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Tailoring a Pant: measurements and definitions

The trouble with pants purchased in stores, even fine clothing stores, is that they never fit quite right. Every pair is manufactured to fit an average person but, chances are, you are not an average. So, if you are the proud owner of a not-so-fitted pant collection and want to adjust some parts, there are a number of measurements you will need. Understanding these measures is useful if want to tailor your own trousers, have them done for you, or even when purchasing clothing online.

Use a soft measuring tape to find your measurements on your own or with a partner. A few of these are best done with a partner or by a professional. The measurements are as follows:

Waist: The waist measurement is best taken just below your natural waist (the thinnest part of your torso). Take this measurement one inch below the natural waist, using a cord to mark your waist and dropping your measurement from there. Pants don't come up as high as the natural waist, so dropping your measurement an inch provides a more accurate number.

High Hip: Find and measure the highest part of your hip bones. You can feel them poking out on your sides, roughly six inches below the end of your rib cage, or four inches below your waist. Make sure to keep the measuring tape parallel to the ground for this.

Low/Full Hip: The full hip is the widest part of your hips, and is usually a few inches below the high hip. This part varies for everyone. Measure around with the soft tape. Again, make sure it's parallel to the floor.

Rise: The rise is the distance from the top of your natural waist in the front, through the crotch area, and up to the top of your natural waist at your back. Loop the measuring tape through, but don't pull it too tightly here. Anything with too small a rise will not be comfortable to sit in!

This measurement is where the terms "low-rise", "mid-rise" or "high-rise" come from. The terms are most often applied to jeans, undergarments, and more casual clothes. Depending on your body type and measurements, certain styles of high or low rise might not be comfortable to you. When shopping, try one of each style to get a better idea of how each fits. The same size pants in high and low rise will have drastic differences in fit.

Thigh Circumference: Measure around the fattest part of the thigh for this measurement. Thigh circumference is another spot where it's important not to pull too tightly. Trousers that are overly tight in the thighs are not flattering; no matter how well the other areas fit, the wearer looks about to pop out. Not to mention, it would be quite difficult to walk in leg-squeezing trousers.

Knee Length: Measure from your crotch to the center of your knee on the inside. Unless the pants are straight-leg style, there is often a change of shape or angle of the fabric at this point. Some taper in, and some taper out. The knee length measurement shows where to begin this change.

Knee Circumference: Like the thigh circumference, measure around the largest part of your knee, at your kneecap. The the measuring tape should lie on or very close to the crease at the back of your knee here.

Inseam: This is the all-important measurement for determining the length of the pant legs. Know up front what type of boots or shoes you plan to wear. It's helpful to put those shoes on to ensure an accurate measurement. This is where having a helper comes in handy. Stand up straight and have your helper measure from your crotch to the place you want your trouser legs to end. Don't do this one alone or you will skew the measurement by bending to reach the floor.

When having a new pair of trousers tailored, it's best to get a professional to do these measurements unless you have some experience in tailoring. If you do want to tailor your own, remember a few key points to avoid over-shortened pant legs. First, when you try the trousers on, wear them as you normally would. Put on a belt, tuck in a shirt, and wear appropriate shoes. Don't pull the trousers up too high, either. As long as you get accurate inseam measurements, the length with be perfectly adjusted later. There's no need to over-compensate for accidental over-shortening. You'll be surprised what a difference these small matters make to the final result. If you're picky about the way your pants break at the shoe, either you or your tailor can adjust it by removing a little extra material from the front but leave the backs longer. The end result is very subtle, and your trouser legs will sit beautifully without a break.

And the number one tip to getting your pants tailored correctly? Wash them first! Perhaps wash them twice, to let any shrinking happen before anyone does any cutting.

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