Trouser Measurements: Guide on How to Measure Your Size

Admit it: even though you have dozens of trousers in your closet, only a select few actually fit the way you want your pants to fit. These treasured trousers get the most wear, naturally—but that also means they get the most tear. Eventually, you’re going to need a new pair of trousers that fits like a glove.

But what if you don’t have money to go to the tailor right now—or even a decent tailor anywhere in your city? That’s where one length of tape measure, a dash of ingenuity, and a little knowledge can help out:

Which Measurements Should You Take?

First things first: if you haven’t read our guide for understanding each individual measurement in the trouser, then now’s the time to check out our trouser fit guide.

There, you’ll learn that there are three “big” numbers to which you need to pay attention. In no particular order, they are:

  • Inseam: The length of your leg as measured in the vertical line that travels down the inner part of your pant. A good rule of thumb for remembering it: the “inside” is where the “in” part of “inseam” comes from. (In case you’re wondering, yes, the counterpart to the inseam is indeed the outseam, and many tailors do pay attention to it).
  • Waist: This is the one most people are familiar with—it’s usually printed right on the tag of your trousers and is one of the first numbers you’ll find when shopping for pants online. Although your technical waist really occurs around your belly button or so, the waist of a trouser is the circumference of the very top.
  • Rise: Measure the bottom of the crotch to the top of the waist and you have the “rise.” This will determine how much room you have when you sit down. Too much rise and your pants will look strange. Too little and, well, let’s just say it’s not comfortable.

Armed with a tape measure, you should be ready to take in all of these measurements. There’s just one problem: your roommate went to the store and you have absolutely no way of measuring your own inseam without crouching. What’s an amateur tailor to do?

Taking Your Own Measurements

The best way to avoid playing a game of “Twister” with yourself is to lay your pants flat on the ground and measure them as if you were measuring someone else. Get all of the important numbers: the inseam, the waist, and the rise. Your measurements probably won’t be precise integers, but you can always round to the nearest half an inch.

Keep in mind that different companies tend to offer different versions of the same size. One company’s “large” is the same as another company’s “medium.” So it will take some experimentation with the same brand until you can be sure that you’re ordering pants that will fit right out of the package. Or you can work with self-sizer pants, input each of these numbers, and call it a day.