Measuring may seem basic and it is, if you know where you’re supposed to measure. My patterns are drafted using the ASTM standards for a child’s age/size and measure accordingly.
When measuring, it’s best to do so over snug clothing like a camisole and underpants or a tank top and leggings. If you measure over loose clothing, the bulk will cause your measurement to be bigger and your final garment will likely be too large.
The chest is measured across the fullest part of the bust. This is usually just below the armpits for children, but depending on their build and age, it might be a bit lower. On developing young ladies, it will be even lower. It’s pretty easy to see where this measurement will be, but it’s not a bad idea to measure a few locations from the armpit down the chest a little bit to find out which is the biggest.
When measuring the chest, make sure the child is standing up or laying down and not holding their breath. If the child is sitting, it may cause the measurement to be too large. The same is true for a child holding their breath. Take the measurement a few times to be sure it’s consistent, especially on younger children. They can be wiggly which makes measuring more difficult.
This chest measurement is the most crucial when choosing which size to sew. If this measurement is off, then your garment may be either too big or ,worse, too small. I retake this measurement every couple of weeks to make sure my daughter’s garments fit her as intended. On occasion, she’s surprised me and not fit something I’ve sewn. It’s almost always because she’s grown and sometimes because my printer settings were wrong, which is why I always check my 1″ x 8″ rectangle (see Why 8 Inches?).
Next is the waist measurement. This measurement is taken at the smallest part of the waist, not at the navel. Wrap the tape around the waist and have the child bend side to side to help determine where the natural waist is located. The location of this measurement can be variable depending on the build of the child. My daughter has a high waist but some children’s waists (especially younger ones) may have waists closer to their belly buttons. This measurement can be tricky on toddlers who still have round bellies. It’s easier to find by having the child bend side to side or by looking at them from the side to see where the back bends inwards. In some cases, this measurement may be bigger than the chest.
The waist measurement is important for fitted bodices and bottoms. All body shapes are different and if the waist is bigger than average, you may need to blend sizes to get the desired fit. Most of my styles are a looser fit or have a high waist so this measurement isn’t needed for many of my patterns. If the final pattern lists the finished waist, it’s because it’s smaller than the chest, and you’ll want to double check your child’s size.
The hip measurement is needed for proper fitting pants. This measurement is taken around the fullest part of the hip and bottom, usually just above the crotch, but is dependent on the build of the child. Just like the chest measurement, you may want to check the measurement in a few different spots to make sure you’re getting the largest one.
Most of my styles feature a loose hip or a gathered waist so this is the least important measurement. In gathered skirts, dresses and shorts, this measurement won’t usually come into play. In an A line skirt or a fitted pants, this measurement will determine which width you cut, just like the chest measurement for a bodice.
The last measurement to look at is the overall height of the child. This measurement is best taken with the child flat footed (no shoes) and standing against a wall, just like at the doctor’s office. This measurement determines if length will need to be added or removed for a proper fit. Typically, a child is within 1 or 2 sizes for their chest vs height. This typically means that you can cut the bodice for the width and add length to the skirt or blouse without having to mess with blending armscyes or add length to the bodice.
Here you can download a printable to help you keep track of your measurements, and it has a little Betsy McCall paper doll to cut out and play with. It is also available in the files in Duchess and Hare’s Court (Pattern Group) on facebook.