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Altering RTW Pants

Crafty_Manx | Posted in General Sewing Info on

I have a pair of RTW pants (my “parade” pants) that I would like to get altered before Thanksgiving (the 27th, for all you non-Americans).  The pants are men’s pants and they are too long by 2ish inches, and I am going to describe them so you can see the problem that I am having:

The pants are of the style with zippers at the knees, so that the bottom of the pant leg can zip off for shorts.  Additionally, there is a zipper running along the outseam of the bottom of each pant leg, so the legs can be unzipped from hem to mid-calf (very useful for taking off layers without removing your shoes!).  They have a fly front and an elastic waist.  The legs are straight (maybe a minimal taper through the thighs).  The material is a nylon (I think; I’d have to check the tag).  There are front in-seam pockets, back patch pockets, and patch cargo pockets on the thighs.

I thought about just shortening the pants and saying the heck with the vertical zippers, but they are REALLY convienient (I’m adding or removing layers throughout the day as both the temperature and my activity level shift).  I also thought about taking a tuck in the knee, but that puts the zipper directly under my knee when I kneel down and is quite painful.  Then I tried to take a tuck farther up on the leg, but the cargo pockets got in the way (and I really need the cargo pockets for stuff).

So, I’m back to trying to figure out how to shorten the pants from the bottom without worrying about losing the zipper.  I’ve never shortened a zipper before (if that is what I have to end up doing) so I am a little anxious to hear anyone’s suggestions.  I also thought about just scrapping everything and making a new pair of pants from scratch, but I have too much schoolwork to be able to design, fit, and sew my “ideal” pants…maybe for next year’s parade!

Any help would be HUGELY appreciated!!!



  1. FitnessNut | | #1

    My first thought is that you have to shorten the zipper. What kind is it - coil, plastic tooth? I only know how to shorten the plastic tooth variety....the ones often used on outerwear. Those ones you shorten from the top, which in your case is the bottom, if you see what I mean ; ) If I can help by giving directions for this let me know. Otherwise, I'm stumped and have to think about it some more.


    1. Crafty_Manx | | #3

      It is, in fact, a plastic coil tooth zipper.  I have shortened zippers from the bottom before, but never from the top.


      1. callie1 | | #5

        shortening a zipper from the bottom is pretty much the same as shortening from the top.  You just add a new stop by hand stitching it and cut off the plastic coil zipper at the desired length, plus your hem allowance.  Just do it!

  2. callie1 | | #2

    No matter what type of zipper it is you should be able to shorten it.  Just make sure you don't lose the zipper head when you cut the zipper.  I would decide how short I need the zipper to be and stitch a temporary stop there before cutting because trying to get the zipper head back on is no/next to impossible.  There's an article on zippers in last month's Threads that may be of help.  If the zipper is large plastic coil or metal you'll need pliers to remove the extra teeth.  Small plastic teeth  can be ignored, just be careful when you sew over them!  You won't have a zipper stop showing at the bottom anymore but the zipper will function just the same.  It's either that or new zippers!  That's no fun for sure.  It shouldn't be hard to just shorten the zippers along with the pants. 

  3. SewTruTerry | | #4

    Another way that you can shorten the zipper without sewing over it or in the case of a metal zipper,  anywhere they sell zippers by the foot like JoAnns have to sell the pulls and metal stops.  All you have to do then is apply the metal stops where you wish the zipper to end and then cut off the rest.  Just remember to add about a 3/4" allowance so that you can finish the hem properly.  Then just shorten like normal and finish the zipper area as if you were just putting it in for the first time. 

  4. carolfresia | | #6

    I have a similar project waiting for me somewhere in my sewing room--my husband's workout pants, in a synthetic knit fabric with those same zippers at the ankles. I was going to do what others have suggested, which is to shorten the zipper at the hem end by adding a new, bar-tack stop, cut the excess off, and hem the pants up. You could also leave the zipper about 1/2 inch longer than you need, and fold the extra end up into the new hem; the fold will act as a stop for you (but this might be bulky and annoying--you'd have to decide based on the fabric and zipper type).

    I kept telling my husband NOT to buy pants that are too long just because I didn't feel like messing with the zippers and all, but, given his current girth to height configuration, that seemed impossible, so now I really do need to get those pants fixed!


    1. Crafty_Manx | | #7

      I wouldn't shorten them at all (they *just* brush the ground) but parade prep is hazardous enough without worrying about the possibility of tripping over my pants.  I thought about just folding the extra tape into the hem, but I think I'm going to bartack a stop anyway; I don't want to take the chance that the bottom teeth will get worn away and I'll lose the pull (New York City streets aren't exactly gentle on clothes!).

      I *tried* to get shorter pants but there are apparently no guys as short as I am.  Well, that, and the waist is very large and elasticized to accomodate many possible layers underneath.  If Saturday's practice was any indication, it is going to be a cold one this year.


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