I'd like to make some clothes designed for my wife, who is plus-sized.

I understand the basics of bust, waist, high hip, hip, but I've never taken measurements before.

The differences I can see from guides online are things like, do I measure the hips under the belly fold? How do I find the correct places to measure if guides expect the belly button to be elsewhere or the waist to be the narrowest part of the body?

  • 6
    It's important to understand that you cannot apply plus-size measurements to a regular-size pattern. What I mean is buying a regular pattern and sizing it up until you reach the measurements of your wife will not result in a pattern that fits her body. You should search for specific plus-size patterns (which are becomming more common compared to a few years ago) or draft your own pattern following specific instructions for plus-size bodies (historically called a "stout figure", so you might encounter this terminology).
    – Elmy
    May 25, 2022 at 12:22
  • @Elmy that really good information about the 'stout figure' terminology! Would you be able to make a self-answered post about that? May 25, 2022 at 12:25
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    Trick: have her select a garment, or top and bottom, that fits her well and is comfortable -- preferably something somewhat fitted. Check the measurements of that. / Once you've cut it out, machine-baste it together initially and have her try it on inside out for a fitting. / When you're measuring the person, make sure the tape measure is horizontal all the way around. When measuring the bust, have her hold her arms a bit away from her body but not straight out to the sides. Measurements are best taken in underwear so as to simulate the shape that will be in the finished garment. May 26, 2022 at 2:14
  • @aparente001 "have her select a garment, or top and bottom, that fits her well and is comfortable -- preferably something somewhat fitted." If this was easy to do, I wouldn't be asking this question 😜 May 26, 2022 at 3:17
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    Also I realized I forgot to explain about ease in my earlier comment, but since we're going to scrap that suggestion, I won't get into it here. By the way, it could be helpful to know what type of garment you'd like to make. May 26, 2022 at 14:34

2 Answers 2


Guides for measurements are frequently extremely limited; most commercial patterns are sized by bust, waist, and hip alone-- perhaps inseam if you're lucky. However, measurements for fitted garments frequently require far more precision, as seen below:

an in-depth form for measuring a person's body

However, this doesn't necessarily solve the problem of measuring a body that doesn't fit societal norms, and as a plus-size sewist, there's a few tricks I've found for measuring:

Bust: The bust measurement should be taken around the fullest part of the chest, usually over the nipple. To ensure an accurate measurement, this should be done on a person who is already wearing whatever bra they intend to wear with the final garment. Take care that the measuring tape remains parallel to the floor around the entire bust; if it's at an angle, the number will be incorrect.

For plus-size or busty people, always take the underbust measurement as well. The overwhelming majority of patterns are drafted for a B or C cup, with some going up to a D cup. This means that these patterns expect a bust measurement that is two to four inches larger than the underbust; if the cup size is larger than these values, the pattern will need adjustment to fit correctly (which I can advise on further, if needed, but is probably beyond the scope of this question).

Waist: Usually, the waist is described as the smallest part of the torso, but as you have noted, this is not always the case in plus-size people. To find the waistline, have the person bend their torso to the side. The point where the body naturally bends (usually just below the bottom of the ribcage) is where the waistline measurement should be taken.

Hip: For the sake of comfort, I would include the lower portion of the belly in the high hip. The low hip should be taken around the widest point of the hips and buttocks. Again, make sure that the measuring tape is parallel to the floor here.

Depending on the distribution of fat tissue, it may also be important to measure the size of the arms and legs, especially the upper arms and thighs. However, these limbs vary more dramatically from person to person, and will depend on your wife's specific weight distribution and musculature. (As an example, due to my exercise habits, I frequently need to check sizing against my calves, because I accumulate fat tissue evenly across my body and enjoy hiking.) She may have some input on this and be able to tell you which parts of clothing frequently do not fit her correctly.


There's a lot of related considerations for how to apply the measurements, not just the locations where you take them. But I'll limit this to just where to measure.

Regardless of the person's physique, the objective is for the clothing to hang in a flattering way, with a minimum requirement that it isn't tight in any place that causes it to constrict, ride up or down, stretch out of shape, or stress seams or closures like buttons or zippers. That generally means the important measurements are wherever the minimum and maximum dimensions are.

As long as the person's measurements for minimum and maximum dimensions are in the typical places, you can measure in the typical places. If the person's shape profile puts minimums or maximums in places that are a little different, measure wherever captures that information, and include everything that the garment will be exterior to (like body folds, undergarments, etc.).

If the minimums or maximums don't correspond to the anatomical reference points in the pattern guide, you may need to adjust the pattern, or use a different pattern that's a better match to the person's shape.

The more a person's shape or proportions differ from the average for which a particular pattern was designed, the more you will need to supplement those measurements, and adjust the pattern, to produce a good fit. There are also other options for a person who is hard to fit using off-the-shelf patterns.

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