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How to Alter Pants to Fit Your Body Shape: Taking Out and Cinching In

Michelle enjoys spending her free time learning about DIY methods to save money.

Learn how to easily alter your pants!

Learn how to easily alter your pants!

Do Your Pants Fit You Like a Glove?

Chances are, they don't.

Sometimes, I think the ever-evolving pant trends incentivize clothing companies to neglect a bottom's fit and focus on throwing current embellishments on top. If you have a pair of pants that you love and yet are hesitant to wear them because they don't hug you quite right, don't worry! I'll share a few helpful techniques and hacks so you can saunter about comfort and style!

If you're curious about what I'm going to cover, here is a quick overview:

  1. How Should Pants Fit?
  2. What to Do Before Tailoring Your Pants
  3. How to Fix Gaping in Jeans
  4. How to Alter Pant Legs to a Shorter Length
  5. How to Fix Pants That Are Too Tight at the Waist
  6. How to Make Pants Smaller Without Sewing
  7. What Do Tailors Do?

How Should Pants Fit?

When you put on a pair of pants, they should be flattering, stylish, and comfortable. Here is where they should sit on your body, based on their type:

  • Jeans and Shorts: Hips
  • Dress Pants: Just above the hips. Because the distance from the waist to the crotch is longer in dress pants than in casual bottoms, they need to be worn higher on the body to keep the proportions right.
Throw your jeans in the wash to help prepare them for tailoring.

Throw your jeans in the wash to help prepare them for tailoring.

What to Do Before Tailoring Your Pants

  1. Wash Your Pants. This mainly applies to jeans and other pants that get thrown into the laundry basket. Wash them several times and in different ways—inside out, in cold water, hanging them to dry. Help ensure that your pants won't shrink to the point that you can't wear them anymore after you have already worked so hard to tailor them!
  2. Keep Your Shoes On. If you want to shorten your pants, try wearing them with the shoes you'd likely wear most with them. This will help you to mark the pants at the right length. For instance, if you tailor your pants to fit when you're barefoot but end up wearing them with stiletto heels, the fit will be off.
  3. Check for Extra Fabric. See if there is extra fabric in the back of the pants. You can probably take in or let out up to two inches without affecting the fit elsewhere (like your bottom). However, be careful when you're tailoring your pants so that you don't excessively change the shape of your pants. If you take in too much, the back pocket positions will move inward—adjusting this too aggressively can make the pants look funky.

How to Fix Gaping in Jeans

If your pants are gaping, it's time to fix it while you tailor the waist.

  1. First, turn the pants inside out.
  2. We're going to create two darts. Pinch the waistline fabric and pin it into place in the two spots where you want the fabric at an angle to fit your rear better.
  3. Sew over the pinched area that you pinned down with a straight stitch. Begin at the waistline and angle it down until you sew off the fabric. This will create a small dart. Make it shorter or longer, depending on your needs.
  4. Repeat the last step for the second dart.
Method 2 (Inside Hem): Fold the hem inwards to the length you want them to hit you. Then, add stitches to keep it in place.

Method 2 (Inside Hem): Fold the hem inwards to the length you want them to hit you. Then, add stitches to keep it in place.

How to Alter Pant Legs to a Shorter Length

Altering the length of pants to make them shorter is a cinch! There are two ways you can make them fit you best.

The first method is called an original (or European) hem.

  1. Remove the original hem of the jeans.
  2. Cut off the excess fabric.
  3. Attach the hem to ensure a perfect fit.

This method is more labor intensive, but it will look more professional.

The second technique is to do an “inside hem.”

  1. Fold in the extra fabric on the inside of your pants.
  2. Stitch the fold in place.

If you go with this method, know that if you fold them in more than two inches or so, the leg shape of the jeans is likely to change because of the extra bulk. Make sure to look at your pants folded before sewing to see that the shortened length doesn’t change the overall look too drastically.

How to Fix Pants That Are Too Tight at the Waist

It's hard to have pants that are too tight at the waist. Your body feels so constricted, so you can't eat as much as you'd like or move as freely as you please. Here are two ways to adjust the waist to make you more comfortable.

Method One: Expansion Fabric

  1. Measure your waist to see how much additional fabric you need to add to the band. Divide the amount in half, as you'll be adding the fabric to the side seams of the pants. For example, if you need to add 2" to the waistband, you'll be adding two 1" sections of fabric, one on each side seam.
  2. For each side seam, snip the fabric down to the bottom of the back yoke. It's located below the waistband at the back of the jeans. Most styles have the yoke as a "V" shape, which helps determine the shape and fit of the jeans.
  3. Select the fabric you want to use. If you want it to be more discreet, choose a color and texture similar to the pants you're changing. If you want to add a pop of color, choose a bolder color that is different to catch the eye.
  4. Fold the fabric in half to make sure it's long enough to fill the opening.
  5. Tuck the fabric on the inside of the pants. Use a water-soluble fabric marker or chalk to mark the opening onto the fabric you're adding to expand the waistline. Repeat this on the other side seam.
  6. Snip the fabric leaving a little bit of seam allowance, and finish the raw edges. This will help the fabric not to unravel with loose threads. I like to use a zigzag stitch to make it more secure. Whatever stitch you use, make sure you have clean edges. Make two of the fabric expansion pieces.
  7. Line up the side seam opening with the fabric marking on the expansion piece. Pin it in place so it stays where you place it on both sides.
  8. Zigzag stitch the pants and fabric together. It's very dense, so I suggest using a wider stitch and lowering the stitch number.
  9. Once you repeat on the other side, you're finished and have a larger size to hug your body well!

Method Two: Washing Machine

  1. Wet denim is generally more likely to stretch than dry denim, so throw your jeans into the wash. Don't dry them.
  2. Once the washing cycle is complete, take the jeans and pull the waistband over the back of a wide chair. If you don't have one that works, use a piece of wood or another material that is long enough to exert some stretching pressure on your waistband.
  3. When the jeans are dry, you should have some extra room for wiggling.
Adjust your pant fit with these no-sew methods: fabric glue, iron-on fusible tape, duct tape, and folding.

Adjust your pant fit with these no-sew methods: fabric glue, iron-on fusible tape, duct tape, and folding.

How to Make Pants Smaller Without Sewing

The best and most permanent way to tailor pants is to actually sew the fabric to keep them in place. If you want something that doesn't require a sewing machine, here are four methods you can do that work best for your specific item:

Method One: Iron-On Fusible Tape

An iron-on fusible tape can work magic if you don't want to sew your garments. Think of it as a more permanent double-sided tape for clothing. Here's how you use it:

  1. Pinch off some tape.
  2. Place it between the two layers of fabric you want to "glue" together.
  3. Press the top layer of fabric firmly down on the bottom layer with a hot iron. Make sure fusible tape is firmly sandwiched in between.
  4. The tape will melt and fuse the fabric together.

Note: If you place a lot of pressure or stress on this new seam, it will most likely peel apart. This means it'd probably be better used for the cuff of a pair of pants. As long as you're careful when putting your foot through the leg, it should last you for at least a few wears.

Another Note: Don't tighten the entire leg of the pants with iron-on fusible tape.

Method Two: Folding

This technique is more temporary than the first. Learn how to roll up the cuffs to taper them more towards the bottom.

  1. Pinch the outside edges of your pants to the point where you feel it flatters your legs the best.
  2. Press the pinched fabric towards the back.
  3. Holding the fabric in place, roll up the cuff once.
  4. Ensure that everything is right and fits comfortably.
  5. Continue with one more fold to hide the bottom seam and create a clean edge.

Method Three: Fabric Glue

  1. Flip your jeans inside out and put them on.
  2. Draw a line down each leg from the knee to the ankle, about a half inch from your leg. Make sure you leave enough room for you to get the jeans on your body, but don't make them too loose.
  3. Take the jeans off and flatten them on a solid surface. Pin each leg along the line you marked.
  4. Try the jeans again to make sure everything fits. If something's too loose or tight, simply adjust the pins in that area.
  5. Cut along the line once you get the pins set where you want. Carefully cut a straight line, leaving a 1/4" allowance, and remove the excess fabric. Leave the pins in, which should be 1/4" in from the edge.
  6. You're going to work from the top of the pants to the bottom. Apply fabric glue on the outside-facing part of the fabric. Press it down onto the other side of the pant leg so that the glue adheres to both sides.
  7. Work your way down the first leg. Then, move on to the second leg.
  8. Once the glue is dry, turn the pants right-side out and wear your new pants!

Method 4: Duct Tape

If you have a pair of jeans that you find are too long, but you don't have time to tailor them permanently, don't worry! Just fold them where you want them to end and tape it with duct tape. It'll last at least a few wears, and potentially even a few washes. I'd recommend removing it before placing duct tape in the wash, but this method is a simple way to trial run the length of the pants you want. If you like it after wearing them around for at least a few hours, then they're ready to sew!

What do tailors do?

What do tailors do?

What Do Tailors Do?

A tailor is a person who alters clothing through means such as sewing, reinforcing, and finishing. While they typically change manufactured clothing to fit your body shape, they can also create new, custom pieces using patterns and designs.

Tailors have extensive knowledge about how garments should fit and how to make the items best fit you. If you decided to go with one instead of fixing the pants, fit yourself, here is what it might cost you:

  • Shorten or Lengthen Inseam: $12 for normal pants / $20 for cuffed bottoms (also known as turnups)
  • Taking the Waist In/Out: $10-20. They'll expand or cinch it about an inch. However, make sure (before it's sewn!) that the back pockets don't move too far away from each other. That would look strange. Your pants should fit snugly, but they shouldn't be tight.
  • Taking the Seat In/Out: $15
  • Tapering Legs: $20-25
  • Taking the Sides In: $30
  • Replacing the Hook and Eye: $10-15
  • Replace the Zipper: $30


Bobbi on October 06, 2019:

I have no butt and no hips and i buy size 7 to fit my my waist, but they are baggy in the lower hips, butt and crotch area. HOW do i fix that ?

The Sampsons from The Ozarks, Missouri on January 17, 2019:

Nice article. I especially liked the tip about stretching the waistband while the jeans dry from the wash.

Just FYI, I have taped up a pants hem at work with Scotch Tape when my heel caught and ripped them out. Lasted quite a while!

EZ on September 25, 2018:

Ala article are good.

Idee per la LIM on September 02, 2018:

Picosmos Tools

Cynthia Zirkwitz from Vancouver Island, Canada on July 29, 2018:

This is an amazing hub, even for a relative non-sewing woman like myself. (I haven't sewn anything for years). My dear husband has the opposite 'issues' with his jeans fitting to what I have. Yes, he is an old fella with some frontage but not much backage. Your article gave me some ideas to try on one pair of his jeans that particularly make him look like he is trying to be one of those droopy-drawered youngsters of days past (I hope). Sharing!

Michelle George (author) from Santa Barbara on April 26, 2018:

Thank you so much, I'm glad you find it helpful! :)

Lynsey Hart from Lanarkshire on April 25, 2018:

Brilliant hub!!! Thank you for sharing. I always have difficulty with the sizing of jeans. This will definitely come in useful, so I have saved it to Pinterest.