How to properly fit men's dress trousers

Written by contributing writer
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In today’s corporate environments, upward bound professionals and executives can wear polo shirts or even shirts without a collar (not the traditional T-shirt), especially during the warm months, but dress trousers and shoes still are required to look the part. However, it’s not enough to pick up a pair of dress trousers at a sale and hope for the best. They need to fit right and there is no compromise or any way to hide the impression you make by the clothing you wear. Here are a few ideas that can improve how you select dress trousers, a critical piece in a man’s wardrobe.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Conduct the necessary market research to know where to locate quality dress trousers and become familiar with the brands that work best for you and that meet your budget. Sometimes you can find acceptable bargains at a sale, but you should only invest in trousers you would normally purchase for regular price. Thus, most of the time, expect to pay full price for trousers. Some higher end department stores such as Nordstrom are a must. Also, you need to be very familiar with at least one smaller fine men’s clothing retailer in your area.

  2. 2

    Take the risk of trying on high-priced trousers the next time you purchase slacks. Zanella is one of the premium makers and their line is around £195 a pair. Notice the difference in the way they feel and look. In the end, you need to have at least one pair of premium trousers in your wardrobe, but there are lots of very nice lines priced around £65 a pair.

  3. 3

    Get familiar with your waist measurement. Don’t wait until you are at a store and the salesperson asks to measure you. Also know your length, how you like your cuffs, and where you want the break to fall. Also, it’s a good idea to know to which side you dress, (which side your private parts normally fall.) Keep a tape measure so you can continually check your waist measurement before you shop, especially if you are likely to move up or down a size.

  4. 4

    Wear the right shoes when you buy trousers. Don’t rely on the store having shoes that fit you, though many stores will have your size available to use--if not your style. Bring along the belt you normally wear with the kind of trousers you are shopping for. The shirt should not make too much difference, but it shouldn’t be one that you would never wear with them.

  5. 5

    Plan on 1 to 2 weeks to tailor the trousers after you buy them. Rarely will a nice pair of trousers that fit you actually fit your waist, and of course you will always have to tailor the cuffs. In general, dress trousers are built to fit heavier builds, so if you’re average to thin, the chances are even smaller the waist will fit.

  6. 6

    Pick out several pair that match your price and quality parameters and head for the dressing room. You will be approached long before you get to this point by a salesperson, so get used to having assistance by this time, especially if you have been hanging around the Zanella rack.

  7. 7

    Fold up the end of the legs, pull on the first pair, slip on your shoes and move to the 3-way mirror. At this point, be prepared to either give way to the salesperson taking over or to be very assertive.

  8. 8

    Note how the fabric lays on your legs. A good fit will not be tight across the thighs or the buttocks. Too much ballooning on the lower leg is also a problem. Some fabrics and brands fit differently, so you may have to select a different brand to get the trimness you need. Don’t worry about the waist unless it is so large the inside seam of the back pockets are within 2 inches of each other when the waist measurement is taken.

  9. 9

    Ask for 2-inch cuffs and a full break. Many people think a medium break is acceptable, but if you watch yourself walk briskly from behind, you will see anything shorter than a full break exposes too much of your ankle, especially if you are really tall and thin. Quality material and construction will prevent the break from looking too sloppy.

  10. 10

    Look closely in the mirror at how the front pocket seams line up and pleat falls when the waist measurement is pinned. The pockets should not be noticeable at all; the seam should fall straight down and never be cupped open whatsoever. The pleat should lay flat and fall straight down. If the pleat is pulled apart at all, this is not acceptable.

  11. 11

    Test the waist measurement to ensure it is comfortable and feels snug but loose enough to totally relax and even fully expand your stomach muscles. Many clothing salespeople will tug it too tight and pin it before you can even decide how you feel about it. Never allow anyone to make this decision for you. Some people will attempt to make the waist tighter than recommended, but if the trousers are a good fit overall, the waist measurement is not as critical as you would think. Plus you want to make sure you allow some room for expansion, comfort, whatever shirt you tuck inside, and for the few extra pounds you may gain and lose again every year.

  12. 12

    Make sure all dress trousers you purchase have a waist construction that is tantamount to a sash (wide with multiple layers of fabric). The length between the crotch and waist should be high-rise (long enough for the trousers to sit securely over the hip bones all the way up to the navel while allowing plenty of vertical space for your trunk and scrotum to be comfortable and relaxed).

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