How to Take Your Measurements: An Actor’s Guide

Holly Bissonnette| February 3, 2020

The size of some characters matter. Take a close look at some stories and you’ll realize that there are plot movements affected by a character’s size. A character’s spouse may have cheated when they found someone hot at the gym. A character may have been bullied because of being overweight. This is why a casting director may need your measurements for costume fittings at your acting audition. Always keep your measurements handy and keep them up to date.

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If you haven’t taken your measurements yet and don’t know how, here’s a guide to do it yourself correctly.

Taking Measurements: An Actor’s Guide

Before you begin measuring yourself, make sure of the following:

  1. If you have someone to help measure you, that would be much better. Some areas of your body may be hard to measure by yourself.
  2. Wear fitted clothing or no clothing at all. Do not measure yourself wearing jeans, jackets, sweaters, or other bulky clothing. 
  3. Don’t estimate with measurements or sizes. Always use a measuring tape.
  4. Make sure the tape measure is held snugly and firmly (not tightly) against your body.
  5. Use a Notes section for information that will explain over- or undersized parts (lifts weights, swimmer, has scoliosis, wears a back brace and was measured with it on, cross-dressing character, etc.).

Women

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  • Head. If you’ll be wearing a hat or headdress, measure your head above your ears. If you’ll be wearing a wig beneath the head accessory, measure your head with wig on.
  • Neck. Do not measure your neck tightly. Measure loosely for collar size.
  • Shoulder. Measure from one edge of your shoulders to the other, across your back.
  • Upper arm. Wrap the measuring tape around the widest part of your upper arm from front to back to measure its circumference.
  • Sleeve. You may need someone’s help with this. Raise your right upper arm away from your body, slightly bending your elbow. Measure from the bump in the middle of your nape, run the tape over your shoulder, around the elbow, and up to the bump outside your wrist. Remember to keep your elbow bent to allow for movement when you wear the sleeve.
  • Bust. Measure around the fullest part of your bust. This measurement may not be the same as your bra size.
  • Front waist length. Start at your shoulder right next to the base of your neck, and measure down to your waist, going over the fullest part of your bust.
  • Back waist length. Measure from the bump in the middle of your nape down to the center of your waistline.
  • Waist. Measure the smallest part of your waist, which is below the rib cage and usually above the belly button.
  • Hip. Starting at one hip, measure around your rear and back to where you started. Make sure the tape is over the largest part of your buttocks. 
  • Thigh. Measure the circumference of the widest part of your thigh.
  • Inseam. Measure the distance from the uppermost inner part of your thigh to the bottom of your ankle for pants.
  • Dress size. Use the size/conversion chart provided by the production. Keep in mind that size charts tend to be different for different stores and countries. Dress sizes are based on your bust (B), waist (W), and hip (H) measurements.
  • Height. Without shoes, measure yourself from head to toe in feet and inches or in centimeters.
  • Shoe size. Measure from the back of your heel to the tip of your longest toe (in mm). Use the size/conversion chart provided by the production. Keep in mind that size charts tend to be different for different stores and countries.

Men

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  • Head. If you’ll be wearing a hat or headdress, measure your head above your ears. If you’ll be wearing a wig beneath the head accessory, measure your head with wig on.
  • Neck. Wrap the tape measure around the lower part of your neck, about an inch below your Adam’s apple. Place two fingers between the tape and your neck and round off to the next half inch.
  • Shoulder. Measure from one edge of your shoulders to the other, across your back.
  • Bicep. Measure around widest part of your upper arm.
  • Sleeve. You may need someone’s help with this. Raise your right upper arm away from your body, slightly bending your elbow. Measure from the bump in the middle of your nape, run the tape over your shoulder, around the elbow, and up to the bump outside your wrist. Remember to keep your elbow bent to allow for movement when you wear the sleeve.
  • Chest. Wrap the tape measure around the fullest part of your chest. Don’t puff out or flex your chest.
  • Natural waist. Measure around your waist at about navel level.
  • Trouser waist. Trouser size waist that you normally wear.
  • Hip. Measure the widest part of your glutes. Try looking in a mirror while standing sideways.
  • Inseam. Measure your inner leg from the lowest part of your crotch to your foot.
  • Calf. Measure around widest part of lower leg.
  • Suit size. When looking for a sport coat, you’ll notice that the sizes for jackets will have numbers like 40L or 38R. The number comes from your chest measurement, while the letter corresponds to your height. If you’re between 5’7″ and 6’, you’re a regular (R). If you’re between 6’1″ and 6’3″, you’re a long (L). Use the size/conversion chart provided by the production. Keep in mind that size charts tend to be different for different stores and countries.
  • Height. Without shoes, measure yourself from head to toe in feet and inches or in centimeters.
  • Shoe size. Measure from the back of your heel to the tip of your longest toe (in mm). Use the size/conversion chart provided by the production. Keep in mind that size charts tend to be different for different stores and countries.
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Note

Revisit your measurements from time to time or weigh yourself every month. Perhaps observe whether you’re losing inches off your clothes. As you lose or gain weight/muscle, make sure that your profile is updated. 

Remember, if your measurements are not accurate, it could mean showing up for a shoot only to get sent home if the clothes don’t fit. Worse, if you pretend like everything’s fine, the fit will make you feel awkward and uncomfortable throughout the shoot, and the costume could get torn on camera. Do it right, do it properly, and make sure your costume fits well.

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