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How To Measure Chest Size [Complete Guide]

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by all the sizes and measurement charts as you shop for clothes? One of the trickiest sizing issues is getting shirts, underclothes, and jackets that fit right in the chest. The good news is that you can learn how to measure chest size and prepare ahead of time for your next shopping excursion!

The best way to measure chest size is to have a second person wrap a fabric tape measure around the broadest portion of the chest. Keeping the tape measure parallel to the ground will provide the most accurate measurement. Measuring a garment that fits well, such as a dress shirt or a hoodie, can also give an accurate chest measurement.

In this article, you will learn four easy ways to measure chest size. You will learn how to use a sizing chart to your advantage. Finally, you will get tips on how to get the best chest measurement for types of clothing like suits, bras, and shirts.

How To Measure Chest Size

Why Do You Need to Know Chest Size?

The main reason to know your chest size is that it helps you buy clothes that fit you. This is especially true if you use online shopping, where you don’t have the luxury of trying on a shirt, jacket, or bra before ordering it.

Of course, most clothing brands don’t post clothing descriptions that include measurements in inches or centimeters. Instead, they use several different sizing systems. This is because most clothing manufacturers of ready-made clothes use generic one-size-fits-all shapes for the clothes they sell.

Some of the sizing systems you will find include the small, medium, and large systems used for men’s and women’s clothing. For men’s dress shirts, you will sometimes find a measurement system that offers both the chest size and length of the shirt. Other measurement systems include the chest size and cup size used in bra measurements.

So, with so many sizing systems out there, how do you use your chest measurement to pick the right size for you?

The answer is quite simple. Find the sizing chart offered by the brand or manufacturer. Typically, you can find this listed in the product description for online purchases. Then find your measurement, and you will see which size is affiliated with that measurement!

The sizing chart can also help you determine if a garment will fit you overall. For example, you may find that your chest measurement matches the size Medium described in the chart but that the sleeve length in size Medium will not fit you. Unless you want to take your new shirt to a tailor for alterations, this will tell you that this brand of clothes does not fit your body type!

If you like to sew your own clothes, knowing your measurements will help you select the best sewing pattern size for your body type. It can also help you make accurate alterations if you like to buy ready-made clothes and then tailor them to fit you more precisely.

Finally, as you will see later in this article, knowing your chest measurement can also help you learn how specific types of clothing should fit your body. For example, should a dress shirt hang loosely off your chest or fit snugly across your torso?

Before learning the answer to these important fashion questions, you need to learn how to take your own chest measurement!

How To Measure Chest Size: 4 Methods

How to measure your chest

The best way to get an accurate chest size measurement is to have someone else help you, but you will also find a DIY method in the “half chest method” section here. Each of these techniques takes just a few minutes and can help you improve your shopping game dramatically!

1. For Men

The best way to get an accurate chest measurement for men is to get a friend to help you. If you try this technique by yourself, you will find it hard to make sure the tape measure stays level as it wraps around your torso. If it sags at any point, you will not get an accurate measurement.

Of course, if you go to a tailor to get your clothes altered, you can ask the professionals for help! This is a great way to get a record of all your measurements, which you can use every time you go shopping.

To get your chest size measurement with the help of a friend:

  1. Take off your shirt and stand with your arms held loosely out from your body. Do not flex your muscles or stand too rigidly, as this will alter your measurements.
  2. Ask your friend to wrap a flexible fabric tape measure around the widest part of your torso. Typically, this puts the tape just under your armpits. Ask your friend to make sure the tape measure runs in a level line parallel to the floor around the back and front of your chest.
  3. Note down the measurement of the widest point of your chest.
  4. For some garments, such as tailored button-down shirts, you will want to use this measurement as your chest size. If you want a looser fit in a garment like a t-shirt, you may want to add as many as two inches to the measurement.

2. For Women

For women, a chest size measurement is usually called a bust size. You will find different sizing and measuring systems depending on what type of clothes you want to buy, such as a dress vs a bra. But either way, you will need an accurate measurement to help you find clothes that fit well!

  1. First, wear whatever undergarments you usually wear, such as a bra or a wrap. You want to measure over the top of these undergarments since your clothing will also need to fit on top of them!
  2. Next, use a flexible tape measure that can mold to your shape. A stiff tape will not work.
  3. If possible, find a friend or family member to help you take this measurement. You can do this while looking in a mirror, but it is hard to keep the tape measure in place by yourself!
  4. Stand in a loose, relaxed pose. Try to have good posture without sticking your bust out unnaturally or making your shoulders too rigid.
  5. Have your friend wrap the tape around the widest part of your bust, fitting the tape under your arms at your armpits and keeping it parallel to the floor across your back.
  6. Note the point where the two ends of the tape meet and write down that number.

Most women’s clothing, such as dresses, shirts, and jackets, uses either the S-M-L measuring system or the numeric sizing system, such as size 2, size 4, etc. You will simply need to match your bust measurement to the correct size using the sizing chart provided by the brand or manufacturer. The exception to this rule is bra sizes, which you can read more about later in this article!

3. Half-Chest Method

The half-chest method lets you take a chest size measurement by measuring a garment that fits you well rather than by measuring yourself. This handy method works well if you do not have another person nearby to help you get an accurate measurement on your own torso.

Keep in mind that most clothes do not have a skin-tight fit, so this measurement will give you an accurate fit for that kind of garments, such as a t-shirt or a button-down. But it will not give you the exact measurement of your own chest.

  1. Spread out the garment on a flat surface like a table or rug.
  2. Align a tape measure to stretch from one side seam to the other side seam just below the sleeve.
  3. Write down this number. This is the “half measurement” because it only measured one side of the garment. To get a full chest measurement, simply multiply that number by two!

4. Without Measuring Tape

If you do not have a flexible fabric measuring tape, you can get an accurate chest size measurement without a measuring tape!

  1. Find a piece of ribbon string or twine long enough to wrap around your torso.
  2. Use this string in place of the tape measure, following the instructions in the previous sections.
  3. Use a sharpie to mark the string or twine where the two ends meet.
  4. Spread out the string, twine, or ribbon on a flat surface.
  5. Use a ruler or metal tape measure to measure from the end of the twin to your sharpie mark.
  6. Write down that measurement!

What Do Chest Sizes Mean?

Chest size chart

Once you have your measurement, you may wonder what chest sizes mean. For example, if you have a chest measurement of 36 inches, what size shirt should you buy?

This section will give you an overview of common chest sizes for men and women. You should keep in mind that different brands and manufacturers use different sizing metrics. A 36-inch chest might mean a size M shirt in one brand and a size L shirt in another brand!

What Dress Size is 21 Inch Chest?

It is not common to find ready-to-wear clothing sold with a size 21” chest measurement. Most US clothing sizes start as small as a size 0, with a typical chest measurement of 30 inches.

You can find dresses with a half-chest measurement of 21 inches that have an actual full chest measurement of 42 inches and would typically fall into a size XL category.

What is a Size 34 Inch Chest?

A size 34” chest in men’s clothing typically means a size Small shirt or jacket. For women’s clothing, a 34” chest measurement typically means a Size 4 or Small piece of clothing such as a shirt or dress.

What Size is a 36 Inch Chest?

A 36” chest measurement in men’s clothing usually indicates a medium-sized garment. For women’s clothing, a 36” bust measurement usually pairs with a Medium or size 8-10 garment.

Is a 38 Inch Chest Large?

In men’s clothing, a 38” chest measurement could fall into a medium or large size, depending on the brand. For women, a 38” bust measurement almost always means size Large or size 12-14.

In terms of large in the sense of bigger than average, no, a 38” chest measurement is quite normal! The clothing industry in the United States reports that the average size of clothing for American women is a size 14, in fact.

What is a 42 Chest Size?

For most types of men’s clothing, such as button-down shirts or t-shirts, a 42” chest measurement will indicate a size Large. For women’s clothing, a bust measurement of 42” usually indicates a size XL for clothes such as shirts and dresses.

What Size is a 52 Inch Chest?

Many men’s clothing brands offer clothes with a chest measurement of 52 inches in a size 3XL. For women, a bust measurement of 52” can mean either a 2XL or 3XL size, depending on the brand.

Chest Sizing Chart

Using a chest sizing chart allows you to match your measurement in inches or centimeters to the sizing used by a particular brand or clothing manufacturer. If you do a lot of online shopping, you should always look for a sizing chart and compare it to your own measurements before making a purchase.

These charts will give you a good idea of average sizes compared to chest measurements.

For Men

This sizing chart gives you an idea of what chest measurements fall in what sizing brackets. Of course, this can vary from brand to brand, but these average measurements will give you a pretty good idea of what size to shop for.

Small33” to 35”83-89 cm
Medium36” to 38”91-97 cm
Large38” to 41”97-104 cm
X Large41”-42”104-107 cm

For Women

For women’s clothing, you will want to match your chest measurement to either an S/M/L sizing system or a numeric sizing system.

Small/Size 4-634” to 35”86-89 cm
Medium/Size 8-1036” to 37”91-94 cm
Large/Size 12-1438” to 39”96-99 cm
X Large/Size 16-1840” to 42”101-106 cm

How To Measure Chest Size for:

Now that you know how to take a chest measurement and how to match it to a sizing chart, you should learn some helpful tips for using these measurements on certain types of clothing.


The best way to get an accurate chest measurement for a vest is to use the two-person method of wrapping a flexible tape measure around the widest part of the torso or bust.

A vest is a kind of sleeveless garment that fastens in the front and is usually worn over a shirt or undergarment. It often has a deep V neck that plunges in the front and then fastens at the middle of the torso.

It may seem odd to use a chest measurement for a garment with a deep dip in its structure and does not cover the whole torso. But actually, taking the same kind of chest measurement you would use for a shirt gives you the correct space from shoulder to shoulder in your vest!

Other vest-like garments you may come across include waistcoats and corsets.

Keep in mind that you will need additional measurements like a length and waist measurement to get a vest that fits you perfectly.


Bust measurement

You need two different torso measurements to get an accurate bra size from most brands. This is because bra sizing uses two components: the size of the band and the size of the cups.

The band size is listed first, in numbers that indicate the length of the band in inches. The cup size is indicated using letters such as A, B, or C.

So, to take a chest measurement and buy a bra that fits you, you need to take two separate measurements.

  1. First, measure just below your bust or around your rib cage, keeping the flexible tape measure snug and parallel to the floor. Round up to the nearest whole number and note down this measurement. This will indicate your bra band size in inches.
  2. Next, take a normal bust measurement at the widest part of your bust. Once again, round up to the nearest whole number.
  3. Now you have to do a bit of math. Subtract the band measurement from the bust measurement. For example, if you have a band measurement of 34” and a bust measurement of 38”, complete this equation: 38 – 34 = 4.
  4. The difference between the band and bust size equates to the letter sizes used for cups. It works like this: A = 1”, B = 2”, C = 3”, D = 4” and so on!
  5. In this example, you would want to get a 34D size bra because you had a band measurement of 34” and the difference between the bust and band measurements is 4”, meaning that you need a D cup bra.


The best method to measure chest size for a shirt is to get another person to help you wrap a flexible tape around the widest part of your torso. You can find out how to take this type of measurement earlier in this article!

Remember that not every kind of shirt should fit in the same way, though. If you like tailored or athletic-fit button-downs, you probably want the chest of the shirt to fit snugly over your torso. On the other hand, you will want a looser cut in a polo, henley, or t-shirt, so you may want to add an inch or two to your measurement for that kind of shirt.

Another way to get an idea of the chest measurement you like for certain types of shirts is to perform the half-chest measurement method described earlier in this article on various shirts that fit you pretty well. This way, you can make a list of the measurements you like for polos, tees, and so on. You may find that you like the fit of different chest measurements for different types of shirts.


Suit, jacket, and blazer sizes typically contain two parts: the chest measurement comes first, followed by the length of the jacket. This gives you sizes such as 36S or 40R, meaning a chest measurement of 36 or 40 inches, and a Short or Regular jacket length. These two key metrics help you find a suit or jacket that fits you well.

Most clothing manufacturers use the letters S, R, L, or XL to describe the length of the jacket. These letters stand for short, regular, long, or extra long.

You can use any chest measurement methods described in this article to find an accurate size for yourself.

Anyone with a height of 5’ 7” to 6’ will probably fit a Regular length. If your height falls below that, look for a Short length of a jacket.

If you have a height between 6’1” and 6’3”, you will fit best in a Long jacket. If you’re taller than that, look for an XL or extra long length in a jacket.


The best way to get a good chest measurement for a hoodie is to measure a hoodie that you like.

Hoodies tend to have a bulkier style than many other kinds of clothing, and you often want them to fit more loosely than a shirt, vest, or jacket. This means that you do not want to buy a hoodie that matches your chest measurement, as it would fit too snugly to feel comfortable.

What is the Ideal Chest Size?

While there is no ideal chest size for men or women, you can find experts suggesting that there is a perfect ratio you can find between waist and chest size. Remember that each body comes in its own shape and size, though, so there is really no “one size fits all” perfect chest size!


The ideals of women’s beauty change constantly based on things like advertising and pop culture, but you can still find proponents of the perfect ratio theory for women’s bodies today. This theory suggests that a 36-26-36 ratio indicates the perfect ratio of the bust, waist, and hip measurements for women.

This is a fairly unrealistic ideal, though, as the average bra size for women in America tends to fall at 36C. Plus, many big-name brands have begun to step up in marketing products designed for women in all different shapes and sizes, which indicates a trend away from this old-fashioned ideal!


In the world of athletes and models, some fashion experts recommend that the perfect ratio between waist and chest size means that your chest should measure at least ten inches more than your waist. For example, if you have a chest measurement of 40”, you should have a waist measurement of 30” to present a perfectly shaped body.

However, the average man in America has a chest size of 40” and a waist size of 34”, so don’t stress too much about this!

What is Chest Width?

Chest width means the measurement of the widest part of your chest or bust. Typically, you find this by wrapping a flexible tape measure around your torso just below your armpits.

Some garments, especially hoodies, refer to a chest width instead of a chest measurement. Hoodies tend to have a much broader width in the chest area than other types of clothing like shirts or jackets.

Bust vs Chest Measurement

For women’s clothing, a bust measurement typically means the distance around the widest portion of the bust. A chest or rib case measurement, in contrast, can mean the distance around the point just below the bust.

When buying shirts, dresses, or other outerwear, use the bust measurement. You will need both the bust and chest measurement to get an accurate bra size, though!


The best way to take an accurate chest measurement is to get a friend to help you wrap a flexible tape measure around the widest portion of your chest or bust. You can also take a half-measurement by measuring across a shirt or jacket that fits you well, from one side seam to the other at the widest portion of the chest. If you do not have a tape measure, you can use a piece of twine and then measure the twin with a ruler!

Once you have this measurement, you can match your chest measurement to a sizing chart to find out what size would fit you best. Most brands and clothing manufacturers offer a sizing chart in the product description for the garment.

Have you tried taking your chest measurement? What method did you use? Leave a comment below to let us know!