One of the most iconic pieces of sewing equipment is the tape measure. A good dressmaker never goes anywhere without one! Mary Poppins used one to ‘measure up’ the children when she moved into Cherry Tree Lane, Mr Ollivander measured Harry for his wand in the shop in Diagon Alley, and even Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother had one, but what secrets does it hold? How do you make the most of it? And why do measurements really matter?!
The long and the short of it is, every single person is different. In Australia, we have ‘standard size’, though I’m personally not a fan of that idea. Suitable for mass manufacturing, but not so great for couture bridal. It’s less common to fit into one standard size than it is to be various sizes, in various stores, on various days! So instead of making to a standard size, then doing alterations, a couture dressmaker will be making something that fits your shape, right from the start!
The basic measurements are obvious – bust, waist, and hip. But even then, did you know there is a ‘high hip’ and a ‘low hip’? And, where are these measurements taken? If your wedding dress maker only takes these three, I’d be running for the hills. There is much more to it once you sew professionally – most couturiers will have a personalised list of anywhere between 15-50 measurements to take, and will customise those which are important based on the style of your dress and your body shape.
Each designer and dressmaker will work differently – for example, inches or centimetres, order of measurements taken, and even how they take them. Your bridal dressmaker will guide you through how to stand while your measurements are taken, as changes in your posture will affect the slope of your shoulder, your weight shifting will change your leg length, and if you’re busy looking at what they are doing, you won’t be standing as tall as you can! Keep in mind that no body is perfectly symmetrical, and in some cases left and right versions may need to be taken.
Many brides focus on eating healthily and exercising more in the lead up to their wedding day, and that’s great if you choose to do this, but you should never be pressured to do so. Never ask your dressmaker to ‘take the measurements smaller’ but instead inform them of your fitness goals, and make sure they realise your body may change shape. Starting point measurements always need to be taken, but as your body shape changes, so should your dress.
Images by Alister Buckingham Photography
From the first meeting with your dressmaker, you should also start thinking about your shoes and your bridal underwear, as these will also affect the overall look of your gown. Shapewear will do what you expect – by slimming your tummy or lifting your bottom – but this will change the way your dress sits! Don’t leave it as a surprise at the end!!
After deciding on your dress design, accurate measurements are the most important part of the sewing process. Then your dress can be something Mary Poppins would be proud to say – “practically perfect in every way”.
Ms Chinoiserie Says: Such insightful advice – ‘proper measurements’ are so important to achieving a wonderful result!
About Studio C Bridal: Hi, I’m Caitlyn and I have made gowns for award-winning, internationally recognised theatre/ film designers and actors. My expertise lies in the ability to flatter the body shape, not create a ‘standard size’ garment, through technical sewing and fabric knowledge. I have an eye for fine detail, and the ability to see the beauty in every idea. I started Studio C Bridal with a passion to create beautiful, original, one-off pieces.