Main Nav

Standard Body Measurements for Sewing Pattern Designers

Standard Body Measurements & How to Create Your Own Size Chart

This is the post quite a few of you have been waiting for – the one with all the standard measurements! But first, I want to talk about a little something that some of you have asked about – compensation (or the lack thereof).

I’ve chosen to offer my video tutorials and other pattern-making/blogging resources for free. And I love it that way. I love that I’m helping to remove barriers to entry for aspiring pattern makers and sewing bloggers, and I think this little blogosphere of ours can ALWAYS support more talent! Some people have been very surprised that I’m offering my knowledge for free, but as I’ve mentioned before, I get my compensation by reading your happy comments and seeing what you’ve learned in action on your blogs.

If you want to show me your appreciation, you can do so by subscribing to my blog, sending me a complimentary copy of your future patterns, sharing my posts, leaving a comment or sending me a quick note to say “thanks.” However, I will admit that receiving a few bucks here and there makes me feel pretty good, too. It also helps to offset the upcoming cost of purchasing a license for Camtasia (the software I use to make the video tutorials – I’ve been using a trial version, and I must pay $99 to continue to use it in a few days), my monthly subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud and various other materials and expenses for producing the tutorials.

With that in mind, I’ve decided to give my lovely readers the option to “support my stash. To do so, simply choose an amount below and click “Support My Stash.” Of course, you are not under any obligation. However, I do appreciate any amount you give! THANK YOU! (Please note that you don’t actually receive the fabric amounts listed below; I am simply using these terms as a cute way to label each amount that you send my way.)

And now, without further adieu…let’s talk about those standard body measurements and size charts!

Standard body measurements are one of those things that every budding sewing pattern designer searches for at some point (I know I spent quite a while looking when I first started grading patterns!), and they can be tough to find. Of course, you can shell out some cash (up to hundreds!) for full sets of measurements – but if you wanted to do that, you wouldn’t be here, right?! And then, there’s the issue of whether or not the standards are up-to-date, correct, in the right size range, etc.

Well. Let me tell you. Your size charts can be WHATEVER YOU WANT THEM TO BE. Yes, you read that correctly – your size charts are up to you, the designer.

HOWEVER, having a set of standard body measurements is absolutely crucial in getting the proportions of your patterns just right. For example, you might use the standard bust and waist measurements for a given size, but if you are designing for the pear-shaped figure, you might increase the corresponding hip measurement by an inch or two.

In addition, establishing your own size chart is the absolute first step before beginning to grade your patterns. Without an established chart and range, you won’t know how much each measurement should increase for each size, and you won’t know how many steps you need to increase/decrease to create all your different-sized pieces.

So, let’s jump right in.

About These Standard Body Measurements Charts
I collected the information in these charts over a couple years and cobbled them together to attempt to give you a complete set of standard body measurements for whomever you’re designing for – men, women, plus-size women, children, infants and toddlers. Most of the numbers come from slightly out-of-date standard body measurements that can be purchased in their current form for a hefty price. Out-of-date? Yes, out-0f-date if you consider the late 1990s and early 2000s to be out-of-date. (I don’t.) The companies that compile the standards change them ever so slightly every 10 years or so in order to have a new product to sell.

Once I got all the numbers compiled, I adjusted the sizes to more closely match ready-to-wear (RTW) sizing from several of my favorite stores – Madewell, J.Crew, Garnet Hill and Banana Republic. As an example – the standard body measurements charts originally put me at two sizes bigger than what I would order from any of these retailers, so I made adjustments accordingly. If you so desire, you could make further adjustments this way or even come up with your own numbering system. So, an XS could be called size 1, and S could be called 2, and so forth and so on.

Finally, I converted all the fractional measurements into decimals so the numbers would be ready for you to plug into Illustrator. And finally finally, I filled in some missing pieces from various other sources to hopefully give you all the measurements you need. If you DO find you are missing something, you can often use the included standard body measurements to piece the rest together. So, if you needed the distance from the cervicale (lowest vertebrae of the neck) to the hip for a top pattern, you could subtract the head & neck height and the hip height from the overall height to calculate that amount. When in doubt, I draw a picture. Works every time.

Determining Your Patterns’ Size Range
The size range for which you will create your size chart is totally up to you. You  might notice that sizes will increase pretty evenly from, say, 12mos through 4T, and then they start increasing more between sizes. You might choose to create separate patterns based on those increments, or you could base your size selection on the style/fit of the garment. Like I said – completely up to you. Also keep in mind that there’s a huge opportunity for someone who is willing to design plus-size patterns. I highly encourage women’s pattern designers to go up to and above size 14 when grading (keeping in mind some proportion changes which I’ll discuss more below).

Even vs. Uneven Grading
Generally speaking, there are two ways to grade in-between sizes: even or uneven. Even grading means that the sizes are incrementally increased/decreased at an even rate – so, the bust might increase 1″ between every size. At some point, your pattern might start increasing at 1.5″ (or whatever), but generally speaking, the grade is even. Uneven grading means that you base your pattern pieces more on exact standard body measurements – so one size might increase .75″, the next .5″ and the next 1.25″. The method you use is also up to you, but I personally prefer to use even grading. It’s must easier to digitally grade, and I just think it looks prettier on paper.

Or, you can do a combination of the two – the best method for offering an extended range of sizes. For example, if your size range includes from a women’s 2 through 24, you might only increase 1″ in the bust for sizes 2 through 14. Beyond that, you might increase at a larger rate of 1.25″ or 1.5″. In addition, the proportion for the waist might change at the higher end of the range, so you might create a break point in your size range where the grade changes. If the sizes 2-14 usually have 10″ difference between bust/hips and waist (just an example), your sizes 16+ might have only 8″ or even 6″ between them. You get the make the judgment call and then test the fit as desired.

Ready for those standard body measurements?
I hope this has given you a quick overview of how you can utilize these standard body measurements in your pattern designs. I’m sure there are some topics within this area that you’d like me to discuss further, so please leave comments with questions and ideas! I will do my best to cover any issues.

Quick note: I didn’t write out a detailed explanation of each of the measurements in these charts. I figured that if you are at the point of designing patterns, you can probably figure them out. Please do let me know if this is something you really need though! Also note that the centimeter/inch measurements don’t always convert exactly because of rounding.

  • Vanessa Hewell

    thank you!!

    • Lauren Dahl

      You are very welcome!

  • Mae

    I’m excited to learn how to put these measurements to use in illustrator. I hope you’ll do a video that discuss how to draw the grading& I’m also bit nervous to see how far on/off the standard size my patterns are (since I was simply using my child as a standard). It’s really interesting to see the “right” way things are done when you’ve finagled your way through it in the past!


    • Lauren Dahl

      Mae – Yes! I am basically going to continue with my t-shirt pattern that I traced in the last tutorial and grade it into a sellable pattern. I will be showing all the steps in various videos! :)

  • Pingback: Freebie: Standard Measurements Chart for drafting garment patterns | Sewing |

  • Anne Weaver

    Thank you thank you thank you!!!! I never know how big to make clothes that I make as gifts for friends’ kids.
    I’ve linked to your post over at Craft Gossip:

    • Lauren Dahl

      Thank you so much, Anne!!

  • Charity

    This is incredible! Thank you!

    • Lauren Dahl

      You are so welcome! Thank YOU for stopping by! :)

  • Lucy

    Thank you so much. I’m a rank amateur but have been looking for something like this to be able to sew for friends children and had NO idea for example, the waist size of a 5year old. This will help so much!

    • Lauren Dahl

      I am glad you like it!

  • Eunice

    Thank you so much for theses. I am really looking forward to sewing for my granddaughter, who is a real girly-girl, and this will help a lot as, although she is average height for her age, she is a matchstick in build.

    • Lauren Dahl

      I am so happy I can help, Eunice!

  • Shaffer Sisters

    Seriously you are my hero! This is the best sizing chart I have seen to date and I even checked out some books from the library to help me, their list was minimal to this. There is a project that we would love to have you in on because your series is making this project so much more of a reality. I am e-mailing you now.

    • Lauren Dahl

      Ooooh, I am so intrigued! Can’t wait to see what’s up! :)

  • Amy

    Thank you so much for this wonderful resource! I’m an aspiring fashion designer and have been searching high and low for an extensive chart like this. Is there any possibility that you have information on petite sizing that you would be willing to share?

    • Lauren Dahl

      Amy – At this time, I do not… I’m so sorry! I’m glad you liked the rest. :)

  • Suzanne Seniore

    Thanks so much for all this Lauren! I am off to add some cash to your stash!! – Suz

  • Quentrica Williams

    Thank you so much for this info! I just stumbled upon your website today, and I’m in love!!! So very helpful!!

    • Lauren Dahl

      Wonderful – thank you!! xoxo

  • nadiahbonnin

    Hi Lauren. I’m not able to click on the link. It only appears as [wpdm_file id=1] on my screen. Is there a way for me to view it? Thanks!

    • Lauren Dahl

      Sorry about that – I’ve fixed it! :)

      • nadiahbonnin

        Thank you so much!

  • elduhan

    THANK YOU! This is the best ever!

  • Jill

    Thank you thank you thank you! I’ve been searching for infant standard body measurements, and I just couldn’t find them! I have a great (in my opinion) idea for infant swimming suits, but had no way to draft them for any size child besides my own. Thanks so much!

  • sylvie damey

    Wow, this looks like an amazing ressource ! It’s hard to come up with charts including arm measurements for instance, so I’ll be looking into it :-)

  • Malin

    Hi Lauren, awesome size chart! Thanks for sharing! I wonder if you have included “leg inseam” somewhere?