Pants for Everybody: Gender-Free Pant Sizing & Style Guide

Pants for Everybody: Gender-Free Pant Sizing & Style Guide

by Sonja Pinto - April 2023

A staple in most wardrobes, a good pair of pants can form the base of countless outfits. Yet, as most pants are made with a specific binary gender in mind, finding the right pant fit can be challenging for many. Even if you get the fit right, it can be easy to get stuck in wearing the same style of trousers every day. This article provides a comprehensive sizing and styling guide for anyone looking to tackle sizing issues or find new ways to wear pants regardless of their sex assigned at birth or gender identity.

Why Is It So Hard to Find a Pair of Pants That Fit?

Well, if you’re anything other than a so-called standard size, chances are that you have to turn to tailoring, specialty retailers, or custom fit to find pants that fit. Standard size, sometimes referred to straight size, generally means the range of sizing made to fit a set of body measurements. These standard sizes often exclude many bodies because they only represent a limited size range, leaving many with a handful of clothing options. 

These sizing ranges are based on the understanding of binary gender. The result is that people with bodies that do not fall under standard sizing or people who feel uncomfortable shopping with gendered sizing end up being excluded from many mainstream brands. For those who are trans and/or non binary, this process can be even more challenging. For instance, transgender people undergoing social transition might struggle to find garments that fit their bodies and affirm their gender. Even as a cis man or woman, looking for pants that is more gender neutral, androgynous, or gender fluid can turn into a challenge.

People wearing pants sitting on a mountain

But even if you do fall into standard sizing ranges and happy with what is mostly out there in terms of style, there’s a good chance that you’ve still encountered difficulties with finding pants that fit. You’ve probably had an experience where you ordered a pair of size 8 jeans online thinking they would fit, but when they arrived you discover that they are a size too small. Or maybe you ended up googling women’s to men’s (or men’s to women’s) pants size converter to determine which size will fit you for a pair in store. Or you kept buying multiple pairs of the same pants because you were tired of keep looking for pants that are the right fit. So, if you have had any difficulties finding pants that fit, you are not the only one.

Common Frustrations With Pant Sizing

We spoke to a few people about their frustrations and experiences with pants. For many, part of the difficulty finding pants that fit is the fact that pants available in traditional retail are not designed for every-body and are often designed with a specific binary gender in mind.

“Clothing has always been a bit of a struggle for me,” shares Alex. “I am a plus-size AFAB trans man, and haven’t gone through any physical transition yet. As I became a teenager and started trying to buy my own clothes and find my own style, I quickly realized that fashion, more specifically the fashion I wanted to wear, wasn’t accessible to me. As I got bigger, I eventually outgrew the sizes sold in stores, and that really took a toll. I am 5’10” with a fairly evenly wide frame and long legs, the plus size figures stores base their designs is a shorter, curvier frame. So, pants only ever came to just above my ankles, and shirts are always too tight across the stomach and shoulders.”

Alex’s sentiments are echoed by others. For Avery, clothing extends beyond basic utility. “As someone on the quieter side, it’s fun to express myself without having to say anything,” they share, “I’ve been midsize to plus size my whole life. I’m also 5’9 which I guess is on the taller size for someone who usually buys women’s pants. I’ve always had a hard time finding stores that accommodate my longer legs. As I’ve gone up in sizes, I’ve watched myself grow out of stores that carry my size.”

Two people wearing pants handcuffed to each other

Abe shares a similar sentiment: “I care about the clothes that I wear on a lot of different levels. It’s difficult to find that perfect fit, whether that’s because I’m not cis and men’s pants are presumably made for cis men, or whatever the reason is. It’s a little bit of a struggle but it's so minimal because my body type is close to the ‘regular’ cis male population. But I know for a lot of other transmen and non binary people who wish to dress with masculine presenting clothes or gender-neutral clothes that it’s a huge challenge to get correctly sized pants. ill-fitting pants look terrible. 

Interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity.

Finding Ways to Make Sizing Work for You

For Billy Guan, fashion student at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, styling pants has a lot to do with finding the right fit for your body. “My personal style developed by finding what fits for me. I started wearing pants that were fitted and tight and exhibited the form of my body, hugging my calves and thighs. As I started getting more comfortable with myself, I started experimenting with different shapes,” says Billy.

Having also worked in retail for over seven years, Billy has helped countless people struggling to navigate ready-to-wear sizing—that is, sizing grouped into standardized ranges rather than custom fit to your body. In most retail settings, clothing is also divided into men’s and women’s sections, often limiting the potential sizing options for consumers.

But Billy encourages those he works with to look past these arbitrary divisions: “When I’m trying to fit people in clothing, it’s sometimes tough because often [someone will] ask for help shopping. I’ll have men with petite body sizes and I can’t fit them in European men’s small sizes. So a lot of the time, I’ll just say ‘hey, follow me, let’s go check out the women’s section,’ and they trust me with the process and might end up with ‘women’s’ size clothing. There is a stigma, but I always tell them ‘if it fits, it fits. It’s just a t-shirt.’ And sometimes it ends up fitting them very well.”

Billy shares that Eurocentric pant sizing can be challenging for anyone who falls outside of these proportions, including himself. Enrolled in fashion design school, he’s learned to make pants that fit his body and uses himself as a fit model. For one of his first sewing projects, he created the pair of striped pants shown below.

pair of striped pants created by Billy Guan

Model: Billy Guan, Photography: Milan Orosco

When you’re trying on pants, don’t be afraid to test out different sizes to see what looks and feels the best. You might prefer to size up and have a looser waist to make sure that you have enough room for your thighs and calves. Below, Billy recommends some techniques to improve the fit of your pants.

Techniques to Make Pants Fit Better

So how do you improve the fit of your pants if you can’t an exact size match?

You might find a style of trousers that you adore but they’re are just slightly too big at the waist. Or, you might score a pair of vintage jeans at the thrift store that fit you perfectly except for a few inches of extra length. Perhaps a pair of pants that fit you perfectly last year might now be too snug. But this doesn’t mean that you can’t wear that pair of pants—there are a few ways to remedy a pair of not-quite-perfect pants.

“One thing about pants is that a lot of people don’t know how they should fit. A lot of the styling issues that people have with pants are the way they fit around the crotch and the way they fit around the waist,” shares Billy.

You can, of course, visit a tailor and pay for alterations like hemming or taking in a pair of pants that are slightly too big. If you have a sewing machine, you could also try doing an alteration yourself—there are tons of tutorial videos on YouTube that walk you through the steps.

But don’t worry if you’ve never once touched a sewing needle – there are several no-sew styling techniques that you can use to change the fit of your pants even if you have no sewing experience. Though they’re small changes, they can completely change the aesthetic quality of the look.

Here are a few styling techniques that Billy recommends:

1. Modify Your Waistline with Layers

“If you find a pair of pants that aren’t quite the right waist size, you can always tuck in your shirt or tuck in your sweater,” Billy advises. The extra tucked in material will add some bulk to fill out the waist.

If the waist of your pants still doesn’t quite fit right and you want to cover your waist entirely, Billy suggests wearing a baggy hoodie overtop of your waist. “I’ve personally walked down the streets with my pants fully unzipped, but because I’ve had a hoodie and jacket on, you don’t notice it,” Billy laughingly admits.

For the same effect, pick oversized clothing to drop below your waist. This will create a relaxed, loose fit great for those lazy days at home or running errands.

2. Belt Up

Belting your pants can help secure the positioning of pants with a looser waist or add a decorative touch to your midline.

“I don’t see a lot of people wearing belts because they’re hard to style and might only fit some body types. When I wear belts with my pants, sometimes I don’t wear them on my actual waistband. Belts are meant to be decorative, so sometimes I just wear them on top of my pants.”

A basic black or brown belt will do if you’re looking for something subtle, but you can also choose a statement belt to spice up your outfit. Studded or chain belts are a great choice for adding metallic shine to your look. 

3. Pintuck or Cuff the Pants

“The length [of your pant] matters with how [your pant] bunches at the bottom. This is called a break. You don’t want too much fabric at the bottom. Typically, for dress pants, one or two breaks is fine without looking sloppy and one to three for jeans. Find a balance for bulky folds at the bottom,” Billy explains.

Adjusting the length of your pants is a small detail that can completely change the fit of your pants. “When you’re cropping the hem of your pants, [I usually] pintuck or just fold it over [to cuff them]. When you cuff [the material] over, you keep the same shape and end up with a circle tube at the end. I learned how to pintuck my pants from WikiHow articles and YouTube videos.”

Pintucking is a method of folding the cuffs of your pants to shorten them and create a tapered silhouette. Here’s the pintucking tutorial that Billy references. Cuffing your pants is more straightforward: fold the material of your pants upwards until you reach your desired length. Not sure what the visual difference between these two methods is? Billy demonstrates below, with the cuffing method on the left and the pintucking method on the right:

Billy guan demonstrates the cuffing method and the pintucking pants methods

Model: Billy Guan, Photography: Milan Orosco

4. Try Suspenders

Suspenders are a great alternative to belts if need some extra waist support or want an added styling flair. “When you go that extra size up and put suspenders on, you’ll feel more comfortable,” says Billy.

You can find suspenders in solid colours, patterns, or unique textures. Choose a material like leather for a more sophisticated look. You can even match the colour of your pants to your suspenders! Check out this example of a matching set:

In addition to these techniques, it is also helpful to get yourself a pant sizing & conversion chart, we provide one for you on the next section.

Gender-Free Pant Sizing & Conversion Chart

An important part of finding a pair of pants that fit you is learning how to use size charts to estimate which sizes in a particular size range will fit you. The following section will guide you through the process.

Content Warning: Though this step will help you use sizing charts, the measuring process can be difficult for many people, including those who struggle with body dysmorphia. If you do not wish to read about taking your pant measurements, I recommend that you skip to the next sub-section.

In order to use a sizing chart, you’ll need to know a few of your body measurements. Here are the four steps:

Steps to taking pants measurement - gender free approach

Once you’ve taken your measurements, you’ll be able to use sizing and conversion charts to compare your measurements to the nearest size. However, manufacturers often making clothing that does not follow standardized sizing. Always check if there is a sizing chart unique to the brand you are evaluating.

The below sizing conversion chart attempts to cover mainstream pant sizing through a gender-free lens, but I recognize that the concept of sizing charts is inherently limiting and will inevitably exclude many bodies. Because most brands use gendered men’s and women’s sizing, I have included the conversions within this chart.

This is intended as a rough guide to help you estimate where you fit within mainstream standard sizing. For half sizes, plus sizes, and any other sizing beyond this range, consult your desired brand’s size chart with your measurements. In fact, I recommend verifying your sizing against a brand’s sizing chart before buying any pair of pants to ensure that you’re getting the closest fit possible.

Gender Neutral Pant Sizing & Conversion Chart

inseam (pant length) chart - gender neutral approach

To use these charts, compare each of your measurements (hip, waist, and inseam) to the last two columns on the right. Figure out if you’re working with US sizing, UK sizing, men’s sizing, or women’s sizing to match your measurements with the right size. If you fall in between a size, you may want to size up. As mentioned, standardized sizes will not perfectly fit all bodies; you may need to find the closest possible fit and make alternations.

Many brands with online storefronts will offer their own sizing charts to help customers navigate their unique sizing. If you’re ordering online, make sure to check for sizing information on the product page and compare it with your measurements to find the size that will best fit you.

If you’re shopping in person, you can even bring your tape measure with you to more accurately judge which sizes will fit you. This is especially helpful when the store you are shopping at does not offer change rooms! If the pant tag only uses dual sizing (e.g., “XS,” “M,” “XL,”), you can use your tape measure to approximate the hip, waist, and inseam and narrow down the sizes that you try on or buy.

If you are at the store and don’t have a tape measure, another quick-and-dirty trick I’ve learned to approximate waist sizing with pants is the “neck method.” Wrap the waistline of a pair of pants around your neck. If the two ends do not touch each other, the pants will likely be too small for your waist. If there is a lot of excess fabric left, they will likely be too big. If the ends just meet, there is a good chance that the pants will fit your waist. It’s not a foolproof method, but it will give you a rough sense of how the pants will fit on your waist.

Now that you’ve learned some techniques to help your pants fit better, let’s get into some styling ideas to revitalize how you incorporate pants into your outfits.

Styling Tips for Pants

1. Pick Bold Printed or Patterned Pants

Make your pants the centerpiece of your outfit. Search out bold and unique prints, patterns, and colours to express your personality. If you’re a maximalist, pair a bold pair of pants with complementary colours, accessories, and other patterns and prints. If you like a more understated look, try pairing your pants with black, white, or solid-coloured pieces. You can’t go wrong with a bold print, black t-shirt, and pair of black Converse.

Here are a few examples of prints and patterns you can try and a few ideas on how to style them:

  • Houndstooth – also known as dogstooth, houndstooth print is a bold print suitable for the office and everyday wear. Style with a leather jacket for a sophisticated, edgy look.
  • Stripes – not just a pattern for t-shirts! Striped pants are dynamic and fun, and you can find striped pants in a range of colours and widths. Try matching the colours of your outfit to the stripes in your pants.
  • Graphics – a graphic print has endless options from newspaper print to space print. Graphic pants are a great way to pull your interests into your style visually.
  • Floral – the name says it all! Floral pants are a bright, colourful, and vivid addition to any outfit.
  • Plaid – always a classic, plaid pants are a great choice for school, work, or casual wear. Pick a colour combination that you like and pair your plaid pants with a simple button-up shirt or solid-coloured t-shirt for an effortlessly cool look.
  • Asymmetrical – asymmetrical pants are pants where one side has a different colour, pattern, or print than the other side.

2. Put a Twist on a Classic Pair of Jeans

Jeans are likely the most common style of pants in the world nowadays. They were first designed as workwear, offering rugged utility to workers. The brand Levi’s, among the most popular jeans today, designed their original denim “with pockets and sturdy riveting” to reduce tearing in the material (Bass Kreuger 2019). 

Despite their historical utility, you can level up your denim. Have an old pair lying around? Add in a patch or mend a tear with colourful thread. You might also try a pair of jeans in different cuts or styles from the ‘70s bell bottom, the ultra-skinny jean, or the low-rise straight leg from the early aughts. You can also try swapping out your medium-wash jeans for a pair of striped denim or a colour blocked pair like these:

Try jeans with different rises! High-waisted jeans will hit above your belly button while low-rise jeans will sit much lower on your waist. Playing around with different rises can change the silhouette of your outfit.

The cut of your jeans can also make a huge difference. Choosing a cropped length will create the illusion of a shorter leg and is a great choice for the warmer seasons. Pair a cropped pair of jeans with a colourful sneaker and a crop top for a relaxed look for a day off.

If you try a flared or wide-leg jean, pair it with a chunky-heeled boot and a turtleneck or sweater for a cozy fall look.

3. Experiment. Try a Pair of Pants Out of Your Comfort Zone

I know that I am personally guilty of relying on my tried-and-true black jeans and a sweater look when I can’t find any fashion inspiration and am searching for something practical and comfortable. But sometimes I find it hard to get out of this styling rut even when I want to wear something fun. Experimenting with new pant styles can help you reimagine your styling options.

“What I usually tell people is to test their limits. If you’re asking a sales associate for help, you should be willing to trust them and accept what they’re giving to you, even if it’s just to try it out. If I see something that they might like, I’ll give that to them as well as try something new,” Billy echoes.

“Something that I didn’t know I’d wear is houndstooth. I went to try [a pair of houndstooth pants] on and ended up buying them. For people who aren’t willing to step out of their comfort zone in terms of styling, it doesn’t hurt to just try things on. You’re in a fitting room that’s totally private and there’s no shame in grabbing pants that don’t fit your [current] sense of style. First of all, you’re in a public setting and no one knows your sense of style. If they see you carrying [an item] into the fitting room, they’re never going to see you wear it. That pant can just go back onto the rack and they’ve already lost focus of you.”

An easy way to experiment is trying a “pop of colour” with your pants. Take a brightly coloured pair of pants and contrast it with all black or white pieces. You can also try mixing up textures with leather or corduroy pants.

4. Ask Sales Associates for Styling Advice About Pants

Billy’s last piece of advice? Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you’re shopping in person, asking a retail employee for styling or fit advice can make a huge impact on your confidence and aesthetic.


Despite the steps taken towards inclusive fashion, it’s almost impossible to avoid traditional pant sizing and styling. But learning how to make sizing work for you and having a few styling tricks up your sleeve will help you in your fashion journey. How will you try fit or style your pants after reading this article? If you try any of our tips, tag us in your looks at @offbinary on Instagram.

Do you like this article? If you do, you may also be interested in how to style skirts: gender-free approach.


Bass Kreuger, M. “Vogue encyclopaedia: The history of denim jeans.” Vogue, 10 April 2019,

Sonja Pinto (they/she) is a writer and founder of BlockPrint Writing living and working on unceded xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) territories also known as Vancouver, Canada.