How to Find Women’s Clothing that Fits

well fitting dressDo you know how to find clothing that fits? What does a good fit mean?

While everyone has a preference to how they like their clothes to fit – skintight or more oversized – here are a few tips for what constitutes a good fit for clothes. Having well-fitting apparel often conveys greater professionalism, polish, and can also make you look slimmer.

How Tops Should Fit

Both casual and professional tops should abide by these general guidelines:

Shoulders: The seam of the shoulder should match where your real shoulder is, even if the top is deliberately oversized. Having shoulder seams that extend beyond  your actual shoulders will make your shoulders look much larger or will make you look like you’re wearing oversized clothing.

Hem: Shirt hems should end around mid-hip and not too far past the crotch of your pants in order to elongate the leg line.

Neckline: Especially for looser-fitting tops and t-shirts, consider bending over in front of a mirror to ensure that the top keeps your bust properly covered. If a top has too revealing a neckline, you may want to pair it with a camisole, , especially if you’re planning on it to work.

Buttoned-up Shirt Tips

Most professional women wear cotton buttoned-up tops to work, but tops with some stretch in the fabric or more fluid materials like silk or rayon can often be a better-fitting choice. In general, a well-fitting shirt should have the following traits:

Buttons: Buttons should be able to close without gaping. This could mean having to size up and then tailoring the sides to better fit your proportions.

Cuffs: They should come down just below your wrist and be able to peek out from the sleeve of a blazer. A longer cuff can look sloppy; a good tip is to try on buttoned-down shirts with the blazer that you would wear them with, as well-fitting cuffs are very much about their relationship to the blazer sleeve length.

Hips: An often overlooked area is the hem of the buttoned-down shirt – it should reach the middle of your hips and fit comfortably without pulling around your hips. Ladies with fuller hips often find narrower buttoned-down shirts will ride up when they walk; this causes the shirt tobunch up unattractively.

How Blazers Should Fit

woman business suitBlazers follow the same basic shoulder fit and hem length rules as shirts. Note that blazers sometimes come with shoulder pads, which makes a good shoulder fit even more critical.

Blazer sleeves should cover your wrists and hit on the fleshy part of your palm, with the sleeve hem approximately midway between your wrist and the start of your thumb. Anything longer than that and it looks like your sleeves are too long for you; any shorter and it will seem too small..

Perfectly Cut Pants

Bottoms are a little trickier, as curvier women are often sized differently from the off-the-rack sizes retailers offer. In general, the trick is to either shop at retailers like Levi’s, with their Curve ID denim collection, or to purchase bottoms that fit around the hips and tailor the waist in.

Dress Slacks

Front of pants: Pants should lie relatively flat on your thighs – if it puckers, especially around the crotch area, consider going a size up; if the fabric billows when you sit down, consider going a size down.

Waistband: The general rule of thumb is to be able to fit two fingers inside the waistband for a little extra room for easy movement and  in case of bloated days.

Hem: The length of the hem depends on the style of the trouser. If going for a peg-leg or tapered style, pants should fall either right above the ankle or right below the ankle. Whether wearing heels or flats, tapered pants should fall right above the shoe. For bootleg and straight-cut pants, hem lengths should be slightly longer, hitting flats or heels at the midway point between the top of the shoe and the floor.

Jeans

A good fit in jeans is similar to a good fit in pants in terms of best-fitting waistbands and hem length. However, one should also keep this in mind when purchasing jeans:

Tightness: Newly-purchased jeans should be fairly snug, as they tend to stretch and expand with wear.

Hips first: When considering sizes for jeans, look for jeans that fit your hips first – choose a size up if jeans feel uncomfortably tight around the hip area. Waistbands can be easily altered for a better fit if needed, but the hip area can not be expanded.

Check our guide on finding the best jeans for your body shape for more tips!

Choosing Dresses

Shoulders: As with tops and blazers, shoulder seams should fit exactly at your shoulders.

Waistlines: Structured dresses with defined waistlines are often the most difficult to fit properly. To find your natural waistline, stand up and bend from side to side. The dress should sit comfortably around the smallest part of your waist. For a more forgiving fit, consider loose dresses (like the shift style), dresses with empire waists (just below the bust), and dresses with elastic waists.

A dress waistline that hits too low or high compared to your natural waist can throw off visual proportions and make a woman look heavier through her mid-section.

How Bras Should Fit

Make sure you measure correctly to determine your bra size, or have a professional fit you for a bra when you are shopping. Once you have a size to start with, use the following to ensure the bra size and cut are the best for your shape.

Snug: the band should be snug, but not too tight. It is mostly the band that supports your breasts, not the straps. You should be able to put no more than 2 fingers under your band. If it’s too tight, go up one band size at a time; if too loose, go down.

Smooth: Your bra should lie straight across your back. If it  is too small, it will squeeze the flesh on your back and front, making unsightly bulges and causing discomfort. If your bra rides up, it’s too loose and you should go down a band size; if it cuts into your flesh, it’s too small and you should go up a band size.

Cups should contain you: your breasts should not bulge outside your cups either in the front or to the side under your armpits. You can assess side coverage with the underwire in an underwire bra – it is correct if the end is pointing towards the middle of your armpit. If it’s too small, it will dig into your flesh and hurt, and you should size up a cup size. The cup should not sag or pucker – this is a sign the cup size is too large.

Gore should touch the sternum: the gore is the center of the bra, often where the underwires meet. The gore should be touching your sternum – also called your breastbone — for the best fit.

Typical Measurements for Body Shapes

With great fit in mind, how does that correspond to what body type you are? Below are a few easy ways to determine what body shape you are and hence, what clothing styles would best fit you.

Apple

If you have an apple shaped body, weight is concentrated around your stomach area, and you do not have a defined waistline.

The difference between your hip and waist measurement is less than 5%, and your hips measure at least 5% larger than your shoulder or bust measurements.

Pear

Your weight is concentrated in your hips and stomach area, and you have narrow shoulders and bust, if you have a pear shape.

Your hips measure at least 5% larger than your shoulder or bust measurements.

So, for example, a woman with a 32-inch bust, a 34-inch waist and a 36-inch hip measurement would have a pear-shaped body.

Hourglass

Your hips and shoulders are approximately the same size, if you have an hourglass figure, and you have a very defined waistline.

Your shoulder and hip measurements are within 5% of each other. Your waist should be at least 25% smaller than your shoulder, hip, and bust measurements.

Rectangle

The rectangle or straight body is an extremely balanced figure type, with bust, hips, and waist all approximately the same size. Some body shape calculators refer to this shape as a banana.

The difference between your hips, bust, and shoulders is within 5%, and your waist is less than 25% smaller than your shoulder or bust measurement.

A rectangle might have measurements that only go in slightly at the waist, so a woman with a 42-inch bust, a 39-inch waist and a 43-inch hip would be classified as a rectangle.

Typical measurements for tall and petite sizes

Knowing how to determine good fit when you’re able to try things on is relatively easy, but how about when you’re shopping online? Here are some typical measurements for tall and petite sizes:

Tall Petite
Chest 31-47 ½” 30 ½ – 47”
Sleeve 32 ½” – 36 ¼” 29 – 31 ¾”
Waist 23-39” 22 ½ – 39”
Hip 34-50” 34 – 50 ½”
Inseam 36” 29 ½”

In general, tall sizes are meant for women taller than 5’10”, and have longer sleeves, a lower waist position, a longer rise, lower knee position, and longer inseams.

Petite sizes are for women shorter than 5’4” and have narrower shoulder, shorter sleeves, rise, and inseams, and a higher waist and knee position. Brands with short sizes are usually intended for women shorter than 5’4”, but are usually not proportionally narrower or smaller other than in length.

 Finding Great Fit is Challenging, but Doable

Finding great fitting clothing can be challenging, but these tips and tricks will allow you to define great fit for your personal body type, whether or not you choose to shop in-store or online. In-store shopping is great because you have the freedom to move around and to see how your clothes look when you’re doing different things – even before you purchase the item. Try sitting down, bending over, and reaching overhead to see how your clothes perform in the full range of movement. Of course, online shopping can offer access to more brands, styles and sizes than you have at your local stores. For online purchases, many e-commerce stores allow for free returns or affordable return shipping, so you can also do the same in the comfort of your home. The final key to finding great fitting clothing is to experiment!

Visit the SizeCharter.com home page to use our easy size finder.

Learn more about finding the best fitting clothing for your size and shape.

2 thoughts on “How to Find Women’s Clothing that Fits

  1. You don’t address shoulder to waist measurement which is crucial to a good fit and clothing that hangs well and flatters the wearer and the clothing

    1. Hi Susan,
      While you are absolutely correct that the distance from shoulder or collarbone to the waist is important for proper fit, most clothing brands do not include that as part of their size charts /info they make publicly available so we are unable to include that data in our size charts and it isn’t something that most people can find as part of product information in order to determine whether something might fit them well or not.

      Those who are particularly long or short waisted will find that 2-piece dresses are often better fitting for them, as are items without a defined natural waist (such as an empire cut or straight sheath cut). Bust size further complicates issues as a large bust can cause items to ride higher, causing the waist to sit above the natural.

      Good luck!

      Ann

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