You face many style options when you go to the store to buy a shirt or pair of jeans today. Picking the proper cut will determine the shape of your clothing. For example, what is the difference when you compare relaxed fit vs regular fit?
The main difference between relaxed fit and regular fit clothing is that relaxed fit has a looser shape than a regular fit, and regular fit outlines some portions of the body more closely. Both relaxed fit and regular fit garments like jeans, shirts, and t-shirts typically offer more comfort than a slim or skinny fit. The exact measurements of either fit will depend on the specific brand.
In this article, you will learn the key characteristics of relaxed and regular-fit clothing. You will discover how these cuts compare to similar styles. Finally, you will learn what to look for in a relaxed or regular-fit shirt, sweatshirt, t-shirt, or pair of pants.
Relaxed Fit vs Regular Fit: Key Points
This chart offers a quick overview of the key differences between relaxed fit and regular fit clothing.
|Relaxed Fit||Regular Fit|
|Appearance||Loose but not baggy||Straight but not tight|
|Comfort||Designed for comfort with extra room in key areas for ease of movement||Designed with classic lines that often include more space than a tailored fit but not as much as a relaxed fit|
|Cut||Very loose||Loose but structured|
|Body Shape||Great for people with apple, pear, or V shaped bodies, or for anyone who does not like form-fitting clothing||Good for slender or rectangular body types, as well as for anyone who likes traditional clothing shapes|
|Shoulders||Should always end at the ends of the shoulders||Should always end at the ends of the shoulders|
|Chest||Always has extra width in the chest||Often has extra width in the chest but may have slightly tapered side seams|
|Sleeves||Always has wide armholes and may have wider sleeves||Often has generous armholes but sleeves may taper|
|Waist||Can vary||Usually a mid-rise waist at the natural waistline|
|Seat||Lots of extra room for movement and a deep seat created by an extended back rise||A more closely fitted seat but extra width in the thighs|
|Leg Opening||Often at least ½” wider than the leg opening on regular fit jeans||Often quite generous, measuring around 16” though this varies from one brand to another|
What is Relaxed Fit?
Relaxed-fit pants or jeans might have extra fabric in the seat and thighs or even have a longer rise than other cuts in the same style of jeans. This way, you can sit, stand, or squat without the seams of the pants digging into you!
One really important thing to note before you go out and buy relaxed-fit clothing is that there is no golden rule defining what measurements a relaxed-fit garment should have. The precise measurements will vary a lot from one brand to another.
Here’s the deal: suppose that Levis sells a style of jeans called the 501 that has a straight leg and a fairly loose fit. The brand could sell that style in several different cuts, such as a slim-fit 501, a regular-fit 501, and a relaxed-fit 501. Each variation of the original style will have a slightly different way of fitting your body, with more or less fabric included in each one. But every variation will still look very much like the original.
This holds true for shirts and tees as well. You can often buy three or four different fits of the same shirt style from a high-end dress shirt brand, for example. If you want a shirt that shows your shape, you might pick a tailored or slim-fit version. If you want to highlight your muscular chest, you might pick an athletic or muscle cut. And if you want extra room in the shirt for easy movement, you might pick a related fit.
But the measurements of the relaxed-fit shirt could vary even from one shirt to another within the same brand because the relaxed-fit cut is a variation on the original garment.
The bottom line is that the precise fit and measurements of a relaxed fit can vary from one brand to another or even from one garment to another within that brand. What you can count on is that a relaxed fit will always include a little extra fabric and a little more room for movement than the other cuts in the same style of garment.
While most people gravitate toward relaxed-fit clothing because it is more comfortable, you might also choose it because it looks better on you. The looser shape of most relaxed-fit clothing can hide a curve or a bulge much more kindly than the unforgiving line of a slim-fit or tailored style in the same garment.
Plus, some styles, such as looser pants paired with sneakers, remain perennially fashionable even as crazes such as skinny jeans fade in and out of fashion.
A relaxed-fit cut is not always the baggiest, loosest option for a particular garment. Some brands also offer a “loose” cut with an intentionally baggy outline.
What is Regular Fit?Regular fit clothing often includes more fabric than close-fitting cuts of a garment but offers a more structured shape than a relaxed or loose fit in the same garment. A regular-fit shirt will have a little extra room in the shoulders and at the waist. Regular-fit pants or jeans often have a mid-rise with a waistband at your natural waistline, straight legs, and a generous leg opening.
The term “regular fit” often means the most traditional version of a garment style. A regular-fit button-down shirt might have the “dad style” pleat at the center back, for example. Some brands use other terms like “classic” or “standard” instead of regular fit to mean the same original version of a garment.
How regular-fit clothing looks on you can vary enormously from one brand to another. One shirt brand may use this innocuous term to mean the boxy, loose style that looks less trendy than a garment tailored to outline the shape of your body. Other brands offer regular-fit garments that have more of a structure and an outline and incorporate just a little more fabric in the regular-fit cut than in other cuts of the same garment.
Just like with a relaxed-fit garment, you should not assume you know what a regular-fit garment will measure from one brand to another. Instead, always check a sizing chart to see how that brand defines regular fit!
What you can expect is that regular-fit garments usually have a classic, traditional shape incorporating straight lines and enough room to move. A regular fit will not usually cling to your body the way a slim or tailored fit will. It also will not hang off you with lots of loose fabric.
What is the Difference Between Relaxed Fit and Regular Fit?
The main difference between relaxed-fit and regular-fit clothing is that relaxed-fit garments typically feature more fabric than regular-fit garments in key areas to allow for extra mobility. Thi does not necessarily mean that regular-fit clothing fits you more tightly because sometimes the two styles of garments simply include extra fabric in different parts of the garment!
Some brands do not offer a relaxed and a regular fit of a particular garment. For instance, if you go to buy a t-shirt, you may notice that Brand A sells a boxy, classic regular-fit tee, while Brand B does not sell a regular-fit and instead offers a relaxed-fit tee with a loose shape.
Relaxed-fit clothing often looks a little looser than regular-fit clothing, though in some cases, regular-fit garments can have a more boxy appearance than relaxed fit. This is because regular-fit t-shirts, dress shirts, and pants often have a fairly straight cut. Regular-fit jeans, for instance, almost always have straight rather than tapered or extra-wide legs.
The appearance does depend on the type of garment, though. A relaxed-fit t-shirt often has a super loose, draped style, while a regular-fit tee usually has the traditional unisex “box with arms” shape.
The appearance of each cut can also depend on your body type. Some people buy relaxed-fit pants because the longer rise and extra room in the hips provide space for a more generous torso, but when wearing this style, the pants will not look baggy–they will simply look as if they fit your body well.
ComfortRelaxed-fit clothing usually feels more comfortable than regular-fit clothing. This is because a relaxed fit is designed to provide extra space for comfortable movement. The exception to this rule is that some brands use a regular or classic fit as the loosest model they offer. In this case, the regular fit will often have just as much room for movement as the relaxed fit from another brand.
So, why is a relaxed fit so comfortable? A relaxed-fit shirt will typically feature wider armholes that allow your arm to rotate to its full range of movement. Most relaxed-fit shirts also have more fabric in the chest so that the shirt’s width does not constrain your movement. Relaxed fit tees and dress shirts typically have straight side seams that do not taper in toward your waist.
When you look at pants, a relaxed fit always has extra depth in the seat. This makes getting up and down and moving around much easier.
Relaxed and regular-fit garments have slightly different cuts, though this does depend on the particular brand of clothing. A “cut” of a garment means a variation on a certain style that fits more or less closely to certain parts of your body. For example, you can sometimes find three, four, or five cuts of the same style of jeans!
Cuts can include skinny, slim, modern, classic, tailored, athletic, regular, or relaxed, among others. Each of these terms means that the fabric shapes in the garment are cut in a slightly different way to change how the garment fits your body.
Clothing brands offer all this variation because it is easier to make one type of shirt and then offer it in a variety of shapes to appeal to many body types than it is to make dozens of different shirt styles.
The cut of most regular-fit garments has a little extra fabric and many straight lines. It typically has wide armholes and generous leg openings. It can have a boxy look or a little bit of a taper at the waist, sleeves, or pant legs, depending on the brand.
The cut of a relaxed-fit garment always looks looser because it is designed for comfort. It should not look baggy but often has extra fabric in the sleeve, shoulders, chest, waist, and seat.
While people of many body types may enjoy wearing a relaxed or regular fit garment simply because they like the style, each fit does look especially good on certain body types.
Relaxed fit shirts such as t-shirts or dress shirts often look especially good on people with oval or triangular body types because the loose fabric at the waist hides the body curving outward a the waist.
Relaxed-fit pants look great on people with wide hips, as the added depth in the seat provides more space for a bulkier waistline and seat.
Regular-fit shirts often appeal to people with larger frames. This can mean people with broad shoulders or people with an apple or pear-shaped body.
Remember that a regular fit always means a looser shape than a slim or modern fit in shirts, but it can have a different silhouette from one brand to another. A regular-fit dress shirt might have a very boxy shape, or it could have a slight taper.
Regular-fit jeans and pants often look good on people with H-shaped or thin body types. The straight leg of the pants balances out the narrow torso. Relaxed fit pant styles often look baggy on people with this narrow frame, though.
Both a regular fit and a relaxed fit shirt shoulder have shoulder seams that align with the exact end of your shoulder. Otherwise, the shirt will look either too big or too small, no matter what body type you have!
Where the two fits differ is in the shape of the armhole and the width of the sleeve, which can alter the shape of the shirt and make it feel like you have more or less room in the shoulders.
Most of the time, a relaxed-fit shirt will have a loose shape that does not hug the chest, while a regular-fit shirt will outline the chest without clinging to it.
For example, if you compare a regular fit vs a relaxed fit t-shirt, the regular fit would have an overall rectangular shape that will fit more closely to the widest parts of you. A relaxed fit will have an intentionally loose shape in the chest and may look as if it hangs off you, depending on your body shape.
When you compare the sleeves on a regular fit vs a relaxed fit shirt, the armhole and width of the sleeve on a relaxed fit shirt often have a bigger size. However, this is not always the case, depending on the brand and the individual shirt.
Some shirt brands use a regular fit as the loosest, largest cut offered. Other brands like Carhartt have a more fitted, relaxed shirt and a more expansive original fit style!
If you have muscled or large upper arms, you may want to check the measurements in a sizing chart before buying either a relaxed fit or regular fit shirt.
Both relaxed-fit and regular-fit shirts typically have loosely fitted waists, though regular-fit shirts sometimes have slightly tapered side seams that distinguish the waist more clearly than a relaxed-fit shirt does.
You see this distinction more clearly on button-downs than on tees because the relaxed fit and regular fit tees may have a waist that looks the same. Women’s tees often have a baggier, wider waist, even in t-shirts, though.
SeatRelaxed fit jeans and pants typically have a looser, more roomy seat than regular fit jeans. However, this gets a little tricky because regular-fit jeans often have more room in the thighs.
Relaxed-fit pants have a longer rise, meaning they often have more distance between the waistband and the crotch seam. This provides extra depth and room for the posterior. Many relaxed-fit pants also have extra space from side to side in the seat, allowing comfortable wear for people with a rounder bottom.
Regular-fit pants, in contrast, typically have a traditional mid-rise waist that lands right at the natural waistline. They do not have that extra depth in the seat. They offer a straight cut from hip to thigh, meaning that the sides of the pant legs form a straight line instead of curving in at all to show the shape of the leg. This provides lots of space in the hip and thigh areas of the pants.
Leg OpeningBoth relaxed-fit and regular-fit pants usually have straight-cut legs, but relaxed-fit pants typically have a slightly larger leg opening than regular-fit jeans.
The leg opening on a pair of pants describes the circumference of the cuff or the hem at the bottom of the leg. This width tells you how baggy or skinny the pant leg is.
The precise measurements of the leg opening will vary from one brand to another. If you compare a standard like Lee’s Regular Straight Leg jeans for men vs Lee’s Relaxed Fit Straight Leg jeans for men, you will find that the regular version has a 16” leg opening and the relaxed fit has a 16.5” leg opening. But another brand, such as Wrangler’s Extreme Relaxed jeans, has a leg opening of 18.5.”
Relaxed fit clothes work best for people who do not like form-hugging clothes or for people with rounder body types, while regular-fit clothes work for people who prefer a traditional style with some structure but lots of room for movement.
Regular-fit clothes look just a tad more formal than relaxed-fit clothes, especially in pants and jeans. Relaxed-fit jeans often bunch up at the cuff and have wider legs, making them look more casual.
Relaxed Fit vs Regular Fit
Now that you know the key difference between relaxed and regular fit clothes, take a look at the differences for specific types of clothes.
Relaxed fit pants usually have more room in the seat than regular fit pants. Both cuts typically feature straight legs and wide leg openings, though the leg opening on a pair of relaxed-fit pants is often wider.
Just like with pants, relaxed-fit jeans usually have a deeper back rise that provides extra space in the seat, while regular-fit jeans have a closer-fitting seat but generous space in the wide thighs. Both types of jeans usually have straight-cut legs with wide r-than-average leg openings. Relaxed-fit jeans have wider legs that may look baggy, while regular-fit jeans have a traditional straight leg that should not look baggy.
The exact proportions of a relaxed and regular-fit button-down shirt will vary greatly from one brand to another, but most relaxed-fit button-downs have more space in the chest and waist than regular-fit shirts. Some regular-fit button-downs have slightly tapered side seams, giving them a narrow wist than a relaxed fit shirt.
In some cases, relaxed-fit shirts may have larger armholes for additional ease of movement.
Relaxed fit t-shirts always have a super loose fit, as this is often the roomiest style of tee available from many brands. Regular fit tees typically have a more rectangular, traditional shape like the standard unisex tee you can get from any t-shirt brand.
Women’s tees, in particular, can have extra breezy, loose, relaxed fit tees featuring a softer and more drapable material.
Some sweatshirt brands offer looser and more enveloping relaxed-fit styles of sweatshirts or hoodies meant to wear in a slouchy style over several other layers, while a regular fit sweatshirt will have the familiar baggy shape of a classic hoodie.
However, you also see hoodies or sweaters described as close-fitting, average, or overlarge, so the exact terms used can depend on the brand.
Do You Size Down for Relaxed Fit?
Relaxed-fit clothes contain more fabric and a larger shape than regular-fit clothes, so you may want to size down if you do not like such a loose style.
That said, the design of relaxed-fit clothes is meant to provide extra room for movement, and you lose that if you intentionally buy a size smaller. If you like closer fitting clothing with straight lines, you should probably buy regular fit in your normal size instead.
Is Relaxed Fit the Same as Slim Fit?
Relaxed-fit clothes usually have a much looser fit than slim-fit clothes, which often have tapered seams and fit closely to the body. Relaxed-fit jeans will have loose, straight pant legs with a wide leg opening of around 16.5”, while slim-fit jeans have tapered legs that narrow down to a much smaller leg opening of 13” to 14” in most cases.
Relaxed vs Loose Fit
Relaxed fit often has a slightly smaller shape than a loose fit. Not every brand offers both relaxed fit and loose fit, and you sometimes see these terms used interchangeably. But if a brand does offer both, loose fit will offer the roomiest, largest cut.
Regular vs Straight Fit
Regular fit typically features elements of a straight fit. This gets tricky, but straight fit specifically describes the shape of pant legs. You can have straight slim-fit jeans and straight regular-fit jeans, for example. Regular-fit pants or jeans almost always have straight legs that do not taper or narrow through the lower leg.
Athletic vs Relaxed
The main difference between athletic and relaxed fit is that athletic fit highlights particular areas of the body, while relaxed fit simply provides extra space for all parts of the body. For example, athletic-fit jeans provide extra space in the seat and thighs, like relaxed-fit jeans. But they have tapered lower legs, highlighting the muscular, extra-large shape of the thighs.
How To Wear Relaxed Fit Clothes
You can wear relaxed-fit clothes to feel comfortable and look stylish.
- Try contrasting a relaxed-fit garment with a closer-fitting garment. For example, pair relaxed-fit jeans with a regular-fit tee.
- Make sure you buy relaxed-fit instead of just buying clothes a size too large. Key elements of the garment need to fit you properly, such as the shoulder seams.
- Baggy, relaxed-fit tees can easily turn a boring outfit into a streetwear style. Try wearing fashionable sneakers with this outfit, too.
- For a super casual style, wear a long, relaxed-fit hoodie with slimmer pants.
The biggest difference between relaxed and regular-fit clothing is that a relaxed fit often has a looser cut than a regular fit. Regular fit clothes often have more straight lines and traditional structure as well. Relaxed-fit clothes give you more room for movement.
Relaxed-fit jeans and pants often have more room in the seat than regular-fit pants. Relaxed-fit shirts often have more room in the chest and waist than a regular fit. But the exact measurements of a relaxed or regular fit will vary a lot from one brand to another.
Do you like looser-fitting clothes? Which do you prefer, relaxed or regular fit? Leave a comment below to let us know!