If you have ever worn a sweater with too-long sleeves to an important event like a first date, you know the important role sleeve length plays in your personal style! But finding clothing that fits the length of your arms can prove challenging. Fortunately, you can learn how to measure sleeve length using a few simple steps!
The best way to measure sleeve length is to have a second person measure the distance from the back of the neck and down the length of a bent arm. Another popular way to measure the sleeve length is to measure a shirt that fits well, noting the distance from the tag inside the collar to the cuff at the bottom of the arm. Matching these measurements to a sizing chart allows accurate clothing purchases.
In this article, you will find out why knowing your sleeve length will help you buy better clothes. You will learn four easy ways to get this measurement. Finally, you will find tips for how to get the right sleeve length in shirts, jackets, and coats!
- How Do I Know My Sleeve Length?
- How To Measure Sleeve Length: 4 Methods
- What is a Normal Sleeve Length?
- How to Measure the Sleeve Length of:
- What is the Average Sleeve Length for a Woman?
- Sleeve Length Chart
- Average Sleeve Length for a 6 Foot Man
- How Do You Know If a Sleeve Fits?
- Can You Alter Sleeve Length?
How Do I Know My Sleeve Length?
You can find your sleeve length by either measuring yourself or measuring a garment that fits you well, like a hoodie or a dress shirt. This will give you a good baseline to help you find the right size for any kind of top you want to buy.
Different garments may have different rules for the “correct” sleeve length. A jacket or coat sleeve is often intended to reach the end of your arm at a slightly different point than a hoodie or tuxedo shirt, for example.
The main difference usually lies in the point where the cuff ends. Some kinds of clothes have an actual cuff, like a button-down shirt. These usually hang long enough that the cuff ends partway down your hand when unbuttoned. In contrast, most suit jackets and many sweaters have sleeves that end around your wrist bone.
So besides knowing the best sleeve length for your body, you should also learn how to get the right lengths for whatever kind of clothing you want to make or buy.
If you intend to sew your own clothes, sewing patterns will often provide sizing information to help you measure the right sleeve length. But if you want to buy ready-made garments online or in a store, your best bet is to learn what length fits you comfortably and then match that to a sizing chart provided in the garment description.
How To Measure Sleeve Length: 4 Methods
The best way to find clothes with sleeves that fit you properly is to know how to measure for the sleeve length, both on yourself and a piece of clothing.
That said, sleeves can get tricky since even trying on a garment may not tell you whether or not the garment will fit if you do not know a few simple tricks of the trade.
The good news is that you can easily learn all the sleeve-measuring tricks you will ever need!
1. For Men
The basic method of measuring sleeve length for most men’s clothing requires the help of a second pair of hands. You can go to a professional tailor for this, or you can follow these simple steps and get a friend or family member to help you out for a few minutes. The method does not require any special skill or knowledge, but you cannot accurately employ it yourself!
- First, find a second person to help you get this measurement. You can wear a t-shirt or undershirt during this process to avoid any embarrassment, but do not wear anything baggy that could pad out the final measurement.
- Give your friend a flexible tape measure like the kind you can get in any sewing kit. The retractable metal tape measures you use for construction work and yard work don’t bend easily enough to give you good results.
- Ask your friend to stand behind you.
- Place your feet flat on the floor and stand straight, but keep your shoulders relaxed. Bend your arms just a little and keep them in that position.
- Have your friend place one end of the measure at the center of your neck. They will feel the knobs of your spine at the correct point to start the measurement.
- Your friend will hold the measure here with one hand and bring the tape down to the end of your shoulder with the other hand. Write down the distance from the spine to the end of the shoulder.
- Next, your friend will measure the distance from the end of your shoulder to just below your wrist. To do this, hold the tape in place at the shoulder and run it down the length of the arm, taking care to measure the slightly bent elbow. End at the place where you want the cuff to fall on your wrist or hand.
- Write down the shoulder-to-wrist measurement and then add that number to the spine-to-shoulder number. The resulting measurement tells you what sleeve length will fit your arms.
Please note that getting this measurement is only the first step. Not every garment you go to buy will offer sleeves that have exactly this length, and you can find out why when you read the section on measuring sleeve length for coats, shirts, and hoodies later on in this article!
2. For Women
One of the best ways to measure sleeve length for women is to try on the garment in question. Suppose you’re out shopping and find two suit jackets you quite like, but you can’t decide which one fits you better.
- Put on the jacket (or another garment–this works for sweaters, long-sleeved shirts, and hoodies!), and then stand in front of a mirror with your feet flat on the floor.
- Relax your shoulders and neck.
- Bend your arms at a right angle or prop your hands on your hips.
- Does the cuff of the sleeve still reach your wrist? If it does not, the sleeve does not provide enough ease to comfortably fit you, even if it looks long enough while your arms hang straight!
This method will help you find the right sleeve measurement as you’re out shopping. In many cases, women can actually use the same method of measuring with a friend to gain an accurate arm length that you can find in the section above. Having a written-down arm length measurement can help you shop online more efficiently.
3. Arm Length
The second most popular way to get a good arm-length measurement is to use a shirt or jacket that fits you perfectly. This method does not require the help of another person, so you may find it an easier way to measure your arm length at home.
- Start by smoothing out the garment on a flat surface like a table or a clean rug. Make sure the sleeve lies flat with no big wrinkles.
- Find the garment tag inside the back of the collar. Use that as your starting point, and measure from the middle of the tag (the center back of the neck) to the top of the shoulder seam. Write down that measurement.
- Now measure from the shoulder seam to the hem of the cuff.
- Add those two numbers together, and you should have accurate sleeve measurements for a garment that will fit you well!
As a variation on this method, you may find that not every kind of top has a shoulder seam. Some shirts have differently shaped yoked or raglan sleeves or may have puffed or gathered sleeves or several other variations. In this case, simply measure in one long measurement from the center back of the neck all the way down to the hem of the sleeve.
4. Without Tape
If you’re in a hurry and don’t already own a flexible measuring tape, you can make one out of twine, ribbon, or even pieces of paper taped together!
- To do this, cut a length of twine or tape together a length of paper that can comfortably reach all the way down your arm.
- Spread this out on a flat surface.
- Use a flat ruler or metal tape measure to help you mark inch increments down your temporary measuring device.
- Once you have marked the twine or paper, you can use it in place of a flexible measure, following the steps laid out in the previous sections!
Honestly, though, you can buy a cheap sewing kit at the dollar store or in many grocery store checkout lanes. Do yourself a favor and pick up one of these so you can more easily get accurate measurements for your next clothing purchase!
What is a Normal Sleeve Length?
A normal sleeve length falls within 32 to 33 inches for men’s shirts and between 30 and 31 inches for women. This spans the generic small to large sizes offered by most ready-made clothing brands.
When you buy read-made clothes, you have to accept that “one size fits all” might not actually fit your body perfectly. For example, you might read the sizing chart for a shirt you like and realize that a medium shirt would fit you in the shoulders and torso but not in the sleeves. The large size of that same shirt might offer the correct sleeve length but fit too loosely on the shoulders.
Another thing to note about shirt sleeve sizing is that the length will often round up or down to the nearest whole number. For example, a 34 sleeve may actually offer a 34.5” length.
How to Measure the Sleeve Length of:
Besides knowing the length of your own arm, one of the best ways to get clothes that fit is to learn how to measure the sleeve length in specific garment types like shirts, jackets, and hoodies.
The best way to get just the right length in your dress shirts is to use the “with a friend” measuring tactic explained earlier. Make sure you stand with your arm slightly bent during the measuring process. This relaxed arm measurement will give you the ease you need in a shirt sleeve and add a fraction more length.
The added length is important because good-quality dress shirts typically have a sleeve length that ends just slightly below the wrist. This means that the cuff of the shirt will peek out from below the hem of a suit jacket just a fraction.
For a tuxedo shirt, the general rule of thumb is that the hem of the cuff should hit just below your wrist bone. This is the knobbly bone that pokes out on the right side of your right wrist and on the left side of your left wrist.
One other key bit of info that will help you find the right sleeve length is to note that most manufacturers use a sleeve measurement that encompasses the back of the neck to wrist distance described earlier. However, some brands may use just the shoulder seam to the wrist part of the measurement, so make sure you check!
For a blazer or light jacket, the end of the sleeve should brush your wrist bone but not hang past it. Because of this, you should use a slight variation when measuring for jacket sleeve length: do not bend your arms!
If you have a friend helping you, use the same process described earlier, but do not bend your arms before your friend measures from your shoulder down to your wrist.
If you want to try on the jacket in a store, look at yourself in a mirror with your arms hanging straight at your sides.
For men, the best suit sleeve length allows half an inch of shirt cuff to hang below the end of the suit jacket sleeve. This does not hold true for most women’s styles: the best suit jacket sleeve length for women has the sleeve ending either right at the top joint of the thumb or just past the wrist bone. Women’s suit jacket sleeves almost always fall partway down onto the hand.
Both women and men will find that different cuts of suits can impact the preferred sleeve length, though. The same brand may offer a regular fit or a slim fit, and the slim fit sleeves may hang just a bit shorter than the regular fit.
You may also find some slight variations in what is considered the right stylish sleeve length, depending on what kind of suit you like. Plus, trends do change over time. But the basics, such as a shoulder seam that hits right at the edge of your shoulder and a sleeve hem that breaks at your wrist, generally do not vary much from brand to brand or style to style.
You can measure sleeve length for a winter coat using the techniques described earlier, but you will want to add in a bit more length than you would for a shirt or suit jacket. The ideal length for coat sleeves ends partway down your hands when your arms hang down at your sides.
The easiest way to see if a winter coat or jacket sleeves fit you is to try on the coat. Fasten it all the way up using its zippers or buttons.
Then hold your arms straight out in front of you like a zombie in a bad horror movie. If the sleeves reach the base of your hand, just past the knobby wrist bone, then they fit you!
One way to find the best hoodie sleeve length is to wear a watch around your wrist and make sure the cuff comfortably covers the watch. Zip-up hoodies or sporty hoodies often follow the same principle as a winter coat–the cuff should reach the base of your hand when you stand with arms reaching straight out in front of you.
In all honesty, you see a lot of variation in what is considered the best hoodie sleeve length. People wear hoodies as part of many different kinds of styles, from grunge to urban chic, so you have to expect some variation! But you can always count on the fact that a hoodie sleeve should never look too short or end above your wrist.
What is the Average Sleeve Length for a Woman?
The average sleeve length for a woman falls between 30 and 31 inches. This covers the typical small to large sizing offered by most brands but does not include extra-small or extra-large.
But some brands will describe sleeve length for women using a measurement from the end of the shoulder to the wrist. In this case, the average sleeve length will fall between 17 and 19 inches.
Sleeve Length Chart
Another easy way to find average sleeve sizing for yourself is to check out this chart!
Average Sleeve Length for a 6 Foot Man
Generally speaking, the average sleeve length for a six-foot man will fall between 35 and 37 inches. This put shirts and jackets into XL sizing for most brands.
If an XL size does not fit you in other areas, such as your torso or waist, you may want to consider getting your clothing altered or finding a brand that sells big and tall clothing that caters to bodies with taller frames longer arms.
How Do You Know If a Sleeve Fits?
One of the best ways to determine if a sleeve fits you is to bend your arm and check to see if the cuff still comfortably rests near your wrist. If the cuff is yanked far up your arm when you bend your elbow, you may have too-short sleeves.
Another good metric is considering the conventions for sleeve length for a particular kind of garment. Hoodie and winter coat sleeves should usually hang quite long, falling midway down your hand or at least past your wrist bone. But suit jacket sleeves have a shorter length to show off the cuffs of the dress shirt beneath.
Can You Alter Sleeve Length?
You can alter sleeve length to make sleeves shorter quite easily. A professional tailor will typically charge between $15 to $30 for this alteration. If you have a sewing machine, you can also complete this alteration yourself with some work.
Making sleeves longer is much more difficult, if not impossible. If you have trouble buying sleeves that fit you just right, you will find it easier to buy a too-big garment with long enough sleeves. You can then tailor the rest of the garment down to size while keeping the sleeves that fit you!
The only popular method for making sleeves longer is to remove the cuffs and add in longer cuffs, but this will impact the style of the shirt, so keep that in mind!
You can find your own sleeve length at home by getting a friend to help your measure the distance from the center back of your neck to your wrist. Another popular method for getting this measurement at home is to spread out a garment that fits you well and measure from the tag at the back of the neck down to the hem of the sleeve. If you want to measure sleeve length while trying on a garment, bend your elbows to make sure you have enough ease in the sleeve for everyday wear.
You should also keep in mind that different kinds of clothes have differing sleeve lengths. Winter coats and hoodies usually have extra-long sleeves that hang partway down your hand, while dress shirts end at or just below the wrist bone. Suit jackets often have a hem that falls just to the top of the wrist bone.
Have you ever tried to measure yourself to get your sleeve length? What method did you use? Leave a comment below to let us know!