How Do You Tell If Clothes Fit Without Trying Them On?

For those of us whose shopping habits may be more adversely impacted by the current global pandemic—or for anyone who simply prefers to shop online—it’s important to know how to tell whether a piece of clothing will fit without trying it on. This can be tricky because, as we all know, sizing varies from brand to brand, and there is no universal standard.

In order to make this process easier, you need two things:

1) your actual measurements;

2) an understanding of how to measure them correctly. If you don’t have these things, read this paragraph before continuing: To measure your bust size, wrap a tape measure around your chest at its fullest point (for most people with breasts, this will be around their nipples).

Keep the tape taut but not too tight. For people with larger chests or small ones that don’t sit high on their ribcage, it might be easier to get an accurate measurement by wrapping the tape around under the arms instead. To measure your waist size, wrap the tape around you at its narrowest point (for most people with waists and stomachs that go in more than out when looking sideways in front of a mirror, this will be above your belly button).

Finally, measure your hips by wrapping the tape around them at their fullest point (for most people with bodies that have been assigned female at birth or have similar proportions regardless of physical sex characteristics or gender identity expression [and yes I am going off course here], this will be across the widest part of their bum).

Now that you are equipped with these tools and knowledge about how to use them effectively—whether learned through previous experience or just having read all three sentences above—you can easily determine whether clothes fit without even trying them on!


  • Your shoulders should be wider than the neckline. This is not only to avoid the garment looking like a boat on you, but also to ensure that it won’t slip off easily. If you’re looking at a dress or shirt with noticeable shoulder seams, remember that those seams should sit just outside your shoulders and not inside or on them.
  • The cut of the shoulders should match the cut of the sleeves. Conversely, if you have wide shoulders and narrow hips, then it’s best to choose a garment without prominent shoulder seams so as to create an even silhouette—and vice versa for someone with narrow shoulders and wider hips.
  • You can measure the width of your shoulders simply by laying a measuring tape across them while they’re relaxed (not pulled back). Alternatively, if you don’t have a tape measure handy or aren’t too eager to do some measurements right now, you can also do this by eye: place two fingers between your collarbones and see if one hand spans about half an inch over each side (this is about how far apart most shoulders are).


How can you determine if a garment will fit your neck? The method here is similar to that of the waist and bust. Measure the circumference around the base of your neck and add half an inch to the measurement to allow for comfort. The garment should be as wide as the measurement you took.

If you’re shopping for button-down shirts, look for pieces with extra buttons at the sleeve ends or shirt tails that can be undone, allowing you to roll up sleeves and tuck in shirts without being too tight around the wrist area or bunching up in back when tucked in. Rolling up sleeves is a great style tip as well, especially paired with sticking your hands into your pockets!


The waist: The waist of the pants should be at your natural waist, which is just above your hipbones and well above your belly button. A too-high waist will throw off the proportions of how you’re perceived, making you look shorter than you actually are. A too-low waist will make it look like you have a longer torso and shorter legs than you want, giving you a hard to shake “diaper butt” vibe. Ideally the front of the pants will rise up just high enough to cover your belly button when standing; if they fall below that point in front or back, they won’t work for most people’s bodies.

Pants should fit comfortably around the waist as well; avoid tightness or looseness in this area, since either can mess with any outfit’s ability to convey stability and balance.


Let’s look at how to tell if a shirt fits by measuring its sleeves.

  • Measure the sleeves of a shirt you already own that fits well.
  • Measure the sleeve length of the shirt you are considering (down from shoulder).
  • If it’s shorter, this can be an indication that the fit isn’t as good, but there are exceptions to every rule.
  • Next, measure your arm length from wrist to armpit and see if it’s close in length to the sleeve you want to buy. If not, they may not match up well in terms of fit.
  • Measure the shoulder width of both shirts by holding them side-by-side and marking where each seam meets on one side and then measure across. Then compare lengths with a tape measurer. You’ll want your new shirt to have a similar shoulder width as one you already like for consistency in fit feel and style effect. This will help create some continuity throughout your wardrobe and make shopping easier too!

Sleeve Length

With full-length sleeves that go over your wrist, the cuff should end right where the hand meets the wrist. If it’s a short sleeve, this measurement should be around your elbow.


If the pants fit your hips and waist, but not your thighs: For loose-fitting pants, you can go a size up and make them fit by tailoring the waist. If you don’t want to deal with tailoring, look for styles that are looser fitting in the thighs. There are plenty of options out there!

You’ve got some basics down, but maybe you have more specific questions about whether or not a garment will work for you. Here’s how to think about fit differences between clothing items:

  • Pants: Find pants with a stretchy waistband. This will ensure that the pants will fit your hips without having to keep pulling up an ill-fitting pair of jeans all day long!
  • Jeans: Have someone measure around your hips while they’re wearing their favorite pair of jeans and then buy yours based on that measurement. If this option is too expensive for you at this time, try on several pairs that are too big and see how they feel.


The jeans measurements are inseam, outseam, front rise, back rise, waist, thigh, knee and leg opening.

The inseam is the length of the inner seam on your pants from the crotch to the bottom of the leg.

Length of Pants, Skirt, and Shorts

The length of your garments is just as critical to the fitting of your clothes as your waist size.

Measure the distance from the top of the garment to their hem and compare that measurement to the size guide on a website you are thinking of buying from or, if you are in a store, take note of how long the garment falls on a mannequin. A helpful way to get this right is to use clothing that fits you well as a frame of reference. For pants that fall at your ankle, measure them with your hands held out at arm’s length and compare this measurement with your clothing options. If they don’t match up exactly, keep in mind that it will be easy enough to have them tailored (this goes for any clothing piece).

You can find out whether clothing items fit you without trying them on.

To figure out whether clothes fit you without trying them on, you can use the information on a size chart to determine what your measurements are and then compare those measurements to the ones provided by the size chart. You can also measure specific parts of clothing items in order to tell if they’re going to fit. For example, if you want to buy a pair of jeans or shorts, you should know your hips measurement before buying them. After measuring your hips, you should make sure that the jeans or shorts you want are not too small or too big for your body. If you have wide hips and skinny legs, for example, it might be better for you to go with pants with pockets rather than pants without pockets so that they don’t look baggy when worn! Another way of telling whether clothes fit is by checking their length: do they reach down below your knees? If not, then it’s time for an upgrade!


Now you’re equipped with the tools to buy clothes online—all without having to try them on. It’s an uncomfortable process, but if we use the measurements and size charts provided by our favorite stores, we can get a good idea of how a garment is going to fit. We have to do some work, though. First, look at the tag for a garment’s measurements. Then check it against the size chart for that brand. It might take some trial and error, but it’ll be worth it when your new clothes fit like a dream!


You can learn how to gauge sizing and apparel quality in a new way, too. Since you don’t have the physical item in front of you, the best possible way to find out if it fits is to research measurements and compare them to your own. The Internet is full of helpful tools for this purpose, and although it might take some time to look up each measurement individually, it will be worth it when your clothes are perfect as soon as they arrive on your doorstep.

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