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10 Easy Steps to Take-in (Alter) Pants at the Waist

Zsuzsy has been an online writer for many years. Her articles often focus on DIY home projects and delicious recipes.

Learn how to easily alter your pants at the waist for the optimal fit!

Learn how to easily alter your pants at the waist for the optimal fit!

Pants Too Loose at the Waist?

This situation seems to present a quandary to many people. Most garment manufacturing companies seem to think that waist sizes jump two inches at a time. Unfortunately, this means that if you’re an in-between size, you either have to wear your pants too loose or get a tailor to take them in. Right?

Well, I'm here to share with you a third option that might be more in line with the ever-shrinking budget. Learn how to take in or let out the waist of your dress pants yourself!

Seriously, adjusting it is not hard and will take you no more than 30-40 minutes.

What You'll Need

  • Straight pins
  • Dress maker's chalk
  • Small pair of scissors or a seam ripper
  • Matching color thread
  • Sewing machine
  • Iron
  • Ironing cloth

Taking In vs. Letting Out: Same Technique

The job of taking in and letting out is the same. It is always easier to take in than to let out, mainly because there is no danger of the pants showing seam marks. If you’ve outgrown your favorite pants (I mean, if your pants mysteriously shrunk), you just need to be very careful when pulling out the old seam.

Letting Out Pants Requires Extra Fabric

First, you'll need to check if there is extra fabric in the back of the pants. Most men's trousers are designed so that they can be adjusted at the center back seam. You can easily take in or let out up to 2 inches (5 centimeters) without affecting the fit of the pants elsewhere.

Unfortunately, this method of letting out pants mainly works for men's dress pants, as only about 10% of ladies' slacks have this type of sewing style and seam allowances left in the back of pants and waistbands.

Also, most Docker-style sports pants for men and jeans do not have extra fabric because they’re sewn with flat French seams. To be honest, this has been one of my pet peeves forever and a day.

Remove the back-center belt loop!

Remove the back-center belt loop!

How to Make Your Pant Waist Smaller

Step 1: If there is a belt loop over the center seam on the waistband, remove it carefully using small nail scissors or a seam ripper.

Turn those pants inside out!

Turn those pants inside out!

Step 2: Turn your pants inside out, and try on your pants. Have someone pin them where they feel just right. Measure how much you would like to take in. Mark it with your dressmaker’s chalk.

Step 3: Remove the stitching that holds down the inside facing of the waistband about 5-6 inches (12.5-15 centimeters) on each side of the center seam.

Step 4: If the amount you need to take in is mainly in the waist and you need all of the fabric in the seat, you will need to make a short seam adjustment. If you have excess fabric in the butt area that you want to take in as well, then sew in the seam more gradually down to the crotch. Using your chalk, mark a sewing line on the inside of the pants.

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Step 5: Place a pin joining the waistband sewing line carefully. This will help it not slip apart when you’re sewing. Pin the remainder of the seam from the edge of the waistband facing right through to where you need to sew.



Step 6: Sew along your marked line, taking out the pins as you go.

Step 7: Try on the pants. If they feel right, go over the seam line two more times to give it a good and solid seam. Make it safe from blow-outs.

Use a damp ironing cloth!

Use a damp ironing cloth!

Step 8: Remove the old sewing line. Press the seam open and flat from the inside of the pants using your damp ironing cloth.

Step 9: Sew the waistband, facing the stitch in the ditch. This is where the line where the waistband and pants meet.

Step 10: Sew the belt loop back onto the center seam.

All Done!

You're done! That wasn’t so hard now, was it? Now your pants fit so much better—and you've saved yourself some money by not having to go to a professional tailor. Yay!


Marcie Lubin on September 04, 2019:

I have a leather pair of Lederhosen that are too small. Besides wearing them in the shower and wearing them while they dry, do you have another suggestion? What about button extenders? Where can I find them?

MARY KANE on September 08, 2018:

How do I alter women's

dress slacks to make them skinnier. The back leg is wider than the front

so I can't lay them flat and sew down each leg.

jms on June 06, 2017:

How do you take in the waist on women's jeans?

J. Dow on August 20, 2016:

If I'm a size 39 in men's dress trousers, should I buy a 38 or a 40? Which is better to have tailored?

Zsuzsy Bee (author) from Ontario/Canada on November 12, 2011:

Carol, it's hard to tell without seeing the shorts but most likely the rise is too short for you. The right way to lengthen the rise would be to take the seat seam apart and recut which is a bit of a job BUT (there is that little word again) but you can cheat a little and lower the curved part of the seat seam...

by 'curved part' of the seat seam I mean start to sew starting from nothing (stay on the seam) from just under the zipper to about the same height at the back about half an inch into the legs... no more than 3/4 of an inch though, this will shorten the legs of the shorts a bit but will give you some extra into the rise. This also works the other way if you need to shorten the rise of pants and there is a seam allowance worth your while...

I can't promise to have a hub with 'how to pictures' for you within the next couple of weeks as I'm still recouping from eye problems but I will put one together starting in the new year.

Hope this helps

regards Suzanne

carol on November 12, 2011:

How can I adjust a pair of shorts, that ride down in the back?

Zsuzsy Bee (author) from Ontario/Canada on October 23, 2011:

Anna141, thank you for taking a look and for commenting.

Taking in the hips etc and keeping the rise of the pants the same is a whole other kettle of fish. When I have a chance I will put a hub together on that process too.

regards Zsuzsy

Anna141 on October 23, 2011:

Great article! You might want to add that if the sewer is wanting to decrease the hip area as well as the waist that taking up the crotch has the effect of increasing the rise and decreasing the inseam. I made that mistake on one of my husband's pants -- not a good look. :-)

Zsuzsy Bee (author) from Ontario/Canada on January 19, 2011:

Seventw, nope absolutely nothing... not if you want it not be obvious that you have made the pants bigger...

regards Zsuzsy

Seventw on January 19, 2011:

Is there anything you can do if your pants do not have the extra fabric on theme?

Zsuzsy Bee (author) from Ontario/Canada on September 05, 2010:

Michigoose, I'm not quite sure how to cure the 'non-beauty' of the inside of you lining. Maybe slip stitch the lining down. Good luck

regards Zsuzsy

Michigoose on September 05, 2010:

Thanks! Any tips for lined dress pants? I have a pair from Banana Republic that fit in the hips but not the waist so I couldn't go down a size. I managed to take them in about an inch and put them back together okay so they look fine when I have them on, but they're not beautiful on the inside anymore. Banana Republic gets so fancy with their linings!

:-) I'm afraid the dry cleaner who also does alterations is going to laugh at me when I take them in for cleaning. :-)

Zsuzsy Bee (author) from Ontario/Canada on July 16, 2010:

Dolores, possibly the fabric is worn where the old seam was. Chances are that after a couple of washes the seam line will fade a bit but unfortunately once damage was done to the fabric there is not too much you can do...

Dolores on July 16, 2010:

The instructions were great, but one problem; I am unable to get the seam line marks out. Used the press cloth on the inside but it won't come out. Is there anything else to do?

Zsuzsy Bee (author) from Ontario/Canada on July 04, 2010:

Awesome Kristie, good for you. The more you do the easier they're going be.



kristie on July 04, 2010:

thanks!! the pair i did last night turned out pretty well!!!

Zsuzsy Bee (author) from Ontario/Canada on July 03, 2010:

As long as you make small little stitches it should hold up well enough.

good luck

kindest regards Zsuzsy

kristie on July 03, 2010:

i dont own a sewing machine. can i sew it back up by hand??? or will it look funny? its just my husbands pants i may try it!! lol

Zsuzsy Bee (author) from Ontario/Canada on May 17, 2010:

ritazruby, thank you for taking a look and for commenting.

kindest regards Zsuzsy

ritazruby on May 17, 2010:

Wow! this hub has solved a lot of troubles for me. I had pretty pants I always regreted buying but now I actually can wear them. Thanks ZsuZsy

Zsuzsy Bee (author) from Ontario/Canada on April 13, 2010:

dl53acy thank you for taking a look and for commenting.

regards Zsuzsy

dl53acy from East Texas on April 12, 2010:

Great tips only I don't own a sewing machine but I've done a lot of handsewing before and I have taken in some old jeans or slacks (basic everyday wear) by hand before, especially when you don't have the money for a seamstress for those little simple projects. It may take a while by hand versus a sewing machine but I just keep looping within the stitch made before a few times until I kinda get the sewing machine effect. Enjoyed this hub now I know who to ask when I into one of those sewing dilemmas so I've become a fan and please, feel free to visit my sight if you like short story mysteries and hopefully you'll be entertained I sure would appreciate your input & maybe you'll become a fan.

Zsuzsy Bee (author) from Ontario/Canada on February 01, 2010:

Pollyannalana always glad when you drop in for a visit. I would try the shrinking too if I were you as taking in jeans can get a bit tricky especially if they're lined.

Good luck

regards Zsuzsy

Pollyannalana from US on January 31, 2010:

Wow girl this is just what I needed. I bought my husband a brand new pair of jeans-felt lined with $49.99 price tag I got for one or two dollars at yard Mom could do all these things so I thought to try, knowing they were slightly big but all I do is look at them and think, lol, and Mom has Alzheimer's. Thank you so much and I better get on it while there's snow out there! Hey I may start out with the trying to shrink first tho, that had occurred to me but I should be so lucky.

Zsuzsy Bee (author) from Ontario/Canada on November 27, 2009:

Yes samsmith if you follow my instructions anyone can do it. Good luck

regards Zsuzsy

samsmith on November 27, 2009:


This is a really good piece of information for everyone. But are you sure that even a non experienced person can also do this at home?

Zsuzsy Bee (author) from Ontario/Canada on September 08, 2009:

Leslie if your fabric doesn't want to co-operate and shifts try either lowering your pressure feederdogs or (this usually works) run two lines of short basting stitches about 1/4 inches apart...1/8 either side of where the seam line has to sit. Then sew your seam right in the center between the two baste lines. This will hold the fabric firmly in place and shouldn't shift much.

Hope this helps

kindest regards Zsuzsy

Zsuzsy Bee (author) from Ontario/Canada on July 30, 2009:

E.A.Wright, thanks for taking a look and for commenting. Believe me it is not a hard job. Once you have done one pair it will only get easier.

regards Zsuzsy

E. A. Wright from New York City on July 29, 2009:

Great instructions. This seems like something I could do. Thanks!

Chris on July 17, 2009:

Great thanks!

Zsuzsy Bee (author) from Ontario/Canada on July 08, 2009:

Chris, I will try to make a few pictures next pair I need to let out or in.

regards Zsuzsy

Chris on July 08, 2009:

Can you post pictures to accompany the instructions?

Zsuzsy Bee (author) from Ontario/Canada on May 02, 2009:

Thanks gifted Granma

GiftedGrandma from USA on May 02, 2009:

Nice instructions...

Zsuzsy Bee (author) from Ontario/Canada on March 18, 2009:

2Patricias! Thanks for taking a look and I promise it is as easy as 1 to 10. My girlfriend used to do the same as you, she would hunt around for a pant style from one company then keep on buying the same pants over and over in every color possible for each season. I say it is less hassle to just take them in but...

Kindest regards Zsuzsy

2patricias from Sussex by the Sea on March 18, 2009:

Good, clear instructions - thanks.

I have often wondered why waist bands go up in 2" gradiations - when people certainly don't. I hate sewing, so usually just keep trying on trousers until I find some that fit. When I come across a pair that truly fits, I often buy 2 colours.

Then I have to try hard to remain the same weight....

Zsuzsy Bee (author) from Ontario/Canada on March 17, 2009:

Isabella my dear it really isn't hard... it just takes practice.

I'm always glad when you come for a visit. Hope you're well. Sorry about the delay in answering your comment. I was away from home with no internet connection.

greetings from a almost spring like Canada.

kindest regards Zsuzsy

Isabella Snow on February 22, 2009:

Zuz, I wish you could teach me how to do this....!!!

Zsuzsy Bee (author) from Ontario/Canada on February 08, 2009:

C.S. Thanks for taking a look and for commenting. Actually it really is not hard especially men's pants. I will add some pictures to the hub soon as I have a few pair to fix.

Always glad when you pop in for a visit. regards Zsuzsy

C.S.Alexis from NW Indiana on February 08, 2009:

Zsuzsy Bee,

I would think this takes a certain amount of sewing knowledge to achieve great results. I take all clothes to a local shop. She does a good business out of her home. I like to sew but as with most things I lost my machine in the flood.

This article directions are good for someone who wants to give it a go, thumbs up!

Zsuzsy Bee (author) from Ontario/Canada on February 06, 2009:

Always glad when you come for a visit. Thanks for commenting. Take care

regards Zsuzsy

Susan Keeping from Kitchener, Ontario on February 06, 2009:

Great tips. However, I can't sew worth a darn (ha ha no pun intended :)

Zsuzsy Bee (author) from Ontario/Canada on February 04, 2009:

You're quite welcome Michelle I hope it will help your friend.

Hope you're well regards Zsuzsy

Michelle Simtoco from Cebu, Philippines on February 04, 2009:

I have a friend who has always this kind of a problem. The hips part fit but the waist doesn't. So she often has to repair it. :-) I will email this to her. Thanks Zsuzsy for the helpful tip. :-)

Zsuzsy Bee (author) from Ontario/Canada on February 03, 2009:

CGull! I know what you're saying. I've dealt with men as customers for many years and most of you seem to think if the pants stay up then they're good enough. But I can guarantee that if you find a pair of pants that really fit just perfect you will not want to wear any other type anymore. Thanks for coming for a visit.

Kindest regards Zsuzsy

Zsuzsy Bee (author) from Ontario/Canada on February 03, 2009:

Marisa! How are you? Always glad when you pop in for a visit.

That is the problem with pant companies not cutting women's pants the same way as they do mens. I will make a couple photographs in the next couple of days of the waistband and add them to this hub. If you have a chance check them out.

thanks for taking a look and for commenting.

regards Zsuzsy

cgull8m from North Carolina on February 03, 2009:

For guys, it is different, we accept anything, but would love to have a good fit in pants.

Kate Swanson from Sydney on February 03, 2009:

Thanks for this Zsuzsy! I had worked this out on my own to some extent - I have a sway back so it's the obvious place for me to take in pants. I only do it with no-waistband pants, though, because I can never work out how to get the waistband back together again afterwards - I always seem to end up with a wodge of material that won't sit right.