Why It’s So Hard to Find Pants that Fit

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Yesterday I was having a conversation with a woman who mentioned that she finds, due to a medical issue that distorts her body shape, it incredibly difficult to find a pair of trousers that fits when she’s out shopping.

Why It's So Hard to Find Pants that Fit

What she didn’t realise, is that I think 80% of women or possibly more find if very difficult to find a pair of trousers that fit, and that’s just with their regular old bodies.   So why is it so hard to buy pants that fit?

I know from my many experiences taking clients on personal shopping trips that pants are a tricky garment to purchase.  I remember on one shopping trip my client tried on 50 pairs of trousers and we didn’t find any that fit her well at all!  There are just too many fit points and women’s bodies are too varied.

Clothing manufacturers are making for some generic body that really doesn’t exist in more than 10% of the population. They tend to cut straighter lines because they are cheaper to make – remember fashion is not about making you look great, but selling clothes that will become quickly redundant so you have to buy more.

We have so many fit points:

  • Waist
  • Hips
  • Rise
  • Bottom
  • Thighs
  • Calves
  • Leg length

And we all vary. Each body shape has different issues.

  • H, V and O shapes often find that the waist is too tight, resulting in a nasty muffin top, but the hips/bottom too saggy. If they do find a pant that has a waistband that fits, because of their straighter shape, they slide down all the time and they spend the day hitching up their trousers.
  • 8, A and X shapes find that the waists are too large, the rise too low and the hips and bottom too tight which creates nasty pulling across the crotch area.

Of course there is the length of the legs too.

  • Petite women find that even if they take the pants up, the proportions of the shape, where the knee should be, is out of whack and so the trousers don’t look quite right.
  • Tall women have endless issue trying to find pants that don’t look like they’ve grown out of them.

Pants are tricky garments to purchase and there is only so much you can alter a pair.

Having some stretch in the fabric helps with fit issues, but certainly doesn’t eliminate them.

This is why, for many women I suggest having their dress trousers made by a tailor or seamstress, particularly one who can fit them to their unique shape. The cost is not near as great as most people imagine, but having a garment that fits and flatters makes you feel so much more confident, plus you don’t waste hours of time trying on trouser after trouser and schlepping from store to store.

So next time you’re in a store trying on trousers and they don’t fit, instead of berating yourself (which is what most of us do with our negative self talk), instead just say to yourself “these pants were not designed for my unique female shape” and let them go back on their hanger.

I recently decided to make myself a new pair of pants, I cut a pattern from an existing pair of harem pants that are super comfy (I only sew easy things).

Why pants are so hard to buy
Shoes from Scarlettos, cardigan from Target similar shrug, Tee from Big W, Jewellery all made by me (Similar necklace), pants made by me (similar from Motto)
These are my sweatsuit/tracksuit alternative, as Tim Gunn would say.   Something that I’m happy to wear out of the house!

Here are the original pants that I copied.  The fabric I used is something I picked up from Spotlight, but it’s a little less drapey than I’d like.

how to wear stripes with patterned shoes
Similar tee , Necklace from Lovisa, Shoes from Scarlettos

Discover the colours and styles of clothes that suit, get your wardrobe under control and learn to shop for the right clothes so you stop wasting money with 7 Steps to Style by Imogen Lamport

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24 Comments

  • You are an amazing listener! My unique body shape is that I am short and plus sized round the tummy so I am challenged by every pants except 3/4 length. I certainly lost the plot about having every pants that I bought having to be taken up! I have cheap black 3/4 length cargo pants that I wear for medical appointments (I go for impressionism). My two uniforms that I now have are skirts or tunics teamed with cotton leggings/bike pants. Dresses are in the mix but not dominate. Happy to wear shorts in summer.
    You look great in mint and white. The white pants look so great too. Thanks again.

  • I make most of my pants and still find them hard to fit! I used to find pants shopping quite depressing but now realise that one size certainly doesn’t fit all.

    You made a great job of your pants.

  • My problem is having a very long rise – I need at least a 10 inch rise. I’m a V/O body type and have a horrible muffin if the rise isn’t quite long enough. I do best purchasing pants from 6pm, Zappos or Nordstrom since they publish front and back rise.

    Have others with the same problem found other sources?

  • I made my own pattern and for years sewed all my pants…Did the same for my daughter who is very tall…With a few minor changes you can make any style of pants you want from the same pattern…
    Clever of you to make your harem pants from an existing pair…Not as easy as it looks…Gold stars for you!

  • Being a shorter person with a short waist, but longer legs, I kind of gave up on trousers of any kind, because none are made for me. My go-to pants are always a skinny jeans style, in a slightly stretchy fabric. This style fits my hips and waist, seems to never rise too high or be too loose around either the hips or the waist, and is very comfortable. I can even hem or cuff the bottoms without changing the style of the pants. My shape is somewhere between an H and an 8, fairly fit, so a pant that conforms to my body is flattering.

    My tops are either cropped to land just a little below my actual waist, to give me the illusion of a longer waist, or are tunic style to go several inches below my bum. If I wear a close fitting top, it also needs to reach the thighs, plus I wear a lower hanging “belt” to give the illusion of a longer waist. I’ve been paying attention to your allusion to illusions, and the creation thereof. >^;^<

  • Funny how my issue is so unique I can’t even vote in the poll 😀 The hardest part to fit for me is my knees. They are very chubby and most often than not pants get stuck there. Not that I have slim thighs and calves, of course, but even pants that would fit there AND on my well endowed bottom sometimes don’t work because of my knees. This is because to follow the shape of most women pants usually narrow at the knee, while I need EXTRA room there.

  • Skinny jeans to the aNile with zippers are my new found go-to’s but are seriously not warm enough for winter.
    I used to make my children’s clothes and have recently begun to think of I want clothes that are exactly right then its time to get out the husqvarna.
    I do spend lots of time hitching up pants and bemoaning my lack if a waist and thought it was just me. Thank you for letting me know it’s not. 4 weeks ago I bought two pair of straight Timmy flattering jeans from just jeans. Too big I returned the next day to get a size 11 instead of a 12. Thought I’d solved the problem by getting them snug. Nope, they still slide down and its so annoying! So skinny jeans it is for me lifelong. I bought some harem pants and they made me look shorter than I already am but these your wearing seem to be fine. Good job on the jewellery too! Looks very pretty. I thought you’d sewn mesh onto your t but no! I checked the link and it is a ndcklace. Terrific style. Love it!

  • Great info, as usual, Imogen. However, I still can’t figure out how to solve the H problem of fitting the waist only to find it sliding down within an hour. A belt creates the muffin top (I am fluffy). The only thing I can think is to get high-rise pants that will end slightly under my boobs (I’m petite, short waisted but with a longish rise) since I never tuck.

  • I love your harem pants! What I want to know is, why do men get pants in so many different waist AND length sizes and we are lucky if a brand carries petite, regular and tall? Does the industry believe that woman only come in 3 heights but men come in many? I have a hard time finding pants that are long enough, and I’m not even particularly tall at 5′ 6″.

  • Thank you so much for spelling this out, Imogen! I had never considered the manufacturing aspect, but it makes so much sense. As a petite 8 shape I typically find myself in the juniors’ section, which often leaves me with cheaper fabrics. The trousers in the women’s section are too bulky in all the wrong places and because of my high waist and short torso, the waistband always cuts into my diaphragm when I sit down – very uncomfortable. I also find that proportionally, my hips seem larger than my bum, so one size will fit my hips but leave extra fabric in the back, or that dreaded waist gap. Sigh. I wear skirts a lot, but in the winter I get tired of fussing with tights and hosiery.

  • I’m an H shape with a longer than average rise. Low rise pants are unflattering on me and was all I could get for nearly the past ten years. What is now sold as high rise tends to be mid-rise for me, which is okay, but I look for the highest rise I can find. It’s currently trendy but still hasn’t really made it big in the small town where I live. I am also a bit flat in the bum compared with my waist size but generous in the thighs. Not that you look at me and say oh she has a flat bum and big thighs, but this is what it seems like when I try on pants. You are so right that this is a problem with the garments and not the women trying them on, and that the variety of shapes and sizes we come in make it difficult for both buyers and sellers to cope with. I don’t wear dressy trousers and do not need to but if I did I would definitely consider having some made. With my jeans that are a bit too low rise I always have to wear long, untucked tops. Hopefully I will soon find (locally) something in a straight leg with a high rise-minimum 9″.

  • As a V with H tendencies, I have pretty much concluded that any waistband I expect to stay up will give me muffin top in some form. Add to the fact that I have shapely legs and a smaller bum. I suppose I have an athletic body type, which is great but challenging. I have found stretchy jeans with low to mid rise to be best, even though I have longer rise. Higher rises cut right across the widest part of my torso and extremely uncomfortable! One issue I have it that my waistbands often curl under my belly as they slip down my hips. Is this a sign of a too small waist or a too big waist?

    • A high rise should sit at the narrowest part of your waist, so if it’s sitting somewhere else, it’s not the right rise for you. If your waist band is curling and sliding down this is common when the waist is too small and the tummy pushes it down. But because you don’t have a defined waist you will find that the sliding down is common as there is nothing to anchor the waist onto (hips).

      • Thank you for your reply! Should I size up in my waistbands or should I look for a higher rise that fits me better? It is a bit of a dilemma for me because if I size up, my hip/bum area is swamped and the pants fall down, but I can’t size down because then the waistband is already too tight. Maybe I just need to get a dress for each day of the week and be done with waistbands forever 😀

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