How to Pick Your Size when Internet Shopping


how to take correct measurements for internet shopping successPicking Your Size from On-Line Size Charts

by Catherine Scholze

The internet has been a boon to independent designers over the last ten years: it allows us to talk directly to our customers and meet the needs of under-served markets that conventional retailers can’t address. But it also means that you, the customer, cannot try on our clothes before you buy them. We’ve talked a lot about fabrics, design lines and garment structure. Now let’s talk about how to pick the right size when internet shopping.

The clothing industry has played with sizing for decades in the never-ending mission of finding ways to sell to customers. That means we can not attach a lot of meaning to the number on the size label. It’s really just a number that connects the measurements in the brand’s size chart to a pattern used to cut and sew the garment ordered by a customer. So, don’t worry so much about the size number. Instead, focus on the measurements. I know–most of us are not fans of keeping track of measurements, but doing so opens doors to a much wider variety of shopping options. Here is how to measure your self.Where to measure your bust for internet shopping

1. Put on the undergarments you plan to wear under your new purchases (you should also do this when you are shopping in a store!). If you always wear shapewear, wear it to take your measurements. If you like to mix it up, take measurements in your shapewear as well as your favorite undies. You’ll be surprised how much shapewear changes your measurements!

2. For most of your measurements, make sure the tape measure is parallel to the floor. You can check this in a full-length mirror, or get a friend to help. Take the measurements in a relaxed position (don’t hold your breath!), and note them in a notebook or your favorite note app (I live on Notes!).

3. You should measure a few basics first:
a. Your bust at the fullest part: wrap the measuring tape from the center of your chest, around your bust and back to the other side of your body. It’s really important to make sure the measuring tape is parallel to the floor for this measurement. And definitely take the measurement while wearing your every-day bra. My mannequin is wearing one of my favorite every day bras for this measurement.

Where to measure your waist for internet shopping

b. Your natural waist, which is where your belly button is. Hold the measuring tape at your belly button, and wrap the tape around your back and sides. Relax! You can see that my mannequin’s natural waist is not parallel to the floor—she has a swayback just like I do. For this measurement, you want your true waist circumference, so this is the exception to the “parallel to the floor” rule.

Where to measure your hips for internet shopping

c. Fullest part of your hips. This is often between 4-7″ below your natural waist, but varies a lot from person to person. On me, this is ~ 5” below my natural waist.

Where to measure your rise for internet shopping


d. Rise. The is the length of the crotch seam in pants and makes a huge difference between a great-fitting pair of pants, and one’s that you wear once and toss to the back of the closet! Measure from your belly button, between your legs to the point of your natural waist in the back.

How to measure your ruse for internet shopping

Having a hard time finding that?  Tie a string or ribbon around your natural waist so that you don’t have to guess.  Here, the shaper sits just at the natural waist so I can use it as my reference point.

4. You can add a number of measurements to your list that will help with your shopping:
a. Underbust: this is the circumference of your body at the bottom of your bra band. The difference between your full-bust measurement and under bust measurement gives your cup size for bras and swim suits.
b. Calf at the widest part. Key for boot shopping!
c. Inseam. This tells you how long your pants need to be, and will also help assess where skirts end on your leg. You should measure this with the shoes you plan to wear with the garment.

If you are working on your diet and exercise routine, you should track your measurements once per month. Adding a little walking or stairs to your weekly routine will change your measurements before you see the results on a scale, and may mean you need to buy a smaller size if you are in between sizes on a chart.

Here are my current measurements, and how I would pick my size from my size chart:
Full Bust: 46 ¼”
Lower bust: 36 7/8”
Waist: 37 ½” (with shape wear)
Hip: 45 ¼”
Rise: 27”

Catherine Scholze Size Chart

You can see that there are 2” between sizes for each of the circumference measurements (bust, waist, hips), and I am in between sizes these days (you know, diet and exercise!). I prefer my skirts, to be on the snug side. So I would buy the size 16 top and size 14 skirt. I much prefer to skip the shapewear with pants, so I would buy the size 16 pants. Since this is my own collection, I can say that I wear these sizes regularly. If I lose more weight, I’ll have to get the size 14 pants but the 16 are still super comfortable. My fit model is a size 16 in both top and bottoms.


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  • Such a simple concept is this, to measure yourself and use the charts but I am continually flabbergasted when people tell me that online shopping is a failure and then that they firstly, don’t know their measurements and secondly, don’t even have a tape measure. There is no “standard” sizing, so you are really taking a shot in the dark if you don’t compare measurements. Ordering online is not a lottery.

  • I’d like to know how you padded your mannequin so nicely. I’m p petite and curvy, so my mannequin is only a rough estimation of my real shape. What did you use to pad yours so neatly?

  • My waist is not at my belly button and never has been! My waist is a good 3 1/2 inches above my belly button and there is a natural crease there when I bend to side. When I wear skirts (which I rarely do because I have trouble fitting them), this is where it is most comfortable to wear the waist band. My belly button is directly in line with the top of my hip bones and the measurement around my belly button is a good 5 inches larger than my waist.

    My understanding is that this measurement can vary with some people being high waisted (me) and other being low waisted.

  • Do I measure my bust on the inhale or the exhale? My bust measurement changes by many inches when I take a deep breath.

  • I agree with how to take measurements and the pictures are good.

    However, I have not found a size chart on line that takes into account crotch depth or the lower bust measurements. I know my rise measurement but I have never found that on a size chart either. Is there a standard measurement for high rise, mid-rise, and low rise? What does this mean: “sits above natural waistline,” sits at natural waist.”

    I have an xcel chart of all of my measurements, but I still have had to send things back because they were too large or too small. Part of the problem has been not knowing the amount of design ease used in a garment, part of it is not knowing whether a particular company’s garments run small or large, and part of that was because of not knowing how to account for high hips, crotch depth, etc., when they are not on the usual size chart.

    I am really looking for information. It is difficult for me to go to stores and try on clothing. I rely on shopping on the web. I am looking for help. Thank you.

  • Great tips, especially about measuring the waist. I agree that even with measurements, internet shopping can be difficult, for the reasons Ginger mentioned. That is why I almost never buy clothing without online reviews. Reviews are so helpful to determine whether a particular garment will actually fit me, especially if the reviewer describes her body shape and measurements. Because I’ve been helped so much by other reviewers, I’ve started to write more reviews with my measurements, rise (if it matters) and general body shape. I feel like it’s a community helping each other, and I encourage everyone to write reviews that include measurements. Happy reviewing!

  • Very helpful, Imogen. Please consider a future post re shape wear. In the summer’s heat, it is usual for me to skip the SW and wear looser-fitting clothes. Have you found any brands that are “breathable”?

  • My biggest irritation with online shopping is getting actual garment measurements. The size charts tend to be for body size, but there is usually no or very little information on the garment itself. I don’t want to have to contact the company every time!

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