Will Those Thriftstore Pants Fit? No Dressing Room? No Problem!





Introduction: Will Those Thriftstore Pants Fit? No Dressing Room? No Problem!

About: We share our Craftsman in the Allendale district of Oakland with three cats and a lagamorph named Shug R. Bunn. I also BookCross: http://bookcrossing.com/friend/CultoftheEye

We crafty DIYers can often be found looking for inspiration in our local thrift and second-hand shops. You find a pair of fabulous pants (maybe they're some late 60's man-made, doubleknit , polypop concoction, or a brand new pair of Kitson jeans - with the size tag cut out) but you're not sure if they'll fit. You look for the nearest fitting room, but lo and behold, this Sally Army doesn't have one. Does this sound familiar? Don't go cowering behind the sheets in the linen dept, hoping no one will get a glimpse.

This instructable will help you decide if that pair of pants will fit without ever having to try them on.

For most(I say "most' because I know this isn't a "one size fits all" universe and we come in many, truly beautiful, individual shapes) ladies, these ratios are practically infallible. If they don't work exactly for you, they will, at least, give you a better idea if the pants will fit and help in your decision to purchase or not.

***Please let me know if you try them and they don't work at all***

Step 1: Not a Waisted Effort

Let's see if the pants will fit you in the waist.

Take the pants off the hangar. Button them and then hold the waistband's side seams in each hand and drape them around your neck, like you're putting on a necklace. Or, you could put the pants around your neck like your putting on a cape (with the side seams coming together in the front).

You can gauge if the pants will fit your waist by seeing how much the pants overlap.

If you have to choke yourself, at all, to get the side seams to touch, just put those lovely pants back on the shelf, unless you intend to sell them on ebay or to your local upscale consignment shop. If that's the case, don't read on, just check for stains and tears and go about your merry way.

If waistband come together and you have breathing room (overlapping only an inch or so), Congrats! The waist is your size. Move on to step Two: Hip, Hip Hooray!

If the waistband overlaps more than an inch or two, the waist is too big for you. You'll have to now decide whether the pants are enough of a goldmine to do the alterations necessary for a proper fit. This is a strike against them.

Needless to say, this trick also works if you're looking at a skirt.

There's a bit of a rub, though, when you're looking at ultra-low waisted pants. With these, you have to account for the fact that the "waistband" doesn't actually hit you at (or sometimes, even near) your waist; it'll end lower (far lower). As such, you will need more overlap around your neck to compensate.

Step 2: Hip Hip Hooray

Take the pants and find where they are widest in the hip area. Measure this part across your chest, from shoulder to shoulder.

Are your shoulders wider apart? Then the pants will likely be too small over your hips. Back on the rack or off to eBay.

Are the pants just slightly wider than your shoulder span? Then the pants will fit your hips. Move on to "Rising to the Occasion"

Are the pant much wider than your shoulders? Then the pants are going to be roomy in the hip area. Strike Two.

Step 3: Rising to the Occasion, at Length

Lastly, let's check the rise and leg lengths of the pants. (This step is not for the bashful. If you're shy, you can skip it)

Find the place in the crotch of the pants where the seams come together. Take that spot, hold it up to your own crotch and check the lengths.

Check where the pants hit your waist (or hip, in the case of ultra low-rise pants). Is it where you want? Too high, or too low, or in the ballpark? Super!

Next, check the leg length. Did you want pants that are mid-calf, ankle-length or long enough to wear 4 inch heels? Are they that long? Great!

Step 4: Happy Hunting!

Also, see if the pants have any extra give in the fabric (check tag for Spandex). If there is, it'll give you more leeway for a pant that is a tighter fit.

So, there you have it, some tricks to finding a great fitting pair of pants without trying them on.

They will also come in handy when there is a dressing room available, but you've only got a limited amount of time (not enough to take off your jacket, your shoes, your pants, then put on the pants in question, blah blah blah....)

I highly recommend that you try these hints first with pants you already own. Check how your favorite pair of jeans work and familiarize yourself with what dimensions they are (maybe you like a looser fit in the waist, so more than "just an inch" would suit you better).

Happy Hunting!



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    I guess I don't understand why the unusual steps to see if they fit. I hold pants up across the part of the body where they will be worn. If the side seams match the side seams on what I'm wearing, they are the right size. It works for both waist and hips. If a blouse all buttoned up fits the same way across your chest with a tiny bit extra for ease, it will fit. Hold the pants waist at your waist to see if they are long enough. I do this even in regular clothing stores before going to the dressing room to see what they look like on me. I am a plus size and the method posted here would never work for me. I guess this method works for only thin peeps?

    What creeps me out about thrift shops are all those size 2 and 4 clothes. All those girls with eating disorders probably died. They are selling the clothes of DEAD PEOPLE.

    1 reply

    Wow, this is really great.

    What works for me is to wear a pair of spandex exercise shorts and a skirt then try the pants on under the skirt. It works for trying a dress on too. If you're putting the dress over your head, you can hold onto the bottom of the dress then also gather your skirt into your hands as you pull both the dress and skirt downwards. Easy to do it if you're pulling the dress on upwards from the floor too.

    the instructions are helpful--but. but sometimes i try things on and they do fit, but they just don't look right. there is nothing more infuriating than a thrift store with no dressing room. our DAV stores recently took theirs out. that's why i shop at goodwill now.


    Aha- I knew the neck trick already, but the other two are new on me- will try this if I ever find a charity shop in this useless town. I completely agree with flio191's tip- I calibrated my anthropometric measurements with a pair of jeans that happen to fit me like a second skin, and you can be a lot more accurate after doing that. I always wondered about the "professional dry clean" bit- that's rather than the well-known "amateur" dry clean where you put the clothes in a ziplock bag full of WD40 and shake, right?

    8 replies

    The WD40 trick sounds good. Is it as simple as you make it sound?


    Erm.. I was kidding :P My point was that I thought dry cleaning was beyond the average amateur, and I certainly wouldn't advise the trick I described above, I was just musing on the instructions to "professionally dry clean" when I don't know of any other ways. Maybe you can get home dry cleaning supplies, but I'd hope they are a little more sophisticated than a plastic bag full of petrol...

    Oh, I thought maybe you knewsomething about the active ingredients in dryeldryel. Glad I asked.

    About Dryel, from Ditzyprint: So you may be thinking about using Dryel or one of these other "dry clean at home in your dryer" kits. Before you do, consider this... Dryel and these other kits are NOT dry cleaning. Your clothes are not getting wet, they are just tumbling in a bag with a pad filled with freshening agents. This is not dry-cleaning. It's freshening. The kits come with a spotting agent. If you use this agent on certain fabrics, you could have serious color-loss and other damage. I've had many people ask me about using Dryel in the last two years. This is my answer: I've never used it. I've read several consumer reports stating that it has less than satisfactory performance for some types of garments. I would never use it for anything structured (suit jackets, coats, anything tailored), but it might be okay to freshen a sweater or a skirt.

    Thanks for all the pertinent info! Now we know why there are no (real) home dry-cleaning kits (and in looking at the drastic nature of dry-cleaning chemicals, that's a good thing). ... and I hope everyone realised that the WD-40 was a joke, yes?

    Yeah, WD-40 may clean the clothes, but it would leave quite the oil stain behind in the process....probably a much worse situation then the one started with ;-)

    Drat! I was just about to try that and put up an instructable about it. Hey, maybe it should just be added to the "How not to""How not to" Instructable? (...I keed I keed...)

    Calibrate - good term, well used with this format.

    Dry Cleaning Fluid (tetrachloroethylene, commonly called PERC) is a highly toxic but non-flammable (at room temps) chemical that is used at dry cleaners to remove dirt and soil from clothing. Like many chlorinated hydrocarbons, tetrachloroethylene is a central nervous system depressant, and inhaling its vapors (particularly in closed, poorly ventilated areas) can cause dizziness, headache, sleepiness, confusion, nausea, difficulty in speaking and walking, unconsciousness, and death. After repeated or extended skin contact, tetrachloroethene may dissolve fats from the skin, resulting in severe skin irritation in work environments where people have been exposed to high concentrations. Fun stuff :-(

    This is quite useful. Thanks.

    I'm a guy and to see if some pants will fit me I make a fist and place my arm in the pants to see if my arm (fist to elbow) fits in the waist. If it does, they usually fit.

    Great idea! Here's mine: I wear tights and skirts to thrift stores. Take off shoes, put on pants under skirt but the tights show (i'm modest). You can also bring a tape measure to the thriftshop

    Awesome. I just had a baby and don't really know my "size" yet. I don't want to spent too much money on new clothes while transitioning so I am content to shop "thrift". In any case this was really useful information!


    No drycleaning is not for matures. Don't use wd40. There are home methods but they only "condition" the clothes. Drycleaing uses volatile compounds that must be heated to be effective. Heating volatile compunds, not for the faint of heart.