How to Measure Suit Size in 6 Simply Stylish Steps

Whether it is for daily office wear or a special occasion, you want to look well dressed. And, you know the suit can make the man. It can also break the man–or at least the stylish man about town look that you are going for. This is especially true if you don’t understand how to measure suit size.

Unfortunately, unflattering suit styles and ill-fitting sizes can highlight your weaker zones. So, before you start looking for your next suit, take a couple of minutes to read up on suit styles and fitting guides. Here are some of the best tips for how to measure suit size to achieve the proper fit.

What Sizes Do Suits Come In?

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This all depends on whether you are buying an off the rack suit, having one custom-tailored to your specifications, or have decided to go with suit separates.Suit sizes in the US are generally based on the chest measurement of the jacket. Please be aware, though, that sizes do not directly mirror the chest measurement they are designed to fit. A jacket may be several inches larger than the stated measurement to allow for some freedom of movement and in-between sizing. It may be smaller for slim fit styles. If in doubt, check with the manufacturer’s sizing chart to confirm their sizing guidelines.The designation of short, regular, or long is related to the necessary length of the jacket and sleeves. This is usually directly linked to the height of the person wearing the suit.Suit pants are only marked by their waist sizing. Many manufacturers leave an inch or so for you to let out the waistline if needed. Most suit pants will accommodate alterations to make the waist smaller as well.

How Suit Styles Affect Measurements

Suits today come in many styles and cuts. You should know what each style is and understand how it impacts the cut and fit of a finished suit before you start shopping.

Slim Fit

The slim fit style of suit is the most popular one today. It tapers slightly through the waist for a tailored look, without limiting movement through the armholes. The legs taper down toward your shoes for a slimming effect. A slim fit suit offers a timeless look for most body types. Because tapering is gentle, your movement will not be restricted.

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Classic Fit

Also known as a regular fit, this suit style offers a roomy, overall fit. It was very popular during the 80s and 90s and has fallen somewhat out of favor. Newer versions that offer a slightly roomier seat and thigh can be an attractive option for athletically built people who find a slim fit style a little too restricting.

Skinny Fit

For those looking for a body-hugging style, the slim fit is here to answer the call. It is tailored to fit throughout the chest, waist, and arms. Pants will be snug through the seat and legs, with a slim fit all the way to your shoes. Although this presents a stylish profile, you may want to stay away from a skinny fit suit if you think you’ll be moving around a lot. Their body-contouring fit will restrict larger movements.

Skinny fit suit

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Do I Really Need to Know How to Measure Suit Size?

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There is a definite need for you to understand how to measure suit size if you want your new suit to fit well and complement your body type. With all the different styles, cuts, and designs, making even the slightest measuring error can seriously impact how your suit looks on you.Especially if you are looking to buy a suit or suit separates off the rack, you’ll need to know your measurements to have a solid starting place in your search for the best fitting suit.Also, knowing whether you fit the classic six-inch drop from chest to waist measurement can help you decide whether a complete suit is even an option. A big difference from that standard will probably have you looking for separates or a custom fit suit instead.Knowing how to measure suit size will also let you know if you should be looking at those labeled short, regular, or tall, even if you already think you know the answer. After all, did you realize that sleeve length can impact what size suit jacket you should wear?

Terms to Know When Measuring Suit Size

Now that you understand why it is so important to know how to measure suit size, it’s time to learn some measurement terms. We’ll start with the three you are most likely to see and absolutely must understand if you want to know how to measure suit size.


You most likely already have a pretty good idea of your chest measurement. It is used to determine sizing for shirts and jackets of all styles. Since this is the measurement standard for off the rack suits, you want to make sure you have it correct.Suit jackets and most suits are sold by chest measurement. So, a jacket that is a size 38 will fit a person with roughly a 38-inch chest. It does not mean the jacket itself is 38 inches around at the chest. Make sure to try it on and move around to see how it fits and feels.Cut and style can affect how a jacket fits, so don’t assume your regular size will fit. Remember, not all brands will have exactly the same chest circumference even in the same size. You may have to go up or down a size to find the right fit.


This is exactly what it sounds like–a measurement that is taken around your waistline. Like most men’s pants, suit pants will be sold based on your waist measurement. Most sizes will go up or down in two-inch increments. If you are between sizes, you should pick the one that is most comfortable and flattering to your body type.When suits are sold together, the pants will generally be a waist size that is six inches smaller than the chest size. This is great if you have a classic “V” shape throughout your torso, but not accommodating for many people. If your waist measurement isn’t around six inches smaller than your chest, consider looking at suit separates for a more custom fit. If your budget allows, you might want to visit a tailor to have a suit custom made to your measurements.


This may seem like an out of place addition to suit sizing, but your overall height can affect several factors when purchasing a ready-to-wear suit or suit separates. The main one is the length designation of the jacket. Sleeve length is also affected by your overall height.Jacket sizing will often be marked with the number size followed by a letter (S, R, or L). These refer to the approximate body and sleeve lengths of the jacket.An S is used to denote short jackets. These will accommodate most people who are 5′ 7” or shorter with a sleeve length of 32 inches or less.If a jacket is marked with an R, consider it regular or standard length. This is designed for the average height wearer, who will probably be between 5′ 8” and 5′ 11”. The sleeves will likely be 32 to 33 inches long.As you may have guessed, an L on a suit jacket is for long. These are for people who are six feet and taller. Sleeves will generally be between 34 to 36 inches long.

Step Length or Inseam

This measurement is taken from the highest point on the inside seam of the pants, at your crotch, down to the floor. Some people prefer to measure to the top of your shoe, so make sure you know exactly what measurement you need before taking it. In general, an inseam will measure to the shoe while a step will measure all the way to the floor.The step or inseam measurement will be used to help determine the length of your pants. It is not the only measurement you need, though.

Side Length

This measurement will be used along with your inseam or step length to determine the finished length of your suit pants. It is taken from the waist, over the hip, and along the outside seam of your pants, down to the sole of your shoe.

How to Measure Suit Size

You know what the side, drop, and hip measurements are. You even understand that suit separates are going to be labeled with chest and waist sizes. Now, it’s time to break out the tape measure, call a trustworthy buddy, and find your suit measurements. Here are the basic steps so you know how to measure suit size correctly.

Determine Overall Height

Stand tall against a solid object like a wall. Have someone mark directly above your head with a pencil. This is your overall height.Although a few stores recommend taking this measurement with your shoes on, most will ask for it to be done barefoot.

Measure the Chest

The chest measurement is taken at the widest part of your torso. This is generally just under the arms. Hold your arms out to the sides and have someone wrap the measuring tape around your body. Now, lower your arms to your sides, and have your helper note the measurement. This is your chest size. Stand normal and don’t puff out your chest to get an accurate measurement.

Check the Waistline

Have the person helping you slide the measuring tape down to your waist. This measurement should be taken where your suit pants would normally sit. This is usually about three fingers’ width below your belly button. This measurement will be used as a basis for your suit pants size.

Assess Shoulder Width and Arm Length

Your shoulders can affect jacket fit, so check those as well. Have someone measure across your upper back and around to the top of your shoulders. You should also measure the length of your arms from the shoulder to the lower edge of your wrist.

Find Your Step and Side Length

Remember these terms? Go ahead and measure your legs on the inside and outside seams to determine the finished length of your pants. Suit pants generally come in a standard length that should be adjusted. That means this can be done after a purchase in many cases. If you are very tall or are looking at very slim fit suits, go ahead and check it now to be sure your pants don’t end up too short or ill-fitting.

A Few Helpful Tips

When you get measured and fitted, make sure you are wearing a smooth dress shirt and dress shoes similar in style to what you would wear with the suit. This will help you determine the best fit for your jacket and pants.It is generally best to have someone else measure you for a suit. Bending and twisting to adjust the measuring tape can distort the final results quite a bit. There isn’t any point in taking the time to measure yourself for a suit if the measurements are useless in the end.


Man is wearing a perfect fit business suit

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Shopping for the perfect suit will be nearly effortless now that you know how to measure suit size. Armed with your measurements, you can find the best fit and cut that will make you stand out in style.

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