How to Measure Your Inseam & Why InStyle Got it Wrong

Typically, I love the advice that InStyle magazine gives on fashion.  However, in their latest August issue, they totally screwed up.  The article called "J Is For Jeans," highlighted inseam as crucial to affecting the entire fit of a pair of jeans (page 169), with which I absolutely agree.  However, InStyle goes on to make two incorrect statements. 

First, they say the average woman’s inseam is 34 inches.  It’s not – 32 inches is considered normal.  I’m guessing they said this because designer jeans are typically made with inseams around 34 inches, but that’s because high-end jeans are made for models’ bodies, and they have super long legs.  Go to Gap.com, and you’ll see that an inseam length of "regular" is 32 inches (it’s the same with many other sellers).

Second, InStyle makes the mistake of tying inseam to height.  While the two are related, you can’t tell someone’s inseam by their height alone.  What matters is the length of their legs, not their whole body.  InStyle suggests that petites should try 32-inch inseams, and women 5’10" and taller should look for 36" inseams.  I am over 5’10", and I do not wear a 36-inch inseam; I wear a 35, and 1 inch is a huge deal when it comes to your pants fitting perfectly.   

For many of us, it can be a major struggle finding pants that are long enough or short enough.  If you don’t have a "normal" inseam of 32 inches, you likely have trouble finding jeans that are the right length for your body.  The answer?  Learn your inseam! 

You can find your inseam by having your tailor measure it for you, or you can do it yourself.  Here’s how to find the length of pants you really need:

  1. Begin with a pair of jeans you already have that fit you well (hopefully all of us have at least ONE pair!).
  2. Lay the pants flat on the floor, back pockets down.
  3. Get out your measuring tape, and carefully measure from the crotch seam to the very bottom of one leg. 
  4. This number is your inseam, and will likely be something between 26 inches and 38 inches.
  5. Now you can shop for your exact inseam!  Search By Inseam is a great place to shop, with numerous sellers, styles, brands, and price ranges, all categorized by inseam length. 

Click here for more tips on inseam measurement, including how to account for shrinkage, high-heeled shoes, and different types of pants. 

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