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How to Measure Pants [Complete Guide]

Do you struggle to find pants that fit just right with no sagging in the waistband or tightness in the thighs? Buying perfectly sized pants works more easily if you know how to find the size that fits you. To do that, you need to learn how to measure pants!

The key measurements for pants sizes include the waist, hips, rise, and inseam. Men’s pants sizes list the waist measurement followed by the inseam measurement, such as 32X34, to indicate trousers with a 32-inch waist and a 34-inch inseam. Women’s pants sizes typically use an even-numbered sizing system ranging from 0 to 16.

In this article, you will learn how pant sizes work for men and women. You will discover four methods for measuring your pants and yourself to get the right size. Finally, you will find tips on how to make sure your pants fit you properly!

Outseam Measurement

How Do Pant Sizes Work?

Pant sizes for men use two numbers that list the waist and inseam measurements of the pants. In the US, these measurements use inches. This means that jeans and trouser sizes often look like 34/36 or 32X34.

This descriptive method for sizing pants works great for men because you can easily measure around your waist and measure your inseam, or inner leg, to quickly know what size will fit you best. For example, if you see a “size 34/34” pair of jeans, you know that the jeans have a waist that measures 34 inches around and an inseam that is 34 inches long.

Pants sizes for women do not use such as simple method. They typically feature a small-medium-large sizing metric or the more common even-numbered sizing system starting at 0 and reaching 16.

How do you know if you fit size 2 or size 6 pants? The easiest way to find out what size of women’s pants will fit you is to look up a sizing chart from the brand you like. This will list the exact measurement of the waist, hip, and inseam that correlate with the numbered size.

Keep in mind that the measurements used to determine sizes in women’s clothes can vary from one brand to another. You could fit a size 4 in Levi’s jeans, but a size 6 in Wranglers, and the only way to find out is to either try on every piece of clothing you like or check the sizing charts online before making a purchase.

How Are Pants Measured?

In the United States, pants are measured around the waist and inner leg using inches. In many other parts of the world, clothing sizes use measurements in centimeters instead.

As you now know, men’s pants use a simple formula of waist and inseam, or length, to determine the sizing. Sometimes this metric is just called W/L, or waist length.

Because women typically have more curvy lower bodies, women’s pants measurements also incorporate a hip measurement in the sizing metric. The hip measurement is the single most important part of the sizing system for women’s jeans or trousers!

How to Measure Pants: Four Methods

You can measure a pair of pants to find your best measurements or measure yourself. You can also use a few special tricks if you want to take measurements before sewing a pair of pants.

1. How to Measure Your Pants With a Tape Measure

Tailoring Pants

One easy way to find your best pants size is to measure a pair of jeans or trousers that fits you well. If you write down those measurements, you can compare them to the sizing chart offered by another brand and make sure you buy a size that will fit you.

Of course, different kinds of pants may fit you in different ways and have different measurements. For example, stretchy yoga leggings will have a smaller waist measurement than khakis because they expand to fit you as you wear them and the khakis do not. For this reason, you may want to measure multiple different types of your favorite pants.


How Do You Measure the Outseam

The length measurement used to describe pants is based on the inseam, or inner leg, of the garment. Clothing designers use the inner leg instead of the total length of the pant because it gives consumers a more accurate understanding of the leg length in the garment.

You can see how to measure the inseam on your pants in the next section!


What is Inseam on Pants

The inseam on a pair of pants measures the distance from the crotch seam to the hem at the leg opening. Basically, it measures the entire length of the inner leg.

  1. Start by turning your pants upside down and smoothing out any wrinkles.
  2. Find the point where the inner leg seam meets the crotch seam. For most pants, you can easily locate this point by looking just below the bottom of the fly.
  3. Hold one end of the tape measure at that point, and use your other hand to smooth the tape down the seam of the inner leg until you get to the bottom of the pants.
  4. Round the measurement to the nearest half-inch.


How To Measure Waist For Pants

The most important measurement when choosing a men’s pants size is the waist measurement. This measurement in inches forms the first part of the size listed for men’s pants.

To measure the waist:

  1. Button and zip the fly if necessary.
  2. Turn the pants face-down on a flat surface and smooth them out, so the waistband lies flat.
  3. Measure straight across the top edge of the waistband from one side to the other.
  4. Double that measurement to make sure you include the front half of the waistband in your final number.

Front Rise

How To Measure the Rise on Jeans

The front rise on a pair of pants measures the distance from the top of the waistband to the crotch seam. This gives you a clear idea of how far up your belly the waistband will reach. This measurement will help you get stylized pants that fit you perfectly.

Suppose you measured the waist following the directions earlier in this article, but the pants you picked happen to have a low-rise waist. A waistband that sits low on your hips will have a much larger circumference than a waistband that circles your natural waist!

Because of this, knowing the rise on your favorite pants and the waist measurement will help you find new pants with a waistband in the right size that also rests at the right point on your torso, such as a low-rise, mid-rise, or high-rise waist.

  1. Smooth out the pants right-side up on a flat surface.
  2. Place the short end of the tape measure at the crotch seam, or the upside-down-V where the two legs meet.
  3. Trace a straight line up to the top edge of the waistband.
  4. Write down the number, rounding to the nearest ¼ inch if necessary.

The front rise on pants usually ranges from seven inches for really low-rise waists to 12 inches for super high-rise waists.

Back Rise

The back rise measures the distance from the crotch seam, over the seat, and to the top edge of the waistband at the center back. This measurement helps greatly if you want to know how tightly a pair of jeans will cling to your rear end.

  1. Turn your pants upside down and smooth out any wrinkles.
  2. Hold the short end of a tape measure at the center back of the waistband, right at the top edge.
  3. Smooth the tape measure straight down the center back of the pants til you reach the crotch seam.


Some clothing brands also list the width of the pant leg at the knee as part of a sizing chart for trousers or jeans. The knee width does not necessarily impact the size of the garment, but it does play an important role in determining its fit.

This is because different styles of pants have legs that taper in or flare out, and the knee measurement helps you quickly understand the shape of the leg as a whole.

For example, suppose you have a knee measurement of 16 inches and a leg opening at the ankle of 16 inches. You can see that the pants have a super-straight, boxy leg with a wide opening.

But if the knee measures 16 inches and the leg opening measures 12 inches, you will have a very tapered lower leg that narrows a lot between the knee and the ankle.

To measure the knee width, all you have to do is smooth out the leg and stretch a tape measure straight across the leg at the knee, from one side seam to another. Then double this number to include both the front and the back of the leg.

2. How Do You Measure Men’s Pants Size?

You need two measurements to find your size in men’s pants: the waist and the inseam. This straightforward sizing system makes it pretty easy to know what jeans, trousers, or khakis will fit you best!


The most important leg measurement you need for pants is the inseam. Clothing designers use this inner leg measurement as the official length of the pants.

It is also the second number listed as the size for men’s pants. If your favorite jeans have a size label that reads 32/34, the 34 means that the inseam of the jeans measures 34 inches.

  1. To measure your own inseam, start by wearing a pair of comfortable, close-fitting pants.
  2. Get a piece of painter’s tape and tape the short end of a tape measure to your ankle exactly where you like the hem to end.
  3. Next, trace the tape measure up your inner leg to the point where the leg seam meets the crotch seam.
  4. Write down that number, rounding to the nearest half-inch if necessary.

Waist Size

Measuring the waist

The other key measurement for men’s pants is waist circumference.

To measure your own waist:

  1. Locate your natural waist. Typically, your waist is the most narrow part of your torso. You can also pick a spot above your navel as your natural waist.
  2. Wrap a tape measure around your torso at this point. Use a mirror to make sure you keep the tape measure level as it wraps around your back.
  3. Write down the number.

3. How Do You Measure Women’s Pants Size?

how to measure womens waist

Women’s pants sizes rely on the crucial waist and inseam measurements just like men’s pants sizes, but they also include a hip measurement. This is because the hips often curve out more widely than any other portion of the body for women. For this reason, the hip/seat measurement is the most essential measurement you need to take to get women’s jeans or trousers that fit you well.


One of the most crucial factors in getting pants that fit you properly is finding the right waist measurement.

  1. Stand with your feet flat on the floor in a related but straight posture.
  2. Find your natural waist. You can do this by smoothing your hand down your side and locating the point where your torso dips in beneath your ribs or simply by measuring at a point about one inch above your navel.
  3. Keep the tape measure level as you wrap it around yourself at this point.

But what if you do not want jeans with a waistband that falls at your natural waist? The good news is that most brands use your natural waist measurement as a starting point and then base the actual waistband size for a low-rise or high-rise waist on that.

So if you have a waist measurement of 28 inches, but your favorite low-rise jeans have a waist measurement of 30 inches, don’t feel confused! The waist measurement means that the pants have a shape that should fit a person, with a natural waist that measures that particular amount of inches.


How to Measure Hips

Many brands selling women’s pants will include a hip measurement in the size chart. Taking your own measurement is a good idea as this will allow you to make sure that the pants will not either bag out at the hips or stretch too tightly over your curves.

Fortunately, measuring your hips by yourself is super easy!

  1. Stand in front of a mirror with your feet flat on the floor.
  2. With the help of the mirror, pick the widest portion of your hips that curves out the most from your side.
  3. Wrap a tape measure around your hips and your seat at this point.
  4. Check the mirror to make sure you keep the tape level.


To find out the right length for your pants, measure your inseam. This works just like it does when measuring for men’s pants sizes–you want to find the distance along your inner leg.

If you feel comfortable, ask a friend to help you. This allows you to stand up straight with a good, relaxed posture while your friend holds the short end of the tape in place just below your ankle bone, and measures up your inner leg with the long end of the tape.

4. How to Measure Pants for a Pattern

If you decide to sew your own pants, you will need to take measurements to use a sewing pattern correctly.

While you can use the basic measuring methods described in the previous section, these tips will also help you get ready to use a sewing pattern.

  • To measure your waist size for a sewing pattern, tie a length of ¼” elastic around your waist, pulling it taut but not too tight. Stand up and sit down a couple of times so that the elastic moves to your natural waist. Then use a tape measure to measure yourself at that point.
  • When you use a sewing pattern, the most important thing to keep in mind is that all of the pieces of the garment must have a large enough size to fit the widest parts of your body. This makes getting an accurate hip measurement really important for women’s pants. Make sure you loop the tape over the fullest part of your hips and the curviest part of your seat when you take this measurement.
  • Most patterns come with two charts. One tells you the garment size and the other tells you the finished measurements. Pick the size and finished measurement option that fits your hip measurement.

Does Length or Width Come First in Pants?

Men’s pants size lists the width of the waist first, and then the length of the leg. If you find it difficult to remember whether length or width comes first in the size, you can always pull up a size chart in the product description of the garment online. This will have nicely labeled columns to tell you the exact measurement of the waist and inseam and may include helpful additional measurements like the front rise.

Where is a Man’s Waist for Pants?

Most clothing brands measure a man’s waist for pants at a point just above the navel or where your body naturally curves most in your torso. You may also see some sizing metrics describe this point as just over the hip bones.

Common Pant Size Questions

Now that you know how to take accurate measurements to find your pants size, check out the answers to some common pant-size questions!

What Does 34X32 Mean in Pants?

If you find 34X32 on a label in your pants, this means that the pants have a waist circumference of 34 inches, and an inseam of 32 inches. Men’s pants use Waist X Inseam as the size instead of using a less specific sizing system like the small, medium, and large metric.

You sometimes see this called the Waist/Length size system as well. Keep in mind that the inseam or inner leg measurement is used to determine the length of the pants, not the total length of the garment from waistband to ankle.

What Size is 34 in Pants?

Size 34 in pants means men’s pants with a waist measuring 34 inches. Most of the time, you will see the size listed as waist/length, and the inseam measurement will form part of the size.

How Many CM is a 34 Waist?

A 34-inch waist measures 86.36 CM. Many European clothing brands use the metric system and put all their sizing measurements in centimeters rather than inches. If you struggle with the difference between the two systems of measurement, you can always use this handy Google tool to quickly convert inches to CM or CM to inches.

Pant Size Measurement Chart

This chart will give you a good idea of the average measurements used for pants for both men and women. Keep in mind that every clothing brand may use slightly different measurements, meaning that you should always check the sizing chart offered by the brand you like before you buy clothing.

Average measurements for men’s pants size:

Size Waist Length
27/30 or S 27-29 inches 30 inches
30/30 or M 30-32 inches 30-32 inches
33/32 or L 33-35 inches 32-34 inches
36/32 or XL 36-38 inches 32-34 inches

Average measurements for women’s pants size:

Size Waist Hip
S or 4-6 27-28 inches 36-38 inches
M or 8-10 29-31 inches 39-40 inches
L or 12-14 32-34 inches 41-43 inches

How to Know if Pants Fit You

How Should Suit Pants Fit

Besides taking careful measurements, you can use a few simple, practical tips to know if your pants fit you, such as the pinch test.

  • For trousers, khakis, and any pants that do not hug your legs, try the pinch test. Pinch the loose material outside of each thigh and see how much material you can gather. Ideally, you should about one inch of extra fabric to the side of your thighs for comfortable movement.
  • Check the overall clinginess of the jeans or trousers. Do they fit either loosely or tightly all over? You should not have pants that fit too tightly at the waist but too loosely in the thighs–look for consistency in the overall fit.
  • Try sitting and standing or doing a few squats for any type of pants. Your pants should not make it impossible to bend your knees.
  • Consider the break of the pants, meaning the point at which the hem hits your shoe. This varies from one style of pants to another; trousers and some styles of jeans often have a break, while skinny jeans typically end closer to your ankle. Make sure the leg of your pants ends at a point that looks good on you.


The most important measurement for men’s pants is the waist circumference and inseam or inner leg length. Men’s pants use a sizing system that lists the waist X Length, such as in 34 X 32, which indicates a 34-inch waist and a 32-inch inseam. Women’s pants often use a small-medium-large sizing system based on the waist, hip, and inseam measurements, though the circumference of the hip is the most essential measurement for women’s pants.

After you take accurate measurements of yourself, you can compare those numbers to the size chart offered online by most clothing brands. This lets you pinpoint which size and style of pants will fit you best! When you try on the pants for the first time, you will also want to make sure that nothing feels constraining and that you like the way the hem breaks above your shoe.