En-Chino Man
November 12, 2018 9:18 AM   Subscribe

Good news! After a year of daily exercise I've lost 30 pounds. Bad news! None of my clothes fit anymore. Worse news: I don't know what size I even am, because of the scourge of vanity sizing. Help? I need new chinos, and I am a unique snowflake, just like everyone else.

My natural waist is 35". My lower waist (where I prefer my pants to sit) is about 36". Most of my nominal 36" waist pants come in at a minimum of 38", with a couple even looser than that. I also just measured the actual inseam of a couple pairs and it came to 33", which isn't the marked 34", and is much less than the 36" inseam of the Levi's I had to buy in high school. I'm wearing lower profile shoes than I used to wear (I am not ready for that particular nostalgia) back when a 34" inseam didn't even reach my shoelaces, but my legs have not gotten any shorter. So I used to wear a 36 × 36, then I wore a 36 × 34 which was somehow still long enough, and now a 36 × 34 pair of pants is so big in the waist I can remove them without unbuttoning them. If it matters, my hips and chest both measure at 39" with a tape, and I've already realized I now wear size medium shirts, which is still new and strange to me. (For dress shirts, outside the scope of this question, I wear a 16½-17" neck, depending on the maker, and a 37" sleeve when I can find one; slim or trim fit shirts look best on me, normal cuts are a bit billowy, and athletic cut shirts look clownish).

So. What size pants do I wear now, in the weird world of vanity sizing? 34 × 34? The rarely seen 35 × 34? Something else? Is there, like, some Teutonic Tailoring company that refuses to accept vanity sizing and sells a 36" pair of pants that's really a 36" pair of pants?

For bonus points, where can I buy chinos in whatever my new size is? Out of the ones I own now, my favorites are Lands End Canvas "628 Straight," which are not only not made anymore, the whole Canvas line was burned to the ground and the Earth salted when the company ousted the CEO behind it. The pants I like are flat front and have a pretty slim cut through the thigh, straight legs, and an 8.5" leg opening (measured flat). My preference is for 100% cotton without any sort of wrinkle-free treatment (I don't like the feel) and without any spandex (feels fine, but stretches out weirdly over time). I'm not interested in "skinny" chinos or stretch anything, and athletic cut trousers look weird on me. Are my options basically just the Emerson Straight Chino from Banana Republic? I know Bonobos is a thing but it looks like I can't get the combination of fit and non-stretch that I want. Is it safe to buy J. Crew again? Can I find the sort of chinos I want at some fast fashion retailer, or is everything there wrinkle-free and/or stretch and/or skinny?
posted by fedward to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
I don’t mean to be glib but I think the answer is what I (and I think many women) do. Order a bunch of stuff online in varying sizes, try it all on, and then send back what doesn’t work. If something is close but no cigar, take it to a tailor.
posted by raccoon409 at 9:20 AM on November 12, 2018 [10 favorites]


Yeah, just find a retailer with free shipping and returns. I use Macy's pretty much exclusively for clothes because of their excellent search engine, how fast the shipping is and how easy their returns are. Very easy to hit the minimum for free shipping. Order several pairs of pants, you can have all this taken care of within a week or so.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:42 AM on November 12, 2018


I can't speak to their men's sizing, but Uniqlo has chinos in both slim and regular cuts, and if you order online you can select free alterations to get a custom inseam (at half-inch intervals, even).
posted by misskaz at 9:56 AM on November 12, 2018 [3 favorites]


Seconding what others have said -- just buy a whole bunch of clothes so you get free shipping and put it on credit, but make sure that either returns are free or you can send it all back in one package for a single shipping charge (you want retailers that have pre-paid labels--that tends to be cheaper). I think of it as cheaper than gas/time expenses of going to 15 different stores in person. Make sure you try on and return stuff promptly to save on any charges, etc. Shops I like for this purpose: zappos.com, amazon.com (they often have multiple clothing brands), macys.com, nordstrom rack online. Bonus tip: for all that stuff that's taking up space in your closet and that you will never wear again, post it on poshmark.com . You'll have to do a bit of upfront work, but I've had the best luck selling stuff on there, and Poshmark takes the most reasonable cut of sales earnings out of all second hand selling options I've found. It sometimes takes a while to sell, but you can just keep stuff in your closet and watch it go little by little, paying yourself back for your new, nice-fitting clothes. Once you find some brands and sizes you really like you can also get some really nice stuff on there for a fraction of the cost, sometimes new with tags. Good luck!
posted by dubhemerak3000 at 10:05 AM on November 12, 2018


As above. I think it's better for men, but I can't assume I'm the same size from one brand to the next even (women's clothes). Anyway, Stitch Fix does men!
posted by jrobin276 at 10:15 AM on November 12, 2018


I am particular enough about my chinos that I asked a question about them on here, and a couple of years before that question, when I was in a similar situation to where you are now, I just emailed the Customer Service link on as many websites as I could think of and asked for measurements. My main concern was rise, but I also requested ankle and thigh width. This is where chinos being a fairly boring item of clothing comes in handy: a lot of the retailers who sell them, such as LL Bean and Lands' End, still pride themselves on their service, so the vast majority responded helpfully. (Least helpful: J. Crew, shockingly.) I bought a few pairs based on the measurements I received, and kept the ones that fit best.
posted by kevinbelt at 10:27 AM on November 12, 2018


The material things are made of will affect how things fit. So a 36” waist in one kind of cotton weave and weight will feel and hang and move differently to a 36” in a different type of cotton. Washing things can affect them, too, so that a nominal 34” inseam can end up closer to 33” after time in a drier. It’s a gamble for sure! (And try to wash stuff in cold water & line dry.) But once you’ve tried a few things and are comfortable with particular brands’ reliability, you’ll have a better idea of what sizes to get where.

What I can tell you (having done a shop for someone yesterday) is that Banana Republic does dress pants in a 35” waist. (I saw them in the store, if they’re not in your local BR, they probably will be online. Not sure about chinos.)

Congrats on your weight loss!
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:35 AM on November 12, 2018


I don’t mean to be glib but I think the answer is what I (and I think many women) do. Order a bunch of stuff online in varying sizes, try it all on, and then send back what doesn’t work.

I don't take it as glib at all, and I'm pretty familiar with how it works (and often doesn't work) for my wife. I think I'm still just in denial that inch-based sizing isn't really inch-based sizing. NOTHING IS REAL.

Stitch Fix does men!

Yeah, if I were in the mood to refresh my whole wardrobe as an ongoing project I'd probably already be signed up for Trunk Club, which seems closer to my vibe than Stitch Fix. Right now I'm still adjusting to this new "slim fit everything" world and haven't quite landed on a style.
posted by fedward at 10:44 AM on November 12, 2018


My answer for this has been Lands End for nearly the last decade. Their sizing is almost always bang-on, their return policy is exactly what you want, and there's enough selection.
posted by Making You Bored For Science at 12:07 PM on November 12, 2018


ASOS also carries a variety of brands and sizes and has free shipping and free returns. As a lady I like going there for jeans. (And they usually list the models size so I can at least guesstimate based on that.) Also as someone whose weight has fluctuated its not just about the size but also the fit. Things fit me totally differeny as my size changed. Have fun and explore!
posted by Crystalinne at 1:24 PM on November 12, 2018


The good news is that men's pants, although vanity-sized, are still a lot more reliable across brands than women's pants. So once you figure out your new size and preferred cut, you'll be able to order it with a high (although not guaranteed) chance of success.

My advice is to stop trying to find a non-vanity-sized brand and instead treat sizes as variable names. It sounds like a 36x34 pant is now both too wide and too short for you. So... try on a 34x36 pant. If you get much skinnier you'll find it hard to track down your size, but for now 34x36 is not a particularly uncommon size.

Yes, nothing is real in the world of mass-market clothing. Get used to it ;)
posted by serelliya at 3:36 PM on November 12, 2018


Instead of ordering various pairs, what about going to a store nearby, trying the different sizes on there, and find which one fits best? Don't worry about the style too much; we're looking at making sure they fit. Then you have a baseline/template to work from instead of dealing with tons of returns.

So let's say the template pair of pants you like is marked as 34 x 34. I then suggest trying one or two other stores in-person, trying on their 34 x 34 pants, and seeing if, on average, they have the fit you like. Some departments stores will also help you with sizing. A couple hours work for easy shopping in the long run.

Then order the actual pair of pants you want online.
posted by lesser weasel at 5:12 PM on November 12, 2018


Is there a reason you can't just go to a shop and try things on?
posted by penguin pie at 6:16 AM on November 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


LLBean makes returns very easy. I've worked phones at LLBean, and they will give you the exact measurements of garments. Eddie Bauer and Lands' End are similar. All have lots of chinos, reasonable quality, all make an attempt to be stylish.
posted by theora55 at 7:26 AM on November 13, 2018


I can't speak to their men's sizing, but Uniqlo has chinos in both slim and regular cuts, and if you order online you can select free alterations to get a custom inseam (at half-inch intervals, even).

Agreement that 'pick a few retailers and order bracketed sizes from each' is the way to go, here; and that, specifically, I like Uniqlo for men's chinos because of the aforementioned free alternations and also because they actually do regularly stock 35x34 and other hard-to-find-in-store sizes.

You could go to a store (of any given retailer), but there you run the risk of them not having the sizes you actually want to test -- if they have a 34x34 and a 36x34, but a 35x, you'll never know if the 35x fit better than either of the two sizes up and down.
posted by cjelli at 9:26 AM on November 13, 2018


My answer for this has been Lands End for nearly the last decade. Their sizing is almost always bang-on, their return policy is exactly what you want, and there's enough selection.

Have you looked lately? Nearly everything is some combination of undesired traits like no iron, "comfort waist" (meaning that it has built in elastic), or "comfort fit" (spandex). They do have some straight leg chinos but they are apparently discontinued, and available only in limited sizes. If they hadn't discontinued the ones I have, I'd have ordered more of them in a smaller size instead of asking here.

Is there a reason you can't just go to a shop and try things on?

The biggest reason is just ugh, I hate that. Making time for it is also a problem, and I've always had trouble finding my size in stock because everything is too short. If I can at least start with a short list of likely candidates I can limit the total amount of frustration.
posted by fedward at 4:59 PM on November 14, 2018


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