How To Tell If Your Clothes Don’t Fit

Poorly fitting garments will make or break your style in a big way. Women are not as likely to get things altered as men are, so it helps to purchase what fits you best from the get-go. Here’s how to tell if your clothes don’t fit properly. This will help when purchasing new clothes and also assessing what you currently own.

Let’s start with the obvious…if it won’t zip, snap, or close without you going through contortions, it’s too small. If you can’t reach, lift your arms or bend over without things binding, they don’t fit you properly. Never assume because you wear one size in a certain brand, you will wear the same by another manufacturer. They all use different fit models, which makes their sizing unique.

Fit in a Blouse or shirt

We’ve all been there. A top fits us generally. We love the color, the price, and the style But if it gaps, requires constant adjustment, impedes our movements, or shows every lump and bump, it doesn’t fit.

Horizontal stress lines that pull from the underarm or the neckline, like above, mean the top is too narrow for your shape. Go up a size, and you’ll look thinner in the garment.

Gapping is my enemy number one with a button-down shirt or blouse, and I am not even well endowed. Properly placed buttons can help a lot, so look for tops with a button that lines up with the widest part of your bustline. You can try going up one size, which subtly changes the placement of that center button but be careful this doesn’t then  make it too large through the shoulders.

hollywood fashion tape to help clothes fit properly

If everything else fits, but your blouse still has gaps between the front buttons, this Hollywood Fashion Tape may be your answer. It’s an easy-to-apply, undetectable fabric tape that holds the opening closed… until you decide to remove it. It’s also helpful for fast wardrobe repairs like fallen hems, bra straps that slip and show, etc. I recently used it to hold the excess length of the shoulder strap on my expensive shoulder bag that kept sticking out!

A long sleeve should be 1/4 to 1/2″ past your wrist bone. Shoulder seams on a set-in-sleeve should sit on top of your shoulder where you feel bone movement when you lift your arm. If it droops over the upper arm, they’re too wide for you. (I am not talking about dropped shoulders here).

In sleeveless tops, the armhole needs to be shallow enough to cover your bra but not so tight it causes pull lines across the front or back. Petite garments have shorter armholes.

Fit of Pants

  • You should be able to fit two fingers into the waistband of your pants. If the back gaps in a waistband, they’re the wrong shape for you. If they fit everywhere else, it’s the easiest alteration to make.
  • Whiskering and pulling horizontally from the crotch means you need to go up a size. You can always have a waistline narrowed, but adding width across the backside and thighs isn’t so easy.
  • A camel toe is a clear sign the pants are too small on you. 
  • Side pockets and any front pleats should lay flat. Gaping pockets add width to your hips and mean the pants don’t fit.

Pant length varies with the style. Read more about it here-How Long Should Your Pants Be?

fit of Bras

 bra and panty on dresser

  • Your cup should not runneth over, or it’s too small. Your breast tissue should all fit within the cup of your bra.
  • Gapping and puckers mean the cup is too large.
  • Straps that slip off your shoulders or dig in, mean your bra does not fit.
  • The center front of your bra should lay flat against your ribs, so the bra structure does all the heavy lifting, not the straps.

I recommend a professional bra fitting once a year to ensure you’re wearing the correct size.

fit of Shoes

Your toe box needs to be high and wide enough to accommodate your foot without pinching. If you have bunions or hammer toes, opt for shoes with flexible tops that will stretch with your foot. If the heel slips, it may be too narrow, or the shoe may be too long. There are many gel inserts and extra pads you can add to shoes to adjust for a comfortable fit, but if they’re too short, you’re going to hurt your feet so choose another style or go up a size.

Here are some products for shoes


I do use shoe stretch with shoe trees when my shoes are very close to fitting perfectly. This helps ease the leather and saves my feet from the stress of doing it.

By the way…you may also enjoy –The Best Shoe Hack You Never Knew

Which clothing item do you find the most difficult to fit properly?

Thanks for reading, and remember to wear what makes you feel confident.











  1. The 2 items that are hardest to fit for me are:
    1. Dresses… my hips have always been one size larger than my chest and shoulders
    2. Shoes… I had one bunion removed when it was very painful. Therefore, I have one narrower foot.

    It has been a problem, but, if I keep trying, I can find the right fit for both. It just takes time.

  2. Pants are my most problematic. I have. Long body but am just 5’ tall….so not petite because of the rise…but short inseam. Tough to take so muc off the length,

  3. Thanks for the post. As a short petite that is well endowed, I have trouble with fit in almost all clothes and shoes. Even crop pants are often just the right length. I’ve had professional bra fittings and recently I’ve found bras aren’t made the way they used to be. There is no lift unless it’s a push up bra, instead the new styles just mash. I wish someone would make a bra with wide back and shoulder straps.

  4. Check out Olsen’s in Vancouver. Really nice fabrics and perfect fit for me

  5. Grandma Judy says:

    I enjoyed your blog and it was interesting to read all the comments. Everyone seems to have a different issue. No wonder we have trouble finding something that fits. Lol! For me it is pants. I am short waisted with a tummy but no butt or thighs. Most pants look like riding pants on me. By the way. I have the fashion tape and love it. And you just gave me more ideas of ways to use it.

  6. Very useful post. I avoid button down tops as I am well endowed, but have somewhat narrow shoulders. The style either gaps or, if I go up a size (as you mentioned), it simply falls off my shoulder and the rest of the shirt is just too big. These types of tops never fit me correctly–no matter what the size.

    One style I wish would go away—the ‘drop shoulder’ on everything from t-shirts to sweaters to dresses. I get it–it is a cheaper way for manufacturers to make garments and not worry about a shoulder/sleeve fit. But I can’t stand the look or the feel of a seam across my upper arm. Always irritates me and frankly, I don’t think it is very flattering on most people.

  7. Great post today. I’ve been having so much trouble finding shoes since my toe was partially dislocated. No more flip flop sandals. It swells a lot and not very many are comfortable right now. I really agree about bra fittings.

  8. Length in bottoms has always been a challenge for me (long legs) as either too short or too long, however being a hobby sewer it is something I can usually correct. Whereas when it comes to footwear, on the most part (exception flip-flops) I take a 8.5 sizing, medium width and having worked for three Orthopedic Surgeons (many years ago) learned that one should ‘not’ have to stretch their shoes/boots etc. for that ‘perfect’ fit and if you do, then they are ‘not’ the proper sizing and/or style for your foot. (They actually preached this rule.) That being said and other than that; very beneficial tips Jennifer.
    Footnote: For those who use liner socks but find they have a tendency to slip off — try converting them to a sling back by cutting a portion of the heel out and see if that works for you.

  9. I usually have a gapping issue with button downs. I normally add an invisible snap at the gap. Sizing up is not an option for me. Thanks for the tips. Great video!

  10. Elizabeth S says:

    Excellent advice! My issue was with shorts; the crotch would ride up and look terrible. I realized that buying petite shorts was making the rise too short on me. Now, needing a little extra room for my tummy, I buy regular length and shorten them if necessary.

  11. Sleeveless tops are pretty much impossible: gaping armholes. Finding the curvy silhouette in pants, to accommodate my narrower waist, is becoming more of difficult. Shoes: my feet are slim, so choices are limited. Sandals with adjustable straps work. Zippered winter boots work, with felt insoles and woolly socks. It’s hard when you know what you need and used to be able to find it.

  12. This was very informative. I feel pants are hard to find a good fit. You can’t trust sizing or brands.
    Kind of a hit or miss experience. I have pants that rang from 6 to 10 but measure the same and fit well.
    Thanks for all the great tips.

  13. Great post. Thanks so much.

  14. beth byrd says:

    Great post today!

    I would gladly spend any amount of money (well, almost) for a well-fitting bra. I’ve put on weight in my tummy area over the past several years which as definitely changed the way my bras fit. Unfortunately I don’t know of any professional fitters in my area. When I do purchase a bra that I think will work, I find that when I wear it for a day it becomes uncomfortable and then sits in my drawer. Ugh. There is nothing worse than ill-fitting bras or ill-fitting shoes.

    1. I agree, Those two are intolerable for me too.

  15. I have that fashion tape and it’s a gift when all that’s wrong with the shirt is pulling at the bust line.
    Jennifer, these are great tips. I would venture a guess that we all have items in the closet that we chose for one reason or another(color, length,style, saw it on someone else and it looked great) but every time you put said item on … 🫤 meh ? Tugging, adjusting, different undergarments and finally hanging back up in the closet … eh, maybe another time. Need to remember this when shopping. Also, am I REALLY going to lose those 10 lbs. so garments aren’t pulling ??

    1. Exactly! Shove those clothes that don’t fit now, to the far end of the rod and if they still don’t fit in 6 months to a year, think about donating them.

  16. I have long, thin (but not narrow) feet with high arches. I’ve worn a size 9.5 since the fourth grade when my mother would special order my uniform loafers. If a heel slips it’s because the shoe is too wide and often a heel grip helps. Naturalizers used to be a good fit but they seem to have gone wider; Ecco is tricky with their European sizes. Popular Ilse Jacobson are so cute but one size is too short and the next size too big. I refuse to pay $80 to try & stretch a shoe. We have a number of shoe stores here that specialize in comfort shoes from vionics to taos to sofit. Different styles have different fits.

    1. Linda, my feet are exactly like yours (same size too), and heel slip is the bane of my fashion existence, especially now that brands seem to have gone wider. And I’m so tired of salespeople suggesting that I go down a half size if their shoes are too wide. That’s a perfect recipe to create bunions and hammertoes! Booties are the biggest fit challenge for me — I’ll have to try the heel grips. I have found that shoe stretchers with the little moveable rubber pad do help if you have one spot that rubs.

  17. Thank you for this helpful article! I find the hardest thing at the moment is bra fitting. I’m not yet going into stores, so getting in-peson advice is not possible. I like the look of Natori bras but dislike the idea of ordering a lot knowing that some will have to be returned. Do you have any ideas? I know you like Nordi’s return policies.

    1. Without going into a store, an accurate fit will be a challenge. Stick to stores with great return policies and order lots of sizes and brands to try.

  18. Finding “stylish” – not trendy – shoes that fit my wide feet (D or EE) is a constant source of frustration whether it’s for everyday or a special occasion. Running/walking shoes are not a problem. I love New Balance for those but otherwise, I love and live in my Birkenstocks! Clarks used to be a go to for me but I find most of their wide width shoes are stodgy in appearance. Naturalizer shoes also offer wide width shoes but I’ve been disappointed in my recent attempts to find a comfortable shoe. I’m in Canada. Don’t know if perhaps we have fewer styles to choose from here? 🤷🏼‍♀️

    1. beth byrd says:

      @Jane … I, too have very wide feet. I’ve had success with Cobb Hill and Aravon. I used to wear Naturalizer but I haven’t had much success with them lately. Good luck!

    2. There is less selection and availability in Canada. I’m working on a post on comfortable shoes that aren’t sneakers.

    3. Angela Pea says:

      I also have wide feet. I like Rieker shoes, and Taos. Both are less stodgy than Clarks! Also, Merrell and Chacos now have ‘non-athletic’ lines…they aren’t dress shoes, but are great casual options!

  19. Michele B says:

    I’ve given up on sleeveless tops and dresses. I’m pretty busty and the armholes for these garments are gigantic! My arms aren’t that big – its just my bustline!

  20. Thank you so much for yet another useful and well-written post. In the past, when I was much younger and thinner, I sacrificed good fit for style. Big mistake! Just wish that it was not so difficult to find a place that offers quality alterations these days.

    1. They are harder to find but worth their weight in gold

  21. Great post!!! I may print and put it in my closet! Thank you!

    1. I’m glad this is helpful!

  22. Thank you for a very informative and helpful post.

    1. When the rise in your pants is too short, making your ‘lady parts’ accentuated 😳 Not a good look!

    2. A camel toe is when your pants are so tight the outlive if your lady parts are visible.

  23. I find it is so hard to find clothes for the mature women. They are either too young looking or frumpy old lady style with all over elastic waists. I know the over 75 women don’t purchase clothes every week like the young ones but normally when we purchase a piece we want quality and a great fit. I am short 5’2″, I have a short torso, a good bust but longer legs…of course my waist is ticker now…it seems manufacturer have forgotten about us to concentrate on the very young ones that purchase and discard…where are the classic piece of clothe made with good fabric, where are the service of a seemstress in the stores to do the alteration, where are the saleswomen with good advise that are there to help not just to sell. I think if the stores offered those services, mature women would certainly purchase more clothes. We have the time to shop and most of the time a bit of extra money to spend.

  24. Becky Westover says:

    Interesting article – I find jeans or pants difficult to fit. I am straight from waist to knees and unfortunately jeans are designed for average women’s shape. (An old fashioned term was saddle bags). I need to remove up to 2 inches of fabric from high hips to my knees.

    1. Look for brands who make curvy and straight fit. I need the straight fit too. Loft and Talbots come to mind for having those options.

  25. Paulette Levy says:

    These reminders are important – my shoes must fit and I never attempt to squeeze into a too short shoe. Yikes. When my feet hurt my day is half ruined before it starts!

  26. Brilliant article Jennifer! Thank you for this.
    With my lifestyle so casual lately, I’ve been guilty of buying a few things that did not fit properly thinking that it doesn’t matter as it’s just casual wear. Remember the days when there used to be seamstresses in the stores to tweak a hem or sleeve length?

    1. I do remember those days. That’s one of the great benefits of shopping at Nordstrom. They always have a seamstress on site!

  27. So true, Even time I cull my clothes it is because they don’t quite fit properly, either slightly too big or too tight. I find pants the hardest as I have slim legs and thighs but do have a belly. I have finally found a brand that fits, so I now only buy from them, a bit boring but safe.

    1. It may feel boring but it makes life so much easier.

    2. L. Anderson says:

      I would be interested in knowing which brand you found that fits. Thanks

    3. Janey, I think a lot of us have your body shape. What brand did you find that you like? Thanks!

    4. Judi Baker says:

      I have the same issue! Would you mind sharing the brand you’ve discovered? Thanks!

  28. Thank you for another interesting and helpful article. I appreciate your frequent efforts to educate your readers. But I do wonder about one thing – what is a “camel toe”?

    1. A camel toe is when your pants are so tight that the pants show the outline of your external labia.

  29. I find dresses with fitted waists the hardest to fit. I’m 4’11. So always assume everything will be shortened. But my waist is low,and proportionately thick, good for regular size, my shoulders are narrow, bust is high and my arms are very short, so a petite works. Makes me crazy! I only own wrap knit dresses!

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