Help me understand my pants
January 5, 2008 6:03 PM   Subscribe

Short waisted? Long waisted? How do you find out? I *think* I'm short waisted, since the crotch on most of my pants and tights hangs down to my knees. How do you measure? Where oh where could I find pants that don't either show my posterior or make me feel like M. C. Hammer? Please help me settle this once and for all.

I have a huge problem with pants (and tights, but that will never be fixed I think). I don't understand this long and short waisted thing. I do know that I have a better relationship with jeans now that lower waists have become common. I think I might be VERY short waisted, but I have long legs. So I'm confused.
Can you get jeans tailored to fix the rise or is that impossible?
Do you have any suggestions for best places to shop? Best styles to try? Perhaps styles that don't expose all my callipygian charms?
Perhaps just return to wearing skirts all the time?
posted by pywacket to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (18 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I don't think it's a numbers thing; it's more about your proportions as they relate to mass produced clothes. I have a long waist and short legs- all my pant legs are too long, and it's hard to find pants that are high enough/shirts that are long enough. You know because of how most clothes fit on you that you're more short waisted.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:13 PM on January 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

Have you tried shopping in the petites section? That fixed the crotch-at-knees issue for me.
posted by selfmedicating at 6:26 PM on January 5, 2008

The standard natural waist (the smallest part of your abdomen, which isn't necessarily at your navel level) is expected to be at a certain point on your torso. You should compare the measurements from armpit to natural waist, then from natural waist to the bottom of your bottom. If your first measurement is greater than the second, you're long waisted. If it's the opposite, you're short waisted.

If standard clothes hang below your crotch, then your second measurement is shorter than they expect it to be, which may mean that you're actually long-waisted, or it may mean that you're short enough to need petite pants. In fact, if you're really long waisted and have a very short second measurement, you may need petite pants even if you're taller than 5'4".

(As a comparison, I'm 5'1", with my first measurement as 10" and the second as 12". I'm short-waisted.)
posted by maudlin at 6:29 PM on January 5, 2008 [2 favorites]

Measure yourself: top of head to natural waist, then natural waist to floor. If the first measurement is longer, you're long waisted, and vice versa.
posted by oneirodynia at 6:42 PM on January 5, 2008

Response by poster: Ah, selfmedicating, I'm 5'7" and I could still try petite pants? I'll give it a shot but my legs are really long . I usually need a 32 inch inseam and isn't that talls?
(really like your handle btw)

Doing the measurement thing that's been suggested I am short waisted. A lot of difference between the two.
posted by pywacket at 6:49 PM on January 5, 2008

I *think* I'm short waisted, since the crotch on most of my pants and tights hangs down to my knees.

I'm short-waisted, but I have the opposite problem, I think because I have to pull up pants too high to meet my actual waist. Low-waisted jeans were also a godsend to me. The ultimate example of short (or high) waisted-ness would be Ed Grimley. That's the look you have to avoid (fortunately easier for women than men).

You said you have long legs, which is the upside of being short-waisted. I'm probably in the minority - I have a short waist and legs that are about average, but the area from my waist to where my ass meets my legs is weirdly long.
posted by Evangeline at 7:08 PM on January 5, 2008

pywacket, you're saying that your waist to butt measurement is a lot longer than your bottom of armpit to waist measurement? What are your exact measurements for those two areas?

It might be tough to find a pair of petite pants that can be let down enough to work for a 32" inseam. You may need to have the rise adjusted (by moving down the waistband and pockets, if any) on a standard pair, and that would be a lot more expensive. I know that I can find some trousers in Toronto that have a lower rise, so maybe you can, too. This site gives measurements (used by one manufacturer) for the rise on their trousers, which are based on navel to crotch seam measurements, so this can give you a ballpark idea of what might work for you, if you can find it.

If all else fails, bite the bullet and get some custom-made trousers in classic colours and styles that you can wear for years. Or wear nothing but petite pants this summer and call them capris. (Oh, and I have seen low rise tights out there at large Canadian department stores like the Bay, probably from Dim. I found this fancy pair from Juicy online, and I'm sure there are more out there.)

Anyway, the whole short-waisted/long-waisted thing is confusing because there are at least four different ways in which they get defined in both relative and absolute ways.

1) A nape to waist measure under 15.5 inches means that you're short waisted and/or petite, but this absolute measurement affects the fit of dresses and blouses, not trousers.
2) The measurement method I gave is relative, and won't tell you for sure that you need regular or petite sizes in trousers. But the smaller the absolute number is for your second measurement, the more likely you are to need a petite or a lower rise, even if your torso proportions indicate that you're short-waisted.
3) oneirodynia's method is also relative, but gives you an idea of whether you appear to be more torso or legs to the viewer.
4) Some people measure the distance between the bottom of your rib cage and the top of your pelvis. More than 4 inches is long waisted, much less than 4 inches is short waisted, and "average" is some point in between. Long waisted women have more room for their waist to naturally ease in to a smaller size. But this indirect method won't tell you much about the actual measurement between waist and crotch, especially on women of very different heights.
posted by maudlin at 7:25 PM on January 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

This page explains how to measure and fit custom sewn pants, but the measurements are applicable for ready-to-wear as well. You can compare your measurements to a standard home-sewing patterns as easily as to a standard RTW pattern....the only difference is that with RTW, the pattern is the garment!

There are descriptions of several types of adjustments that might be made in home can look for similar descriptions on jeans in stores, etc. (low-rise, for example).

I have really weird too proportions and gave up on buying RTW for much other than althetic wear and sweaters a couple years ago.
posted by foxydot at 7:26 PM on January 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

Look for places that let you specify the inseam. For example, Land's End Women's Petites has petite pants with hem lengths of 32" and sometimes more.
posted by metahawk at 7:39 PM on January 5, 2008

32" inseams are not "talls".

In my experience, 29"-30" is short or petite, 31-32" is regular, 33-34" tall. I have seen 37" on a couple of occasions, which I assume is "Amazon".
posted by cmgonzalez at 8:37 PM on January 5, 2008

Response by poster: cmgonzalez: 30 seems to be usual for inseams in the places I've been. I end up going 'tall' or 'long' to get 32 or 33. Not saying I'm tall, just saying the average jeans end up being too short. Not horrifically short, but they don't look quite right. Except when they do. No such thing as a standard size anywhere.

And I tried oneirodynia measurement for the long waisted vs. shortwaisted thing. maudlin. My husband confirms I'm "all legs."
posted by pywacket at 9:11 PM on January 5, 2008

OK, it makes more sense that you would identify yourself as short-waisted if you used that measurement. But it doesn't directly measure the part of your torso fitting into pants, which is the actual problem you're facing. You need this information to find out more about how well you fit into standard trousers. foxydot's linked page should be quite useful in giving you the exact sites to measure so you can compare yourself to the standard. There may be some nice pants at Land's End that suit you, as cmgonzalez points out, but take a look around and see if any other places offer petite pants with 32" inseams.
posted by maudlin at 9:45 PM on January 5, 2008

Measure yourself: top of head to natural waist, then natural waist to floor. If the first measurement is longer, you're long waisted, and vice versa.
Since an average measurement is that the distance from head to hip crease (below the hip bone) is the same as from the hip crease to the floor, it seems highly unlikely that many people measure longer from the top of the head to the waist than from the waist to the floor. (You can find your hip crease by raising your knee, the point where your hip bends is the hip crease--measure from the center of the crease to the floor, and see if that's roughly half your height, longer, or shorter--this will tell you the proportion of your torso to legs.)

Short vs. long waist: My grandmother always told me that it was based on the distance from the bottom of your ribs to the top of your hips. You can probably eyeball this one, using your hand as a general measure, if you can put your hand on your waist and you have some room to spread your fingers out before your thumb touches your ribs and your pinky touches your hips, that's a fairly long waist. If your hand just fits, that's probably a "normal" waist. (A "hand" is 4 inches, yhmv.) If you can't even fit all of your fingers, that's definitely a short waist...I've actually seen a person like this... rib, hip, MAYBE two fingers of skin in between...

But really, that's unimportant when considering trousers, since not many people wear their trousers on their natural waist anyway, having more waist just means that you have more room to play around with before trousers become too high or too short. By far the best way to get a really good fit is to take an already good fitting pair of trousers and measure: waist (across), inseam (from the place where seams meet in your crotch up the seam to the top of the waist), length (from the place where the seams meet in your crotch down the seam to the bottom of the cuff), and if you have fat thighs like me, across the leg from seam to seam at the top of the thigh. Then go to a big store like a department store with your tape measure and notes, and just measure every style... start with the waist to find your size in that style, and then measure in order to see if that style would flatter you at all, you'll probably be able to tell just from the inseam if it's worth trying on. (Oh, and only worry if the length is too short, long pants can be hemmed and should be.) DON'T skip trying on, sometimes your tape measure lies, and do remember to move around and sit down in the dressing room, check for that awful gape at the back when you sit.

Lastly, if you're really having a lot of trouble, consider either wearing flat shoes, or if you already do, sticking to skirts. (Yeah. Not fair. But often useful.)
posted by anaelith at 11:25 PM on January 5, 2008

When I was doing Clothing Production Cert 3 we were told to stand straight, bend elbow, if the tip of your elbow ends above you waist (found with elastic looped around you. Wherever it settles - that's your waist.) but yeah elbow tip above waist = long waisted. Elbow tip below = short.

But yeah, like was mentioned above, you really just need to measure yourself and be familiar with how you are proportioned and all that jazz.

I was flipping through my workbook last night. There's a few pages that go through all the ins and outs of it and how to work with it. I've never found any sites that have it all together or put it all so clearly BUT if you are that interested I'll scan the pages for you. Too easy :)
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 2:50 AM on January 6, 2008

pywacket - thanks! unfortunately, I think you're right about the off the rack inseam in petites being too short for you. I'm 5'4 and sometimes it's too short for me. I think petites are supposed to be 5'4 and under. Being able to specify the inseam at a place like lands end might work, though.
posted by selfmedicating at 3:57 AM on January 6, 2008

inseam (from the place where seams meet in your crotch up the seam to the top of the waist), length (from the place where the seams meet in your crotch down the seam to the bottom of the cuff)

Actually, the inseam is the point from the crotch to the hemline and the rise is the crotch to the waist. ;)
posted by dancinglamb at 9:04 AM on January 6, 2008

I'm long-waisted too. How I was taught to find my natural waist is to lean to one side (lifting up the breast on that side if need be); the crease that appears is your waistline.
posted by brujita at 11:19 AM on January 6, 2008

Actually, the inseam is the point from the crotch to the hemline and the rise is the crotch to the waist. ;)
Whoops, yes. What dancinglamb said, or just ignore the terminology and follow the directions.

posted by anaelith at 1:23 PM on January 6, 2008

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