Q: Many of the ready-to-wear pants in my closet fit poorly. They have too much fullness in back. If I take them in at the side seams to reduce the circumference, they feel tight across the seat and there’s still excess fabric in the back upper thighs. I hate to toss all these wardrobe staples. Is there a quick alteration I can do?
—Kerry Harper, via email
A: The Threads editors are familiar with this problem and handle it this way:
When pants feel too loose, the first thing you think about is taking out extra circumference at the side seams. That’s usually the easiest place to take in a garment, and it’s definitely worth pinning along the side seams to find out whether this solves your fitting problem. However, when pants have a lot of excess fabric below the seat, the side seams aren’t the best place to remove fabric. Reducing ease there tightens the garment around the hips, but it does not address the fullness at the thigh as the fabric wraps around the leg and under the seat.
Generally, this symptom comes from a back-crotch curve that is overall too long, and specifically has too long a crotch extension—the horizontal portion of the back-crotch seam. If you were adjusting a pattern, you would shorten the extension slightly.
To alter existing pants, you can perform a similar adjustment. Unstitch the pants’ inseams from the crotch intersection to just above knee level. Slide each back pant leg forward, under the corresponding front leg, and pin the lapped layers. Start by pinning the back seamline about 1/2 inch forward of the front seamline, and try the pants on carefully. Check the rear view. If needed, slide the back edge further forward. You may need to open the inseams more or open the back-crotch seam a few inches to shift the layers smoothly. This method shortens the back-crotch length, and raises the point at which the seam curves under the seat toward the front. Both adjustments are helpful for women with a smaller derrière.
Once you’ve gotten a fit you like, mark the new seamlines, resew the inseams and, if necessary, the crotch seam. You may determine there’s still too much overall ease around your body. If so, try taking in the side seams at this point. By the way, this same type of alteration can work for the front, if the pants are baggy there.
This article was originally featured in the Q&A department of Threads #206 (Jan. 2020).
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