Variability in both skin thickness and skinfold compressibility affects the relationship between the skinfold caliper reading at a particular site on the body and the actual adipose thickness at that site, thus inducing error in the estimation of body fatness. To investigate this variability, skinfold thickness by caliper and incised depth of subcutaneous adipose tissue were measured at 13 skinfold sites in 6 male and 7 female unembalmed cadavers aged 55 to 94 years. All skin was then removed and its thickness measured at the exact sites of skinfold measurement. The regional patterns for skin thickness were similar in men and women, though women had significantly (P < .05) thinner skin than men at the biceps, chest, supraspinale, and abdominal sites. Mean (SD) skin thickness for each cadaver over all sites ranged from 0.76 mm (0.28 mm) to 1.47 mm (0.43 mm), with an overall mean for men of 1.22 mm (0.36 mm) and for women of 0.98 mm (0.36 mm). The thickness of a double layer of skin expressed as a percentage of skinfold thickness for all cadavers over all 13 sites ranged from 7.1% to 33.4%. Because of their leanness and thicker skin, the mean for men, 22.7% (10.1%), was significantly greater than that for women, 10.8% (6.2%) (P < .0001). Mean skinfold compressibility over all sites was 53.5% (16.4%) in men adn 51.9% (16.5%) in women (not significant). Such marked variability in skinfold compressibility and in the relative contribution of skin thickness to skinfold thickness suggests the need for caution in comparing estimates of fatness by skinfold caliper between different subjects. © 1992 Wiley‐Liss, Inc.