Reader Request: Pants That Pull

how pants should fit

Highly e-mailed me this question:

I’m at a loss when it comes to fitting pants … My main problem is the horizontal pulling/creasing you get across the top of the thighs/pelvis. I have trouble finding any pants, but especially jeans, which fit sleekly across the pelvis/thighs. Often I put that down to the fact that my thighs are somewhat larger than my hips. Anyway, I assumed that that was a sign of ill-fit, but now I’m noticing that pants seem to do that on everyone.

What’s going on here, Sal? How much stress/crease is too much? Is my quest for sleek-fitting pants hopeless, not because pants are mass-produced, but because they’re supposed to do that? I get the feeling that I might have internalised one of my mother’s bizarre clothes-buying rules which no one else cares about…

I think it’s possible that Highly’s mom and my mom had a conference, because I have been thinking THE SAME THING. Witness the two images up top. These are professional models, so naturally slender people, fitted by (we must assume) professional stylists for product shots on a huge national website. Are their pants completely free of crotch creases? They are not.

Here is a photo of actress Halle Berry in a pair of slim jeans. Are her pants completely free of crotch creases? They are not.

If you look around at pants worn by human beings, you will notice that just about all of them pull a bit across the pelvis. Doesn’t matter what style the pants are or what size the human being is, pants will pull. Especially if they’ve been worn for longer than five minutes and in anything other than a standing position. A few creases near the crotch, fly, and waistband area do not constitute a pants-emergency.

That said, there are levels of pull. If your pants crease up a bit after you’ve worn them, if the creases are relatively light, and if the pants themselves feel comfortable, you’re in the clear. If your pants remain creased long after you’ve removed them from your body, if the creases are large and deep, and if the pulling across your pelvis makes them feel tight or uncomfortable, you might consider a different style or size. Pants that pull so severely that the fly flap pulls away to expose the zipper beneath are too tight. Pants that pull so severely that you can feel them creating a horizontal pull-line beneath your buttocks are too tight. Pants that pull so severely that they squeeze your insides or push your midsection out over their waistband are too tight. But a little creasing? Totally normal.

Top images courtesy Halle image via posh24.

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Originally posted 2012-11-28 06:17:55.

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33 Responses to “Reader Request: Pants That Pull”

  1. Molly

    Wow, I have turned down so many pairs of pants at the thrift store for this problem! Maybe I will be a little less picky next time. I am running woefully low on flattering, comfortable pants in my life.

  2. romy

    Nice question, I think we must consider the “tightness” of the crease, as you mentioned when the crease are in a lose pant and are created by walking, sitting, crouching, like the jeans on Halle Berry photo, it’s OK.
    But…but when you just put a pant up and as soon as you zipped it up there is a crease, and you fill it fits tight, that’s a big NO-NO.
    However, watching 1st pic, I can stand better a crease in a jean like the on the left than a crease in a pant like the one on the right.

  3. Sarah

    My main issue with fitting pants is camel toe….a close relation, I think, to the crease pull. My belly sticks out a bit and I find that a lot of pants tend to hug my belly and then pull funny around the crotch. Not camel toe, exactly, but extremely unflattering!! I have found plenty of pants that don’t do that, but it really sucks when pants fit everywhere else but do that weird thing around my crotch. Also, it takes a lot of hunting because probably 75% of pants I try on do that. I have a lot of luck at thrift stores, I think because there are so many different styles to choose from.

    The actual crease thing at the pelvis/thighs doesn’t bother me too much, because as you said, pants can do that even on super slender models. But I don’t wear skinny jeans/pants, I prefer a boot cut or straight leg, and I don’t really notice it being a huge problem. But my body is sort of square under my natural waistline, and I usually buy pants that sit below it. So if the pants fit my waist, they tend to be a bit roomier everywhere else. It definitely alleviates the crease problem.

  4. R.M. Koske

    I’ve never heard this one. Thinking about it, I definitely think some pulling is inevitable.

    Our legs don’t join together in a nice even angle – there’s some crotch width there. But trousers are cut as if our legs go all the way up and meet at the center of our pelvis, in two tubes with no width in between them. Clever shaping and use of the fabric’s natural bias stretch makes it possible to cover our bodies and still move, but you just can’t get two tubes of non-stretch fabric to cover two tubes and a center span without wrinkles if you want movement too.

    As an aside, the variation in crotch shape in trousers and how it affects fit is fascinating, particularly with regard to booty coverage. I suspect strongly that if you identify a good crotch shape and avoid bad ones, you can try on far fewer trousers and jeans before finding something you like, but I haven’t had the energy to experiment yet.

  5. LinB

    When I wear pants, jeans, slacks, trousers, that are deep enough in the crotch, I find there are far fewer horizontal creases. Sometimes the problem is not that the garment is not wide enough from thigh to thigh, but that the garment is not long enough to comfortably encompass one’s flesh from belly to butt. Modern fashion is to have a very close fit at the top of one’s inseam. This has not always Men — and women — wore their nether garments with as much as several inches of drop, until the 1960s. (Think of Katharine Hepburn, in her at-the-time scandalous trousers, in the 1930s.) It feels odd at first, to wear a crotch that hangs loosely, but my pants look better when I do.

  6. Sarah

    Pants pulling or creasing is inevitable in tight jeans. But, it is a sign of poor fit. And, I think if we’ve come to accept it it’s because collectively we accept ill fitting clothes (and shoddy workmanship and lesser quality fabrics) much more than we have in the past. And, I think that’s a shame.

  7. missjulied

    To avoid serious creasing, I buy my jeans/trousers to fit my hips, and then get the waist taken in. It works well for me.

  8. Peter

    Men have this issue too to some degree. Jeans today usually have Lycra in them, which allows for pants that fit more tightly in the hips/butt but still allow for comfortable movement in the legs/thighs. This will cause creasing, however. I think if the pants feel comfortable, they’re likely to be fitting OK. Of course, a pant that drapes should not have permanent creasing like jeans do, and if they do, they likely do not fit properly. To echo commenter “missjulied,” better to fit the hips and have the waist taken in.

  9. Moira

    It’s not the creases that get to me as much as what the girls at Go Fug Yourself used to call, ahem, “polterwang.” When the creases created a weird bulge or pocket your anatomy doesn’t require. What specific elements of fit cause that? I find it really unsightly, and it’s a challenge for me when I buy pants.

  10. Claire

    As a pant enthusiast, I have always understood this fit guideline to mean when you first pull up and fasten a new pair of pants – standing up very straight, toes forward, feet slightly apart – do they hang well, comfortably, and pretty much crease free? If they are creasing or looking/feeling funny while you are standing in a non-moving, neutral standing position, that’s an indication the fit is probably off somewhere, unless the creasing effect is somehow part of the style (pleats, whiskering, etc). Moving from that position would cause what I’d consider normal creasing. I use this method to eyeball fit and as just one helpful part of evaluating a pair of pants, along with walking, sitting, rear-view, etc. Just my take. Yay pants! đŸ™‚

  11. Harriet

    I recently watched a video by the sewing instructor Kenneth King on making jeans, and in it he said that low-cut jeans (i.e., that hang from the hips rather than the waist) will always have those horizontal wrinkles; if they were loose enough not to have them, they would fall off. If you altered them out by removing the excess fabric lengthwise, you would not be able to move or sit down. So unless you’re wearing stretch pants, you’re going to have those wrinkles if the waistband is below your actual waist.

  12. Franca

    It’s not something I’ve ever worried about or noticed on anyone! I suppose it makes sense that it is inevitable, so I intend to continue not to worry about it!

  13. Shay

    Why must the industry and its participants always create new worries? Who would think of such a thing?!

  14. Stacy

    I’ll agree that the degree of creasing indicates to me a fit issue. Minor creasing–okay. Major creasing–not okay. Because of my figure shape, I often have issues with the side pockets on pants (the slash type typcially found on dressier pants–not sure of the specific name) not laying flat. Combine that with creasing of any type, and I’ll pass on that particular style.

  15. Michelle

    Sal – I agree with your overall assessment that we should stop worrying about the little stuff, creases from movement are normal – but but BUT creases themselves can and often are a sign of poor fit. The level of acceptable crease depends on the type of pants. Please don’t do all of us a disservice by advocating ignoring bad fit. And sadly, we can’t even take fitting advice from pictures modeling the clothes we are considering for purchase (for example the many many examples of bad bra fit on bra models).

  16. Michelle

    It is possible to get a pair of pants without the pulling, however you would need to either a) sew them and fit them yourself or b) go to a tailor and/or seamstress to get a pair made especially for you. The pulling USUALLY has to do with the crotch length and it would be impossible to buy the pants and then get them fixed at a tailors.

  17. Ruth

    Creases in pants and the bulge that appears at my mid-section when I sit down are vital! Without them both, I wouldn’t be able to move. The flesh that goes straight up and down when I’m standing has to go somewhere when I’m sitting, and pants have to have some creases, or else they’re going to be miserably uncomfortable.

    I can’t agree about it necessarily being a problem if pants still have creases hours after you’ve taken them off — it depends on the fabric. The creases in cotton won’t disappear till the pants have been washed or sprinkled with water and ironed with a lot of steam.

  18. GingerR

    I think the point about crotch-drop and Katherine Hepburn pants is well taken. If you want wrinkless fit you have to wear looser pants. What’s going on with your crotch should be reserved for pantless activity!

    • LinB

      “What’s going on with your crotch should be reserved for pantsless activity!” HAHAHAHA! You go, girl.

  19. Ann V

    As someone who makes her own pants, this is a topic near and dear to my heart. Crease-free pants are the holy grail of pants fitting. Trouser cut pants you can definitely get a crease free fit in, jeans not so much, since the cut was originally designed to fit people riding horses. There’s a great discussion of pants fit and creases here:

    I have lots of pants I’ve sewn for myself that are crease-free or nearly crease free depending on the cut. Fitting advice generally tells you that horizontal creases point to where the garment is too small, so when I make pants for myself I have to make sure I add for full hips and thighs. Other people might get creases from full stomachs or high hip “fluff”.

    I could go on about pants fitting all day! This is one of my favorite topics ever. Here’s a pair of pants I made for myself that I think fit very well in the crotch/hips:

  20. Brooke

    I’ve heard the same thing about no creases (I think from my mother, too) and after I noticed that professionally styled thin women wearing expensive pants had those creases, I stopped worrying about it. I agree with what several others have said about degree, etc, but if the pants fit perfectly in every other way and I feel comfortable in them, I’m not going to turn them down because of a few minor creases. Plus, I think it’s one of those things where I might notice it on myself when I’m scrutinizing my appearance looking for every possible flaw, but I can’t think of the last time I looked at another woman’s crotch to see if she had creases.

  21. Rachel

    I think that some creasing is to be expected in tight pants, but not at much as we often see. To me, the pants on the left look normal for the style, but the pants on the right are definitely too tight, probably an issue of crotch depth, as other people have suggested. You said something about professional stylists fitting things properly, but they’re styling for current trends, which is incredibly close fitting.

    My feeling is that if the pants “whisker” right when you put them on, take a look at where the problem might be and try a different style or size. But unless you’re standing all day, some creasing will probably occur during wearing, and don’t stress about it.

  22. Kristen

    I don’t have much to say that hasn’t been said in one comment or another, but I wanted to summarize my thoughts. It IS generally an issue of poor fit when you get those crotch-whisker creases (ooh, that’s kind of a creepy phrase, haha). Generally the pants are either too tight and/or the actual curve of the crotch seam is too shallow. I’ve sewn a few pairs of pants, and it IS possible to get rid of most creases with a good fit… BUT that’s when you’re standing straight and still. Moving your body will naturally move your clothes, and that makes wrinkles. Harriet had a good point about the fit needing to be tight enough on low-rise pants, so there are exceptions to what “good fit” is. I’d say that keeping your pants on when you’re wearing them is better fit than having them fall off. đŸ™‚

    I do think it’s something that we see a lot because people have generally just accepted the fact that it happens. And a LOT of modeled garments don’t fit the model well – product photos aren’t necessarily a good indicator of how things SHOULD fit. And in some cases, that’s a good thing. If you aren’t shaped like the model, chances are that pants that fit her (or him) perfectly aren’t going to fit you perfectly.

  23. Nina

    My mom also is part of the any-crotch-whiskers-and-it’s-too-tight camp. She also told me that neither pants nor skirts should ever ‘cup’ under your bottom. When you have an ample bottom as I do, following these rules means that I’ll be wearing very loose clothing indeed, which doesn’t flatter my figure. I really think this is a generational difference that we’re seeing here. While I agree that there is such a thing as too tight, the crotch wrinkling in pants is not necessarily the indicator that it once was. Modern fabrics often have a lot of stretch to them, making it possible to comfortably wear tighter clothes. With that stretch comes some wrinkling! I am certainly not accepting a poor fit in my pants–in fact, looser pants often bunch much more in the crotch on me. I am just wearing much tighter, more stretchy pants than my mom’s generation ever would.

  24. Holly

    I actually found the opposite problem with the rise. I have a lower rise, and all those high rise trousers will fold up or crease because there is too much fabric between the waist and the crotch. I usually do a squat and stand maneuver in the changing room. If the fold stays in the crotch after I stand up and wiggle the legs a bit, then out they go. Sometimes it also look like I have boy-parts. I always thought it was for my size 12 the pants makers were expecting more tummy and less hips than I have. I’m more “oval” than “round” in the middle.

  25. Meg

    Hunh, I never even thought this would be a thing. Those creases are just what pants are supposed to look like when they are worn.

  26. Elizabeth

    I have a suggestion!
    But it’s more about changing style of pants. I like “slacks” which have a pleat or two up at the hip and a nice crease down the leg, so they are never tight through the hip and never show whiskering and never pull. This is not a solution to jeans or tight pants that pull or whisker, but I’m not sure there is a solution to that problem. So, if you’re like me and you prefer looser through the hip and no whiskering, go with slacks.

  27. Kaia

    I’m with the section of commenters who say pants should not have creases before they’re sat in, if they fit properly. This does make shopping for pants a little tougher, but I think it’s pretty key to proper fit. (It’s also part of the reason I sew – so I can easily make any necessary adjustments to keep them from having weird creases or drag lines or whatnot.)
    For instance, see this handy “pants fitting cheatsheet”

  28. Kate

    Oh my gosh. I am SO glad I found this. Every time I make the (horrible, dreadful mistake) of going shopping with my mother, I can try on a pair of pants that fit perfectly well, but she’ll insist they’re too tight because there’s creases! As a result, I have several pairs of pants a size too big because I gave in and humored her. However, if they’re jeans she has no problem with creasing – some weird double standard going on. Next time I go shopping with her (for some strange reason that likely involves temporary insanity), I’ll inform her that creasing is all right!

  29. KKT

    My friends and I call it ‘spidey crotch’. It is not a cute look for work pants. Often the pants are simply not well constructed or were made with cheap fabrics. A good tailor can adjust the seams a bit if there is enough material there or you can size up in butt/hips fit and get waist taken in as others have mentioned. Any brands/styles that people like this season?

  30. kate

    I am working on making my own pants and have this issue and am trying to fix it. I believe it happens when the front crotch area it too long or too wide. It is a fitting issue. It has to do with the smaller front area of the pant needing to be smaller than the larger back area of the pant. The front of the pant essentially doesn’t fit correctly I believe. Too much width in the front or possibly length in the front.