Where should trousers should fit? The seat or the waist?

Where should trousers should fit? The seat or the waist?

Q. I have a pair of dress trousers that seem to pull at my pockets. They don’t feel tight and the waist fits correctly, but you can see the lining when I sit. Should I have them tailored?

A. Yes, I would say that if you like the trousers a lot and if they work as a versatile addition to your wardrobe, you might be wise to have them tailored. As described, they are the wrong size. A common mistake that men make is choosing trousers that are the right size for them at the waist, but that are too tight or too loose in the seat. Clothing designers have designed trousers so it’s easy to adjust the waistline; they did not design them so it’s easy to adjust the seat.

While yours is not the easiest, or the least expensive, sort of trouser alteration, it’s one that is possible. Tailoring of trousers often involves taking in the back seam. In your case they probably need to do the reverse and let out the back seam; however, this can only be done if there is enough fabric to do so. 

Most fit problems that men have with trousers come from mistakenly buying the wrong size. Well-dressed men pay careful attention to fit. To avoid this problem in the future, here are some trouser-shopping tips. 

First, be prepared, and willing, to try the trousers on and have the tailor check them out. Unless a man is typically proportioned and fits exactly a standard size (which many men are not), trousers may have to be taken in or let out a bit, either at the waist or at the rear. My advice is to decide which size to buy based on how they fit you in the seat, rather than what your waist measures. Then, have the waist corrected. It’s much easier to adjust the waist (up or down a size) than to alter the seat. 

For a perfect fit, slip the trousers on without a belt. Position them where you like to wear them. This is important. Don’t allow the tailor to adjust them. Sit down, bend over; this allows the trousers to settle naturally, and lets you judge the fit. And, just as when buying a new jacket, while you’re being fitted, put into your pockets all the items that you normally carry.

As to length, ideally wear the shoes you plan to wear with the trousers. Have the tailor measure each leg separately. Legs can vary in length. Whether you choose to have cuffs or not is a matter of personal preference, but I do recommend a slight break in the crease line. The trouser front should rest one quarter of an inch to three eighths of an inch on your shoe, creating a small “break.”

While writing this column, I was reminded of a quote that I included when I wrote my book, Dress for Excellence:

The delicate yet vital matter of a break or no break in the trouser line has been with us since pre-World War II days. Here, reflecting on the dilemma, are fashionable (fictional) young Bertie Wooster and his valet, Jeeves, by P. G. Wodehouse in The Code of the Woosters.

JEEVES: The trousers perhaps a quarter of an inch higher, sir. One aims at the carelessly graceful break over the instep. It is a matter of the nicest adjustment.      


JEEVES: Admirable, sir.

WOOSTER: (SIGHING) There are moments, Jeeves, when once asks oneself, “Do trousers matter?”

JEEVES: The mood will pass, sir.

Please send your men’s dress and grooming questions to MALE CALL: Lois.Fenton@prodigy.net

Categories: Male Call