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Tall Women Sizing: Understanding the Inseam


Woman's legs with red shoes
Verity Jane Smith/The Image Bank/Getty Images

All tall women should know what an inseam is and how to measure for it. Buying pants with the right inseam can protect you from the dreaded high-water look and enable you to confidently purchase clothes online. So grab your measuring tape and prepare to give yourself the gift of sufficiently-long pants.

What is an Inseam?

An inseam measures the distance along the inner seam of a pair of pants between your groin and the bottom of your ankle.

How to Measure and Inseam

While it’s possible to measure your own inseam, you’ll probably have better luck if you recruit a close friend to help you out. Stand with your legs slightly spread and place the tape measure against your inner thigh, right at crotch-level. Pull the tape measure tight and measure the distance between your crotch and the bottom of your ankle. Your inseam is the distance, in inches, between the two points.

Inseam Considerations

I have this thing with my pants and jeans: I want them long. I’m convinced it has something to do with all the giggles I was subjected to as a tween when I walked around in high-waters all the time. In any case, even though my inseam is exactly 35 inches, I won’t purchase pants with an inseam shorter than 36 inches. When measuring the inseam, consider the following:

  1. Length Preference: If you like your pants long, or you like them short, add or subtract a half-inch to an inch from your inseam.
  2. Shoes: Wearing heels will extend your inseam. If you regularly wear heels with your pants, measure your inseam while wearing heels, stopping the measurement at the point where you want your pants to end.
  3. Shrinkage: Some pants shrink after they’ve been washed. If you’re concerned about potential shrinkage, add an extra half-inch to your inseam length.
  4. Pant Style: Cropped pants and leggings are designed to have a shorter length. If you’re unsure what inseam length to purchase in these styles, re-measure your inseam, stopping the measurement at the point where you want the pants to end. Add an extra half-inch if you’re worried about shrinkage.

Putting Your Knowledge to Use

Online shopping has made life so much easier for all the tall women out there! Even if you end up making your purchases in-store, you can do your research online to determine which styles and brands offer inseams that will work for you. When you’re shopping online, you can find inseam information by checking size charts or clicking on tabs that provide more information about the specific product. Even if you don’t immediately find the inseam length, it will be listed somewhere – I haven’t found a store yet that doesn’t include this information on their website.

If you just can’t stomach shopping online, always ask store personnel specifically about inseam lengths before trying anything on. If you’re armed with your number, you can ask the specific question, “Do you carry pants with a (insert your number here)-inch inseam?” thereby avoiding the frustrating process of trying on “longs” that aren’t long enough.

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