Cosplay A to Z: Measure it out

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One of the fundamental issues with getting a good costume is starting from a good base.
If there is any sewing involved, that base needs to be accurate measurements.

Measuring a body is more tricky than many people realise. It is one of the first things they teach you upon stepping into the world of pattern making, and for good reason. We have pudgy bits that defy attempts to keep things where we want it, but without accurate measurements, it is difficult to know where to begin.

Here are some tips on how to get accurate measurements for your costumes.

1. Don’t measure yourself
It is a little known fact that you almost certainly cannot get accurate measurements of yourself by doing the measuring yourself.

There are a number of reasons for this. Firstly, you cannot actually see some of the measurements to take- like your back. It is physically impossible without a multiple mirrors to be able to see what’s going on at your back. Likewise, one of the key things in measuring is that you are doing it accurately, and you cannot view where the tape is sitting on your back to ensure it sits straight/at the right height/etc.

Further, if you were to somehow set up mirrors to deal with this, you would have to contort your body in order to get those measurements. As soon as you move your body, you lose accuracy in your measurements. That is not to say that you need to be stock still, but bending arms or legs, twisting your head, all of these things will alter the measurements that get taken. So at the bare minimum, you will get better measurements if you get someone, anyone to take them for you.

2. Learn how to measure
Measuring is a science. You need to be precise. You need to keep using the same spots for measurements, and you need for it all to be harmonious.


Note that this person is actually measuring their waist wrong.

One of the simple ways of doing this is to add guides to your body. Tying strings around your waist and where your arms and shoulder meet can provide good guidances.

Additionally, there are little things you need to do like keeping your measuring tape level with the floor when you’re measuring, keeping your measurements all in one metric system (cm or inches, don’t mix), and

If you’re not sure how to measure, then look for guidance. Between the internet, books on garment making, and traditional sewing classes, you should be able to find someone out there to give you guidance in this respect. Even better, get whoever you are going to have measure you sit down and learn it too. I recommend finding a costume buddy, because then you can do it for each other.

I highly recommend learning in person. There is nothing that quite replaces being able to feel a shoulder bone or the divet in the neck. You can see it, but feeling it really puts it in your mind forever.

3. Learn where to measure
Most costume companies will ask for three things- your chest, waist, and hip measurement. This sounds easy, but this is actually not going to give you a particularly accurate costume.

The more information you have on your measurements, the more accurate a costume will be. These three measurements, while crucial, only give a basic understanding of what your figure is like.

They don’t explain that your waist is higher than most cause you’re only 5’ and while you might have a fairly standard sizing in these three areas you actually need that, but with about 4 inches lopped off the overall length. Further, if you’re a busty girl, it will be obvious from the other measurements that using the large bust measurement will make your costume way too large overall.


This is the basic minimum that is needed IMO. But if you are drafting you will need more information than this. There are many guides like this that can be found with simple Google searches.

So you need to take all the measurements necessary to make your costume. This may be all the upper body alone, or it could include lower body. Maybe you don’t need sleeve measurements cause it will be sleeveless.

My word of advice is that it is always better to take more measurements than are needed. It is best if all measurements are taken at the same time by the same person, so if you think you’ll use the measurements a second time before re-measuring get everything you can before you lose whoever is helping you. At least if they do everything, if there are errors, they will be consistent throughout.

Like with learning how, the tools are out there. You just need to find them.

4. Don’t rely on old measurements
Got some measurements done in college 2 years ago? Great! But don’t just expect them to be the same now. If you’ve gained or lost 5lbs or more, your measurements will likely change. Even if you haven’t changed weight, exercise and diet can have changed how your body is put together.

In fact, even if your clothes still fit you, that is not a guarantee that your measurements have not changed.

My point is, if you haven’t had measurements in a while, then you should get new ones done.

Once you have all of your measurements done, make sure whoever is making your costume has all of them. Even if they only ask for three measurements, send them all. If they don’t use them, you won’t have lost out on anything, but if they do, you should get a costume that is as close to your size as possible.

Further, you can use this as a way to determine if a costume seller is really up to the standard that you want them to be. If you contact them and they are unwilling to work with custom measurements, that is going to tell you something and then you can make up your mind about whether it is worth getting a stock sized costume that you may have to alter to fit, or whether you want to hold out for someone who will make a costume that will genuinely fit you.

Happy measuring!

~ eliste

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