Here's Exactly How to Measure Yourself for a Bridesmaid Dress at Home

Plus, mistakes to avoid.
maddy sims the knot associate editor
by
Maddy Sims
maddy sims the knot associate editor
Maddy Sims
Associate Editor
  • Maddy writes for The Knot, with a specialty in beauty, sustainability, mental health and inclusivity.
  • Before joining The Knot Worldwide, Maddy wrote for several different publications, including Insider, Bustle, Real Simple and Apartment Therapy.
  • Maddy has a Bachelor's degree in magazine journalism and a Master's degree in health, science and environmental reporting (both of which are from Northwestern's Medill School ...
Updated Aug 28, 2020
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It's rare to find a bridesmaid dress that fits like a glove without making alterations. Once you've found the perfect bridesmaid dress to order, it's time to take your measurements so your gown (or suit or top-and-skirt combo) is customized to your body. If you're not sure how to measure for a bridesmaid dress or other wedding party outfits, we're here to help. You'll need a measuring tape, something to record the numbers and this instruction guide.

When taking your measurements, keep in mind you want to be as accurate as possible. It may be tempting to mess with the numbers or pull the measuring tape tight or suck in while you measure, but those choices will likely result in an uncomfortable dress. Remember: you want the dress to fit your body so you can enjoy the day. Rather than focusing on the numbers, focus on being there for your friend.

Of course, you'll never regret heading to a seamstress, tailor or bridesmaid dress retailer for their accurate measurements and professional touch (they're pros for a reason). But in a pinch, you can absolutely measure yourself at home. If you need extra support, you can also schedule a virtual fitting session with salons or retailers and walk through the process with a professional. Here are a few basic measurements you'll need to take so your bridesmaid attire fits you to a T.

What You'll Need to Take Your Own Dress Measurements

  • Soft and flexible body measuring tape (not a stiff ruler or tape measure you'd use for furniture). Don't have one? Wedding dress designer Hayley Paige recommends this one from Michaels.
  • Pencil and paper for recording measurements (you can use your phone too)
  • Same (or similar) undergarments that you'll wear on the wedding day
  • Same shoes you'll wear on the wedding day (or shoes of similar height)
  • Full-length mirror (optional, but helpful)
  • A household member (if possible)

How to Measure For a Dress

If you can, take your measurements while wearing the undergarments you're planning to wear under your wedding outfit. So if you're planning on wearing an unpadded bra, wear something similar. If you're opting for a padded bra on the wedding day, take your measurements wearing that same style piece. You can also rock tight-fitting clothes (like an exercise tank top and leggings). Once you're properly dressed—or undressed—you're ready to get going. Here's how to measure for a bridesmaid dress.

Dress Length (or "Hollow-to-Hem")

Before you take this measurement, put on the shoes you plan to wear, or throw on heels of a similar height. First, you'll want to measure the dress length so that you're not tripping over fabric all night. Keep in mind dresses can always be hemmed, so don't feel too much pressure on this particular measurement. Find the hollow of your neck (the deep dip at the center of your collar bone) and use the tape to measure from the hollow to where the bottom of the dress hem should be. Paige says it's important to ensure there are no tangles in the measuring tape, otherwise the number will be incorrect. Again, a family member or seamstress will be a huge help taking this measurement.

If you don't have the right shoes on hand, not to worry. "Even if you don't have the exact shoes you are wearing, if you know the heel height, you can add this to the length," Paige says. "If your flatfooted measurement is 50 inches and you are planning to wear a four-inch heel, the total hollow-to-hem would be 54 inches."

Bust

Next up is the bust measurement. This can be tricky, as some bridesmaids confuse this with their bra size. To get the correct number, wrap the measuring tape around your bust (under your armpits) at the fullest point of your chest and widest part of your back, being careful not to measure above or below it. Check to make sure the tape forms a full, even circle around your bust and doesn't slope upward or droop in back. Maria Prince, EVP of sales at Watters, notes that undergarment choice is especially crucial with this measurement. She suggests wearing a regular, non-padded bra (unless you want to wear a padded bra on the actual day). Don't wear a sports bra that compresses your bust either—that will give you incorrect numbers too.

Waist

Another important dress measurement is the natural waist. "I always say this is typically where you put your hands if you're throwing some sass," Paige says. She adds that people often confuse their waist and hips. Your waist is the most narrow part of your body and falls between your bust and hips, typically just below your rib cage and above your belly button. (Psst: it's usually an inch above your belly button.) Not sure how to find it? Bend to one side to find where there's a natural crease: That's your waist. Before measuring, remember not to suck in. Instead, breathe normally so your dress doesn't end up being uncomfortably tight. (You'll need to exhale at the wedding, after all.) Paige recommends measuring this spot a few times so that you have the correct number.

Hips

Bridesmaid dress measurements can be tricky—and the hip is no exception. You might instinctively wrap the measuring tape around your hip bones (where your low-rise jeans would sit), but that's not the correct placement. "The hip is the absolute widest part of your hip, including the most bodacious part of your caboose," Paige says. To measure, stand up straight, but relaxed, with your feet together. Then wrap the tape around the widest part of your hips and backside.

Inseam

For anyone planning to wear pants, you'll need your inseam measurement. This is where a trusted friend comes in handy: While you stand up straight with weight equally distributed on both legs, have a friend measure the inside of your leg from ankle to bikini line.

Dress Measurement Mistakes to Avoid

Now that you've got the lowdown on how to measure for a bridesmaid dress, here are some other pointers to keep in mind. You may want to save time by estimating your measurements, but it's always best to double check your dress measurements to make sure you have the most accurate report. It can be easy to get wrapped up in the numbers, but messing with your own measurements might lead to an uncomfortably tight dress. You want to be able to eat, drink and dance all night long, so measuring yourself honestly is the best choice. Plus, you can always take it in down the line if you'd like to adjust the fit.

Inhaling While Measuring Your Waist

Wrapping the tape around your natural waist can cause some measuring issues if you're not careful. We recommend being as comfortable as possible (i.e. not holding your breath or sucking in) so that you can enjoy the maximum benefits of having a perfectly tailored gown. Try taking a few deep breaths to help yourself relax before taking the measurement.

Pulling the Measuring Tape Too Tight

It may seem like a good idea to pull the measuring tape as tight as you can, but Erica Rosenfeld, co-owner of special occasion dress salon Bari Jay, says this method will result in an ill-fitting dress. You'll want the dress to comfortably fit so you can eat, drink and dance.

Sizing Down

If different measurements correspond to different sizes (for example, your bust is a 14, but your hips are a 16), Rosenfeld recommends sizing up according to the larger measurement (meaning you'd order a 16). It's simply because going up a size will make alterations easier in the long run. It's much easier to take a dress in rather than let it out.

Exaggerating the Measurements

Outfit fitting can be an overwhelming process, but it's best to record the most accurate measurements. "It is important to measure where you are actually at so that the dress doesn't come in too tight," Paige says. "Be kind to yourself. It's not about the measurement on a tape or the size, it's about recognizing you have a beautiful body that gets you places!"

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