What is an Inseam? The Complete Guide

If you don’t know what inseam is from outseam, you’ve come to the right place! If you’re fed up with different brands fitting differently or some pants hitting your ankle while others hit the floor, chances are you’re ignoring your inseam.

With our complete guide, you’ll know what an inseam is, what it means for you, and how you can use it to find the best fit.

Enough with different brands fitting differently, let’s find your best fit! Read on…

What is an inseam?

An inseam runs from the top of your thigh to the bottom of your pants. More specifically, your inseam starts at the bottom of the zipper on a pair of jeans and runs right down to the leg opening.


If you’re not sure what an inseam is, take a look at a pair of jeans now and you’ll see it straight away. Jeans are a useful garment for identifying inseams because denim jeans typically feature stitching of a contrasting color, so it’s easy to see exactly where it starts and ends.

While other styles of pants have inseams also, these may be hidden on the inside and stitched using a thread that’s the same color as the fabric. Although the inseam is still there, it’s not as easy to see as it is on a standard pair of denim jeans.

Now that you know what an inseam is, it’s time to find out why it’s important.

Why does an inseam matter?

You might think that you don’t need to give your inseam a second thought, unless it’s come apart, of course. However, your inseam tells you more about your pants than almost anything else.

inseam fit

The right inseam is going to make sure your pants fit properly and hang right, so it’s important to get it right.

When the inseam is too long, the legs of your pants are effectively going to be longer than you need them to be. This means they’ll trail across the floor or the leg of your pants will bunch up.

long inseam2

If you’re wearing tight over the knee boots and your inseam is too long, for example, you’ll get those irritating ripples on the leg of your pants because there’s too much fabric.

Alternatively, an inseam that’s too short will mean that the legs of your pants are too short as well. While you might be able to cover this with boots, you won’t want to wear boots all of the time.

If your pants are too short, it’s going to restrict how and when you can wear them, as well as the comfort levels they offer.

All in all, getting the right pair of pants means buying a garment with the right inseam measurement.

What’s your inseam?

To find your inseam, you can measure from the top of the inside of your thigh down just below your ankle. When measuring your inseam, don’t measure to the floor if you’re barefoot or wearing socks, as this would make your pants too long.

However, the easiest way to measure your inseam is to find a pair of jeans or pants that fit really well.

If you have pants that you love the look of, lay them out on a flat surface so that they’re taut. Then, find the inseam and use a tape measure to measure it.


Now that you know what your inseam is, it’s time to know why it matters and how to find it so that you can start to understand a little more about how to use it.

Using your inseam measurement

Your inseam measurement, sometimes known as your inside leg measurement, tells you how long your pants need to be to give you the perfect fit. When you’re shopping for jeans or pants, you’ll want to determine what the inside leg measurement is before you consider buying anything.

inside leg measurement

Remember – the style of shoes you wear will affect your ideal inseam measurement.

If you’re going to be wearing heels with jeans, for example, you’ll want the jeans to run a little longer than usual. If you’re planning to wear sneakers, you’ll want the jeans to be regular length to stop them scuffling along the floor.

Most people estimate that you should add 0.5” to your inseam measurement if you’re buying pants to wear with heels. However, this can vary so it’s best to try on pants with a range of different inside leg measurements to find what works best.

inseam kjs

It’s also worth it to take a pair of shoes with you when you’re trying pants on, particularly if you are buying an outfit for an important occasion. While an extra 0.5” might be fine if you’re planning to wear 2” heels, for example, you might want to add another 1” to the inseam measurement if you’re going to be strutting around in 4” heels.

There’s one more thing to remember about the inseam when you’re buying new jeans – they can shrink the first time you wash them. In fact, it’s expected that jeans will shrink a little when they’re first washed.

To counteract this, you might want to buy jeans that are 0.5” longer in the inseam than you really want them to be and wash them before you first wear them.

What is a standard inseam measurement?

Unfortunately, there’s no real answer to this question. Every brand is different when it comes to measurements and, more complicated still, every style of pants is different.

If you buy skinny jeans and boyfriend jeans from the same brand, for example, they won’t necessarily have the same inside leg measurement.

skinny vs bf jeans

Many brands do state the inseam measurement on the label, so once you know what inside leg measurement you’re looking for, it should be easy to find it. This is seen more commonly in men’s pants, however, so not every brand displays their measurements in this way.

inseam measurement on the label

If you see pants labeled with 28”, 32”, for example, they’re going to have a 28” waist and a 32” inside leg measurement. If you can’t find this information on the sales tag, take a look at the permanent label that’s affixed inside the pants and that should tell you everything you need to know.

If there’s still no luck, get in touch with the manufacturer and ask for their sizing information!

Broadly speaking, petite pants and jeans usually have an inseam measurement of around 25”-30”. Average jeans and pants will typically have an inside leg measurement of around 28”-34”, and tall pants and jeans will generally have an inseam measurement of 31”-36”.

tall pants

With so many variations between brands and styles, it’s easy to see why so many people get confused about inseams.

Although it would be easier if there were one universal sizing guide and inseam measurement (can you imagine?), this isn’t likely to happen any time soon. Instead, you’ll simply need to scope out the brands that offer pants and jeans in your size to style your perfect wardrobe.

Can you alter an inseam?

Absolutely. Now since you’re clear about what inseam is and what it means for your clothes, you can get to work with making alterations.

A word of warning though, changing or modifying an inseam can be tricky. If you don’t have any alteration experience, it’s best to start with a pair of pants you’re not too fond of, just in case things go wrong.

Alternatively, you can have your jeans and pants professionally altered if the inseam isn’t quite right. This is relatively cheap to do and is a great way of making sure you can still wear your favorite pants.

Changing the length of your pants is often referred to as altering the inseam, but in reality, you won’t necessarily be doing anything to the inseam itself.

If you want to make your pants shorter, for example, you’ll hem them. This means taking up the bottom of each pant leg and sewing it in place so that it’s shorter.

Although you won’t technically be unstitching or restitching the inseam, you’ll effectively be making it shorter.

If your pants or jeans are too short and you want to make them longer, you should be able to let them hem down. Manufacturers make pants with an existing hem in place so that you have the option to make the legs a little longer if you want to.

This is particularly handy if you’re in between a common inside leg measurement, as you can have your pants adjusted to fit you perfectly. Remember – if you find a pair of jeans or a pair of pants you love but they’re slightly too long or too short, this shouldn’t necessarily put you off buying them.

Most styles of pants can be hemmed – or made shorter – so buying a pair that are a little too long shouldn’t be much of an issue. Similarly, check to see if the pants have a hem you can let down in them before you buy them, and then you’ll have no problem making them a little longer either.

With custom fitting clothes, you’ll benefit from a perfect silhouette, a better frame, and all-round stunning outfits!

Now you already know what inseam is and what you can do to alter it, you can have your pants or jeans altered to fit you perfectly.


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