Online clothing companies like Bonobos are changing the game with “delivery only” showrooms that won’t let you take your clothing home from the store. They only ship it to you online. Why? Because once you know what you’re doing, shopping for travel clothing online is amazing.
But you have to do a few things before the world of online retail becomes your playground. Learn how to:
- Get your (real) measurements (Neck, chest, bust, inseam, waist, hips, sleeve length)
- Find your size using the sizing guides (petite, plus, and everything in between)
- Know which styles and cuts fit you best (Slim fit, relaxed, tailored, regular, etc)
- and even learn how to convert EU sizes to US inches
- Read the reviews for your body type
It’s stressful to buy a $100+ Merino wool sweater when you haven’t tried it on. I get it. But once you master those few simple steps, you can get your entire wardrobe online and still look (and feel) great.
Disclaimer: Obviously, one size never fits all. Everybody is different and every company is different. But the guides and sizing charts below should help you find travel clothing online that fits.
Know Your Measurements: How to Take Your Measurements
If you want to shop for clothes online you have to know your measurements. Period. This doesn’t mean knowing your “size.” Sizes change. Seasons, styles, brands, even geography can change what a “medium” means from one shirt, or pair of pants, to another. Same goes for a 4 or a 6. But, measurements never lie.
Knowing your waist, hips, sleeve length, neck, inseam, chest, and bust measurements ensure a great fit every time—even without trying clothing on. Here are the basic measurements you need to know, and how you can take your own measurements at home in about 10 minutes.
Important Men’s Clothing Measurements
Ideally, for a perfect fit, every guy should know the measurements for their:
- Inseam – The distance from the underside of the crotch to the bottom of the ankle
- Waist – A horizontal line that crosses through your navel
- Chest – The fullest part of your chest, just below your armpits
- Neck – A loose measurement taken below the adam’s apple
- Sleeve Length – From the tip of the shoulder bone to the beginning of the wrist
- “Rise” – The measurement from the bottom of the inseam to the top of your waist
If that seems like a lot, it is. Honestly, all most guys need is their inseam, chest, and waist measurements. Sleeve length and neck measurements are important for button up shirts and blazers, but they’re not essential for everyday travel gear.
How to Measure Your Inseam
Find a pair of pants that fit you well. Measure the fabric from the bottom of the crotch to the bottom of the pants. It works best if someone takes this measurement for you (so you’re not bending over), but you can make it work. Do both legs and compare the measurement just to be sure you’re consistent. If you’re wearing a pair of dress shoes with a tall heel, put them on (you’ll want a slightly longer inseam). If you’re wearing regular shoes, then being barefoot is fine.
You can also just lay a pair of pants you like flat on a table and measure the inseam there. Boom. Lifehack.
How to Measure Your Waist
Guys and girls wear their pants at different points on their waists. But no matter how you wear your pants—low or high—your waist measurement should be a horizontal line that crosses through your navel. That’s how fashion designers measure, so you should too.
Use your navel as the starting point and wrap a soft cloth tape measure around your waist, being careful not to pinch or pull at the tape. You’re looking for a measurement that sits between your hip bones and navel and feels comfortable when you’re standing and sitting down.
Fun Fact: If you tuck in your shirt it adds about 1/4” – 1/2” to your waist measurement. It’s not a huge difference, but definitely worth remembering if you’re right on the cusp of a larger/smaller size and you’re a dapper dude.
How to Measure Your Chest
Wrap the tape measure under your armpits at the biggest part of your chest. The tape should be snug but not crazy tight. Breathe normally. That’s the number you need for jackets and shirts. Combine that with R (Regular for guys that are 5’7” – 6’0” tall) or L (Long 6/1” – 6’3”) and you’ve got most jackets and shirts covered.
How to Measure Your Neck
If you want to measure your neck wrap the tape measure around your neck about an inch under your adam’s apple. Unlike your chest measurement, this shouldn’t be too tight. In fact, you can add a finger or two under the tape to make sure a shirt collar will fit comfortably. If you’re between numbers, round up to the next half inch.
How to Measure Your Sleeve Length
Measuring your sleeve is actually pretty easy. Stand up straight and measure from the end of your shoulder bone to the knob on your wrist. Ta-da.
Go to a Tailor If You Can
Honestly, if you buy a lot of clothing online—especially collared shirts and tailored fit pants—it’s worth visiting an actual tailor. Just once. Seriously, find a guy with a tape measure dangling from his neck and follow him. Measurements from a pro are always better. Just make sure to write them down. You think you’ll remember, but you won’t.
Important Women’s Clothing Measurements
Women’s clothing sizes seem to change every five minutes, so knowing your actual measurements is even more important than it is for the fellas. For ladies, your most important sizing measurements are:
- Bust — The fullest part of your chest
- Waist — The narrowest part of your torso, just above the navel
- Hips — The widest point below your waist and above your knees
How to Measure Your Bust Size
Getting your bust measurement is fairly relaxed. Take a slightly loose measurement starting at the fullest part of your chest (it’s usually around nipple level). That’s it.
Your chest measurement (or “band” size) is the area directly below your bust line. It’s basically the bottom of your bra. To take your chest or band measurement, keep the tape measure level and snug.
How to Measure Your Waist
Just like the guys, your waist measurement is typically the narrowest point above your hips, just above the navel. It doesn’t matter where you wear your pants—classic mom jeans or low-rise—it’s important to get the “true” waist measurement for online shopping.
How to Measure Your Hips
Stand with your feet together. Measure around the widest part of your body between your hip and your knees, being sure to keep the tape measure level with the floor and evenly snug. Use this same method—the widest part—for your calves and thighs if you need those measurements as well.
How to Use Online Sizing Charts
There’s a reason that J. Crew, H&M, REI, and every online clothing store provides you with a sizing chart full of measurements and sizes. Sizes vary from brand to brand and year to year, but measurements don’t. If you have your measurements, you can ignore the “size” and just get the clothing that fits you. Compare your numbers with the sizing chart and you’re good to go.
Just remember that sizes can vary depending on your region (and the region the clothes are coming from). A US size 6 is an 8 in New Zealand and 40 in Italy. Make sure the size corresponds to an actual measurement. Here’s a look at the most common breakdown of men’s and women’s sizes compared with measurements (by inches because I’m American):
Men’s Sizing Chart
Chest / Waist (in inches)
- XS = 34” / 26”
- S = 36 / 28-30
- M = 38 / 31/32
- L = 40 / 33-34
- XL = 42 / 35-36
Women’s Sizing Chart
Standard Size Guide: Bust / Waist / Hips
- 12W = 42 / 36 / 45
- 14W = 44 38 / 47
- 16W = 46 / 40 / 49
- 18W = 48 / 42 / 51
- 20W = 50 / 44 / 53
Plus Size Guide: Bust / Waist / Hips (in inches)
- XS = 33 / 25.5 / 35
- S = 34 26.5 / 36
- M = 35 / 27.5 / 37
- L = 36 / 28.5 / 38
- XL = 37 / 29.5 / 39
Petite Size Guide: Bust / Waist / Hips (in inches)
- XS = (0P – 2P) 32-33 / 25.5 / 34-35
- S = (4P – 6P) 34-35 / 26.5-27.5 / 36-37
- M = (8P – 10P) 36-37 / 28.5-29.5 / 38-39
- L = (12P – 14P) 38-40 / 30-32 / 40-42
EU – UK – US Size Comparison
While you might love “Made in the USA” clothing brands, a lot of great stuff comes from overseas, particularly Europe. And understanding European sizes can be a pain in the ass. Here’s a quick cheat sheet for converting European sizes to US measurements:
Men’s Sizes Comparison Chart
US = UK / EU (in cm)
- XS = 28 / 25-26
- S = 30 / 27-30
- M = 32 / 30-32
- L = 34 / 33-35
- XL = 38 / 36
Women’s Sizes Comparison Chart
US = EU / UK Dress and Blouse Sizes
- Size 0 (US) = Size 28 (EU) / 2 (UK)
- Size 2 = 30 / 4
- Size 4 = 32 / 6
- Size 6 = 34 / 8
- Size 8 = 36 / 10
- Size 10 = 38 / 12
- Size 12 = 40 / 14
- Size 14 = 42 / 16
- Size 16 = 44 / 18
- Size 18 = 46 / 20
- Size 20 = 48 / 22
A Guide to Sizing Style Terms
As you know, a great fit isn’t just about getting the size right. Today’s travel clothing comes in a variety of fits and styles, and the differences between them can mean everything. Sizing styles aren’t just marketing buzzwords. They mean something. Don’t get caught in a pair of skinny jeggings when you really wanted a slim fit chino. Here are a few of the most common sizing terms and what they really mean:
Common Men’s Sizing Terms (and what they really mean)
Regular — Standard, relaxed fit. More room while still using the same basic measurements
Slim Fit — While slim fit jeans are a thing, slim fit usually refers to shirts; it means that the seam or cut of a shirt isn’t vertical, but instead tapers in along slimmer lines from the shoulder to waist
Tailored — An even more extreme fit than slim fit. Definitely a style choice
Big & Tall — Usually anything above XXL sizes. The starting point is around 6’3”
Husky — Husky fit is often for younger guys who don’t quite fit into men’s sizes. Husky (H) clothes have more room in the waist and a little extra length
Low/Hi-Rise — Rise refers to the distance from the bottom of the crotch to the top of the waistline; so hi-rise equals a high-waisted pant and low rise features a lot less room in the crotch
Common Women’s Sizing Terms (and what they really mean)
Women’s clothing sizing and terms can be tough to understand, but the major sizing terms include:
Petite — Although typically worn by women under 5’3,” petite clothing is made for smaller (not just shorter) women; indicated by a “P” at the end of the size, petite clothing has smaller shoulder widths, sleeve lengths, and cuffs
Tall — Typically designed for 5’8” and above; longer torsos and sleeves as well as inseams
Plus Size — It varies, but plus sizes usually start around size 12 and run through 24; they’re indicated by a “W” after the size number in a lot of cases
Juniors — These sizes are usually intended for younger women and run a little smaller in the hips and bust; they’re indicated by odd numbers
Misses — Despite the condescending name, “misses” clothing is for older women; they’re generally a little more roomy in the bust and hips and are indicated by even size numbers
Trusted Online Clothing Brands (With Sizes That Fit)
I’m a big fan of a few online clothing retailers, mostly because their clothing is all true to fit. I know that I can trust what I buy, which is kind of a big deal when you’re in the same five or six pieces of gear for weeks at a time. Here are a few of my favorite online travel clothing sellers, and for the women’s brands, I polled the women of Tortuga.
Megan, who who writes for Tortuga, says that she has a hard time with buying clothes online and she tends to buy from online retailers that also have brick and mortar stores, allowing her to try things on when it’s convenient, or return online purchases in stores.
Angela, who manages Tortuga’s partnerships and social media echoes Megan, and says its, “All about the free returns.”
Angela adds, “I have good luck with Stitch Fix (the stylist service) getting my sizing right each time even if they’re sending me a new brand that might have different sizing. Megan seconds success in sizing with Stitch Fix.
Jenn, Packsmith’s Editor has good luck with Athleta, she says, “For years, my core travel wardrobe pieces have been Athleta. The sizing is consistent, the fabrics are travel friendly, and they wear really well over the long haul. I noticed a slight decline in quality when Gap bought the brand, but they are still good, and my go-to for mainstays.”
Laura, a Tortuga writer, calls Everlane, “Fantastic,” and it’s Taylor’s, go to brand for true-to-fit sizing in most categories. She’s our Marketing Director, and she says, “I buy all my basics from there these days if I’m shopping online. Their sizes are very consistent, at least for tops and dresses. Pants less so.”
Other Brands the Ladies of Tortuga Love:
Technically sound and performance ready clothing that fits (and lasts!) makes Outlier one of my favorite travel clothing brands. The Outlier ultrafine merino wool t-shirt is my favorite travel shirt to date. They also have detailed sizing guidelines for each piece of gear. On a personal note, pay particular attention to anything with stretch material as you’ll really want a snug fit so it still looks good after a few days of wear between washes.
I mentioned them in the intro, and it’s because they’re making guys buy clothing that fits. And that’s awesome. A quick look at all their styles will make you bust out the measuring tape to get the next season’s styles ASAP.
Read the Reviews (with perspective)
I don’t like to let other people make decisions for me. Call me stubborn, or just experienced, but I think I’m looking for different things in my travel clothing than a lot of other people. And that’s ok. It just means I have to read the reviews with a big ol’ grain of salt.
When I browse reviews, I don’t just look at the star-rating. That doesn’t mean anything. Instead I try to find reviews that actually arm me with information. When the reviewer tells you a bit about themselves you can compare their experience with your expectations and use cases.
Is the reviewer:
- 6’5” and didn’t like the inseam?
- An avid hiker in the PNW that demands waterproofing and a comfy fit?
- A mom buying a gift for her 40 year old daughter?
Personal details matter. Don’t trust reviews—good or bad—unless they provide specific details and use cases. That said, I always keep my eyes peeled for “runs a little small” or “shrinks.”
Pro Tip: Hit Control+F for “runs small” or “shrinks” when reading lots of reviews
Read the Return Policy
Worst case scenario, you misjudged the sizing guide and your sweet new pants are a little snug around the waist. Chalk it up to experience and return them. Almost everyone that sells travel clothing online offers free returns, but double check before you add something to your cart. Paying return shipping sucks.
Sometimes You Just Have to Go to the Store
Every now and then you just can’t get what you need from an online sizing chart and a handful of reviews. That’s cool. Travel clothing is meant to be lived in. Heck, it’s meant to be abused and carted all over the world.
If you really can’t make up your mind about a size, go to the store and try it on. What’s even cooler is that you can ask the (usually) expert staff what they think about a particular piece of gear. Most people work for travel companies to try the gear out. Ask about the pants or socks or shirts and you’ll usually get a straightforward answer from a pro. And that’s pretty danged cool.
Shopping for clothing online doesn’t have to be a nightmare. If you know your measurements, read the reviews with a grain of salt and an eye for personal detail, and pay attention for sizing and style terms, you’ll be able to put together a capsule wardrobe from the comfort of your couch.
- Know your measurements; write them down somewhere
- Style terms like “slim fit,” “tailored fit,” “misses,” and “petite” mean very specific things; don’t ignore them
- US sizes run “bigger” than EU sizes; use the comparison charts
- Read the reviews; always read the reviews
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