Do these pants make my shirt look big?
December 17, 2006 11:27 AM   Subscribe

My clothes never fit. How can I make them fit?

I'm a small guy (my shirt says so) at about 5'10" 150lbs, and my clothes never fit. Shirt sleeves always seem too long, or chests/stomachs too big. Pants always feel like they could give or take an inch on the waist or in-seam.

What parts of clothing have to fit me correctly off-the-shelf and what parts can a tailor fix? Are t-shirts just as alterable as dress shirts which are just as alterable as sweaters?

In short: Tell me everything there is to know about getting my clothes to fit.

And lastly, can anyone recommend a tailor in San Diego?
posted by hamhed to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (21 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
It depends where you shop. Different stores/ chains sell cloths with different cuts. American cut shirts are GOING to be big on a slim person.

Look for European retailers, and designers (although they do make cloths for "American sizes.")

I recommend Zara, and maybe H&M.
posted by stratastar at 11:52 AM on December 17, 2006

regardless of what your shirt says you are what used to be normal, or rather medium, before obesity became rampant.

as a matter of fact, my husband is also your weight and height. and guess what? he has the same problem finding clothes that fit.

a good tailor can make pants smaller if they are only an inch or so too big in the waist. try for pants that don't have pleats, flat-front pants like the ones at banana republic, for example. and if they are too deep, if the crotch is too roomy, that can also be fixed. but really, try on lots of different styles by different manufacturers!

as for shirts--try on many different styles by a whole lot of different makers. eventually you will try one on that actually fits you! then you can buy several of that kind. sad to say, most clothing in the USA is geared toward the overweight, so that shirts in particuar are not as a rule fitted. if you have the money, higher end stores will have on offer better fitting shirts, pants and jackets.

i have no idea what it costs to alter a shirt. i havent ever heard of altering a t-shirt. but t-shirts that they sell in boutiques for way too much money often are cut smaller and fit better. i know this because my son is 5"10 and 135, a very light physique, and he prefers his t-shirts tight. the clothing lines geared toward younger men, the trendier ones, are a good bet for well-fitting t-shirts.

good luck!
posted by subatomiczoo at 11:57 AM on December 17, 2006

I second trying different stores...even the same stores in different parts of the city.

Also, for tees...if "smalls" are too big (at least partially) for you, I would try a) buying cotton and shrinking it on purpose, b) buying the tees sold as undershirts (in packages in the underwear section, usually) as they tend to be snugger, c) despite the irritatingness, looking at kid's sections. Especially for things like tees where the differences in style etc will be minimal. I know a few super-petite/slim girls who swear by GAP kids clothes.
posted by sarahkeebs at 12:00 PM on December 17, 2006

I remember reading about a process to make your t-shirts fit well. Take a favorite shirt and use it as a template - mark about a half-inch or so out from it's outline on another shirt, then cut the other shirt and sew up the new edges - basically. I think you line up the shoulders and neck, then work on the rest, including sleeves
posted by chupwalla at 12:03 PM on December 17, 2006

I'm a slim guy myself and I feel your pain. The trouble with altering pants is that they should fit in the waist and be too long (or, in the right circumstances, only a hair too short) in the leg. In my case (28" waist, 32" inseam), it can be difficult to find pants in my waist size that are even close to long enough. Shirts you'll have an easier time with; I'm sure you can find something that fits in the shoulder and sleeve but feels boxy around your torso, and then you can just have it taken in so it has a flattering taper in the waist.
I'd also recommend a trip to your local H&M, which provides affordable, slim-fitting shirts and some smaller pants, as well. Club Monaco carries some slimmer clothing, particularly pants; their sale racks have been good to me, if price is a concern. Also look at stores with a more European influence, like Sisley or United Colors of Benneton; they'll carry clothes tailored to a smaller man.
posted by Help, I can't stop talking! at 12:04 PM on December 17, 2006

And by Benneton, I meant Benetton. Oops.
Oh, and for t-shirts: American Apparel.
posted by Help, I can't stop talking! at 12:07 PM on December 17, 2006

Ben Sherman has about three different "tightnesses" for their shirts. The slim-fitting ones are pretty damn tight on me, so you might want to check them out.

Also check out Modern Amusement.

Ben Sherman you can probably find at Macy's and Urban Outfitters. You might find Modern Amusement at those stores as well, but hipster boutiques are a better bet.
posted by univac at 12:22 PM on December 17, 2006 [1 favorite]

What parts of clothing have to fit me correctly off-the-shelf and what parts can a tailor fix?

For a half-decent tailor/clothier, shortening the sleeves on a dress shirt is a fairly standard alteration. Adjusting the overall chest/collar size is not.
posted by chrismear at 1:56 PM on December 17, 2006

I'm an inch taller and 10 pounds heavier than you, so I have similar problems. If you're going off-the-rack, look for shirts labeled "fitted", "athletic", or "modern" -- they'll be a little narrower in the waist and chest. (And, as someone else said, you have can have shirts taken in at the waist.)

Also, don't forget to the check the online counterparts of the stores/brands you shop. A lot of retailers (and manufacturers) have stopped selling special sizes in the malls, but still offer them online. I have to online-order almost all my jeans, for example, because I wear a 31/34.

In fact, your remark about pants feeling "like they could give or take an inch" suggests you've just got odd-sized hips and legs. Hemming pants and jeans is trivial (for a tailor), so concentrate on getting the waist size right (especially on jeans, since they're more difficult to alter in the waist), and buy the pants an inch long if you have to.
posted by faster than a speeding bulette at 2:00 PM on December 17, 2006

Where are you shopping? Assuming you're in the US, If you want tee shirts, try the 'preppy' style stores like Abercrombie. Their sizes tend to run small. Stay away from Gap & Old Navy, as they run very large. You'll have to try a lot of different stores before you find ones that make the right fit. Sizing varies a lot between stores, as I have shirts from XS to XL, depending on where they came from.

Men's pants come in all sizes, so if you're wearing a 30x32, why don't you try a 29x32, since you say about an inch? (example).

If you really want to have them custom tailored, most department stores will do that for you. I've used Nordstrom's for my husband and myself, and they have always been very quick and high quality.

"regardless of what your shirt says you are what used to be normal, or rather medium, before obesity became rampant."
150 for an adult male is rather thin - my husband is the same height, 175, and he's pretty lean. He only has to buy large shirts because he has broad shoulders. Besides, what sizes used to be doesn't help in the present ;)
posted by jesirose at 2:01 PM on December 17, 2006

This might be a dumb suggestion, but if you've got time you could learn to sew.

I took a sewing class, bought a sewing machine, second hand and reconditioned for under $100.00. Now I have started making my own clothes, and I'm also learning to alter existing clothing.

Otherwise take them to an alteration place if the store itself does not offer the service and get them to measure you and adjust the clothes to fit. A tailor can make a huge difference to the fit of your clothes.
posted by tomble at 3:34 PM on December 17, 2006

I am 6'1" and ~150, on a fat day. I second what a few people said. Go for European clothes, or higher end american stuff.

I can't find a pair of levis or gap jeans that fit well to save my life, but Banana Republic jeans fit me like a dream. In fact everything at BR fits me. Try to find a store where one thing fits you nicely, and keep shopping there because it's likely other stuff will fit you too. You might feel like a tool having all your clothes from one place (like I do), but it's better than having nothing fit you at all.

If the store is too highend for you (like BR is for me), become a compulsive sale shopper for that store. I never buy anything at BR that's not on sale.
posted by milarepa at 5:03 PM on December 17, 2006

I'm adding this only because I feel it wasn't stressed enough. Buy what you like and get it altered to fit you. In my area, almost every shopping center has an alterations center and most dry cleaners offer that as well. Also, several dept stores and speciality men's stores can offer alteration, but they can be pricy. The best thing I've found is to find a good independent store and visit them frequently. They'll get to know you and your body and how you like things to fit. Also, don't be afraid to ask them to do something over if you don't like the original alteration - most of them are happy to do that. I buy most of my clothes at Goodwill and then have them altered to fit perfectly. It ends up being slightly cheaper than buying off the rack and properly fitting clothes make you look you spent a million bucks.
posted by katyjack at 6:08 PM on December 17, 2006

As another person who's too small for a lot of U.S. fat clothes (in my case, especially after getting in shape), I've had good luck at places that cater to the teens-with-spare-change demographic. Hollister is good (if a little cheaply made sometimes), some good stuff at Gap or Old Navy if you dig around. H&M is good, although at my age I look pretty silly in half the stuff they sell (and anything they sell with fake fur sheds like crazy).

For dress shirts, the staff at a typical department store is just waiting for someone to come in and ask them about how shirts fit. For nice-fitting shirts, you'll have to pay a little more--the cheap ones are all just cloth boxes with fitted necks. Brooks Brothers might be an option, depending on how expensive you want to go. Next step up from that is custom-made.

Good tailors for alterations don't have to be expensive. My guess is that there's a Vietnamese neighborhood in your area with several excellent places with lots of repeat business.
posted by gimonca at 6:57 PM on December 17, 2006

My husband is 5'10 and 125 lbs. I buy him clothes at Urban Outfitters, and they fit better than any other store's clothes. The shirts are cut slimmer in the chest and the pants go down to waist size 28. I find that the Urban Outfitters stores disappoint in the men's department, but the online store (and the awesome online sales) have a great men's selection for slimmer guys.
posted by gokart4xmas at 7:43 PM on December 17, 2006

Best answer: You asked what parts of the clothes need to fit if you're going to alter them. This is a good question, because it means once you've got it answered, you can take advantage of a wider range of selections when you're buying things, and you won't have to abandon something you really want just because it doesn't fit you perfectly (yet). You have discovered the secret of the rich and the beautifully-attired: you don't have to wear it the way it was hatched.

Dress and casual pants: For a person of your build, fit the widest part of your body. Another important place to fit is the rise, which is the distance around the seat and package zone from front to back between the legs. Waists and leg lengths and leg widths and taper can all be altered.

Jeans: Waist and rise. Thicker fabric, complicated cuts, pockets, and washed-in detailing make jeans harder to alter in the waist, although it is possible. Jeans are available in so many individual cuts and sizes that it is probably worth the treasure hunt to find the brand that's shaped like you already.

Dress shirts: Fit the shoulders and the collar size.

Blazers and suitcoats: Fit the shoulders and length, with a secondary attention to sleeve length. If you'll be shopping at a quality store for a serious wardrobe piece, you may have staff at your retailer available to help you fit professionally. If you're stopping off at the mall, maybe not.

T-shirts and sweaters: Depending on style, you might be better off to buy in a smaller range (i.e. youth instead of adult) than to try to alter these. However, if you want to try, you can have them taken in at the side seams with chupwalla's technique above.

It costs a little more to get things altered or tailored, but it's worth it.
posted by Sallyfur at 10:40 PM on December 17, 2006 [2 favorites]

i am almost exactly the same size (5'11", 155lbs).

i have had good luck with levi's jeans, but you'll have better luck if you actually go to the 'levi's store'.

gap has provided me with some nice-fitting dress pants, khakis, and even a few nice polo shirts and sweaters.

i buy almost all of my dress shirts at H&M. they fit me great and i can usually find some cotton/poly blend shirts for 10-15 bucks that come out of the dryer looking pressed.

most of the polo shirts i wear are mossimo brand from target. they fit me nice and snug but not tight.

i've also had some great luck with express for men. the clothes are expensive but very nice and fit like a dream.
posted by kneelconqueso at 8:02 AM on December 18, 2006

As a big 200 pound stud, I find it ridiculous that I buy clothes marked M and even sometimes S.
posted by advicepig at 9:24 AM on December 18, 2006

do you ever wear vintage clothes? especially old-school levis and wrangler jeans, and vintage cowboy and dress shirts- they fit slim men well and they look fantastic. i have a male friend who's your size (he's maybe a few pounds slimmer) and he wears mostly vintage and looks great. he also wears gas jeans, they look pretty sweet on him.
posted by twistofrhyme at 11:01 AM on December 18, 2006

As good as Sallyfur's advice is, before you can act upon it you need to know your measurements. You will need a friend to help with this, and to get that you may have to offer to reciprocate. Once you've got that, you can compare yourself to those size charts that some brands make available online, and see if somebody makes off-the-rack clothes that should fit.
posted by ilsa at 11:07 AM on December 18, 2006

This is a great thread with terrific suggestions It addresses one of my main issues with clothing and I feel compelled to add to it; My father is an old-world tailor and while this doesn't make me an expert in the subject, I've overheard enough to lend some insight.

Knowing your measurements is handy but not the final answer in sizing shirts. Two different collars might demand slight differences in sizing. Let the tailor decide what the right measurements are. Also, bringing in another shirt you like and saying "make it like this" is something tailors mainly roll their eyes at. While it offers a guide, each shirt has its own set of dimensions and often they can't be mimicked.

Also, there is the issue of finding a good tailor. I believe this is much like finding a good barber/hairstylist. Try a few places around town and expect a few bad haircuts until you find one that does things 'just right'. Then coast on that relationship till one of you dies.

That's my 2c.
posted by vex at 8:28 PM on January 3, 2007

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