Doing the math

I just measured a bunch of my own rises. As a shorter person who is short-waisted but has a long rise and slightly shorter legs (oh, the variables, right???) I was curious to see what's low and high on this body. 

And honestly, doing the math makes me wonder how any of us ever find pants to fit! 

Today I'm wearing my Liverpool ponte pants. They have a 9" rise, which on me, is verging on a lower hits at my hipbones. I can hike it up a bit with a belt if desired, but that's where it falls if I just let it be. Well below my navel, in other words, let alone my actual waistline. A little lower than the fit on the (presumably much taller) model. 

Considering I'm only 5' 4" (on a tall day) that might be surprising to some and explains why, in the past, I could rarely buy "petite" pants -- back in the old days, they were made proportionately with shorter rises. (Less so now, I fear, for my truly petite sisters.) Sometimes I could finesse this by sizing up in petites, which would drop the waist and crotch. But not often.

But while my rise is long, my upper torso is short (short in objective terms, since I am short, and short in relative terms, on my own body) there's not a lot of real estate to play with, folks! Here is how it looks. 

The Emerson BF jeans (my favourite jeans, really) have a 10 inch rise, which is sort of a high mid-rise on me. It hits more or less just below my navel. These jeans do have a longer back rise, which can be very helpful in terms of overall fit -- as suntiger pointed out, the front rise measurement alone often won't tell you enough, depending on figure variables. 

My ON baggy jeans have a 10.5  inch rise which is high on me! Half an inch to go from high-mid- to high! If I'm wearing a belt, I have to tighten it a full notch or two if I'm wearing these pants. 

The pants that hit just below or on my actual waist (i.e true high rise) have 11 to 11.5 inch rises (depends on waist band construction etc.) My J Crew plaid pants and my CM pants fall into that category. 

In the past, I've gone as low as an 8 inch rise  (with a belt, and much tugging of pants to stay up on my relatively narrow hips). I could conceivably go as high as a 12" inch rise (with some gasping for air because this would hit at my rib cage and compress my late middle aged middle, especially when sitting.) 

But honestly? I'm looking for pants mostly between 9 and 11 inches and one is low and one is high on me! 

For this reason, I am ALL for variety in rises -- let them proliferate at every level so everyone will be able to find something that works for her! 

Have you done the math on yourself? What are your personal sweet spots? 

This post is also published in the youlookfab forum. You can read and reply to it in either place. All replies will appear in both places.


  • Helena replied 10 months ago

    Suz, I totally agree ... the labels are actually pretty useless imo, just give us the numbers for crying out loud ... men get numbers, women get marketing; I've said it before and I'll say it again!!

    For me, about 10" will hit at or just shy of my belly button, which is where I am currently fairly comfortable. A little lower is fine, a little higher quickly gets into Urkel territory - but again, the styling, what top, etc. makes a bit difference.

    Now, a few years ago, I would have said 10" was pure Urkel and the sweet spot was probably 8.5" or something ... so I'm also very aware that I am influenced by the current version of "average" that I see around me ... so who knows what it will be 12 months from now?!?

  • Runcarla replied 10 months ago

    We are similar with regards to rises, but I suspect different in other measurements!  

    I lemminged the Liverpool’s with the 9 inch rise, and they are as low as I would ever want to go!  Must wear with a belt.  11 inches is my sweet spot and where most of my pants measure.  My newest ‘highrise’ jean is a 12, as are my Lulu joggers, and I might actually like the fit better than the 11’s - though when seated the waist meets my under-bust!  

    As long as I’ve been paying attention to the matter of rises (about 10 years) I’ve always held out for 10-11 inches, and taken a pass on most pants outside that range.  

    I need a 36 inch inseam for PPL.  32 inches are cropped, and 34 are ‘flood’.  True ‘tall’ pants seemed to always be baggy in the seat and crotch.  I don’t know if that is the rise or something else, but it’s similar to your conundrum with petites.  

  • slim cat replied 10 months ago

    That's easier for me - 5'4" with long-ish legs and short waist with some apple tendencies ( and the belly doesn't like any serious pressure on
    it ). My rises are from 7 1/2" to 8 1/2" and that's it ;) . Anything higher - and it slides down to my hip bones ( very straight shape ). 
    No boyfriend style for me - it requires some roundness in behind that I don't possess - lol. Straight leg, trouser, bootcut, flare if it's restrained.
    8" is ideal rise on my fav pants from 11 years ago - sob, should bought/kept more from those times!

  • Suz replied 10 months ago

    Just from the first 3 replies we can see how complicated it is! Slim cat's my height but her high rise is below my low rise! Carla's wearing a similar rise but her inseams are, ahem, I don't even want to admit how much longer than mine....(on me, a 30" inseam is literally to the ground; if I want to wear flats I need to take it up to 28" or so and for a slight crop, we are talking about 26"...) .And Helena is in between. 

    Like I said, it's a miracle any of us can buy pants at all. Skirts would be easier!

  • Janet replied 10 months ago

    What’s interesting to me about your numbers, Suz, is that I have some of the same pants (we both love the old Dre’s and the Emersons), and it sure sounds like those rises hit a similar spot on us. However, I’m 3” taller than you, so the shortness of my torso seems more pronounced! Especially considering I need a long inseam. There are those extra 3” — I need a 33” inseam to get a full-length jean that I can wear with flats. I prefer a 34” inseam to wear with a 1” heel, and longer if I’m going to wear any heels higher than that. Gotta love the variations possible in human bodies!

  • anchie replied 10 months ago

    12 inch is where my navel and natural waist are and that is my preferred high rise. I still have enough space below ribcage to be comfortable even when sitting. 9 inch would be mid rise on me and I would not go any lower than that.
    I am tall between 5“6‘ and 5“7‘

  • Joy replied 10 months ago

    I am 5'3" and a20 or higher inseam will hit below my bellybutton.  I gave up looking for anything high rise when " mile high" pants did not come to my navel.  Then I needed an elastic belt to keep them up.   Every bottom must be tried on.  This is difficult with so many stores closing and having to return email orders.

  • Angie replied 10 months ago

    Suz, YES! It makes perfect sense. And yes - it is COMPLICATED ;) 

    I've had the pleasure of dressing you, and you have a longer rise. Petite pants are not necessarily your friend. Dead right! Regulars are MUCH better - and you can have the hems shortened. I like you in higher rises too! :)

    Conversely, I am taller and have a relatively short rise for my 5ft 6 height. I have a regular length waist though. Not short waisted. I am loving 9.5 to 10 inches at the moment = mid to higher rise on me. 

    11 inches is VERY high rise on me, but I do enjoy them when the fit is perfect.

    I like 9 inches too. 8 feels low - but not too bad. 8.5 is better. But low rises like 8 often need back waist adjustment because of my sway back. Higher rises DO NOT need waist alteration. I am loving that!

    I don't enjoy belting my higher rises. I only like belting low rises. Like 8 to 8.5.

    Slim Cat, if you have the back waist altered to fit on a higher rise like 9 to 9.5 inches, I'm pretty sure the sliding will stop.

  • Suz replied 10 months ago

    Janet, how I'd love those extra 3 inches in my legs! I feel like my lower body would be much more proportional then -- i.e. my rise would be proportionate to my overall height. 

    I retired my last pair of Dres not too long ago because they were actually feeling too low in comparison to my Emersons. Maybe I should have hung onto them for fashion's sense! But for comfort, I'm glad I waved goodbye. The extra half inch (or whatever) makes all the difference. 

    Anchie, it sounds as if our rises might be similar in the sense that you are a few inches taller than me and your waist rise is commensurately taller. 

    Joy, it must be so frustrating to find pants that work for you with all the variables you have to address. Elastics are definitely your friends here. 

    Angie, yes, you have seen me in person so you know how it is! Your own measurements and preferences make perfect sense. 

  • suntiger replied 10 months ago

    I measured a few and they're 11-12 inch front, 14-16 back. Cannot go lower in back- full stop. I think my embroidered jeans are 10 inch in front, and that was considered high a few years ago!
    I'm only 5'3 but all my height is in my legs.

  • Suz replied 10 months ago

    Suntiger, I envy anyone with long legs! It sounds as if you do have a longer rise, too. 

  • Jessikams replied 10 months ago

    Suz, I think our bodies are similar. I have a long torso, a very long rise, and super short legs (especially in comparison to my talk, short-torso husband!)
    I have really started to notice that rise is crucial for me in terms of comfort, fit, and appearance. I used to buy Athleta petite leggings etc, but recently they are not fitting and I need to go up a size or two AND get a regular not petite…. All because of the rise, no other fit issues.

  • LJP replied 10 months ago

    This would require me to locate a tape measure . So I’ll just keep on with my fumbling guessing game method ;)

  • Suz replied 10 months ago

    Ha, yes Lisa, especially since most of these retailers don't bother to list the rise measurement...or when they do, it's wrong! And anyway, sometimes tape measures are best left in the dark depths of the drawers where they've disappeared, LOL. 

    Jessikams, I think our bodies are quite similar, too. So I eagerly look at which pants you are wearing in your WIWs! 

  • rachylou replied 10 months ago

    I think I’m in Lisa’s camp here. Another reason I’m a brick and mortar shopper… just easier to me to go in and try pants on… ;)

    And I still can’t remember what sort of tops go best with low rise…

  • Tanya replied 10 months ago

    So, I got my tape measure and ended up almost spilling my metaphorical tea. My rise to my natural waist is 13"!

    I am 5'6" and have long torso/waist/rise (anything on the upper body) - short legs body type.   My legs are about 2" shorter than they proportionally should be for my height, and now I know those 2" went into my rise.  The absolutely shortest rise I am comfortable with is 9.5"-10", which is mid rise on me.   The most comfortable ones are around 12".   And I do have some pants that go a little above my natural waist, 1-2", toreador pant style, and they still don't come super close to my bra band, there is plenty of space on my torso.   

  • Suz replied 10 months ago

    Rachylou, oh gosh, I have been thinking of that too....tops!!! 

    Tanya, I hear you. We are alike in our proportions except you also have a bit more height in your upper torso (that's where you get that extra 1 to 1.5 inch on me that you don't get in your slightly-longer-than my rise, LOL). 

    I remember we've had this conversation in the past -- early in my time at YLF, we both talked about really loving a 2 inch heel in large part for what it does for our proportions. I also like it for comfort (so that's convenient) although more and more I am wearing flats or low platforms/ works better with higher rise pants than low rise pants on me because the higher rise fools the eye that my legs are normal length!) 

    I seem to remember also that we both are proportionately shorter in the calf length (and regular length more or less in the thigh) which tends to make legs look a bit shorter. 

  • Jaime replied 10 months ago

    Oh my, I have no idea but am pretty sure somewhere around 10" is mid-high on me. I really prefer jeans that are designed to sit lower on your hip (boyfriend style usually) because my hip is more proportionate to my legs than my waist is. Might take out my tape measure later :) !

  • DonnaF replied 10 months ago

    I am opposite to Suntiger when it comes to back rise. I hardly have a caboose so most jeans and pants are quite wrinkly below the seat on me due to too much length in the back rise.

  • Zaeobi replied 10 months ago

    I'm 5ft 3.5" (yes, that extra half an inch is important - right on the cusp of petite & regular height!) with a 27-27.5" inseam (PPL).

    My ideal front rise hits at or just above my belly button, which is 11.5-12" - I need it higher in the back to adequately cover the junk in my trunk - including the spare tyre, lol! But a 12.5" rise starts to creep up towards my ribcage, just as you described.

    You're right that it's complicated - fabric also affects these things (high-rise jeans can feel like a corset!) so I often make do with belts.

  • Zaeobi replied 10 months ago

    This thread has also got me wondering whether it's possible to alter the rise on a pair of bottoms? I know it's easy to hem & take in waists (harder to let it out), but what about shortening or lengthening the rise?

    I have my suspicions it's impossible, but maybe our sewing fabbers can weigh in? :)

  • Kate replied 10 months ago

    For comfort’s sake, I won’t wear pants with a rise lower than 11.5 in., and I prefer 12 inches. When I measured the rise on all the pants I currently wear, 8 of them (the majority), have a 13-1/4 inch rise. Happy me!!

    During the long dark years when mid-rises ruled with no other options, a 9-inch rise gave me plumber’s crack, and I became adept at backing up to a wall, door, or corner if I needed to bend down. And I had a big wardrobe of belts.

    I am so grateful we now have options across all rises.

  • kkards replied 10 months ago

    Well I like math, but this just made my head ache.   I thought that all the technology was supposed to have entered us into the age of affordable bespoke clothing.   

  • Suz replied 10 months ago

    Zaeobi, it is possible to adjust the rise but it can be a big job, depending on the type of pant. It is easier if there is a side zip vs. a front zip, I believe. Most off the rack clothes don't have the seam allowance to make it much longer, I suspect. 

  • Style Fan replied 10 months ago

    I measured three pairs of my jeans.

    C of H Annina Jeans
    Front Rise 12 "
    Back Rise 14.5 "
    These jeans are a bit loose on me and sit just at my belly button.  They are very comfortable.

    C of H Paloma Cords
    same as the Annina
    These are also loose and sit at my belly button.  They are very comfortable.

    I would not want to go down a size in the C of H jeans because that would change the look.

    Everlane Cheeky Straight Jeans
    Front Rise 10.5"
    These fit perfectly but don't have a lot of wiggle room.  They sit above my belly button.  

  • SarahD8 replied 10 months ago

    Style Fan, if I'm reading your post correctly you are saying the jeans with the 1.5" SHORTER rise actually sit HIGHER on your torso? I don't doubt it for a minute, I think it's an indicator of just how complicated fit is.

  • Suz replied 10 months ago

    Yes, I was confused by that, too, SarahDB

    It really is insanely complicated. Argh!!!! 

    As Style Fan has implied, sizing also matters. A loose pair of jeans could have a lower rise and work for someone with a longer rise, because it would hang lower on the body. That same pair of jeans in a smaller size might give a wedgie. 

    Meanwhile, someone with a shorter rise might need to size down, which she could only do if her waist/ hip measurements allowed it also. 

  • Style Fan replied 10 months ago

    SarahDB, that is right.  The Everlane jeans are higher on my waist than the C of H, but the measurement of the rise is lower.  Complicated.
    All three pairs of jeans are the same size, but that doesn't mean much.  The Everlane jeans fit differently.  They are not too tight, but they hug the body more.
    This past year I have ordered many pairs of jeans online and sent most of them back.  Even when the measurements are given, it isn't easy to figure out what will fit me.

  • Kyle replied 10 months ago

    Understanding this would probably be really beneficial, but it makes my head hurt. My dislike of math is what inspired me to pursue a career in journalism. 

  • Zaeobi replied 10 months ago

    Lol @Kyle, same reason I became an English teacher instead!

    @Suz wait you're saying a side zip makes alterations *easier*? Gosh, I've been sitting on some rust, chocolate & plum pairs of trousers because I thought the opposite to be true - just wait 'til my work wardrobe hears about this, haha! :D

  • Suz replied 10 months ago

    Well, I could be totally wrong, Zaeobi. I'm about as good a sewist as I am a mathematician. 

    Why I became a writer....

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