Learn how suit pants should fit—from the waist to the ankles—in three simple steps.
Part of getting the right fit is visual, part of it is feel. The more experience you have wearing a suit, the easier it becomes to understand how suit pants should fit. If it’s been a while, or if this is your first time suiting up, we’ll walk you through the three big fit points for tuxedo and suit pants: the waist, the seat, and the inseam length.
Read on for the details, or check out this quick primer video:
Table of Contents
Suit Pants Waist Fit
Suit pants and most dress pants are designed to sit higher up on the waist than casual pants or denim, and they have less stretch, so they’ll often fit a little more snug for their waist size. When checking the fit of the pant waist, it’s a good idea to wear a dress shirt that fits you well. You’ll feel it’s right when the pant waist stays put without putting pressure on your abdomen or waist.
IF THE WAIST IS LOOSE…
If they’re way too big, you might want to try a smaller waist size. Most suit pants have belt loops you can use if they’re only a little loose in the waist. Suspenders will accomplish the same thing, but don’t wear suspenders and a belt. Tuxedo pants don’t come with belt loops—more likely, you’ll find waist adjusters built in to the pants, or wear suspenders.
IF THE WAIST IS TIGHT…
If the suit pants fit too tight in the waist, there isn’t a lot you can do—you’ll need a larger size.
Suit Pants Seat Fit
Unlike a slim pair of casual pants or denim, the suit pant seat, thighs, and hips should not bunch up, or cause the fabric to pull. And while you don’t want your suit pants painted on, you’ll also want to avoid a super baggy look. Ideally you’ll have just enough room that no dance moves are off-limits. If the seat is too tight, the wrong move could cause the pants to explode, which is a bummer.
IF THE SEAT IS TIGHT…
If the pockets of your suit pants bulge out, or you develop a wedgie (or both), the seat is definitely too tight. If you’re in a slim fit pant, the fix is as simple as switching to a classic or regular version to get more room.
IF THE SEAT IS LOOSE…
If the waist of your pants fits well but your butt is a total no-show, check the fit type. Is it regular? Classic? If possible, look for a slim fit cut instead.
Suit Pants Length & Inseam Fit
When you buy suit pants, they’ll often come without a set inseam length—only a waist size—assuming you’ll have them tailored to the right length. If your suit pant size does have a second number, that’s the inseam length—the length of the inner seam of your pant legs.
The most important element of inseam length is your personal preference. Those who prefer a traditional style might be accustomed to a big “break” (break is the way the fabric rests and folds on the top of the shoe). Some break is fine, but if your goal is a modern look, wear your pants with no break. For a “no break” look, the fabric should just touch the top of your shoe without folding.
IF THE INSEAM IS TOO SHORT…
There’s a big difference between a cropped length pant style and the pants just being too short. If your pants are more than a few inches above your shoe, you’ll probably need a longer inseam size. If they’re close, visit a tailor to have them let down to your desired length. Just ask them not to cut the fabric if you’re renting.
IF THE INSEAM IS TOO LONG…
Some things aren’t really up for debate: having folds of extra pant fabric sitting on your shoes is never in style. If you own these suit pants, visit a tailor for a precise hem. If you’re renting, make sure to tell the tailor not to cut the fabric to adjust the length.
Fit is Everything
Not exaggerating—fit is everything. The most expensive designer suit will still look sloppy if the fit is wrong. That’s why it’s so important to have a baseline idea of how a suit should fit before you try one on. Need tips for the suit jacket or dress shirt? Check out our full guide to fit here.
Or, get started finding your suit sizes now. Because if your sizes are off to begin with, it’ll be impossible to get the perfect fit.