Measuring For A Suit: How To Find Your Jacket And Pants Size

There are fewer worse things than an ill-fitting suit on a man. Sleeves that are too long, trouser legs that are too short or a jacket that is too tight a fit, these are all the result of bad measuring.

Measuring For A Suit: How To Find Your Jacket And Pants Size

You don’t need to wait until you are having a custom tailored suit made to get your proper measurements. Even if you are buying an off the rack suit, having your correct dimensions will ensure that your suit is well fitted and looks good. 

All men should have a proper suit fitting done at some point in their lives. Rather than thinking of it as an unnecessary luxury it should be considered a cost saving measure. 

By having the right measurements for a suit jacket and pants you avoid buying incorrect sizes or wearing a badly fitted suit. This can be more expensive than having a professional tailor measure you for a suit. 

If you purchase a suit that you assume is a good fit and then find that the sleeves are too long, or the pants are too tight you will have to pay for tailoring alterations to put them right. 

Better to get it right the first time. 

Measuring Basics

So what are the essential measurements for the perfectly fitted suit? For most men a suit is work clothing, and a two-piece suit is typical, consisting of a jacket and pants. Both of these elements need to be carefully measured to ensure a good fit and smart appearance. 

Jacket Chest Size

Your jacket chest size is not the same as your chest measurement. If you buy a suit jacket based just on your chest measurement you will end up with a jacket that is far too tight and will look ill-fitting. 

Jacket chest size refers to the widest part of your chest and the corresponding measurement will be in inches. A typical range is between 34 and 52, jacket chest sizes are normally given in even numbers. 

The importance of jacket chest size is best observed when it is done badly. The dreaded X on a suit jacket is the gap created by buttoning your jacket when the fitting is too tight. There is a gap above and below the buttons creating an unsightly X shape.

Straining buttons show that the jacket does not fit well on the torso. It can also result in the embarrassing popping of buttons under tension which will then need to be replaced. 

As the jacket of a suit is arguably the most visible it is really important to get the chest measurement right for a good fit and a clean, crisp look. 

If you want to create a good impression, getting the chest size of your suit jacket right is vital. 

Jacket Length

Another important measurement for your suit jacket is the length. The label on a jacket will have the chest size as we have mentioned, but this will also be followed by a letter. This letter corresponds to the length of the suit jacket. 

The letter S means that the jacket is short, R means it is a regular length and L indicates the jacket is long. 

To find the perfect suit jacket length you will need to know how tall you are. Roughly speaking a man who is under 5’8” can wear a short jacket, someone who is between 5’9” and 6’1” would look better in a regular jacket. 

Men who are more than 6’2” will benefit from a long jacket for a good fit. Some suit makers will also have extra small, XS or extra large, XL. The suit jacket should completely cover your rear. 

Jacket length will determine the correct length of the sleeves. A well fitted sleeve will allow for ¼”- ½” of shirt cuff to be visible. A good measurement tip for jacket length is if the hem reaches the point on your hand where your fingers begin then this is a good fit. 

However if the jacket fits well, but the sleeves are a bit long you can always have them professionally altered. 

Trouser Size

Suit trousers usually play second fiddle to the suit jacket and are rarely in the spotlight. Unless of course it’s for the wrong reason. So it is just as important to get the size of your suit pants right as it is for your suit jacket. 

While your suit trousers are not going to be front and center, having a good fit will make the whole suit look sharp and crisp. Ill fitting trousers will detract from the look of your suit, and you will not feel as comfortable as you could. 

Trouser or pants size is calculated from the waist measurement and the length of the leg. Sometimes the inside leg measurement is also used. 

Off the rack suit pants may be a good fit on your waist but potentially not exactly the right length on the leg. If they are a bit too long you can have a tailor professionally hem the suit trousers for a better fit. 

The trouser break is the area where the length of your suit pants meets your shoes. If done right it is not noticeable but if it is wrong it will be very obvious for the wrong reason. 

How To Measure A Suit Jacket

So how do you measure a suit jacket? There are several measurements that need to be taken, and precise dimensions are important for a good fit. 

Chest Measurement

Attention is typically focused on a man’s suit jacket over and above the trousers so getting the chest measurement correct is vital. 

To get the chest dimension wrap a tape measure around the widest part of the chest underneath the arms and across the shoulder blades. Keep the tape measure parallel to the floor. 

Then measure over the arms across the thickest part of the chest. Now take away seven inches from this measurement, this will give you a corresponding chest measurement. 

Compare the two measurements and take the larger of the two as the final chest measurement. 

Shoulder Measurement

The shoulders of a suit jacket should lie flat against your shoulders and follow your shoulder line as well as the contours of your body. The seam of the sleeve should begin where your shoulder bone ends. There should be no creasing or divots in the shoulders. 

Shoulder measurements are taken from the tip of one shoulder to the tip of the other. Make sure that the tape measure follows the natural curve along the shoulders and is not taken as a straight line across the back. 

Sleeve Length

To measure the sleeve length the arm should be at a 90-degree angle. Place the tape measure at the tip of the shoulder and measure to the elbow and then on to the wrist at the base of the thumb. This method gives the most accurate measurement. 

The hem of the suit sleeve should rest where the hand meets the wrist and should allow for ¼”- ½” of visible shirt cuff. 

Few things are more obvious than a suit with badly fitting sleeves, so this is an important measurement. 

Jacket Length

The most common suit jacket length is the middle length. This is calculated with the arms relaxed by the sides and standing up straight. The hem of the jacket should reach the middle knuckle of the thumb at the front. 

Jacket length is measured from the neck to the thumb. Place the tape measure at the base of the neck and run it down the front of the body until it reaches the thumb. The length of the suit jacket should be sufficient to cover the man’s rear completely but no lower. 

Collar Measurement

The collar of a suit should align with the edge of the shirt collar for a good fit. If the shirt collar is being squashed by the collar of the jacket then the jacket collar is too narrow. 

However if it is possible to see some of the shirt shoulder then the collar is too wide. A collar gap, when the suit and shirt collar don’t fit together snugly is not a good look. Similarly collar roll, with excess fabric at the back of the suit bunching up looks unprofessional. 

Measure the neck by placing a tape measure just beneath the Adam’s apple and above the collar bone. The tape measure should be pulled taut but insert a couple of fingers before taking the measurement to allow some room for comfort. 

Waist Measurement

Not many people may be aware that you need to do a waist measurement for a suit jacket as well as for suit pants. This is how much the waist of the jacket hugs your torso and is called ‘tapering’.

The three standard widths are slim, tailored and classic from tightest to loosest. The majority of suits have a tailored waist as it is a timeless and neutral look. 

To take a waist measurement for a suit jacket run the tape measure around the navel and well above the hips. 

The measurement needs to be taken from the widest part of the waist and the tape measure should be kept level. Movement up or down will result in an incorrect measurement. 

Wrist Measurement

To measure the wrist wrap a tape measure around it where the sleeve of the jacket would come to an end. This is the point where the seam of the jacket will lie. 

Keep the tape measure snug against the wrist but do not pull it too tightly. Do not insert a finger under the tape measure either. 

There should be enough room for your watch to be discreetly hidden by your suit jacket sleeve. 

How To Measure Suit Trousers

How To Measure Suit Trousers

When measuring for suit trousers make sure that you are wearing dress shoes to get a correct measurement. This will be the correct height for when you are wearing the suit. 

Wearing trainers or flip-flops will result in an incorrect calculation. 

A pair of properly measured and fitted suit trousers should be unassuming and receive little attention. Unfortunately attention is usually guaranteed when suit trousers are ill fitting. 

Trousers that are too short or long in the leg are bound to attract the wrong kind of attention. A badly measured seat may result in an unflattering excess of fabric or an embarrassingly tight fit. 


Remember to stand up straight when measuring and do not slouch, this will give more accurate measurements and ensure a good fit. 

To measure the seat of suit pants the tape measure should go around the widest part of the bottom. Keep the tape measure taut but not too tight and make sure it is level around the entire circumference of the seat. 

Do not make any extra allowances otherwise the seat will be baggy from excess fabric. 


The natural waistline is between the hip bones and the navel. It is typically the narrowest part of the torso. While jeans and casual pants can sit low on the hips this is not suitable for most suit trousers which should sit comfortably on the natural waistline. 

Measure this area and make sure to keep the tape measure level and slightly taut. You can insert a finger behind the tape measure to give an extra bit of breathing room for comfort. 

You should never measure your waist over trousers as this will not give an accurate measurement. Also remember that dress shirts are always tucked into suit trousers and this will add about a quarter or half an inch to the measurement. 


The outseam is the measurement from the outside of the leg. It runs from the top of the waist to the bottom of the leg. Or you can measure all the way to the floor and subtract one or two inches from the total length. 

It is important to take the outseam measurements from the same place as you measured the waist. This is to make sure that the length of the leg is being measured from where the pants will sit on the waist. 

The outseam is not always needed and more often it will be the inseam measurement that will be taken. However the outseam is an important part of determining the pant break. 

Trouser or pant break refers to what happens to the amount of material at the hem when you stand up straight. The most common pant break is a slight break. This means that the hem of your trousers lightly touches the top of your shoes and creates a minimal fold at the shin. 


The inseam is the measurement on the inside of a man’s leg. It is taken from the crotch down to the ankle. In tailoring and retail the inseam is referred to when talking about the length of trousers. 

To measure the inseam the tape measure is placed on the underside of the crotch which is known as the top inseam point and down to the ankle or bottom inseam point. 

A correctly measured inseam will create a suit trouser that covers the ankle and shows no sock. A tailor may measure the inseam of both legs as on occasion there may be a slight difference. 

Adding half an inch to this measurement will also allow for any minor shrinkage in the suit pants over time. 

Rise Measurement

The rise measurement is the distance between the crotch seam and the top of the waistband. Off the rack suits will generally sell trousers with regular rise measurements of around ten inches. But taller men over six feet will need a rise measurement of 12 inches. 

It is important to make sure that the rise measurement is comfortable when you buy suit pants as it is not something that can be altered even by a professional tailor. 

How The Suit Should Fit

There are three general types of suit fit, classic, slim and modern. Each will flatter different body types and be subject to personal preference. If you have to wear a suit for work you may be restricted to a specific fit for professional reasons. 

So how should the different elements of a suit fit in these three styles? 


The jacket is the star of the show and gets most of the attention, so it is important to ensure that whatever the style of suit that the jacket is a good fit for you.


A classic fit suit jacket will have a broader shoulder and typically be more roomy in the chest. Both of these features allow a lot of room for movement making the classic fit very comfortable and easy to work in. 

The waist of a classic suit jacket will have minimal tapering and does not offer the same body flattering appeal of a slim or modern suit jacket. It is a style that appeals to a more traditional man or someone who does not want to highlight their body shape. 

While classic fit jackets are roomy you shouldn’t be drowning in fabric which simply means the jacket is too big. 


As the name suggests this is a slimmer cut in a suit jacket. It features a more fitted shoulder and a slimmer fit in the chest area. The jacket is tailored closer to the body so doesn’t allow the same room for movement as the classic fit. 

Slim fit jackets have a more accentuated tapering in the waist meaning it is cut in further in the midsection. However, a slim waist should not be confused with a tight waist. A slim cut jacket should be snug but not overly tight. 

However, it does make the suit quite elegant and more contemporary and may be preferred by younger men. This fit tends to be more casual than professional attire. 


The modern suit jacket has higher armholes and a more fitted chest. It provides a slimmer silhouette than the classic fit and has a less boxy shape but is still roomy enough to move in. 

A tailored waist gives the modern suit jacket a nice outline while not being overly tapered. It enhances the shoulders and produces a pleasing silhouette. 

The modern suit jacket is a nice compromise between the classic and slim fit suit jackets. 


Although the suit jacket is the main focus of attention and takes all the glory, suit pants are important to complete the look. 


Classic fit suit pants have a roomier waist and sit high on the waistline. They have a relaxed thigh area and straight leg openings typically at around 16 ½ inch. 

Trousers should not be too baggy but have enough room for comfortable movement. If they are too baggy consider having them altered professionally by a tailor. 


A slim fit suit will have trousers that sit below the waist. They are also cut closer to the waist than classic trousers and so are not as roomy in this area. 

The pants are slimmer through the thigh and have a straight leg opening of around 15 inches. 


Modern suit trousers sit lower on the waist than classic suit pants and are tapered through the hips and thighs. 

The leg opening on these suit trousers is narrow for a closer fit. 

Tips For Being Fitted For A Suit

When being fitted for a suit it is recommended to wear a dress shirt and a pair of dress shoes. This will give more accurate measurements and also a better indication of comfort levels when the suit is worn. 

It is also important to listen to the person who is measuring you for your suit as they will be a professional with a lot of experience fitting men for suits. 

When Are Suit Alterations & Tailoring Needed?

If you have bought a suit off the rack then it will not have the same degree of precision fit as a tailor made suit. These suits are made to general dimensions and may need some minor adjustments to help them fit better. 

However there are some parts of a suit that can be altered and others that cannot. So it is a good idea to be aware of which factors are a dealbreaker and which can be subject to tailoring and alterations. 

The parts of a jacket that can be altered are the sleeve and waist. If the length, chest or shoulders are not right then it is the wrong suit for you. 

Alterations on suit pants can be done to the waist, taper and length so if any of these are an issue don’t despair, there are ways to adjust the fit. 

However, the rise measurement on pants, which is the distance between the crotch seam and the top of the waistband cannot be altered so be wary of pants that are too small or large in this area. 


A well fitting and smart suit always begins with the proper measurement of all the dimensions that matter. Whether you are buying a suit off the rack or having one custom tailored it is essential to know what your actual measurements are. 

Good measurements will not only mean that you look smart and professional, but you will also be more comfortable in a suit that fits properly. There are many elements to getting the right suit to fit you and each one will add to the final look of your suit. 

Regardless of whether you like a classic, slim or modern fit suit the proper fitting will make all the difference and help you to have confidence in your appearance at work or for that special occasion. 

We hope that you have found this guide to suit measurements helpful and that you have learned what is needed to get the right fit. 

Joseph Pais