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Altering pants/trousers

Kbrane | Posted in General Sewing Info on

Hi Everyone,

I’m altering a pair of dressy trousers for myself for fall and need some advice. They are a RTW size 10 and I’m down about to an 8. I’m tired of wearing them with a belt that makes them bunch like crazy, but they’re a staple of my wardrobe.

So what would you recommend for altering a pair of trousers smaller?

I’ve taken the waistband off and started pinning the hips and thighs. What I can’t decide (mostly) is whether to alter the waistband to fit my waist or sew it on to the pants closer to my high hip level where it currently fits. Advice? (I generally like to wear my pants a tad lower than my belly button–I’m 27 and it holds in my baby belly a bit better–but I’m a little hesitant about cutting off the zipper (CF) to move the waistband down about 2″.)

I’ve made a dress into a skirt, have created my own patterns for 2 dresses, have altered or am in the process of altering many shirts for myself and my husband and have hemmed dress pants for the both of us, but this is the first pair of pants I’ve really fussed with beyond hemming. I’m excited to learn a new skill and technique, but nervous too–I love these pants. Any advice you experts can give me would be great!



  1. stillsuesew | | #1

    Why don't you baste the waistband where you would like to try it at the lower level before you cut anything off. Don't cut off the zipper until you have made your final decision. If it is a nylon zipper it should give you no problems with cutting it off as long as there is not a significant pull at the top. In other words, the button or the hook at the top should do the work of holding the waist band together, not the top of the zipper. I'm not sure how you are are planning to reapply the zipper, but I would cut off the excess after I had sewn it in place, if possible. One of the benefits of being able to sew is getting things to fit the way you like them to. Go for it.

    1. Kbrane | | #2

      Thanks for the encouragement!
      I think perhaps I was not clear... I have not cut off the zipper. I was going to cut the extra teeth out (to reduce bulk) where the waistband would go, but I was going to leave the zipper alone if at all possible. It's sewn in very nicely. Would it work to just cut out the teeth (after basting the waistband--good tip!) and sew a new zipper stop (bar tack) at the top before the button? Or is it going to cause me problems to mess with the zipper and so I should keep the zipper the same length and make the waist a bit higher?Thanks for the advice!

      1. stillsuesew | | #4

        I have successfully shortened zippers by simply cutting them off about a half inch above the waist seam. The waistband will serve as the stop, or you can add one.

  2. beo | | #3

    Remember that you will need to make an equal alteration on the inseam if you take the pant in past the top of the knee, otherwise they will hang off grain.  For example, if you end up with 1/2" taken in at the hem edge, take in 1/2" in the inseam tapering to 0 at the crotch.    

    1. Kbrane | | #5

      So if I need a 1/2 inch through the thigh, I should take off 1/4 inch from both the side seam and the inseam? I hadn't really thought about the inseam....how does that work if I'm taking them in from the hips? And what is the order of alteration in this case? If it were just the legs, it would make sense to start at the hem and move up, but I'm really needing the alteration in the waist/hip/thigh area (I'll take in the legs a bit just so they are the correct proportions and not too flare-y or baggy)Thanks for the thought!

      1. beo | | #6

        No.  You simply take in the inseam by the amount you you took in the pant leg.  For example, if you decreased the pant width at the hemline by one half inch then you want to decrease the inseam by one half inch at the hemline, tapering to the origanal seam line at the crotch.  Hope this helps.

        1. Kbrane | | #7

          Well I finished my trousers last night and am wearing them as we speak! They fit wonderfully and are super comfortable and look nice too!Thanks for all your help and advice! It was easier than I thought once I bit the bullet and took the waistband off (there was nothing to lose!)I'm "almost" tempted to make a pair of pants or capris from scratch (eek!)Thanks a bunch!

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