How Fitting is Your Fit? Part One: Pants Fit

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Have you ever bought a new outfit and thought it looked great in the fitting room, only to get it home and find that it wasn’t quite right? Something was a little off. Was it the lighting? The color? Your mood? You know there is something wrong; you’re just not sure what it is.

It could very well be the fit. In the dressing room, we are so enamored with the color, the style, and that fact that a garment fits around, we don’t always see the other fit details that can throw off the look.

The most common fit problems have to do with length and these can range from the very obvious to the not-so-obvious problems. Most of us know to check the length of pants with shoes that we plan to wear …or do we?

Let’s start with a basic pant hem. For men, the rule of thumb is that the back hemline is at the seam of the heel of the shoe. Simple, right? But if you are a 40+ year-old man with a bit of tummy, your properly hemmed pants may be too long at the end of the day. That’s because the waistband tends to slip under the tummy throughout the day and you are stepping on the pants on the way home from work. If you have a really big paunch, I suggest you try suspenders. Not “old” enough for those? How about having your pants hemmed ½ to ¾ inch above the seam of the heel? It’s more comfortable than tightening your belt.

While we are on the subject of age, you may notice that some elderly people wear their pants very short. That is because falling is a very real fear for many of them and they would rather have their pants a little short than risk tripping on them. So if Mom or Grandpa want the top of their shoes to show, let them!

Pant hems for women are more complex, of course, because our fashion is more varied. If we are talking about skinny jeans, they can be hemmed barefoot because they sit just below the ankle no matter what kind of shoe we plan to wear. But for every other style, we almost have to decide on shoes before we have our pants hemmed. For instance, if we are wearing a two inch heel with a trouser width leg, the hem can be at the heel line. This length will work for flats, too. A taller heel requires a longer pant length, about ½” to 1” from the floor. But you will not be able to wear flats unless you don’t mind walking on your pants.

For an extra wide pant leg, a boot cut or wider, it’s better to have the hem about an inch off the floor because as the pant moves, it’s easy to walk on them if they are any longer. Unless they are tight jeans that ride up a bit when we walk! Jeans hemmed at the floor will usually work in that case.

Something else to consider is whether or nor your legs are even. Most of us have one leg ¼ to ½ inch – or more- longer than the other. Sometimes the difference is in the actual leg length and sometimes it’s in the hip shape. One side takes up more room than the other. The body is not symmetrical, as anyone who has regular chiropractic adjustments will tell you. So sometimes, the unevenness is what bothers us about the total look.

For you tall people, can pants be made longer? The answer is yes. If your pants are too short, look at the hem allowance. Measure from the hemline to the bottom of the edge finish. That will tell you how much they can be let down. Almost any pant can be let down at least one inch and usually more. The exception to this rule is JEANS. They cannot be made longer…sorry!

Sound confusing? If you are not sure about what an appropriate hem length is for you, make an appointment with your tailor. They will be able to advise you about the proper length and will also consider your personal preference.

Stay tuned for part two: Pants Continued…

Barbara Stone is the owner of Barbara Stone Designs, a full-service tailoring and dressmaking business at 5200 Churn Creek Road, Suite P, Redding, CA, 96002. She can be reached at (530) 222-1340 or

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Barbara Stone
Barbara Stone is the owner of Barbara Stone Designs, a full-service tailoring and dressmaking business at 5200 Churn Creek Road, Suite P, Redding, CA, 96002. She can be reached at (530) 222-1340 or
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