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How to Measure Yourself Accurately, According to Fashion Experts

Shop for clothes online with confidence.

how to measure yourself
Emma Seymour

Taking the time to measure yourself accurately can make it much easier to order the correct size while shopping online. You don't need to go to a tailor or try on clothes in person to find clothes that fit: The Good Housekeeping Institute Textiles Lab pros are here with all the tips and tricks to measure yourself properly at home.

How to take your own measurements

The most accurate tool for measuring yourself at home is a soft measuring tape or tailor’s tape. GH pros love this one, and it's not expensive! If you don’t have one, you can measure yourself without a soft measuring tape by using a piece of string or ribbon instead (make sure it’s not stretchy) then measuring the string with a ruler or builder's tape measure.

Before getting started, wear lightweight, fitted clothing and intimates that aren’t heavily padded. As you measure yourself, keep the tape level all around your body, parallel to the floor. For accurate measurements, the tape should be snug but not uncomfortably tight. Try taking a deep breath, sitting down and standing back up to check that the tape isn’t constricting you as you move and breathe — this ensures that clothing of that size won't be too tight. Some pros opt to stick a finger or two inside the measuring tape to avoid buying garments that are too fitted for their preference.

How to measure bust

The bust measurement refers to the widest part of your chest. It’s best to keep your bra on for the measurement unless you are specifically shopping for a bra or a garment you’ll wear braless. To measure, lift your arms and wrap the tape under your armpits straight across both nipples. For men, it’s the same concept: measure straight across the broadest part of your chest. Some size charts include an underbust measurement (also called band, chest or ribcage). To get this measurement, situate the tape directly underneath your breasts where the band of the bra would go.

a woman wearing black leggings and a black turtle neck demonstrate how to measure your bust with a measuring tape straight across her chest
Emma Seymour

How to measure waist

Most size charts and sewing patterns say "waist" to refer to your natural waist, which is not at your belly button. To find your natural waist, stand straight up and bend side to side, finding where your body creases. At this point, wrap the measuring tape straight across. For many, it is the smallest point, but it may not be!

a woman wearing black leggings and a black turtle neck bending to the side to demonstrate how to measure your waist
Emma Seymour
a woman wearing black leggings and a black turtleneck demonstrating how to measure your waist
Emma Seymour

How to measure hips

The hips are another tricky measurement to find, as many think your hip measurement is always at your hip bones, but that’s not true: Your hip measurement is across your booty at your widest point. For an accurate measurement, make sure your feet are straight below your hips and not sprawled apart. Remember to sit down and stand up while taking your hip measurements to make sure you're not pulling the tape too tight. This will prevent that all too common issue where pants fit perfectly when standing up, but as soon as you sit down, they dig in and are uncomfortable.

a woman wearing black leggings and a black turtleneck demonstrating how to measure your hips with the measuring tape over the fullest part of her booty
Emma Seymour

Less common measurements

Bust, hips and waist are the most common measurements you'll find when shopping for clothes, but if you're buying hats, jeans or other specialized types of clothing, a few more measurements may come in handy.

  • How to measure your head: Place the tape measure across your forehead and wrap it around your head, above your ears. If you're between hat sizes, pros recommend going up a size.
  • How to measure your inseam: For jeans, in particular, brands may list an inseam measurement next to the waist measurement on the tag. This refers to the distance from your crotch to the bottom of your leg where the pants would end. It’s helpful to have someone help with this one because if you bend over to check, it can mess up the measurement.
  • How to measure your outseam: The outseam runs along the outside of your leg from your natural waist (Remember: It's the point at which your body bends.) to the bottom of the pant.
    how to measure your inseam and outseam
    Emma Seymour

    How to buy clothes online that fit

    When shopping online, match your measurements to the brand’s (not the retailer’s) size chart, as every company bases its sizing on different measurements. Opt for online stores with free shipping and returns so it’ll be simple to send something back if the sizing is off. Read reviews online to see how other people rate the item's fit. Our pros love sites that allow customers to upload photos, so you can see how the pieces look on different body types. And try not to get discouraged — it may take trial and error to find the perfect fit.

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