Easy Tips on How to Measure Clothes

Brooke Ressell
by Brooke Ressell
5 Minutes

There are so many reasons why learning how to measure clothes can make your life a whole lot easier. From selling your gently used clothing for top dollar online to finding new clothing that fits your body just as well as your favorite pieces at home, measuring clothes can help you make extra cash and save you time.

When you want to skip the frustration of trying so many clothes on in the store only to find one or two items that actually work, you can quickly measure clothes sizes with a fabric measuring tape. Avoid the hassle altogether!

Plus, it’s really not as difficult as you may think. You certainly don’t have to be an expert seamstress in order to do it. As long as you have clothing available and a fabric measuring tape, anyone can do it

In this guide, we’ll show you what to measure for clothes so that you can find the perfect fit every time. Soon, you’ll be measuring tops, pants, dresses, and skirts like a pro.

1. How to measure tops

The first skill to master when you want to measure clothing is learning how to measure tops the right way. While tops do come in all kinds of shapes, styles, widths, and lengths, you can measure any of them in a matter of minutes.

How to measure tops

To start, find the width of the shirt from shoulder to shoulder. The first thing you want to do is to lay the shirt on a flat surface and smooth it out. 

This is actually one of the easier measurements to take on shirts. You’re basically just using your tape measure to check the width of one outer seam in the shoulder area to the next. 

Once you have that number, just double it to account for both sides of the shirt.

How to measure tops

Next, let’s discuss how to find the bust, or chest, measurement of a top. If there are any buttons on the shirt, make sure that all of them are buttoned up and that the fabric is pulled taut.

Next, place your measuring tape just under the seam connecting the shirt to the sleeves. 

Then, pull the measuring tape gently across the shirt to the same location on the other side. In other words, you’re looking for the width from one armpit to the next.

Many people prefer to know the width of the bust on both sides of the shirt, front and back, so you may want to double this measurement if you are listing this shirt for sale online. 

How to measure tops

Now, we’ll go over how to measure the length of your shirt.

With the shirt still lying on a flat surface, place your fabric measuring tape at the uppermost part of the shoulder or collar then pull your measuring tape down to the lowest point of the bottom hem. 

If you are working with a buttoned-up, collared shirt, it may be easier to turn the shirt button side down before taking this measurement, but it’s really up to you. 

How to measure tops

Lastly, you’ll want to find the measurement of the sleeves.

To do this, simply place your fabric measuring tape at the top seam of one sleeve, near the shoulder area, and pull it down to the bottom cuff at the end of the sleeve. 

To be sure you’ve done it right, measure the second sleeve in the same manner, and they should be identical.  

2. How to measure pants

Now that you know how to measure tops the right way, the next clothes measure skill you want to master is learning how to measure pants.

Pants also come in a variety of shapes, styles, widths, and lengths, just like shirts do, but they’re pretty straightforward.

How to measure pants

The first step in measuring pants is to find the width of the waist.

You can do this by laying your pants on a flat surface and smoothing them out. Place your fabric measuring tape on the outer edge of one side of the waistband and pull it to the outer edge of the other side of the waistband. 

In other words, you’re measuring the waistband from left to right or right to left. Again, you may want to double this width for listing purposes to account for all of the fabric used on both sides. You now have an accurate measurement for the waist of your pants.

How to measure pants

The inseam is a pretty important measurement when it comes to pants as well. You can locate the inseam by laying your pants down on a flat surface and looking at the hemline on the inside of each pant leg. 

To measure the length of the inseam, make sure your pant legs are spread apart and smoothed out. Next, take your fabric tape measure and place it at the top seam in the thigh area and pull it down to the bottom hem of the ankle. 

Each leg should have the exact same inseam measurement as the other, and that’s how you know you’ve done it right.

How to measure pants

Another way to measure pants is to determine the length of the outseam.

To do this, place your fabric measuring tape at the top of the waistband on one side of your pants and pull it down to the bottom hem of the ankle on the same side of your pants.

The outseam measurement should be exactly the same for both pant legs just like the sleeves on a shirt. 

3. How to measure dresses

From minis to maxis, and every length in between, dresses can be casual and fun, sleek and professional, or glitzy and formal.

And learning how to measure dresses can help you find the perfect one for your next occasion or even sell one you’ve already worn.

When it comes to dresses, you want to start by measuring the bust size.

Similar to measuring the bust of a shirt, you measure the bust, or chest, of a dress by laying it down on a flat surface, smoothing it out, and using your fabric tape measure to check the width of the dress from one armpit seam to the next. 

And, just like with shirts, many people choose to double this measurement when listing dresses for sale online.

Measuring the waist of a dress is a pretty simple process too. While your dress is lying flat on a counter, table, or bed, use your fabric tape measure to measure the width of the narrowest part of the dress from seam to seam and double it. This narrow point in the waist is directly below the bust and above the hips.

Next, you should measure the hips area of the dress.

To do this, simply move your fabric tape measure down to the fullest part of the dress, check the width, and double it. The hips area of the dress is directly below the waist area and above the fabric that covers your legs.

To check the length of the dress, place your fabric measuring tape at the very top of the shoulder seam, or collar if your dress has one, and pull it down to the seam at the very bottom of the dress. This distance will give you the length of your dress.

4. How to measure skirts

How do you measure clothes that are a lot shorter in length like skirts? Easy! You can measure any length of skirt in a very similar way to measuring dresses.

How to measure skirts

Start by laying your skirt on a flat surface, smoothing it out, then measuring the width of the waist.

You can do this by using your fabric tape measure to check the distance between one edge of the waistband to the other and doubling it.

How to measure skirts

To check the length of your skirt, just turn your tape measure vertically and measure from the very top of the waistband to the edge of the bottom hem. Now, you know the length of your skirt as well.

How to fold skirts

Want to learn the best way to fold skirts? Check out these Super Easy Skirt Folding Hacks!

How to measure clothes

Hopefully you found this guide on how to measure clothes useful! It’s such a handy skill to know.

Which garment do you struggle with measuring the most? Let us know in the comments. 

You may also to check out my post on How to Fold Clothes Military-style!

The author may collect a small share of sales from the links on this page.

Join the conversation
  • Julie Julie on Feb 05, 2023

    While shopping and trying to look cool,wrap the waist band around your neck : to determine if they will fit your waist the only time this didn't work was when the pants were straight leg and the thigh area was too small.ive been using this tip for 20 years now.so always look at the thigh area to see if it works for you.

    • Tami Dean Tami Dean on Mar 19, 2023

      I do that too. But remember to button the top button before putting them around your neck.