You might have seen the antics in a cloakroom with someone trying on a new pair of pants. It’s an acrobatic sight of a thigh-high left and a right knee-bend to find the best fit. The technicality of a good fit lies in the inseam measurement. That’s why knowing how to measure an inseam and what your inseam measurement is, is good.
For men, the inseam on a pair of pants stretches from the base seam up to the crotch. Women measure the inseam of a pair of pants in line with the highest part of their thigh. And then down the inside of the pant leg to the opening at the bottom. An inseam length also depends on the style of pants, like boot-cut, slender, or wide-cut.
- Table or the floor
- Pair of well-fitting pants
- Flexible tape measure or a tailor’s tape
- Notebook and pen or pencil
Get to use ten easy how-to steps to measure the inseam of pants.
Step 1. Get a Pair of Pants From Your Closet
You might be out shopping and rushing to buy a pair of pants. Or, thinking of an online order and want to ensure the sizing, fit, and degree of comfort of a pair of pants is correct. Rather than being hesitant to rush out or order e-tail, do what world-class tailors have done for centuries: know your inseam fit.
It’s possible to know the best fit for pants even before trying a pair. Most pants have the inseam measurement on the label, which removes the guesswork. Each of us has a specific inseam measurement though most pants are sized on standard averages.
There is also a ratio for working out the inseam in legwear designs. You want these lengths to be shorter and to avoid dragging on the floor. But not give the highwater-look either.
The ratio looks at a person’s height and is calculated as about 45 percent of one’s height, which works out to:
- 2.2 to 1 ratio
Besides the ratio, you can have someone measure you or check one of your pairs of pants' labels. Men's pants often have a waist and a crotch to the base of the pants or inseam measurements, like 34 x 32. Women's pants sometimes have this information. Knowing your inseam measurement will save you time and is as helpful as knowing your shoe or bra size.
But we are all different proportions, so even this ratio is approximate. But you can get an idea by multiplying your height by 0.45, which will give you an immediate indication of your inseam measurement. Some people have shorter legs and others longer ones, though. But this formula is suitable if you don’t have a pair of good-fitting pants in your wardrobe.
But by far, the easiest way to take the guesswork out of getting the best fit and knowing your inseam is to use a pair of pants from your closet.
Step 2. Choose a Pair That Matches What You’re Looking For
Choose a pair similar to the one you want to buy in a shop or online. The size will depend on the design of the pants. It has to be a good fit and comfortable. Make sure that the length of the pair of pants is right.
The inseam reaches, in men, from the crotch to the ankle or the length you want your pants to be. Interestingly women only started wearing pants in the sixties. The change in fashion came after women's activists had been agitating for close to a century.
Women’s inseam measurement differs from men's and starts in line with the highest point of their thigh, and down to the height the pants reach above their ankle. The actual inseam also depends on the design of the pants and is influenced by the kinds of shoes women wear – high-heels, pumps, or sneakers. And for heels, add at least 1 inch to your inseam measurement.
Step 3. Find a Flat Level Surface
If you’ve got the pair of pants you want to measure, you must find a flat surface to measure the inseam. The surface has to be level and clutter-free to make measuring the inseam easy and to ensure you get the correct measurement. You can use a dining room table or even the floor.
Step 4. Get a Tape Measure, Paper, and Pen
Make sure you have a flexible tape measure like tailors tape. It is easier to use this measuring tape than it is to use a ruler or a steel measuring tape. But of course, you can use these. Also, have a notebook and pen to jot down the measurement.
You must know the magic inseam number for you, as this will save you time when shopping.
Step 5. Spread Pants Out Flat
Put the pair of pants on a flat surface, a table, or the floor. Place the pants with the front side up, horizontally in front of you. Make sure there are no creases and that the pants are lying flat. With your hands, neatly smooth out the pants.
Step 6. Fold Pants Lengthwise
With the pair of pants neatly laid out and flat, take the top and bottom ends with both your hands and fold these lengthwise. Lie one side of the pants on top of the other. You will end up folding the pants in half.
Smooth the pants out and make sure there are no bulges and creases. It would help if you kept the waist and seat the same height. And so, too, the legs of the pants, one on top of the other. And line up the top of the two sides of the pants and the bottom hems.
Step 7. Fold the Top Pant Leg Back
With the pants folded in half, one leg on top of the other, lift the top pant leg up. Take the pant leg towards the top of the pants. Fold the pant leg neatly over the waistband and smooth the pant leg down. You’ll see the different sewing joins or seams that make up the seat and the legs of the pants.
A back seam runs along the seat of the pants from the waistband to the crotch. The other seams run on the side and another down inside the pant leg.
Step 8. Finding the Crotch
Next, you must follow the seat seam to the spot where the inside leg seam joins. The join is the seam on the crotch. When measuring men’s pants, this is the point you use for getting the length of the inseam. Each person is different in build and height, and the inseam on pants also differs.
In addition, measuring the inseam for women differs from that of men. Not only the style of pants makes a difference but also the kinds of shoes. Sometimes pants are designed just above the shin, or these can be wide-legged, skinny, or straight-legged.
The reason for finding out about the inseam is to have a pair of pants that's not short or long, and the inseam also depends on the pants' design, like a wide-leg, skinny, or straight-leg cut. You can also have pants with a boot cut or tapered, which affects the inseam length. But finding the crotch (for men) and the highest hip point and working inwards (for women) is best.
Step 9. Measuring Inseam From Crotch to Base of Pants
Before measuring, ensure the pants lie flat and smooth, with no wrinkles, and lying level. Measure from the crotch point along the inside of the leg seam. Measure straight down to the bottom of the pants. The inseam runs from the crotch, down the inside seam, to the bottom of the pants.
Ensure you run your tape measure carefully down the inside leg seam. You must measure from the crotch to the bottom of the pants. The seam measurement from the crotch to the bottom of the pants, either turned-up or straight-hemmed, is your inseam measurement. You must do this measurement carefully. And remember to write the height down.
Step 10. Exact Measurement Matters
Ensure that you measure the exact crotch to bottom hem measurement. For a store-bought pair, you should settle for the closest figure to the ready-to-wear pair of pants. But for alterations or ones made to size, you have to give a tailor the exact inseam measurement, not rounded off up or down.
Interestingly, besides using a mirror and tape measure and rolling the tape down from your crotch or in line with the highest hip point to the length you want your pants, and getting the inseam measurement, you can also ask someone to help you.
Stand upright against a wall, legs together, and use cardboard wedged between your legs. Have a helper check the top of the board and measure down as far as you want the pants to fit.
In London's prestigious Saville Row, Huntsman uses hi-tech to get, among others, inseam measurements. Huntsman does these remotely and has pioneered ‘teleporting the bespoke experience’ using cameras and robots, much like doing surgery remotely! The technology shows the importance of measuring our body shape for the best fit.
So make a point of getting to know your inseam measurement to take the stress out of shopping retail or e-tail. Even a good idea to remember your inseam measurement if someone asks you for your size to gift you a pair of pants. You can easily have a perfect fit without stress, and no need for alterations, if you know your inseam measurement.