To accurately determine your ideal pant size, you'll need two measurements: waist circumference and inseam length. If you don't already know these measurements, you'll just need a flexible measuring tape (widely available at most fabric and crafting stores). To make things easier, you can always ask a friend or family member to help you.
How to Measure Your Inseam
First, put on a snug pair of shorts or tights and stand with your legs slightly apart. Hold the end of the measuring tape firmly against the top of your inner thigh, just beneath your crotch. Have your helper extend the tape down along the inside of your leg to the ankle bone (medial malleolus). Rounding the measurement to the nearest half inch. Obviously, if your inseam falls between standard sizes, you'll have to decide whether to go with a slightly longer or shorter length. Men typically prefer a slightly longer inseam (it's better to have a little more break than have pants that are too short). Women may prefer to size up or down, depending on personal preference.
How to Measure Your Waist
Start by placing the end of the tape measure just below your navel and wrap it completely around your waist until it overlaps. The tape measure should be situated where the waist of your pants normally sits. If you prefer low-rise pants, place the tape measure a little lower. If you prefer a little extra room in the waist, you can slip your thumb in between your waist and the measuring tape before writing down the measurement.
As before, round to the nearest half inch. If you fall in between sizes, choosing a slightly smaller or larger waist size is a matter of personal preference. If you size up, you can use a belt to snug the fit. Keep in mind that most denim jeans will stretch a little over time, particularly in the snug areas. If the waist of your new jeans feels a touch snug, give them time to break in. If they're uncomfortably tight, however, you're probably better off sizing up. Most high-quality jeans are pre-washed, which means they shouldn't shrink. However, it's still a good idea to wash new denim in cold water and tumble dry on low heat. Dress pants and slacks don't stretch as much, so you may want to choose the larger size if you’re in between standard sizes.
The “cut” is generally used to refer to shape or length of pants' legs. Most pants available on the market today will fall into one of six categories:
Tapered pants are cut to be increasingly narrow from hip to ankle. This style has a smaller leg opening than straight-leg pants.
Straight-leg pants maintain the same width from knee to ankle. This style has a wider leg opening than tapered pants, but are narrower than bootcut pants.
Bootcut jeans and pants are very similar to straight-leg pants, except with a slight flare that usually starts mid-calf. Bootcut pants have a wider leg opening than straight-leg pants, but are narrower than flared pants.
Flared pants usually taper inward slightly at the lower thigh and have a pronounced flare that starts just below the knee. This style has the widest leg opening of all cuts. Bellbottoms have the widest leg opening of all flare-leg pants.
Capri pants are cropped between the knee and mid-calf. This style of pants may be called “clam diggers” in some regions, because they can be used to wade into shallow water.
This style is very similar to capri, but cropped lower on the leg, usually between the mid-calf and ankle.
Many brands use similar terminology to help customers understand how snug or roomy a pair of pants will be. We'll cover some of the more popular fit categories here, along with a few other styles. Keep in mind that fits vary from brand to brand and there is no industry standard for pant fit. What’s called “classic fit” for one brand could be closer to a “relaxed fit” for another brand. Some brands even create their own terminology to describe fit. The following list is intended to be used as a general guideline for comparing pants from the same brand.
This style is considered the “middle of the road” or “average fit.” Classic fit pants fall in between relaxed fit and slim fit.
Relaxed fit pants and jeans are cut to provide extra room in the seat and thigh. This style is roomier than classic fit.
Slim-fit pants and jeans are designed to fit snugly. This style is more snug than classic fit, but not quite as tight as skinny fit.
Skinny jeans and skinny fit pants are designed to be extra-slim and hug the figure. This style is generally considered tighter than slim fit.
Jeggings are either form-fitting leggings made to look like skin-tight jeans or extra-skinny jeans made of stretch denim. Jeggings are the slimmest-fitting pants available and offer a true skin-tight fit. Many have faux pockets, although some do have functional pockets and zippers.
Boyfriend jeans are made to emulate the more relaxed fit of men's jeans, but are designed for women. Boyfriend jeans have a slightly relaxed fit in the seat and thigh, and usually have a mid or low rise. Most have a straight leg or slight taper, and the cuff is frequently rolled up to expose the ankle.
Pant rise indicates the distance between the bottom of the crotch and the top of the waistband, which determines how high or low your pants will sit on your waist. Women's jeans often feature multiple rise options, from high to low. Men’s jeans are typically only available in mid or low rise. Keep in mind that pant rise may vary slightly from brand to brand.
Women's high rise pants are designed to provide maximum coverage. The waist typically extends above the navel and fastens at or above the narrowest part of the waist.
This term is usually only used for women’s clothing. Pants with a natural waist typically position the waistband at or just above the navel. Natural rise will usually measure around 11 to 12 inches from the crotch seam to the top of the waistband on women’s pants.
Just Below Waist
Women’s pants with this rise will usually position the waistband just below the navel. The rise will usually measure approximately 10 to 11 inches from the crotch seam to the top of the waistband.
This is a standard rise for most men's pants. Mid-rise will usually position the waistband just below the navel.
Low-rise pants sit lower on the waist than other rises, generally several inches below the navel. It’s a good idea to wear low-rise pants that fit snuggly in order to prevent unseemly wardrobe malfunctions, especially when sitting.
Unlike men's pants, which are usually sized according to waist and inseam measurements, most women’s pants are sized numerically (i.e. 00 to 26W). The chart below can serve as a general reference. However, sizes between different brands vary, so it's always a good idea to check for additional sizing information in the product description.
For pants with alpha-labeled sizes (i.e. XS to XXL), you can determine the numeric size conversion simply by hovering over each size option or by clicking on the sizing tab. It's also important to note that some women's pants are available in different lengths. Lengths will either be indicated as Petite, Regular and Tall, or as Short, Regular, Long and Extra-Long.
General Women's Size Chart
0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 Bust 31.5 32.5 33.5 34.5 35.5 36.5 38 39.5 41 43 45 47 49 Waist 23.5 24.5 25.5 26.5 27.5 28.5 30 31.5 33 35 37 39 41 Hip 33.5 34.5 35.5 36.5 37.5 38.5 40 41.5 43 45 47 49 51
16W 18W 20W 22W 24W 26W Bust 42 44 46 48 50 52 Waist 34 36 38 40 42 44 Hip 46 48 49 51 53 55
Men's pants are typically sized by waist and inseam measurements. US sizes are measured in inches. European sizes are measured in centimeters. The waist measurement is always listed first. For example, if a pair of pants is listed as 32x34", the waist measurement is 32" and the inseam measurement is 34". Inseam length on most US-sized men’s pants ranges from 28-38”. Waist size typically ranges from 24-60”. As mentioned in the previous section, alpha sizes do vary from brand to brand. To see a size conversion from alpha to numeric, simply hover over individual size options or click on the sizing tab in the product description.