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Tips from the Seamstress: Understanding your Measurements

Oct 7, 2015

by Anna Macfarlane handmade and vintage goods

Anna Macfarlane is a Melbourne based costume designer and maker. A graduate of the VCA she primarily works in theatre and costume for live performance but also enjoys the many different opportunities across all forms of performance based art she has been able to undertake with her varied creative skill set. 

Anna’s perfect day would consist of a sleep in, cups of tea in bed with her over-indulged tabby cat Nancy and a pile of inspiring new reference books, a day spent working on her own personal creative projects followed by an evening of beers and BBQ enjoyed while listening to classic 90’s grunge anthems with her husband, family and friends.

We’ve asked Anna to walk us through the key measurements required in dress fitting. Anna’s measurement services will be on-hand at the Etsy + Bride Trunk Show in Melbourne, October 16 and 17. Purchase your ticket to the event here.


Finding your dream wedding dress is not the easiest of tasks, and many of us are seeking alternatives to your typical straight-off-the-bridal-shop-rack corseted Disney Princess whopper that costs close to the price of a small island for our big day. Aussie brides today are savvy and eclectic shoppers, looking to wend and weft new with old, handmade with off-the-shelf to complete their aesthetic idea of a wedding that represents who they (and their partner of course!) are as individuals. Living in a digital age we have access to designers, artisans and sellers from all over the world, but buying online can still fill many of us with a nauseous trepidation. Largely, this is often due to just wondering “Is it going to fit?!”.

To feel confident in purchasing online it is key to know and understand your measurements. The following information has been compiled to help demystify how to take and understand your measurements and provide you with some useful tips to remember when buying online.

First off, lets take a look at some key measurements you may be asked for or need to know when buying online, and how to take them:


Image by Anna Macfarlane

a) BUST: This measurement is taken around the fullest part of the bust including your back.

b) WAIST: This is taken around the circumference of your true, natural waist (the skinny bit!).

c) HIP: This measurement is taken around the circumference of your widest hip and your booty.

d) CF (Centre Front) LENGTH: This measurement is taken vertically from the bottom of your neck/clavicle to your waist.

e) NECK: The circumference of your neck.

f) SHOULDER: This measurement is taken along the shoulder from your neck to the end point of your shoulder.

g) SLEEVE: This measurement is taken from the centre nape of your neck all along your shoulder and arm to the wrist. (Note: it is good to have your arm slightly bent when taking this measurement to allow for elbow movement in your sleeve)

h) ARM: The circumference of your bicep.

i) CB (Centre Back): This measurement is taken from the nape of your neck to your waist.

j) WAIST TO FLOOR: Pretty self explanatory! This measurement is taken from your waist to the floor, barefoot. (Note: If you are wearing high heels you will need to allow extra length if you want your dress to be properly floor length)


Now that you understand where measurements are taken here are some tips to remember for buying successfully online:

  • If you have taken your measurements in centimetres (metric system) don’t forget to convert them into inches as some international sellers will use the imperial system.
  • If a dress is advertising its length, take this measurement from the nape of your neck down towards the floor. Alternatively you can add your CB LENGTH and WAIST TO FLOOR measurements.
  • Be honest about your measurements. Seriously. If you are providing your measurements to an online dressmaker it is imperative you provide your true and honest measurements to ensure you receive a dress that fits you well and you feel absolutely fantastic in!
  • If you are in-between sizes it’s best to go bigger. It is a lot easier and cost effective to have something altered to be be made smaller than vice-versa. If you are looking at vintage frocks it may be worth including in your search 1 – 2 dress sizes larger. Always refer to your measurements as vintage sizing is very different to how we size things today.
  • Lastly, be sure to allow ample time (and budget) for any potential alterations.


Come visit us in The Dressing Room at the Etsy + Bride Australia Trunk Show and have your measurements taken by a professional. Register to get your measurements taken when you sign in on the day. We look forward to seeing you there!


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