How Clothes Should Fit

How Clothes Should Fit

How your garments should fit

The most common clothing issue I see with women is poorly fitting clothing.My goal with most of my clients is to simply get them into clothing that fits properly.In doing that, they will instantly look thinner, stand a little taller, exude confidence – and of course, be accepting tons of compliments.

Clothing that doesn’t fit properly will add bulk, bring attention to problem areas, and completely camouflage the best aspects of your figure.It can make you look older, give your appearance a dowdy edge, and make you look like you’ve gained weight!


  • Long sleeved garments should hit just below the wrist bone with just a little ease (shouldn’t be too tight or loose)
  • Shoulders of any jacket, blouse or tee should be AT the shoulder – right where your arm is attached…NOT below the shoulder.
  • Put your arms down to the side, and look at the armpit area of the garment.There should not be excess fabric there.This is a very common fit error many ladies make – they buy jackets too big, then they have all this extra fabric in the armpit – that extends to the chest.Honestly, sometimes it looks like four boobs!Don’t make this mistake, two boobs are enough!
  • The back of any top shouldn’t show any ripples or ridges.If you have a little ‘extra’ in your back, then wear a camisole under tops.If there is visible pull between your shoulder blades, then you will need to go up a size.
  • A button-front blouse should never gap open at the bust line. If the blouse seems to fit otherwise, you can add a hidden button to close the gap.
  • Length – if you have been blessed with height – then you generally don’t have to worry about how long a jacket is.However, for the vast majority of ladies out there – the length is going to be something you will need to look at.If you try on a jacket, and like it, but ‘something’ isn’t right – it’s probably the length.


  • Tailored pants should fall to the ground with shoes on.Yes, this means that sometimes your jeans will skim the ground when you walk…an expert tailor will make sure the length is just above the ground.Pants that are hemmed too short will make your overall look awkward.
  • If you are wearing a cropped pant, be sure it is cropped.If you look in the mirror, and it looks (for lack of a better term) cow-y, that probably means the pant is hitting the widest portion of your leg (a big no-no).Cropped pants should hit at the bottom of your calf muscle – where your leg comes into your ankle.
  • Ankle pants should hit at your ankle – not at the top of your shoe.
  • If you look in the mirror, and notice your pants smiling at you in the hip area, that means they are too small (too tight in the hip).You may need to have the waist taken in to get a perfect fit.
  • If your pants are frowning at you in the mirror (in the hip area), that means the pants are too big, and are too baggy.
  • If you seem to have excess fabric in the crotch (or rise) of the pant, that simply means the rise of that style isn’t good for you.Excess fabric in this area does look funny – and will ‘tent’ when you sit.Need I be more descriptive?


  • A slim, pencil style skirt should fit without bunching or wrinkling up at the hip. Do the sit-down test…when you stand up, is the skirt ‘stuck’ at your hip?If it is, then it is too small.
  • Hemline correction — skirts should be completely straight all the way around. If that’s not the case (because of hips or tummy) have it re-hemmed. The exception to this is if the intended design of the skirt has a longer hemline in the back.
  • Length of skirts – in my opinion, there are 3 lengths that all women over 35 should stick to: 1 – Knee Length, this is the length that is at your knee, which hits right at the bend of your leg.2 – Street Length – this is the length just below your knee, or at the top of your calf muscle.3 – Mid-Calf, or at the bottom of your calf muscle.A skirt that hits at the widest point of your calf muscle will make your leg look heavy.

Photo Credit:

Kathy Friend is a stylist and wardrobe coach in the Midwest. Visit her website at, or post a question at

What do you think?



  1. 8

    Only skirts or dresses at the knee or below for women over 35? I believe body type, body fitness, height, and appropriateness are the keys, not the age. I have seen plenty women under 35 who should never be wearing dresses or skirts above the knee. Mini skirts are a different matter, but above the knee does not make it a mini skirt.

  2. 9

    Wow, this list was perfect timing. But reading through, I’ve noticed that I’ve done many of these things already. Still, there were a few new things for me to add to my regime.

  3. 10

    Hi Fiona,

    The “smile” and the waist are 2 different fit points. The smile refers to the fit in the hip – not the waist. If pants are too tight in the hip, you will see a stretch in the hip area (crotch area), or a wrinkling…this shows that they are too small.

    Many times (I would say 80% of the time) I’ve seen pants that fit perfectly everywhere but in the waist – there is a gap at the back. This is a simple alteration – or you can get a product called IsABelt that will help cinch that in.

    Hope this helps!


  4. 11

    You say that if pants are smiling, they are too small, but then you advise taking in the waist to make them fit properly. Am I missing something?

  5. 12

    I have found that one of the most flattering skirt lengths is 3 fingers below the knee. You will find it gives your legs a lovely line.

    You are so right about ill-fitting clothes. I always try to tell people, that just because you can zipper/button it, doesn’t mean it fits. I think one of the worst things is the current trend of low-cut jeans. It’s fine for those extremely thin girls (of which I was until I hit 30), but anyone with a little extra in the belly will make a “muffin” top when wearing those jeans.

    I’ve been sewing for 48 years and have a degree in Fashion Design.

    Pinky from The Sewing Room at Moose Hollow Farm.

  6. 13

    Hi Ellen – I posted some photos over on my blog that hopefully will illustrate the ‘smile’ ‘frown’ thing.


  7. 14

    Good tips. But, I’m not sure what you mean by “smiling” and “frowning” pants? A pic would be helpful.

  8. 15

    Hmmm… I prefer a skirt just (and I mean just) above the knee and never would wear one at mid-calf because I don’t feel tall enough to pull it off. I’m over 35, btw.

    It might be time to try something new.