What is an inseam? A complete guide on how to measure it (correctly!)

what is an inseam

Do you struggle with finding new pants or jeans that fit nicely? Too long, too short, too baggy, too tight…Finding the perfect fit for your clothing bottoms can be tricky. One measurement that can make all the difference is your inseam, so it’s worth taking a little extra time to research before making a purchase.

If you don’t know what an inseam is or how to measure yours, do not worry. This article will answer all your common questions about it so that the next time you see that perfect pair of pants, you’ll confidently hit the size chart button and rock that inseam number 🙂

What is an inseam and why it matters

Technically speaking, the inseam is the length of the inside of your leg, from your crotch to the bottom of your ankle. 

Here are three important reasons why it is essential to know your inseam measurement: 

  • It’s a game changer when it comes to finding pants that fit well and look great. 
  • It can make online shopping much easier, as many websites provide a size guide you can reference for each style of jeans or pants before buying. 
  • You won’t need to try on and pin every pair of trousers that needs alterations. You can simply provide your tailor with this measurement, who can hem your pants accordingly. In addition to saving time, it ensures you get the perfect length hassle-free.

How to measure your inseam

Measuring your inseam is easy, and you can do it right at home. All you need are a few simple tools. So, let’s get started and measure that inseam! Here are the two best ways to do it.

Measuring your inseam correctly: 

Method 1

The first method is easy, quick, and can be done by yourself. 
You will need:

  • a soft measuring tape
  • a flat surface
  • a pair of well-fitted pants that have the inseam length you prefer

If you do not have a pair of pants that fit well lengthwise, skip to method 2.

  1. Take your pair of pants (or jeans) and fold them together so that one pant leg is on top of the other. (1.) Then lay them on a flat surface.
  2. Lift up the leg on the top to reveal the lower one. (picture 2)
  3. With your tape measure, measure from just below the crotch seam (3.a), along the inner leg seam, and to the bottom hem (3). Alternatively, you can use a standard measuring tape, a ruler, or a yardstick. It’s important to measure form-fitting bottoms, such as fitted jeans, to get an accurate inseam measurement.
  4. Jot down this number (4). Congratulations! You now know your inseam!

Method 2

The second method has one main difference compared to the first: it requires an additional pair of hands. Not to worry, as it’s quite straightforward and can provide the most accurate measurement. Ask for the help of a friend or a family member to be your assistant.

Let’s get started!

  1. Put on a pair of well-fitted pants or jeans. 
  2. Do not wear shoes and stand up straight with your feet shoulder distance apart. 
  3. Have your assistant measure the leg opening from the crotch of the pants along the inner leg down the middle of your ankle bone.
  4.  Record the measurement. This is your inseam.


Ok, you have the length of the inseam. Now what? 

The first thing you should do with your inseam is to note it. Even if it’s easy to measure your inseam, there’s no need to keep re-doing it. So it’s a good idea to jot this number down where you can easily access it. For example, keep a document containing your measurements on your computer or cell phone, so it’s always to hand for online shopping. 

Once you have your inseam measurement, the next step is to use it to find the right pair of pants for you.

Finding Your Perfect Fit: Where to Look for Inseam Measurements

When it comes to finding inseam measurements, there are a few different places to look. Before making a purchase, it’s always a good idea to look at the size chart provided by the brand or store you’re shopping from. 
This can typically be found on their website or in-store. 
Sometimes, you’ll also find the inseam measurement listed on the product page for the specific item you’re interested in. Keep in mind that different brands may have slightly different size charts, so it’s important to check the chart for each specific brand. 

Another place to look is on the label of the pants themselves. Some brands will list the inseam measurement there. And if you’re shopping in-store, don’t be afraid to ask a sales associate for help! They should be able to help you find the inseam measurement for the pants you’re interested in. 

On top of that, some stores offer pants in multiple inseam lengths, so it’s worth checking to see if this is an option.

Inseam measurements vs length measurements

When it comes to buying pants, it’s important to understand the difference between inseam measurement and length measurement. I know it can be confusing, but hear me out. The inseam measurement is the distance down the inside of your leg from the crotch area all the way to the bottom hem of your pants. 
On the other hand, the length measurement is the distance down the outside of your leg from the waistband to the hem.

It all comes down to the right inseam

It is essential to consider what type of pants you are buying. The right length also depends on the style of the trousers we want to wear rather than personal measurements. 
The suggested inseam length for women’s pants can vary depending on the style and personal preference.
A shorter inseam may be more flattering for some styles, while a longer one may be necessary for others. For instance, skinny jeans tend to be nicer when the inseam length stops about at the ankle length, (ankle jeans are popular at the moment), while straight-leg jeans, bootcut jeans or boyfriend jeans may require a longer inseam.

As a rule of thumb, we may say:

  • that high-waisted pants typically have a longer inseam, while cropped pants have a shorter inseam. 
  • a longer inseam gives a more polished and professional look, while a shorter inseam suits a more casual or trendy vibe. 
  • that ultimately, the best inseam length for any style of women’s pants is the one that feels the most comfortable and is the most flattering for you.

Why Your Shoes Matter When Choosing Pants

When choosing the ideal length of your pants, your shoes are a noteworthy detail to consider. If you’re planning on wearing your jeans with flats or low boots, a small variation of half an inch shouldn’t affect your inseam number too much. However, if you prefer to rock your jeans with high heels or boots, a difference of 2-3 inches can significantly impact the inseams you shop for. Therefore, it’s important to decide where you want your pant hem to fall based on your preference.

As a rough guideline, if you want to wear trousers with heels add at least a half an inch to your inseam. However, remember that different pant styles may require more significant inseam adjustments. It would be a good idea to make note of the different styles you own, and jot down an ideal inseam within each category.

Talking of perfect pants check also How to buy jeans – Everything you need to know to find your dream jeans

Avoiding Alteration Mishaps: Why Pre-Washing Your Pants is Key to Perfect Inseam Lengths

My grandmother was a brilliant seamstress and shared a valuable tip with me: always wash your pants before altering them. (There is nothing like a granny’s secret!) This tip is especially useful when it comes to altering the inseam of a new pair of pants. By washing them first, you prevent any potential shrinkage causing you to end up with a shorter length than you intended.


So, here’s the deal: no matter your body type, your inseam measurement is your friend if you want your pants to fit like a glove and look good. Getting your inseam measurement right is crucial. Trust me. Nothing beats the feeling when wearing a pair of pants that fits just right. Not only is it way more comfortable, but it also makes you look your absolute best. So, take the time to measure your inseam properly. You’ll thank yourself later. Your style game is about to level up!



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