Wednesday, February 12, 2014

SSDA 4: Measuring length

The simplest method to measure length is to measure from the waist to the desired garment length. The problem with this method, however, is that your curves are completely ignored. Look at the picture below: you'll see that all the curves are different and, thus, require more or less fabric to accommodate the volume.

To solve this issue, we will be measuring all four sides from the waist to the floor. But before, let's agree on terms. We will use 
GL - for the desired garment length,
RSL - right side length,
LSL - left side length,
BL - back length,
FL - front length 
A measuring tape should follow the curve from the waist to its most protruding part; and from there, it should fall down perpendicular to the floor. If the measuring tape falls to the floor at an angle it may give you an error.  Proceed the same way for all four measurements (RSL, LSL, BL, FL).


  • Measure yourself, or be measured, in front of a mirror to make sure that the measuring tape falls perpendicular to the floor from the most protruding part of the measured body curve.
  • Before you start measuring, observe yourself in a mirror, determine which curves are bigger, which are smaller. This visual examination should serve as a control for your measurement-taking session. Bigger curves will give you bigger length values, while smaller curves - smaller. 
  • Take measurements at least three times (in one session), until you get consistent results. This is necessary for practicing. As you move along, your measurement-taking skills will improve, and you will be able to complete the session in a very short time. 


To determine the desired garment length (GL), measure on the right side (as a suggestion), from the floor to the desired hem length, keeping the measuring tape perpendicular to the floor. This value (LD for length difference) will be the same on all sides as long as the hem ends below the lowest body curve. For our draft-along, we will draft a knee-long skirt, the grey line on the graphic hits at the knee.

Calculate all four garment length by subtracting the measured value from the entire length.
GLRS  (garment length right side) = RSL - LDGLLS (garment length left side) = LSL - LD
GLB (garment length back) = BL - LD
GLF (garment length front) = FL - LD


There are a lot of variables in a fit assessment. Usually, one fit problem interferes with another and, unless you are an excellent fitter, it is often impossible to accurately pin point a fit problem just by using photographs and graphs from fitting books. That's why it's worth to have a fit check procedure. I always recommend checking the widest circumference first. For a skirt it is hips.

  • Have you measured your hip circumference correctly? 
  • Did you think of a protruding stomach? 
  • Thighs? They all may require extra centimeters added to the true hip circumference.

Only after you are satisfied with hip circumference you can proceed to length check.  Here it is important to understand that fitting issues arise from incorrect length measurement between the most protruding point of a curve and the waist. That's why patterns that use more than one length measurements are even at the hem, but end at different height at the waist.

Too short measurement at the back for Liz (on the picture above) will result in a hem that rides up in the back. Side seams will tilt toward the back, and, when looked at from the front will look tapered at the hem. These are typical symptoms of a too short back measurement.

However, if you haven't checked hips circumference before and it was measured too tight, your skirt may ride up in the back after you have moved or sat. And, because fabric is too tight around hips, the skirt won't easily fall down in the back and may bulge a little above the most protruding part of the buttocks. So, if you see a similar bulge, try re-measuring / increasing hip circumference before trying to solve the issue with darts.


Practice measurement taking. This is not the last post on taking measurements, what's left is darts. Yes, we will measure darts on your body and then use them to determine side seam placement on your pattern. I will explain in the next post.


Dear readers, I am looking for posts about innovative (but not necessarily new) tools for measuring length. If you've come across a tool that helps measure length accurately, please write to me at mvk(dot)fashion(at)gmail(dot)com. Include a paragraph or more about the tool, an image, and a link to more information.

Post your questions and comments, readers. I will  include them in an upcoming Q&A post, just to reinforce the topic. Hope you have been enjoying the Draft-Along so far! 

Previous Straight Skirt Draft Along (SSDA) posts:

Coming up:

SSDA 5: Darts: Recognizing Dart Intake
SSDA 6: Measuring and Calculating Darts
SSDA 7: Final Measuring Session
SSDA 8: Drafting the Skirt
SSDA 9: Making a Toile and Analyzing the Fit


  1. This post just helped me realize why the few self drafted skirts I have made hang so well. It is based on my bumps and curves! What an ah ha moment..
    Enjoying this series. Thank you for putting so much into it.

  2. I've been trying to fit an a line skirt without darts to not accentuate my stomach and realized about adding length to it to allow it to go over my stomach nicely. I always learn a lot from.reading yourblogs. I've drafted lots of skirts but this technique looks fantastic. Following along.

  3. I am so glad you re emphasized the hip measurement. So many issues I see are simply fixed by letting out too tight hips. Sometimes we think there are far more complicated solutions but it is often really that easy.

  4. This makes so much sense! On the bottom, I'm not very curvy. On top, however, I always have issues with length because the front of me is much "longer" than the back.

  5. When measuring BL, is there a risk that the tape measure might fall between the cheeks, so end up shorter because it's not following the most protruding area (buttock) which is between CB & side seams? Any tip on how to avoid this?

    1. One option is to wear tights, or underwear, that prevents this from happening - in most cases yoiu won't have a problem. Another option, is to place a thin ruler across buttocks and measure over it, which is not that easy to handle alone.

  6. This is so fascinating--this explains so many things!! I find myself wanting to learn more--the sooner, the better!!

    However, for some reason, I am not able to click on the links for the next lesson. ;^( I understand that you would block them for those who were taking the lessons at that time, but since the remainder of the course has been completed by those enrolled, couldn't those of us who just found your site learn a little faster? (YEAH!! Pinterest!!)~~(please???) ;^)

    Anyway, you have a superb site--well done!! And thank you so much for sharing your knowledge with us!!




Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...