Pant Fit - Waist

Pant Fit — Signs Of Well-Fitting Pants — Part 1

Pant fit creates a lot of anxiety for most women. This anxiety occurs because when they go into fitting rooms with an arm full of pants, they come out with one that kind-of fits. I’m right there with you.

For most of my life I had a really hard time finding pants that fit my body. That’s why I now design and sew my own. My waist was 2-3 times smaller than my hips (“A” Body Shape). Now my waist is 1-2 times smaller than my hips (closer to an “S” Body Shape). Also my legs are longer than average, so pants are rarely long enough for me. Most pants today use fabric with a lot of stretch. For many women this is perfect, but not for me. I have side saddles (extra curves) where my hips and legs join. Knit fabrics accentuate that area and I don’t like that look.

In my last post “Pant Fit — How Do You Know?

I wrote, “Think about all the different shapes and sizes women come in. Also think about all the curves in a pair of pants that needs to fit these shapes and sizes.” When going into the dressing room to try on pants, have an open mind. You just might need to have the pants altered a little to get the pants to fit you well and in a lot of cases this is an easy process. 

Can’t Know What You Haven’t Seen

Because most women have a hard time finding pants that fit, they really don’t know how a pair of pants should fit. In this next series of posts you will learn about the general guidelines for how a pair of pants should fit and signs if they are too big or too small. Also I will give you guidelines about having pants altered to fit your body.

Because there is so much information related to this subject I have broken it up into three parts:

  • Intro to fit and circumference fit (this post)
  • Waist to crotch fit
  • Crotch to hem fit

Pant Fit - Start The Process

To determine if a pair of pants fits your body you will look at the following:

  • Circumference around the waist, hips and legs
  • Length from the waist to the crotch
  • Length from the crotch to the hem

When it comes to pant fit the most important fit is from the waist to the crotch. This is because it’s the hardest to alter. If this part is too short there is no way to add length. Only when this area is slightly too long can it be altered. However, if it’s way too long, it can be too difficult and expensive to alter.

That being said I started with circumference because the circumference around the waist can affect the length from the waist to the crotch. If the waist circumference is too big, the length might appear to be too long because the pant waistband sets too low. When moving the waist to the right spot the length might end up being perfect. On the other hand, if the waist circumference is too small the waistband might be too high causing the length to appear to be too short.

What I have outlined are only guidelines. Seeing a tailor/alterations seamstress will give you the exact details of what can be altered and what can’t be.

Pant Fit -- Circumference


Pant fit - low mid high rise pant

As I stated above the starting point of pant fit is at the waist. You want the waist to be at the right spot. Most waistbands should hit right around the belly button. This is known as mid-rise. If the pant label says high-rise then the waistband should fit around your natural waist (1 or 2 inches above your belly button). In pants labeled low-rise, the waistband is meant to fit 1 to 2 inches below your belly button.

Pant Fit - Waist

If the pant waistband hits below these points the waistband is too big and if the pant waistband hits above these points it’s too small. Another sign of the waistband being too small is a “muffin top.”

The waistband should fit snugly around the waist. This is important for those of you without a butt and waist (“V” and “O” Body Shapes). Otherwise the pants will slide down. If you are an “A,” “X” or “S” Body Shape the waistbands can have a little bit of ease.

If the waistband is too big, bring it up to the proper place and pinch the sides. Look at the length from the waistband to the crotch. Does it fit? (I’ll talk about length from waist to crotch in the next post) If it’s too long, you might need to consider petite pants. (In the next post, there will be a section called Petite Vs Regular.)

If the waistband is too small, consider a larger size. However, if it’s too big go to the next section to see if the hips are also too big. If the hips fit perfectly, then consider getting the waist altered to fit your waist.



The fit around the hips totally depends on the type of pant: jeans vs trousers. To learn more about the differences between these two types of pants, go to my last post “Pant Fit – How Do You Know?

Jeans should fit close to your body without stress marks on the fabric. As you learned in the last post most jeans have Lycra mixed into the fabric to allow stretch. If you see these stress lines in the crotch area, then the pants are too small and you need to try one size bigger.

If you can pinch more than a half inch on the hip side seam then the jeans might be too big. You should consider a smaller size if the waist is also too big. If the waist fits well then consider getting the jeans altered or finding a manufacturer/designer which fits your body better. Remember every manufacturer/designer has different fits so it’s important to find the one that fits your body the best. (In helping a lot of women find a pair of jeans; I’ve discovered that some like a slightly looser fit and others like the tighter fit. You need to determine which you like.)


Pant fit - hip in trousers

Now let’s consider trouser fit. As you learned in the last post, trousers have more ease built in. Ease means the pant circumference is larger than your circumference. This ease allows you to move around without putting stress on the fabric. For trousers there needs to be around 1 to 2 inches of ease. 1 inch is for trousers made of fabric with Lycra built in and/or a Ponte Roma knit fabric. 2 inch ease is needed for trousers made of non-stretch woven fabric. To measure the ease, pinch the side seam. If the pinch is ½ inch it means the ease is 1 inch and if it’s 1 inch the ease is 2 inches.

As with the jeans, if you see stress marks at the crotch the trouser is too small. Consider a bigger size.

When you find too much ease and the waistband is too large, consider a smaller size. If the waistband fits well, then consider alterations or find a manufacturer/designer that fits your body better.


The part of the legs that you need to consider fit is the thigh area. For example women who have a “V” Body Shape tend to have skinny legs, while women who have an “A” Body Shape have thicker thighs.

As with the hip area, jeans tend to have a tighter fit than trousers. Jeans will cup under the butt showing its shape. As a result there is little ease. If you see stress lines, then the jeans are too small. Look for different manufacturers/designers that fit you better in this area. If the thigh is too big look for different manufacturers/designers or consider alterations.

For trousers the fit is totally different. You’re looking for little or no cupping around your butt. This might be a problem if you happen to have a thicker thigh. (Remember there is nothing wrong with your thighs. It’s just a matter of finding a manufacturer/designer with the proper fit for your body.)

Ease in the thigh area should be around 1 to 2 inches depending on the fabric. 1 inch for fabric with Lycra and/or Ponte Roma knit fabric and 2 inches for woven non-Lycra fabric.

If you have too much or not enough ease in the thigh area then consider looking for another manufacturer or designer or consider alterations.


Don’t worry about altering the circumference of pants because it can be done easily. Taking in waist, hips and thighs is a simple process. If you need these areas to be increased, it can only be done if the seam has enough fabric.

If the seam allowance (sew line to cut line) is ¼ inch there is little that can be done. However a ½ inch seam can increase the circumference by 1 inch. That amount can make or break the pant fit.

In the next post you will learn about the length fit between the waist and crotch. This is the most critical area of pant fit because it can’t be altered.

Now you have a better idea about how well-fitting pants should fit your body? What did you learn? Write it in the comments below.

Wear Your Greatness!!

1 thought on “Pant Fit — Signs Of Well-Fitting Pants — Part 1”

  1. Awesome article. In high school, I hated slacks and trousers. They fit all wrong on me –
    all I knew was they were uncomfortable – hence, have avoided them since. I was 5 foot 4 and a half (lol) and 135 pounds. I had thicker thighs. I’m not really a sewer, but have a machine and do do some alterations and crafts. I am going to find all your articles. For future, an article on how the body does change, and what you didn’t like then, you may like now! In high school I made a lifelong decision to never wear slacks., but I can change my mind now.

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