Do My Clothes Really Fit Me_ heading

Finding clothes that fit properly can be a challenge. Very few people fit perfectly into whatever clothes they buy. Nothing is wrong with your body! It's just an imperfect system. Sizing changes from one brand to the next so if you find a brand that tends to fit your shape really well, their fit model may be shaped like you!

What's a fit model? A fit model is the person or mannequin used to create the original patterns for a design. Depending on a brand's target market, they may choose to style clothes for a specific body shape. For instance, a brand could design for an hourglass shape with a very small waist vs hip and bust ratio. All their sizes will go up or down from that shape. That's fine if you fit that shape, but if you don't, this brand's clothes will never fit perfectly without adjustments. That said, if you love a certain brand's clothing and it doesn't fit perfectly, a good tailor can often make a few adjustments to make them look like they were made just for you so don't give up on them yet!

A good rule of thumb is that it's generally simple enough to take something in, but harder to let it out so you're better to fit the largest part of your body and take in other bits than to try to let out the areas that are too tight. There's usually not very much fabric available to let out so you'll cause additional strain on the seams and weaken the garment.

In this pamphlet, I'll go over what to look for in choosing your pants, skirts and tops (dress tips: follow tops and skirts,) what quick fixes can be made and when to move on.

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Make sure your tops fit well in all key areas. If they don't, you might consider a tailor's help in achieving the perfect fit

Sleeve:

Does your sleeve hit the right spot? This is a matter of preference, but here's a good rule of thumb. Always check length with arm slightly bent.

  • Long sleeve should hit just below the wrist for dress shirts so that they peek out below a jacket sleeve
  • Blazer sleeve should hit between your wrist and the start of your thumb

Shoulders:

  • Blazer shoulder seam should hit just at edge of the shoulder
  • You should be able to hug someone and drive comfortably

Bust:

  • Buttoned tops should not gape. If they do, they are too tight at the bust. You may be able to wear it open with a cami underneath, but this could be a sign you need to keep shopping
  • If there is a horizontal seam across the bust, it's likely that's meant to be an empire waistline so it should land BELOW your bust. If it doesn't, it's not made for your size of bust. Sadly, there isn't much you can do about this unless the designer can make you a custom top.

Hip:

  • Fabric of the shirt should not bunch or ride up when you move around. If they do, you likely need to go up a size in the hip

Hem length:

  • If you will want to wear your top tucked in, be sure to try tucking it in and then sitting down. If it comes untucked immediately, it may be too short for your purposes unless you can wear it with a higher waisted bottom.
  • Aim to have your top hit you at high hip (not your widest point, but above) to show your curves. If your top is too long, try having it hemmed or tucking it in. It will be much more flattering.
  • A tunic should ideally show enough leg to show the curves of your legs.
  • Cropped tops can be very flattering on a lot of women, but be sure that they fit properly! If you have a large bust, you may need to have one custom made with extra length in front or else you risk showing more than you meant to. Alternately, you may be able to go oversized for a more slouchy look, but you'll probably need to hem the back a little so that the hem looks horizontal to the floor when on. Wear your crop top with a high-waisted bottom for a chic look.
Sketch of woman in jumpsuit with pink heels and a pink streak in her blond hair
 

Make sure your pants fit well in all key areas. If they don't, you might consider a tailor's help in achieving the perfect fit

Waist:

  • High-waisted pants stay put the best if they fit properly at your high waist (that's where your body bends and is normally your smallest point. The waistband should hit at that level
  • You should be able to fit two fingers in the waistband when standing up or they'll be uncomfortable when sitting.
  • Waist should fit comfortably without any gaping or pinching (muffin top does not mean anything other than your pants are too tight!)
  • The waist is normally a fairly simple fix but can be tricky with jeans; which are not made to be taken in easily. Look for pants with a seam through the centre back of the waistband for the easiest (and cheapest!) adjustment

Hip:

  • Fabric should lie flat on your hip. If it's pulling or bunching, you may need to go up a size for a good fit. If pants are too tight, they may be forced up to a smaller point giving you a wedgie and creating awkward bunching below the waist.
  • If you have narrow hips, you may find that the hip of your pants sticks out in a strange curve away from your hips. Unless you plan to pad your hips, a tailor can fix this problem for you.
  • If pockets don't sit nicely, a larger size could help, but you may need to have the pockets cut out or better yet, find a pair that fit better (who wants to give up pockets?!)

Rise (ie the distance between the seam between your legs and the back waistband):

  • If the rise on your pants is too short, your pants won't sit at the right level, creating a bad fit (ie. wedgie or muffin top if rise is too short causing pants to sit at a wider/lower level than intended)
  • If the rise is too long, your pants will either sit too high (think Erkel) or cause bunching below the waistband

Hem:

Pant hems vary greatly depending on style, but here's a basic guide

  • Wide leg - hem should hit approximately 1/4" above the floor and show at least a little of your shoe so you don't look footless
  • Fitted leg - hem should ideally should be as long as possible without bunching in front
  • Cropped look - a great way to avoid choosing between hemming for flats OR heels (no, your pants won't work perfectly for both.) Hem should sit wherever flatters your leg best but at least 2 fingers above your ankle bone or they won't read as cropped! (go shorter with flats!)
Sketch of woman in jumpsuit with pink heels and a pink streak in her blond hair
 

Make sure your skirts fit well in all key areas. If they don't, you might consider a tailor's help in achieving the perfect fit

Waist:

  • High-waisted skirts stay put the best if they fit properly at your high waist (that's where your body bends and is normally your smallest point. The waistband should hit at that level
  • You should be able to fit two fingers in the waistband when standing up or they'll be uncomfortable when sitting.
  • Waist should fit comfortably without any gaping or pinching (muffin top does not mean anything other than your skirt is too tight!)
  • The waist is normally a fairly simple fix but can be tricky with jean skirts; which are not made to be taken in easily. Look for skirts with a seam through the centre back of the waistband for the easiest (and cheapest!) adjustment

Hip:

  • Full skirts like circle skirts (think retro 50s style) are easy to fit whether you have a wide or narrow hip. Just find one to fit your waist and the fabric should skim over whatever hip you have.
  • For fitted skirts, fabric should lie flat on your hip. If it's pulling or bunching, you may need to go up a size for a good fit. If the skirt is too tight, it may be forced up to a smaller point , creating awkward bunching below the waist and making the skirt too short.
  • If you have narrow hips, you may find that the hip of your fitted skirt sticks out in a strange curve away from your hips. Unless you plan to pad your hips, a tailor can fix this problem for you.

Hem:

Have you already figured out which length of skirt suits you best? If not, here are some rules of thumb to help guide you. Once you've figured out a good length to aim for, hemming a skirt is one of the simplest (and cheapest) alteration

  • Try to hem your skirts so that they do not cut you at one of your widest points. The goal is to show the natural curvature of your legs. Example: Try to avoid hemming your skirt to cut across the widest part of your calf. Hem to just below the knee or above to show your curves.
  • Avoid hemming a long skirt to the ankle. Instead, aim for a few inches above the ankle bone or just above the floor for a more flattering look. Anyone, short or tall can wear a maxi length skirt. Just leave some skin showing elsewhere on your body so you're not fully engulfed by fabric. A slit can be helpful for the same reason.
  • For a mid-length skirt, aim for just below the bulge of your calf. If you have wide legs, try a full skirt like my Oma Vera. The volume of the hem makes your legs look slimmer in comparison. Add a heel to emphasize this even further.
  • Petite? Best short length tends to be above the knee or at most across the knee if you don't want to show your knees.
Sketch of woman in jumpsuit with pink heels and a pink streak in her blond hair
 

Easy, relatively affordable alterations for an experienced tailor

  • Moving a button or hook and bar over to be a little tighter or looser
  • Hemming (ie. shortening) pants, skirt or top or sleeves. This is most affordable when the hem is a machine stitched hem rather than hand stitched (ie if you see the stitches on the outside of the garment)
  • Taking in the waist of a pant or skirt. This is most affordable when there is a centre back seam through the waistband and/or it isn't necessary to remove the zipper.
  • Adding length to the hem of a pant or skirt IF THERE IS A WIDE HEM. If you only need to add a little and there's a good amount of fabric in the hem, this is an easy fix (check underneath to see how much fabric is turned up. There should be a minimum of 1.5" or so to make this worth it unless you really only want it a tiny bit longer.)
  • Taking in the hip of a skirt or pant at the side seams WHEN THERE IS NO ZIPPER ALONG THE SEAM. It is possible to do it when there is one, but more time-consuming/expensive.
  • Taking in the bust of a top or dress at the side seam or by adding a dart (this is simple when there is no sleeve. When you take in the armhole, you also need to adjust the sleeve, so that becomes a more extensive alteration.)
  • Shortening straps on a dress or top. (If the straps are not separate pieces but in fact part of the top - ie a sleeveless top as opposed to a strapless top with straps attached - it can be a longer process)
  • Remove pants pockets (gasp! I know, but if you ever want to, it's affordable.)
Sketch of woman in jumpsuit with pink heels and a pink streak in her blond hair