How to get pants that fit me?
February 26, 2012 6:40 PM   Subscribe

My girlfriend and I recently spent several hours in our typical U.S. city looking for some new pants for myself, an adult male. Almost none of them fit. I wear a 34" waist (36" was always way too big) and a 34" inseam, but in most of the pants my abdomen showed upward-pointing "smile lines." From looking at some sewing blogs, it looks like this means the crotch is cut too high. My girlfriend says I have a "perky" rear end, so some of the pants were giving me wedgies too, especially the ones made from thinner fabrics. After trying on lots of pants at Nordstrom Rack, Gap, J. Crew, and Banana Republic, we were only able to find a few pairs that actually fit (a pair of khakis at J. Crew, dressier slacks at Banana Republic, and a pair of Levi's 505 straight fit corduroys). I couldn't find any jeans that would fit me at all, but maybe I can find somewhere with 505 jeans.

Will this problem lessen if I lose some weight?

Are there other shops I can visit that will have more pants that fit me?

Could I get pants that don't fit quite right and have them altered to fit? If so, what should I buy, how do I get them altered, and how much will it cost? I've never had anything altered.
posted by anonymous to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (23 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Will this problem lessen if I lose some weight?

How overweight are you?
posted by Ardiril at 6:42 PM on February 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Nordstrom offer tailoring, as do some other stores. You go to menswear and ask a clerk for pants that need adjustments. If you like the pants, you ask to meet with the in-store tailor, who does some measurements, asks some questions, and then shooes you away for a few hours.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:47 PM on February 26, 2012

also, low-cut and frankly...slutty just happens to be the 'style' for mens pants these days. go figure.
posted by sexyrobot at 6:52 PM on February 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

I've taken to wearing carpenter's pants from Dickies; they fit me nicely (32x32) and are very comfortable but may not be suitable if you're fashion-conscious.

Lenny Bruce had his Levis totally dismantled and re-sewn to fit how he wanted; that's probably costly but you'd be in good company if you take that route.
posted by anadem at 6:58 PM on February 26, 2012

I'm 6'2," and I wear 34x34 jeans. The best fitting jeans I ever got were Levis "authentic signature" straight fit jeans, from Target, for like $19. Good clothes don't have to be expensive! They were so much more comfortable than everything else I had that I bought like 5 pairs and threw everything else out.
posted by amcm at 7:32 PM on February 26, 2012

I'm a 34x36, and the thing most people don't talk about is there's more to fit than those two measurements. (Another thing most people don't talk about is that many places are lying about those measurements — look up "vanity sizing".) I've had many trousers altered or flat-out made for me.

If you're lucky, you'll find something that fits perfectly. This is unlikely to happen. What you want, if you're getting something off the rack at any place without an in-store tailor, is a) something that fits as closely as possible, and b) a tailor of your own. Regarding the fit, it's easier to make something smaller than larger since it's obvious fabric can be taken away but you're never quite sure how much extra there is to let out. And you want to have the fit be as close as possible so the alterations are minimal, both in terms of cost and look — taking out a little bit here and there is merely getting the garment to fit you correctly, whereas making it much smaller can change the shape in an obvious way. Checking style forums for people talking about your city is a good way to find a tailor. Cost varies, but shouldn't be expensive. Tailors can take in waists, butts, thighs, calves. They can shorten the legs. Pretty much anywhere there's a seam, they can change it. (And as said before, they can also let things out provided there's extra fabric.)

If there's an in-store tailor, they should know what they're doing. The cost should be minimal or zero.

And going back to there being more to fit than merely waist and inseam, a previous tailor would purposefully get me 35s and take in the waist an inch since they fit me in the thighs much better than 34s.

You don't say what your style is or what you're looking for other than where you shopped and what you got (and that you failed to get jeans). I'd probably stay away from the trendier places, partly because sexyrobot has a point and partly because their quality isn't that good, neither the construction nor the fabric.
posted by cardioid at 7:36 PM on February 26, 2012

mr. needled has this problem - after trying on nearly everything out there, the only jeans that fit him were from Brooks Brothers and L. L. Bean, and for office pants Polo Ralph Lauren. The thing to note is even within the same brand, jeans may fit but khakis may not. It seems brands catering to an older clientele (compared to the Gap or Banana Republic) work better with his build.
posted by needled at 7:40 PM on February 26, 2012

Indeed, a tailor is the answer. To be more specific: buy pants that fit you in the hips (no crotch smile or pocket ears) and have them taken in as needed.
posted by joshuaconner at 7:57 PM on February 26, 2012

You can order Lands' End jeans to the waist and inseam that you want. Waist in whole inches, inseam to the quarter inch.
posted by fieldtrip at 8:23 PM on February 26, 2012

I know dudes who swear by Bonobos, though you may have a heart attack when you see their prices.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 9:38 PM on February 26, 2012

Levis 505 jeans are usually well represented at Macys, Kohls, and equivalent stores. You don't specify the city, so I can't offer more suggestions.
posted by blob at 10:03 PM on February 26, 2012

You could try Shrink to Fit Levi 501s? I have a fairly big ass despite my 33 inch waist, and I think they are breaking in pretty well. Only thing is you have to soak them in hot water in a bathtub, and gamble a little bit on the upsizing, etc. Also, you could just go to a tailor and get measurements and advice probably, I mean, you are looking for clothes that fit and that is their professional goal in some roundabout way.
posted by oceanjesse at 10:24 PM on February 26, 2012

I have a terrible time finding pants that fit. As for brands, I would recommend going to Brooks Brothers. They have four distinct fits and you might find something that works. Also, I find the quality to be a step above J Crew and Banana Republic (they also have great sales if you are willing to wait - and the pants come in a variety of casual and dress styles). Frankly, the best fitting pair of pants I own are from Howard Yount. Expensive, but the quality is amazing and they'll last forever. (I'm in the process of buying less clothes of higher quality rather than a bunch of cheap clothes that will wear out in a couple of years.) You might also look at Epaulet.

A good tailor can also help a lot. As mentioned above, if you can find a pair you like that fit in the hips a tailor can take fabric in anywhere (waist, crotch, seat) plus hem, tapered the leg, or raise the seat. If you have some pants at home that don't fit just right, use them to experiment. Fees vary widely, but a hem+taper leg+take in seat might set you back $40 to $50. It might seem like a lot, but I have found that it really is worth it.

Try Bonobos, too. They have a good coupon for first time purchases, plus they will take returns any time even if you have altered the pants. Free shipping, too. They didn't work for me, unfortunately. If you want to do the online route, Dockers has free shipping and ton of different fits. Other brands, Lands End Canvas, LL Bean Signature, Rugby.
posted by imposster at 6:12 AM on February 27, 2012

BTW 505 Levi's are the same fit as 501s but with a zipper instead of a button-fly.
posted by imposster at 6:15 AM on February 27, 2012

If/when you do talk to a tailor you should be discussing the 'rise'. This is the distance and contour between the crotch and the waist. A different rise will dramatically change the way pants fit and feel. No more smiling unless there's something happy in your pants.
posted by Gungho at 6:19 AM on February 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

My boyfriend is 34 x 34 - and his favorite jeans are Urban Expressions from Kohl's in slim and Levis slim.
posted by quodlibet at 6:28 AM on February 27, 2012

Are you sure you aren't pulling them up too high?
Mens pants these days are cut with a low-rise, especially those in stores that tend to follow trends.

I agree it's annoying. I've had the most luck finding pants that fit "like they're supposed to" by looking in the "old guy" section of major department stores (tends to be where Haggar and the like are found). Also, if you don't mind paying more, Tommy Bahama pants seem to be immune to this trend.

Also, a lot of the major brands (Dockers, etc) have a style that includes a higher waistline. Sometimes it's called "classic fit", sometimes "natural", "relaxed" or "vintage".

If you can't find anything like that where you are, try a different inseam size. I've found with a lot of the newer styles, I've suddenly gotten 2 inches shorter.
posted by madajb at 8:56 AM on February 27, 2012

Put This On has a timely post on trousers. Pay attention to the third point, regarding what you can tailor.
posted by cardioid at 9:11 AM on February 27, 2012

i am 34x34 as well, and have 4 pairs of these, my favorite pants:
posted by beukeboom at 9:31 AM on February 27, 2012

Try being 34x29!

I've found that it's easiest for me to find pants that well fit off-the-rack, but might need a slight hem. Right now, that's Levis 559s. I then go on Amazon and order as many as I want (usually significantly cheaper than the store), and haul them over to the tailor to get them hemmed before even washing them.

I end up spending about $45 per pant, but they fit awesomely and are cheap enough that you can get enough different washes (colors) to fit whatever your mood is that day.
posted by chrisfromthelc at 10:43 AM on February 27, 2012

You are correct: pants are getting snugger and higher-cut. I am about 6'1" and have happily worn L.L. Bean or Lands' End or Gap pants for years -- but suddenly all the pants are cut more snugly (I can't get my hands in my pockets!) and lower. I hate it.

Don't laugh, but I bought some "Covert Khakis" from 5.11 (yes, the people who make Andy Ihnatko's famous "Internet pants") and they are more comfortable than other pants. They are marketed as pants for cops, so there's extra fabric -- a gusset -- in the crotch to enable…I don't know, chasing scumbags down an alley or something.

I mention it because you might get a more comfortable fit looking at clothes for tradesmen (e.g., Carhartt, Dickies, Duluth Trading) than for office-dwellers. I bought two pair of the 5.11 khakis, and when i saw that they were being discountinued I bought three more in the next size up! I still need to get them altered, but it will be worth it for pants that I can wear comfortably all day long whether I am at my desk or in the data center or walking across town.
posted by wenestvedt at 12:10 PM on February 27, 2012

Seconding "rise". You want pants with a long rise. They have a lower crotch (farther from the waistband) than regular rise, giving you more room in the seat and crotch. Googling turns up pants from Eddie Bauer among others.
posted by exphysicist345 at 1:27 PM on February 27, 2012

My husband is a 34/34 and has the same issues. After trying lots of jeans for him, I finally found that tommy Bahama jeans worked for him. They are expensive, but you might be able to find them on sale at a department store if you look.
posted by bananafish at 6:52 AM on March 2, 2012

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