For part II of our ongoing series, we're going to talk a little bit about buying online. At this point, most of the dresses we see in our studio have been bought online. Some of the issues we come across can only be seen in real life, and the actual look of some dresses can come as quite a surprise once they have been taken off a model with all the extensive lighting and pinning done by the professional photographer that goes with it. We had such a case in a bride who came in asking for a custom dress based on a very specifically styled picture, only to discover much later (after we finished the dress and she loved it, of course ;)) that the original picture we based the design off of didn't actually look like the dress at all! What we and the bride took to be a perfectly tapered mermaid train was actually a sheath dress pinned and posed in such a way that it took on a totally different silhouette.
It is important to take into account the fact that retail photos are styled by a professional photographer who specializes in still subjects. The photographer's job is to find the very best angle at which to show off the best qualities of the dress. Your dress, however, will be in three dimensions and will move as you move, with your body, your posture, and your stance. So make sure you love the back and the sides just as much as you love the front (or whichever angle the model is posing in that particular picture!) The most important thing about your dress, as opposed to any dress, is that you are the one who is wearing it! Your dress's job is to flatter your body in the best way possible, not the other way around.
There is no such thing as universal sizing, however; each designer has his or her own "secret sauce" recipe for the way garments are sized, and those may even change from season to season. You may be an 8 in one brand, and a 14 in another. One of the best ways to avoid disappointment when the UPS person arrives is to know how to properly take your own measurements. You may not be able to totally predict how a dress will flow and fall on your body before you try it on, but you can get close if you have the right tools. Below is a detailed description of what, and most importantly where, different websites mean when they give those helpful "sizing tools." These instructions are also necessary if you are measuring yourself for a custom garment, or simply calculating something like your bra size (which we will get into in another post.)
Please wear a bathing suit or leotard when taking these measurements. You might want to get a friend to help you take your measurements; some are hard to reach! You will need a tape measure for this; they can be found at any store that sells fabric, home goods, or sewing supplies (this includes chains like Wal Mart and Target, and your local grocery store.)
Tie a piece of string, ribbon, or elastic around your waist and bend from side to side and then over to the front. Where the string ends up is your natural waistline.
- Center Front: Measure from the point between the collar bones to the center of the waist string.
- Bust (Chest): Keeping the tape measure level around your body, measure your bust at the fullest part of the breast
- High Bust: Move the tape measure so that it goes around your torso above the fullest part of your breasts usually where "cleavage" starts. The tape will be up tight in your armpits. Keep it level going around your torso.
- Low Bust: Move the tape measure to below the breasts, keeping it level going around your torso. This will be about where your bra ends.
- Point to Point: Measure the distance from the apex (nipple) of one breast to another
- Front Shoulder Slope: From the end of the shoulder bone to the center front at wrist.
- Shoulder Length: Measure from the base of the neck below the hollow of the ear to the shoulder point.
- Shoulder to Bust Point: Measure from the shoulder at the neck intersection to the apex of the bust.
- Neck Circumference: Measure around the neck.
- Bust Line Side to Side: Measure from the left side seam of your leotard across the front of your torso at the fullest part of your breasts to the right side seam.
- Front Shoulder: Feel for the end of the bone in each shoulder. Place the tape measure at this point on your left shoulder and bring it across your front to the other shoulder. Remember to feel for the end of the bone.
- Neckline to Bust: Feel for the knobby little vertebrae at the base of your neck. Place the end of your tape measure here and bring it around your neck down your chest to the apex of your breast. This can be either left or right.
- Back Shoulder: Repeat instructions for Front Shoulder, but do it along the back of your shoulders.
- Center Back Length: Measure from the knobby vertebrae at the back of the neck to the waistline.
- Neck to Waist: Go back to the knobby vertebrae and place the end of the tape measure here. Let it drop down your back along your spine. Measure to the waistline string.
- Back Shoulder Slope: Measure fromt the shoulder point across back to waist at the spine.
- Back Side Seam to Side Seam: Measure across your back from the left side seam to the right side seam at about the level of your bra; this should be the fullest part of your back.
- Waist: Measure your waist along the line created by the string. Make sure that you keep the tape measure level going around your body.
- Low Waist: Measure around your torso about 2" below the string... this will be at the belly button level.
- Front Side Seam to Side Seam: Measure from the left side seam of your bathing suit or leotard across the front of your torso to the right side seam of your suit following the line created by the waist marking string.
- Back Side Seam to Side Seam Waist: Measure from left side seam of your leotard across your back to the right side seam along the line of your waist string.
- Hip: Measure around your torso at the fullest part of your hips.
- Crotch Depth: Sitting on an even, flat surface, measure from the side seam of waist to the flat surface along one side. If you are very curvy use a ruler instead of measuring tape, so the measurement is not inflated.
- Hip Line Front Side to Side: Measure from the left side seam of your leotard across the front of your torso at the level of the fullest part of your hips to the right side seam.
- Hip Line Back Side to Side: Repeat the above instructions but this time do it across the back of your body.
- Hip Length: Measure along side from the waist string down to the point where you took the Hip measurement.
- Outer Leg: Measure from the waist string along the outer line of your leg to the knobby bone at your ankle. Please stand with both feet together and your weight evenly distributed on each foot.
- Inseam: Stand so your feet are shoulder width apart; keep weight evenly distributed on both feet. Measure from the crotch to the knobby part of the ankle bone on inside of leg.
- Center Front Waist to Floor: Measure from center front of waist string to floor.
- Center Back Waist to Floor: Measure from center back of waist string to floor.
- Thigh: With feet close together and weight evenly distributed, measure around your leg at the fullest part of the thigh.
- Knee: Stand as above, and measure around your leg at the knee.
- Calf: Stand as above, and measure around the fullest part of the calf.
- Ankle: Stand as above, and measure around your ankle at the level of knobby bones.
- Shoulder to Elbow: Place the end of the tape measure at the end of the shoulder bone. Hold your arm slightly bent, and measure to the elbow.
- Elbow to Wrist (Total Arm Length): Keep your arm as above, keep the tape as above, without moving the tape measure from the above measurement, continue running the tape along your arm to the wrist. Measure to the little bump on the outside of your wrist. (If the shoulder to elbow measurement was 12", from the 12" mark you will measure to the wrist for a total of 23".)
- Upper Arm: Measure around the fullest part of your upper arm between the shoulder and the elbow.
- Lower Arm: Measure around the fullest part of your lower arm between the elbow and wrist.
- Wrist: Measure around your wrist at the point where the little bump is.