Finding a pair of trousers that fits and flatters can be tricky. In fact, some women feel it’s an impossible task and its true that for some, using the services of a tailor will be the best option.
However, to give yourself the best chance of finding trousers that make you feel good, there are few things that are extremely useful to know.
In my work as an image consultant, I help women to shop more easily and with more joy, by showing them why certain clothes will work almost every time and why other pieces are highly unlikely to make them look and feel good. Armed with this vital information, my clients find it easier to put together outfits that make them feel confident and happy.
Here are some of my best ‘trouser fitting tips’.
Warning: There is a LOT of information in this post. You might find it useful to print this blog out and highlight the bits that relate to you. Unfortunately, in order to help you to understand what’s likely to work for you, you’ll also need to know what to avoid. So, I’ve included lots of detail. I promise it’s worth the read, but maybe get yourself a cuppa first!
Also, it’s worth pointing out that the only way to test how anything fits, is to try on. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to drag yourself around the shops (you can still buy online), but by following the tips below, you can set yourself up to win. You’ll understand how to recognize the trousers that are more likely to make you look and feel fabulous, regardless of where you like to shop.
Find the right brands
Now, what most women don’t know (because no-one tells us!), is that brands use ‘fit models’ to design their clothes. The ones that work best for you are those that have a fit model with the same proportions as you. When I first trained in all-things-image back in 2009, it was pretty clear cut which brands worked for different proportions and body shapes. Nowadays it’s less obvious. It seems that many brands are trying to be all things to all people. The lines have become more blurred BUT by arming yourself with all the information you need for your particular proportions, you’ll find it easier to reject those styles that are unlikely to work. I feel like a big part of my job is stopping you from wasting time and money on things that aren’t your best option.
The most common trouser-fit problems
- Gaping waist band
- Straining around the hips and thighs
- Too much fabric around the bottom
- Wrong length
By far the hardest thing to get right in trousers and jeans is the fit around your waist, hips and thighs. The length can (usually) be altered. So, when you find a pair that feel good and fit well around the middle and thighs but are too long, it’s well worth paying to have them taken up to your perfect and preferred length. Some stores even include alterations in the price so always check.
Know your proportions
Know your shape and your proportions. Are you top heavy, bottom heavy or evenly balanced? The dress size you most often wear on each half of your body will be a good clue.
Do you have a long or short body? Or do you have long or short legs compared to your body? Do you go in at the waist and out at the hips or are they a similar size?
These are all clues as to which cut will work best. All is explained below.
Before you decide to try on a pair of trousers, check the shape from the waistband to hips and consider whether that is the same as your own shape. Some trousers are cut for what I call ‘curvy’ figure types and other for ‘straighter’ figures.
‘Curvy’ in my language means small waist and wider hips and thighs (regardless of your size). The opposite of this is ‘straight’ which means a thicker waist (you can still be slim and have a thicker waist), and your hips are a similar width.
So, if your figure is curvy, you’ll want the waistband on a trouser to be narrower than the cut around the hips. And if your figure is straighter, you’ll need the waistband to be roughly the same width as the hips area.
If you are in-store, take the trousers off the hanger and take a look at the shape. If you are ordering online, look at all the photos available. Most websites will show the trousers on a model as well as a flat-lay image, where you can see the shape of the trouser. It’s also a good idea to read the reviews when you are shopping online. You can get lots of information about how they fit from other people’s feedback.
If you are conscious of your tummy and you prefer to wear your tops loose and over your waistband, (rather than tucking in), a very flattering style is a waistband with a flat front and a side or a back zip. This creates a lovely smooth, flat tummy for your top to sit on. Phase 8 always have flat fronted options in stock and they have enough stretch in them that they seem work for lots of different body types. I recommend them to my clients often. There are slimmer cuts available too.
Mid-rise, high-rise or low-rise
The ‘rise’ of your trousers is the depth of the waistband. Again, your own proportions will determine the length of rise that feels good to you.
Broadly speaking, a low-rise is great if you have a flat tummy. And most of us don’t! A mid-rise works well for most figure types. This would usually sit just below your natural waist-line. A high rise is great for showing off small waists and can give the illusion of lengthening shorter legs.
Paper bag waist
This is a popular look right now and works best on smaller waists and curvy hips. The soft belt tie draws attention and can be bulky which is why you need ‘space’ around your waist for them to work well. I would avoid this waistband if you have a thicker waist or if you feel short waisted.
Pockets and other details
Be mindful of pocket placement on trousers. Pockets as well as many other design details have a tendency to draw attention to that area and potentially add volume. So, if you are conscious of having heavy thighs, pockets on the thigh area such as on a pair of cargo style trousers, will not be your best look. Similarly, embroidery on a pocket will draw attention to that area. Make sure pockets and details are on places that you are happy be admired and don’t add bulk.
A trouser fabric with a little stretch will be more comfortable to wear but too much stretch can mean that they lose their shape quickly. It’s a fine line.
Generally, a softer fabric will be more flattering on a curvy figure and a stiffer fabric on a straighter figure type. There are exceptions to this but its useful to bear in mind.
Textures and prints
Wearing a textured or printed fabric on your legs will also do the job of drawing attention and possibly making your legs look larger. If you want to slim down your legs, look for a plain fabric and wear texture, print and light or bright colour on your top half instead.
If your legs are your best bit, have a play with some lovely interesting trousers in fabulous fabrics.
Wearing your trousers long, with a heel (even a small heel works) is the best way to visually lengthen your leg.
If you would like to look taller and slimmer, always try to match the tone of your shoe to the colour of your trousers. So, wear a dark coloured shoe with a dark trouser and a light coloured shoe with a light coloured trouser. Regardless of the length of your trousers, this continuation of tone creates a streamlined look.
The current trend is to wear your trousers cropped, just above the ankle. This can be very flattering so long as the crop is at a flattering part of your lower leg. If you don’t like your ankles, avoid this length.
If you have heavy thighs, you’ll want a trouser to skim your thighs and have some width at the hemline to balance out your leg shape. Or, if it suits your style try a pair of harem style trousers.
Peg leg trousers are also worth a try – often paper bag style trousers have this leg shape. These can be harder to pull off but you might be pleasantly surprised!
If your waist is thicker and you have slim hips and thighs but a large tummy, you can wear a straighter legged trouser, or a wide leg really well, as long as the fabric skims your thigh area so that the narrowest part of you is visible. Do be careful of how you dress your top half. The general rule is that if you are wearing slim/fitted clothes on your lower half, opt for something more relaxed on top. And vice versa.
If you have a straighter figure type and a bit (or lot!) of a tummy, you will probably need to wear your tops slightly longer, at least just under your hip bone.
The best way to combine colours together in an outfit will depend on your proportions. Just like pockets and details, lighter ones draw attention and darker colours minimize. If your figure is pear shaped (bottom heavy), try wearing a lighter or brighter top and a darker fabric on your legs. This doesn’t mean you can’t wear a lighter coloured trouser in the warmer months, but I would avoid a lighter trouser worn with a darker top. You will look and feel more out of proportion.
If you have a top-heavy figure type and feel that you carry more weight on your tummy, bust or have broader shoulders, you can reverse this and draw attention to your slim hips and thighs by wearing lighter or brighter coloured trousers.
And that’s it! I hope that has all made sense and you feel more clear about what to look for in your perfect pair of trousers.
Please feel free to ask any questions and do let me know which tip has made the difference for you.
Please leave your comments below.