around a bit until the elastic settles at her natural waistline. Keep the elastic in place for the rest of the measurements.

Waist: Using the tailor’s measuring tape, measure over the elastic, around her natural waistline. (I let the elastic stick out a bit in this photo, so it’s obvious what I’m doing.) The tape measure should be held snug, but not tight. Margaret’s waist measurement is 29″.

Bust: Then, measure around the fullest part of the bust. Margaret’s bust measurement is 35″.

High Bust: Measure around the body, above the bust, across the widest part of the back and under the arms. Margaret’s high bust is also 35″.

Hip: Measure around the fullest part of the hips and derriere (usually 7 to 9″ below the waist). Margaret’s hip measurement is 38″.

Back Waist, part one: Locate the most prominent bone at the base of the neck. This is accomplished by asking the person being measured to put her chin to her chest.

Back Waist, part two: Measure between this point and the natural waist, as indicated by the waist elastic. Margaret’s back waist measurement is 15″.

Height: The person being measured should stand up straight, with her back against a wall. Use a retractable measuring tape to determine her height. Margaret’s height is 5’ 3”.

Now that we have these measurements, we can determine what size pattern to buy. Margaret’s bust – waist – hip measurements are 35 – 29 – 38. We compared this to a “Pattern Industry Standard” chart and found the closest size to be 14, the measurements for which are 36 – 28 – 38. Since it’s such a small difference, and since we’re unlikely to be making anything skin-tight, we probably won’t worry about the difference in the bust measurement. However, we will definitely make the waistline of a Size 14 pattern larger to accommodate Margaret’s waist.

Commercial patterns are made for women with a B-cup or, in measurement terms, women with no more than 2.5″ difference between bust and high bust measurements. Since Margaret’s bust and high bust are both 35″, we won’t have to make any adjustments to chest darts to accommodate her bust.

Commercial patterns are also made for women who are 5’5″ or taller, so we will likely have to shorten skirts so they don’t look too long on Margaret’s 5’3″ frame. The standard back waist measurement for a Size 14 pattern is 16.5″. Since Margaret’s back waist was only 15″, we’ll also need to shorten the bodice of anything we make.

Inseam, part one: Just in case she ever decides to make pants, we also took Margaret’s inseam measurement. Using her favorite jeans as a guideline, we measured from the crotch seam…

Inseam, part two: …Down to the bottom on the pant leg, following the inner seam.

Skirt Length: We also took a measurement for skirt length. This is really a matter of preference. Margaret wanted her skirts to be slightly longer than knee-length, so we took a measurement to determine exactly how long that would be. Because we’re not going to be making any skirts that sit at her natural waistline, we started our measurement below her waistline, using the waistline of her jeans as a starting point.

Try to keep in mind that pattern sizes and ready to wear sizes have little to do with one another. Even though we’ll end up buying a Size 14 dress pattern for her, Margaret normally wears a 6 in ready to wear. It can be daunting to hold ones measurements up to such scrutiny, but having well-fitting clothes you made yourself will be worth the effort.