The Numbers You Need to Know to Buy Pants that Fit

Have you ever tried to buy pants online? It’s not always easy if you don’t know what you’re looking at. You might look at a current pair of pants, check the label, and assume that the next brand is going to get it right…

…and then the pants arrive. You try them on and they’re nothing like the other pair of pants that fit you so well. They’re too tight, too baggy, or maybe they fit relatively well without being as snug as your favorite pair.

Long story short: it’s tough finding a pair of pants that fit if you’re only buying online without the benefit of a dressing room. But there is a shortcut. If you know your sizes in the following three variables, you should be able to buy a pair of pants that fits every time so long as the brand remains true to size.


When it comes to trousers, the “waist” is the distance of the main opening of the pants. If you were to take a tape measure and follow your pants around the waist, you should end up with the same number that appears next to the “W” in your trouser description.

This can be confusing, because many tailors will count the “waist” as the circumference around your belly button and lower back. In contrast, measuring your waist as it relates to pants is generally better if you measure about 1” below the pelvic bone.


“Inseam” is a fancy word for measuring the length of your leg. Of course, there are multiple ways to measure the length of your leg, which is why a different word is required. In this case, the inseam refers to the vertical line that travels down the interior of the pant. The “outseam” goes all of the way up to the waist; the “inseam” goes all of the way up to the crotch.

The inseam is generally used to measure leg length; it’s often the “L” included when a pant size is measured in “W” and “L.” Getting this “L” wrong means having pants that are too short (at your ankle) or too long (covering too much of your boot and wrinkling up at the sides). You’ll want a pair of trousers that fits with an even break over your shoe.


The rise is the bottom of the crotch to the middle of the waist. The trouser “fly” essentially covers the length of the rise.

Why is the rise important? It determines how much room you have when you sit down. With a tight rise, you can often get around just fine, but once you sit down, you’ll suddenly feel pressure that’s not comfortable in the slightest. A longer rise will mean more air, but generally gives off a sloppy overall look to the trouser.

Take out your favorite pair of pants and a tape measure and measure these for yourself. You’ll come up with three basic numbers that you can then plug in to the custom fitting form provided by Berle, which will help ensure that you never order the wrong size pair of pants again.

September 23, 2015 by Berle Editor
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