How to Read a Tailoring Measure Tape – The Ultimate Guide

Have those tiny annoying marks on a tape measure ever confused you?

Have you ever calculated a particular measurement and then ended up with so many decimal places?

Things can get confusing at this point unless you know how to read a tailoring measure tape.

I bet, most times, you just hastily approximated to the nearest whole number.

Most likely because you do not know exactly what point to mark on the tape rule.

Believe me, I can relate especially before I started learning officially.

Well, I present to you the ultimate guide on “how to read a tailoring measure tape.”

After going through this guide, you’ll be reading a tape rule like an open book.

What exactly are you going to learn in this guide?

  • How to use a measuring tape for clothes.
  • The various systems of measurements.
  • How to read a tailor measure tape in inches
  • How to read a tape measure in cm and mm
  • Converting from one unit to another.
  • How to buy a tape measure for sewing

How to Read a Tailoring Measure Tape: Systems of Measurement

There are two central systems of measurements used to measure length.

1. In the imperial system,

measurements are taken in inches, yards, and feet.

This is the most common system of measurement used by fashion designers.

Most tape measures are designed using this system.

 2. The metric system

Meters, cm, mm, etc., are used in this measurement system.

Tailors do not use this system of measurement frequently.

However, few tapes are designed with this system. So we will discuss how to read a tailoring measure tape using this system.

Tape measure calibrated in inches

How to Read a Tailoring Measure Tape in Inches

Tapes marked in inches are marked using either the eighth or the sixteenth division marking.


Tape measure in the eighth division.

Figures 1.1 and 1.2 illustrate one inch on a tape measure in the eighth division.

The fractions in fig 1.1 are further broken down to their simplest forms, as shown in fig 1.2.

Tape measure in the sixteenth division

This figure illustrates one inch on a tape measure with the 16th division.

Unlike the eighth division tape rule, there are more marks, which further breaks the one inch into more fractions. 

If you are like me, then you probably use a calculator for most calculations.

Very few calculators give results in a decimal form, not a fraction.

Therefore, I prepared a table to convert the fractions of an inch to decimal form.

2/16 or 1/80.125
4/16or 2/8or1/40.25
6/16 or 3/80.375
8/16 or 4/8 or ½0.5
10/16 or 5/80.625
12/16or 6/8 or ¾0.75
14/16 or 7/80.875
Table showing fractions of an inch in decimal

Let’s try an example. Assuming you have a bust measurement of 35, and you need to draft a bodice.

After dividing by 4, your result is 8.75.

How do you use the table to get the 8.75 inches to mark on a tape rule?

First, check the table for the decimal 0.75, which is on the ¾ mark.

This means that the 8.75 marks will be on the ¾ mark after the 8th inch.

Let me illustrate that so you get it.

8.75 inches on a sixteenth division tape measure

The 8.75 mark is on the 12th mark after the 8th-inch mark if you are making use of a 16th division tape measure.

However, if the tape measure is in the 8th division, the mark will be on the 6th line.

8.75 inches on an eighth division tape measure

You can try other measurements on your own and use the table to get the tape measure’s exact point.

How to Read a Tailoring Measure Tape in CM and MM

tape measure calibrated in cm

There are ten marks or lines from one cm to another.

Each one of these lines represents one mm. Therefore, there are 10mm in 1cm.

Tape measure calibrated in cm and mm

Each mark is equivalent to 0.1 cm or 1/10cm.

Let’s say you have a measurement of 30.6 cm to be marked on a tape rule.

To get the exact point, you will need to locate 30cm on the tape rule and then count six lines/marks after 30 to get the 0.6 mark/point.

That 0.6 plus 30 equals 30.6.

30.6 cm on a tape measure

You can also use a tape measure calibrated in cm for measurements in mm.

Remember that we discussed earlier that 0.1cm is equal to 1mm, which means that one line or mark on the cm tape measure is equal to 1mm.

To illustrate, assume you need to measure 30mm.

Instead of converting arithmetically, you can count the lines on the cm tape measure until you arrive at the 30th line.

Tape measure calibrated in mm

Since some of the lines are tiny and closely packed, you have to take extra caution.

Let’s briefly discuss the conversion relationship between units in the imperial and metric systems of measurement.

  • 1cm – 10mm
  • 1 meter – 100 cm – 39.37inches
  • 1 inch – 2.54cm – 25.4mm
  • 1 yard – 3 feet – 36 inches – 91.44cm
  • 1 foot – 30.48cm – 12inches

The relationship explained above can be useful in converting from one unit of length measurement to another using basic arithmetic.

The knowledge of this conversion forms the basis of knowing how to read a tailoring measure tape.

How to Buy a Tape Measure for Sewing

Tape measure for sewing

Getting the right tape measure for sewing can be very challenging.

 It’s not rocket science but it’s not as simple as “going to the market and picking the most colorful or appealing tape measure.”

Then you come back home and start learning how to read a tailoring measure tape.

There are essential points that you should note before buying a tailoring measure tape

1. The cloth measuring tape must be made with the right material.

It should be strong, so it is not easily torn or stretched. But flexible, so it is easily manipulated.

It should be shrinkage resistant. 

The most commonly used materials are fiberglass and reinforced polyester.

Tape measures are generally not expensive, so you do not have to break the bank to get a durable one. 

2. The scale indicators on the tape must be accurate.

These markings or scale indicators should not be subject to fading.

Also, note that stretched or torn tapes should not be repaired.

This is because it tampers with the scale indicators, thereby making them inaccurate.

Many tapes are marked in both cm and inches on both sides.

This kind of double scale tape has a more significant advantage

3.The use of the tape

A tape measure of about 60inches is appropriate for dressing making.

But designers who make curtains, bedsheets, etc., need longer tapes such as the retractable tape measure, which is way longer than the regular one.

Plastic, wooden or metallic rulers are more convenient to use for pattern drafting.


The first hurdle every dressmaker needs to cross is learning how to read a tailoring measure tape.

This is because accurate measurements is solely on dependent knowing what each mark on the tape measure represents.

Now you can stop approximating and use figures that are more precise.

This means you will make more fitted attires from now on.

Next up is learning how to take accurate body measurements.  

Did you find this article helpful?

Do you have other helpful tips on how to read a tailoring measure tape? Please let me know in the comment section.

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20 thoughts on “How to Read a Tailoring Measure Tape – The Ultimate Guide”

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