How to Correctly Measure for Women's Clothing Sizes

Diagram of where to measure men's and women's clothing sizes

Buying clothes online seems tough, since you can’t try them on to check the size! But with some simple body measurements and a sizing chart, you can shop with confidence online. Just follow our handy guide to learn how to measure your body like a tailor, and then compare your body measurements to your favorite brand’s size chart to find your size. (Note that we have a separate measuring guide for shoes!)

What You’ll Need

To get your measurements, you’ll need some tailor’s measuring tape and a helper, because this will be a lot easier with an extra pair of hands. Simple tailor’s tape can be purchased cheaply on Amazon. Your helper ought to be someone you trust and don't feel shy around, because they're probably going to see you in your underwear.

If you don’t have any tailor’s tape, you can use a piece of string or ribbon as a workaround. Wrap the string around the body part you want to measure, mark it with a marker, and then lay it out and measure it with a ruler or yardstick. This will be less precise than tailor's tape, but it'll do in a pinch.

General Tips

Pull the tape tight enough around a body part that it stays straight and level, but not so tight that it compresses the skin. For maximum accuracy, you’re looking for a happy medium between tight and loose.

Measure on bare skin rather than over clothing.

Make sure you use the right units. Some of our brands' size charts give measurements in inches, while others use centimeters. Don't confuse the two! To convert centimeters to inches, divide by 2.54.

    How to Measure for Women’s Clothing

    The most common measurements for women's clothing are bust, waist, hip, and inseam measurements. Occasionally you will also need a "center back sleeve" or "torso" measurement. We’ll take each of these in turn.


    To measure a woman’s chest, wrap the tape beneath her armpits, fully encircling her body around her shoulder plates and the fullest part of her bust. For best results, she should wear a non-padded bra and relax her arms at her sides. Make sure not to cinch the tape so tight that it compresses the bust. 


    A woman's natural waistline is typically the narrowest part of her torso, an inch or two above her bellybutton. To measure the waist, encircle it with the tailor's tape and measure the entire circumference.


    The hip should be measured around the widest part of the hip and buttock, about eight inches below the waist. This is another circumferential measurement, which means you’ll want to encircle the body with the tape.


    To measure a woman’s inseam, run the tape along her inner leg from the lowest part of the groin to the bottom of the ankle. She should stand up and keep her leg straight for this measurement.

    Center Back Sleeve

    To obtain a woman's "center back sleeve" measurement, measure from the center of the top of her back (at the base of her neck) to the point of her shoulder. Then measure from the point of her shoulder to her wrist bone. The sum of these two measurements is the center back sleeve length, sometimes used for sizing shirts or jackets.


    When shopping for women's swimwear, you may need a torso measurement. This is a circumferential measurement, meaning you will need to encircle the entire torso from upper shoulder to groin. Place the end of your measuring tape on the top of the shoulder, where the shoulder joins the base of the neck. Run the tape down the front of the torso over the fullest part of the bust. Wrap it through the legs and all the way up the back to the starting point.


    That’s All There Is To It!

    Congratulations! You’re done! Once you’ve jotted down all your accurate body measurements, compare them to the size chart for your favorite brand to find your clothing sizes. Then you’re ready to shop on Outdoor Equipped for women’s clothes!
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