heroandvillainstyle.com may earn money or products from the companies mentioned in this post via affiliate partnerships.
Finding clothes that fit can sometimes seem like an impossible task, mainly due to all the quirks, and lack of standardisation in the clothing industry.
But it is possible; with the right mindset, know-how, and experience, you’ll have a good idea of where to go to get clothing that fits, and will be able to tell if something’s likely to fit you before you even try it on, allowing you to breeze through entire stores and catalogues of products.
Read on for some game changing exercises (points 1-5), and useful pointers and ‘hacks’, that I’ve found over the years that make it more likely that you’ll get a good fit, with as little effort as possible.
1. Understand The 3-Step Fit System & How Clothes Should Fit
In order to actually find clothes that fit, you first need an understanding on how clothes should fit.
Luckily, like a medieval potion seller, I’ve got something for that!
Firstly, I’ve created – probably my favourite post I’ve ever written – on ‘how clothes should fit a man‘. This post proposes a general answer to that question, using a 3-step framework that you can use to understand fit, which can subsequently be applied to any item to evaluate if it fits or not. This will be referred to throughout this article.
But sometimes you might want more in depth information on the fit of a specific type of garment, such as pants (trousers). For this, I’ve orchestrated a whole series of guides on how different pieces of clothing should fit, so you can be absolutely sure. All of these guides I’ve written so far can be accessed below:
Now that you understand generally, or specifically, how clothes should fit, you should ensure that you…
2. Consider YOUR Preferred Clothing Fit: Classic or Not?
You didn’t think it was going to be that simple, did you?
Different people have different tastes. As a result, you may have ‘different from average’ idea of what ‘looks good’ and ‘looks like it should’ as per the 3-point framework, and may not agree with the information presented in specific fit guides, which generally only paint one interpretation of how something should fit (though, I have to say, it’s usually the ‘generally accepted’ version, which are standard practice for a reason).
Therefore, it’s essential to figure out your perfect answers to these questions. For example:
- Perhaps you’re a streetwear guy, in which case, your answers may tend towards looser fits.
- Or if you’re like me, and lean towards classic menswear, your fit may be defined as trying to conform to clean, uninterrupted lines; this follows the advice of the 3-point framework, and most ‘generally accepted’ fit guides.
If you’re new to style, don’t have a strong preference, don’t like the way your current clothes fit, or simply aren’t sure, I’d recommend having your clothing fit according to classic menswear, and sticking to the general advice I propose in the 3-point framework, and the ‘how should x fit’ resources that I’ve linked to.
3. Re-Measure Your Chest, Waist, Inseam, Sleeve and Neck
So now you know how you want your clothes to fit. It’s time make sure that you’re not accidentally sabotaging your fit, or keeping yourself in the ‘why does nothing fit me?’ phase.
It’s always a good idea to know your dimensions, by re-measuring your body (or have someone else measure you) once and a while, as you can (at least I tend to) fluctuate over time.
As such, I do this several times a year.
If you know your measurements, but are unhappy with your fits, this could provide you with the much needed kick to re-evaluate the sizes you’re buying, if you haven’t realised that your waist has gone up to a 34″, and you’re still out there buying 32″ pants, which are unlikely to fit ‘well’. This may be the only adjustment you need to find clothes that fit again (or provide the motivation to get fitter!).
Moreover, if you’ve never collected your measurements before, this will make you aware of your sizes, to help you stop potentially buying the same incorrect sizes you always have.
The most important measurements to re-collect – or, collect – are your chest and waist (where you want your trousers to sit) sizes, as these are the most likely to change, and directly correspond to the sizing numbers used for clothing sizes.
If you’ve never taken your measurements before, you’ll also want to measure your inseam (leg length to your ankle, from your crotch: best to measure a existing pair of trousers with good length), sleeve length, and potentially neck size. These measurements are generally stable once you finish growing, unless you excessively exercise your neck or shoulders. They’ll come in useful for the sizing of certain items, such as trousers and dress shirts.
You can find a good resource on how to take measurements here; but remember, relax, and don’t augment yourself when you’re having your measurements taken!
4. Formulate Your ‘General Clothing Size’
After understanding your measurements, though not a fool proof method of finding clothes that fit, as you can’t trust brands to be consistent (covered later), it’s powerful to know your ‘general size’ – which clothing sizes generally work best for you – for both tops and pants, so you have a place to start when finding clothes that fit.
This will give yourself the best chance of success at getting a fit that works off of the bat.
You can find your general size by using one or both of the following methods:
- Looking at the average size of well fitting clothing already in your wardrobe, as per the 3 step system. (Good if you’ve decided you want a tighter or looser fit based on personal preference, and for those who just want to stick with the best practices)
- Using your raw measurements collected in the last step: in the UK, a chest size of 36″ generally corresponds to a size ‘S’ top, and a waist of 32″ generally fits a size 32″ trouser, which has an inseam length of S (30″), R (32″) or L (34″).
- You can calculate your size based on the fact that sizes generally go up in 2″ increments, so a 38″ chest will be a UK ‘M’.
- This method is great if you want clothes that traditionally fit ‘right’ based on best practices, and you haven’t adjusted for personal preference.
I’d recommend doing both methods, as, though my chest is 36″, I often prefer a size M sized top (despite it being made for 38″ chests).
For me, most brand’s tops in size ‘M’, and size ‘32R’ in trousers, fit me well; so, my ‘general size’ is a ‘M’ for tops, and ‘32R’ for trousers. Additionally, I have a 14.5 inch neck, and my sleeve length is 33″, so for dress shirts, my size will be (14.5, 33).
Once you’ve identified these, you can use them as the starting point size for my 3-point system for any brand, adjusting the size you’re looking at up or down as necessary.
As this will frequently be the best size for you, it will cut down the time and effort trying on different sizing possibilities.
Though I feel it’s less of an issue with men’s clothing, the idea of ‘vanity sizing’ may reduce the effectiveness of this point, which is where brands deliberately mark down the size on the label, to make you feel like you’re fitting into something ‘better’ than you expected, such as a genuine 32″ waist trouser being marked as 30″. This is where the 3-point system shines (I know this is the 1000th time I’ve linked to it; I promise I’m not trying to sell you anything), as it strips away the idea of labels being hard coded ‘best fit’ sizes, and has you evaluate fit based on your intuition.
5. Figure Out The Clothing Cuts That Work For Your Body Type
So, you now know your measurements, and your ‘general sizes’ that work for your measurements, to get you closer to how you feel ‘clothes should fit’.
But there’s one more big element. Unfortunately, it’s the one that I misunderstood the longest, but when I started paying attention to it, it had a huge impact on my fit game.
And that’s the ‘cut’ of your clothing’. You need to understand which ‘cuts’ (or, ‘fits’) work best for you and your body type, if you want to have any possibility of reliably finding clothing that fits properly.
Though the powerful 3-point system can do this by proxy, as clothes that ‘look good’ and are ‘unequivocally comfortable’ on you are going to be the correct cut for your body type:
- It can’t tell you if there’s a clothing fit out there that would work even better for you.
- It’s really important to understand why that particular piece of clothing fits well (what cut/fit it is), so you can look for others that are similar.
This is probably best explained with an example.
For the longest time, I wore slim fit 32″ waist trousers. At the time, I thought they looked ‘good’ and felt ‘comfortable’ – 32″ was my correct waist size, and still is, and I was aware they were slim fit, but didn’t really consider how this affected the overall look and feel of my pants. As I was quite closed minded, I never even considered any other type of trouser fit.
However, after spending a lot of time investigating other people’s outfits that I liked, I realised that ‘slim fit’ didn’t look quite right on me, and after a bit of thinking, I concluded that they’re just not fully aligned to my style, and how I want my clothes to fit and look – they were too tight, and didn’t produce those clean lines that I keep going on about.
As a result, I’ve started introducing ‘relaxed tapered’ and ‘straight cut’ pants into my wardrobe, which provide more ‘comfort’ in the thigh, visually broaden my lower body physique, and actually fit in line with the 3-point system, and trouser fit guides.
This adjustment in the trouser cut makes them ‘look good-er’, and ‘more like trousers should’, closer to my ideal look of clean lines.
So, if you’ve already done everything in the above list, and you’re frustrated that your clothing still doesn’t fit properly, you could take this advice by trying on different fit ‘cuts’, and seeing if they fit closer to the idea of a ‘good fit’.
Granted, it does make things a bit more complex, because no longer do you just have to consider your top size, or trouser waist and length, but also the ‘cut’. AND it’s made even more difficult, as sizing, cuts, and cut names differ across or within brands (might as well end it all now)…
BUT, understanding this all will clear a lot up for you, and will allow you to update your ‘general size’ to perhaps a size ‘M’ regular fit for shirts, and a 32″ relaxed tapered fit for pants, which will get you a much more spot on fit.
Suits, dress shirts, shirts, and pants are the categories that are most commonly associated with different cuts, and the following may ring a bell to you, from slimmest to baggiest:
- Suits: Skinny Fit, Extra Slim Fit, Slim Fit, Tailored Fit, Classic Fit
- Dress Shirts: Super Slim Fit, Extra Slim Fit, Slim Fit, Classic Fit
- Shirts: Muscle Fit, Slim Fit, Regular Fit, Oversized
- Pants (Redacting a few, as there’s so many): Skinny, Slim, Tailored, Straight, Classic, Bootcut – Check out my article that ranks all pant cuts from slimmest to baggiest, and which is best for you.
Different brands can have their own fit/cut names, though there is somewhat general consistency among the industry.
6. Look at Your Back, Squat, and Try on Lots of Sizes
At this point, we’re moving on to general practices that will reduce your room for error, and help you build valuable experience with different clothing fits.
It should go without saying that it’s best to try clothes on before you buy them – you’re trying to get a good fit, after all.
But there are a few things you can do during this trial to give you the leg up, such as:
- Check out the garment from the back and sides; it may look great at the front, but you might not realise that it rides up strangely at the back.
- Performing motions you’ll be doing on a day to day basis, such as sitting down, twisting, lifting your arms, and bending over, to make sure the it consistently ‘looks good’ and remains ‘comfortable’.
- Bringing multiple sizes into the changing room with you, so you’re more likely to size up or down in accordance to the 3-point model.
7. Don’t Trust Mirrors
Though using a good, full length mirror is a step up over not having one, I’ve had some pretty trippy experiences in changing room mirrors: strange angles, bad lighting, slimming mirrors (yes, I actually think so); all these variables make it hard to know how that item actually looks.
Of course, many times you’ll be travelling alone, buying not super important clothes, or with people who you wouldn’t want to bother with this… but if you’re buying something expensive, or important, you may want to ask someone to take a photo (or preferably, a video) of you with your phone, which often produces more true-to-life feedback than a mirror.
As someone who’s into photography, I can tell you that this method may not be perfect either, depending on the ‘focal length’ of your camera lens, but it will give you an alternate, easier to review view.
This can be especially useful when you’re looking to evaluate clothes that you already own, as it’s where I initially realised I had some problems with my trouser fit.
8. DON’T Trust Brands to have Consistent Sizing
When I was younger, after some trial and error, I had found some brands that worked for me, and knew my sizes in them.
I assumed that I’d get a similar comfortable and visually flattering fit across all brands… yeah, nope.
I didn’t – and, I tended to shrug this off as my mistake, because – the label can’t lie, can it?
But it really was a problem, because fit across brands isn’t consistent, with some brands cutting their clothes tighter, looser, longer, or shorter than others.
This is even the case with the same ‘cut’ names across brands (slim fit, etc), but becomes even crazier when an item isn’t indicated by any cut, as you don’t know if it’s been cut roomier or tighter, on top of other elements like length.
For example, when I was a younger, smaller man who wore a size S, I found Zara’s ‘S’ size slightly restrictive, so I sized up to a ‘Medium’, which I found fit roughly the same as ‘Small’ in other brands, such as Charles Tyrwhitt. What’s worse, the sleeves of the Zara polo shirt are still massively shorter than the smaller size in Charles Tyrwhitt!
This doesn’t help make things easy for us; for me, this means that for some brands, their size small is too tight, or too big, for me, so the fit I’m actually looking for is their size medium, or extra small (again, the 3-point system helps with this!).
A way to reduce the impact of this is to look at each brand’s size charts, which can usually be accessed on their websites, on the item you’re looking at picking up.
Though I’ve found this is useful if a particular brand, for some reason, measures things differently (such as Hackett’s size ‘S’ being 38″, compared to most brands 36″) , it will likely not dive deep into some of the other aforementioned differences, such as cut, that may make one brand’s size 36″ S fit differently to another brand’s 36″ S.
Because of this, sadly, despite my advice, buying clothing that fits by size tags alone can still be a bit of a free-for-all (but it’s still a useful starting place).
9. DON’T Trust Clothing Sizes WITHIN Brands to be Consistent
To add to the previous problem, even within the same brand, sizes may not fit consistently among all of their products, such as the below light grey ‘Small’ Mango jumper fitting tighter than another.
So, even if a brand’s size has worked for you before, you have to be very critical of the fit of any new piece, and be prepared to try sizing up or down, or to discount it completely if you’re between sizes.
This all means that, even though your general ‘size’ will frequently be the best offering, you can’t just always blind buy it and know that that’s the best looking, and most comfortable size for you – sorry.
Therefore, a combination of knowing your ‘general’ size, alongside use of the 3-point system, is the best way of finding clothing that fits.
10. Gain as Much Clothing Fit Experience as Possible
Because navigating clothing fits is a tough task, I recommend that you try as many pieces of clothing on, to gather as much experience as possible.
On shopping trips out, I find this to be quite energy draining, though you will build up experience over time that will help you get your fit spot on, and make navigating different brands and their fit systems much easier.
11. Purchase a ‘Haul’ from Your Favourite Brand
A good way of building experience with clothing fit, and to help address the issue of sizing being different within brands, and different fits working better for different body types, is to do a ‘haul’ every once and a while from your favourite clothes store(s).
A haul is when you buy a large amount of items, usually of many varieties (product types, fits and sizes), and simply send back the ones that don’t work for you.
This is a really great way of:
- Almost guaranteeing that you will receive a few items that fit you well, due to the probability of at least one item having a good fit on your body.
- Gaining experience in finding clothes that fit you well, as you’ll be trying on potentially lots of different sizes, cuts, and styles, which you can then assess, and figure out what works for you.
I know some might consider this unethical (though, I think it’s fine, as long as the clothing is unworn, and in perfect condition), and a hassle, but on the few occasions that I’ve done this, I’ve always come out with many learning experiences about what clothing cuts work best on my body, and how the company’s sizing works, and compares to other brands.
This has also helped me understand non-fit elements, such as which fabric compositions tend to perform and look best in the real world.
12. Be Cautious of Sizing Down
At around 16, I started caring about my clothing. After a bit of researching, I found a bunch of style resources online (kind of like this!) and discovered the answer to my never-ending problem of not liking the baggier fit of my clothes (at the time) was to simply to size down – quite simple really.
But be cautious of the advice of sizing down.
Although sizing down is good advice if you’re firmly wearing larger sizes than you should, it became a bit of a problem when I was sizing down on my sizing down.
I correctly went from size ‘Large’ to ‘Small’, but I’ve stupidly previously tried to wriggle into extra small clothes.
Yes, I can physically get into them – but, as per the 3 point system, they really look terrible, and have no drape, aren’t very comfortable, and haven’t aged very well post lockdown – if you know what I mean.
And, I let myself think it was the right thing to do, given all the advice we’ve been given to ‘size down’; but just because you can physically fit into it, doesn’t mean it’s the right size for you.
13. Consider Your ‘Wide Shoulders’
If you have some defining feature, a ‘widest asset’ (unfortunately not the thing most men want it to be), that consistently makes it difficult to shop for clothing – such as wide, muscular shoulders (not a bad thing to have, by the way!) – it’s recommended that you purchase for this characteristic, and have the rest of the garment taken in, if it can be, where possible.
In the case of muscular shoulders, most items, namely shirts, sports coat and suit jackets, can be taken in lower down in the garment to accommodate wider shoulders.
However, as shoulders are difficult to adjust, it may be a problem if your problem is inversed (smaller shoulders compared to your stomach) as you’ll have to buy wider in the stomach, which leaves generally shallow shoulders.
14. Consider The Details
Perhaps you’re a perfectionist. In this case, even if you don’t want to, it’s possible you’ll have to get more involved and experienced with clothing before you become happy with your fit.
This is because there are many factors that can impact a way a garment ‘fits’, beyond classic issues that make a ‘fit’ incorrect.
For example, when we’re talking about trousers, you have several options when it comes to trouser ‘rise’, and trouser ‘break’. In many instances, one or the other aren’t ‘correct’ or ‘incorrect’, however they can have an impact on aesthetics and comfort, and look better on certain body types.
Details like this may be standing between you, and the comfort and look you’ve always wanted.
Luckily, I’ve written some guides on topics like this. For trousers, I’d highly recommend you check out my guides on trouser rise, and trouser breaks.
15. Don’t be Tempted By Sales
I’ll keep this short, because I’ve already talked about this in my guide to stop wasting money on clothing, but don’t be swayed to buy something that clearly ‘doesn’t fit’, just because it’s on sale.
That doesn’t justify the purchase!
16. If All Else Fails, Go Custom
If you’ve followed all of the advice in this article, and are still struggling to get a good fit (or don’t want to put in the effort to find well fitting clothes off of the rack – I can completely understand this, don’t worry), then I’d advise you check out some online, or in person, custom clothing retailers.
Over the last 10 years, these types of brands have been popping up all over the place, and there are some pretty good options out there on the market.
The Low Down…
Though fit is arguably the most important part of creating an aesthetically pleasing outfit, it’s really tough to find clothes that fit properly.
But hopefully all of the resources I’ve linked in this article, such as the 3 point system for general fit evaluations, and specific fit guides, along with the knowledge you’ve gained about the industry as a whole in this article, will kickstart your journey to building up some good experience in this arena, so you can get a perfect fit, every time.