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Instructions for Accurate Measurements
For the sake of accurate measurements, performers should wear tight-fitting clothing and remove all articles from their pockets. Bulky sweaters or jackets, large belt buckles, and obtrusive pieces of jewelry should all be removed.
The space and the person measuring should make you feel comfortable. Advise them to stop measurements if you feel light-headed at any time. (This can usually be prevented by not locking the knees while standing.) As body measurements are a personal matter, they should be taken in a private space and in a quiet manner. To make it as efficient as possible, it is helpful as measurements are taken to have another person record them on the form.
60” or 120” measuring tape
A long piece of twill tape
The first step is to accurately mark the waist — the smallest circumference of the lower torso — by tying a piece of twill tape around it. It is very important to find the actual waist, as this line will serve as a reference point for all vertical torso measurements. On men the actual waist is commonly in the general vicinity of the navel. On women the waist can usually be found by placing the hands on the hips and bending from side to side — the tape should be tied where the body bends.
Head Circumference: A measurement around the head just above the ears and eyebrows — used to calculate hat size as well as determining size of neck openings.
Base of Neck: A circumference measurement taken near the base of the neck, generally where the collar stand of a shirt sits.
Full Chest: A circumference taken at the widest point of the chest or breast. A second measurement should be taken with the chest expanded with air.
Ribcage/Underbust: Circumference taken underneath the breasts. Women only.
Waist: A circumference taken directly on the line where twill tape was tied. High Hips: A second measurement should be taken with the torso expanded with air. Fullest Hips/Low
Hip: This circumference measurement should be taken at the widest point of the hips. The distance from the tied waistline to the hip measurement should also be noted.
Inseam: Hold the end of the tape at the point where the inside of the leg comfortably meets the crotch. Extend the tape to just above the floor.
Outseam to Below Knee: Starting at the waistline, extend the tape to the kneecap.
Outseam to Floor: Starting at the waistline, extend the tape to the floor.
Biceps: A circumference of the widest point of the bicep.
Thigh: Circumference of the widest point of the thigh.
Below Knee: Circumference just below the kneecap. Used for cuffs on breeches.
CB Nape to Shoulder: Starting at the base of the neck, extend the tape sideways to the outside of the shoulder, ending the measurement on the outside edge of the ball-and-socket joint of the shoulder.
Shoulder to Wrist: Starting at the outside edge of the shoulder joint, extend the tape along the outside edge of the arm to the wrist bone.
Shoulder to Shoulder Front: A horizontal measurement from the outside edge of the ball-and-socket joint of one shoulder to the other.
Shoulder to Shoulder Back: Repeat above measurement for back.
Front Nape to Waist: Starting at the front base of the neck, extend tape downward to marked waistline.
Back Nape to Waist: Repeat above measurement starting at the back base of the neck.
Front Nape to Floor: Starting at the front base of the neck, extend tape downwards to floor.
Back Nape to Floor: Repeat above measurement starting at the back base of the neck. You may need a 120” measuring tape for this measurement.
It’s necessary to start with a form that has spaces for all of the measurements above – specific measurements as well as an area for basic sizes such as height, weight, shoe, suit, dress, shirt, trouser, bra, hat, tights, and gloves. This should be completed with information provided by the performer.
All measurements and notes should be neatly recorded, as many people will be using this tool to perform their jobs. Record any fabric, chemical, detergent, or makeup allergies, as well as whether or not the performer has any visible body piercings or tattoos. Any body abnormalities, e.g. a longer leg or arm or larger breast, that may affect the fit of a garment should also be made at the time of measurement. You should also disclose issues such as scoliosis.
Remember to always stand erect, as bad posture can affect most measurements.
About the Author: Studio Workroom Manager, Washington National Opera