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Has anyone lowered waistband in jeans?

cer | Posted in General Sewing Info on

I desire to lower the ‘old style’ jean’s waistband from the waistline to slightly below. Has anyone successfully done this? I realize I will need more fabric for the waistband, but have taken ideas from fashion jeans to cut and paste pieces and parts, etc.

Is this a ‘hastle’ project or worth the creative thought?


  1. ShannonG4d | | #1

    Hassle?  Depends on how much time you want to devote to the project.  Yes, you will need additional waistband fabric, but you stated you were prepared for that.

    My concern would be the front closure.  Usually, RTW jeans have a hammered-in snap or button closure which is next to impossible to remove.  It could get in the way of re-attaching the front of the waistband.

    Also, you're dealing with denim in multiple layers, which requires a heavy needle and diligence to safety in sewing (wear safety glasses...AMHIK!)

    That said, if you are willing to take your time and pay attention to detail, it isn't "difficult" to do, just time-consuming.


  2. kjp | | #2

    Unless you're talking about a very expensive & extremely comfortable pair of jeans, I can't see how it would be worth it!  Shannong4d has some very good points - I broke a couple needles replacing a zipper on a pair of much loved jeans.  JJill uses a lot of ribbon & trim to face their waistbands on jeans.  You might want to take a look at them for ideas if you try it.  Karin

    1. cer | | #3

      Yes, I would have to agree with both you and Sharon. The jeans are not that expensive!! and the broken needle(s) and damaged eye would not be worth the creative trouble. Thank you for the insight!

      And I'm sorry I spelled incorrectly.

      1. ShannonG4d | | #4

        Don't worry about the spelling....

        Most of the time, when there is something to do to jeans, I just buy a new pair.  When I did custom sewing for the public, you'd be surprised at the changes people would want to make to them!  It seems when a pair is a favorite, the wearer wants to live in them forever:)  I can certainly understand, with fit being such a personal issue.

        Things that can be easily done to jeans are: hemming, tapering, mending belt loops, removing belt loops, some mending if the piece will fit under the sewing machine.

        These are not worth the trouble, IMO: anything that requires picking out flat-fell seams (like changing something on the inseam), replacing zippers, taking IN waistbands, mending at the knee or some other area that is difficult to get under the machine, anything that requires removal and then replacement of the contrast topstitching.

        On the other hand, if you're up for a much less challenging project than the above, try making your own jeans from scratch.  It's actually quite a bit easier than altering a ready-made pair.  There are a couple of really good patterns available, and you can customize the fit and style to your heart's content!


      2. kjp | | #5

        Clearly I would never work as a copy editor!!  I had to figure out what you meant by the spelling!!  I think I've gained a lot of insight from ShannonG4d's reply to you.  Not sure I would replace a zipper again, but it did work out great (3 needles, though!)   The jeans were $120 and fit great, though!  Unfortunately, not sure if they fit now, might need to lose a few...  Karin

  3. queenmom | | #6

    I just read what the others who answered your question had to say and I agree any alterations on jeans are more difficult. However they are not impossible and can be very much worth while. I do alterations and such for a living and worked in a chain store called "the Buckle" which you may or may not have heard of. Anyway, with the right equipment all alterations are possible. There is the difficulty, not everyone has the right equipment. If your sewing machine isn't heavy enough to do this type of work, don't try it. You could ruin a perfectly good machine. If you have access to a machine that is tough enough, don't be afraid to try. Just be sure you tear apart very carefully and put back together the same way. You will need to add in a piece to lengthen your waist band, but that could easily be done in the back of the waistband. I try to put sections in between belt loops to make it less obvious. The button or snap does not have to be a problem if you are careful with your stitching. I have done this exact same alteration many times and know it can be done, but as I said, it helps to have the right equipment. I own an industrial machine which makes working on denim (about one half of my business) much easier. If you decide to go ahead with this and have more questions, feel free to contact me and I'll help anyway I can. I work from home so I am usually able to check e-mails at least once a day and will try to get back to you ASAP. Sew-on!

    1. cer | | #7

      Thank you QUEENMOM, and all of you. My machine is an Elna. Surly not 'industrial', an I would hate myself if I damaged it for a silly 'old' jean alteration.

      The advice from all of you has told me to step carefully. The jean material and subsequent RTW construction could prove difficult. I will take the adivce of Shannon too -- to find an excellent jean pattern. BUT fitting slacks is also challenging. (I've just mastered altering, and moving darts for a larger cup size)

      OH! the beauty of sewing is that one never learns it all. There is no end to the science. Thank you :))


      1. FineArt50 | | #13

        Threads has an article telling you how to make a pair of Calvin Kline jeans from several years back but I remember reading it.  Check the Archive.  It had good info on sewing jeans............................

  4. Imzadi | | #8

    I'm actually surprised at all the negative responses - negative in that it might be too much of a hassle - not negative as in tone or attitude. :-) After watching "What Not to Wear" and realizing all my jeans are too high-waisted and with my now slowly sagging bust, the jeans waist height is simply cutting me across the body in the wrong place, I lowered the waistline on four pairs of jeans. At about $20 a pop for a new cheap pair of jeans, the hassle to save $80 was worth it for me.

    That being said, however, Queenmom is right on having the right equiptment. A #16-18 machine needle is essential, and while I don't have an industrial machine, I do have a good one that sews through many layers of denim easily. When I get to the multiple layers at the seams, I hand crank the machine slowly, making sure the needle goes through all the layers successfully. I also trim the seam allowance as much as possible to avoid all those layers.

    I cut the waistband along the back or at the two sides of the hips, (right under a belt loops) which ever place an insert will be most appropriate looking. This way I can butt the front edge of the band back up along the original fly opening (only lower.) As for the zipper, since the waistband will be covering the top edge, I zigzag stitch across the teeth several times in place right below the new waistband line, creating a new "stop" at the top of the zipper with a zigzag thread "bump", then simply allow some of the excess top zipper to run up inside the seam allowance where it will be sewn into the waistband. No need to replace the zipper that way with a shorter one.

    The longest part of this process is tacking back down the belt loops. As there are just too many layers, it must be done by hand. Other than that, I am quite happy with my new modern jeans.

    Edited 7/29/2004 4:25 am ET by Imzadi

    1. cer | | #9

      IMZADI, what did you do with the pockets, both front and back? Even the pocket watch small pocket, too. Did you incorporate them? Remove the front pockets (because the waist came down over them) and reduce the height and lower the back pockets?

      ALSO, I must have seen the same "what not to wear" segment on Oprah! It depressed me, and I went out and purchased one lower waisted pair of jeans to see if I liked them (if it didn't make me feel too young and silly). Now I desire to alter all my 'UG' jeans! I have so many, it truly would cost a fortune to re-vamp and purchase new. Only for the style to change again.

      1. Imzadi | | #11

        Hmmm... I didn't really have to do anything to the pockets. I wasn't changing the overall silhouette of the pants, only the waistband. Everything else will ride pretty much in the same areas.

         I only lowered the waistline about 1"-1 1/2" inches, so they weren't really low, low rise. The high-waisted pants used to ride above my belly button. Now they ride just at or slightly below my belly button (mid-rise.) That little bit of a difference did wonders for making my bust suddenly seem higher up - LOL- on my chest as it elongated the distance under my bust to the new top of the pants.

        You can simply try it by folding over the waistband forward & down  once (don't button the jeans,) and see if that much works for you.

        I did sew over one of the watch pockets though. Since I didn't use it anyways, I didn't mind not having it. It barely showed that it used to be there once the waistband was sewn over the top of it. You DO have to be careful about sewing around the rivets that are usually at the top corner of front pockets.

        The only thing I worried about was that the "scoop" part at the top of the front pockets were shallower & I didn't want my dollar bills riding up and falling out of the pockets. Hasn't been a problem though. Oh, make sure you pin the front pockets & linings firmly in place before you take off the waistband as the band is what is keeping them all together.

        As for the back pockets, they are usually already strategically placed over the "cheeks" area of the derriere. If you lower them, they may make your cheeks look saggy. On one pair of jeans that wasn't too high to begin with, I didn't alter the back at all. I simply ripped out the waistband in front, only to the side seams, then lowered the front. For the extra two inches across now missing right in the front over the zipper, I simply added an extension that purposely looked like a decorative rectangle for a "tab" closure. And if it ended up looking funny, I figured it was going to be right under the belt buckle anyway. :)

        One tip for those just not wanting to go through the trouble of lowering the waistbands: I found that if I hem my tops so that they end just across the top of my hips, or about 1" below, I can wear my tops untucked, over my jeans, and it will give the same illusion of wearing lower rise jeans, while no one will know how high my waistband underneath is! (I also skip a belt for less bulk underneath. When you think of it, where is the top of the waistband on most lower rise pants, just going across the top of the hips! So tops tucked into them would "end" at that line.

        1. cer | | #14

          IMZADI: thank you, you have my creative thoughts flowing again. I have several 'cheap' jeans I think I'll decide to try working on at least one.

          I shall also 'spy' at the high-end mall here and look at the waistband-less jeans -- the ones with a waistband facing and the belt loops too. This idea may work to eliminate the fabric bulk. I need to consider what to do with the existing pockets.

          Thank you for your experience clues with your pockets.

          I've purchased some decorative braids/ribbons a 50-70% off sale at Joann's. I'd like to incorporate some of this too. Who knows?!

          SEW CAREFULLY is the key. THANK YOU ALL!!! Carolyn

          1. Imzadi | | #15

            Cer, one caution on the waistband-less jeans is from singer, Mariah Carey (who started the whole trend,) is to be especially careful of the back of the jeans. She found when she simply cut off the waistband completely then sat down in them, they rode too low in the back & her crack was showing. They need to be slightly higher in back. :)

          2. kjp | | #17

            Just to add some humor to your response --- Take time during your day to look at the women in low rise jeans/pants.  You will see more butt cracks than you ever wanted to & they're not pretty!  Another advantage of sewing our own styles :-)


          3. Jean | | #18

            I for one hope this fad runs its inevitable course soon. Not one woman in 100 has the figure to look good in them. JMNSHO

          4. Imzadi | | #16

            Oh, another thing I've done on a different pair that is rather loose fitting over all is, would the pants naturally ride lower if I took up the crotch?

            With the waistband unbuttoned, I grabbed the material in the crotch and gave a gentle tug down. It lowered the waistline and the extra room around the pants to begin with fit well enough over my hips that all I had to do was raise the crotch and inner thigh area. And I simply added a discrete tab insert at the front waistband for the extra width, without having to remove the whole thing.

            This might be an easier method for you than having to move all the pockets.

            Here are some links for altering the crotch:




    2. queenmom | | #10

      I hope I'm not being a butt-inskey as my Mom would say, but I have a suggestion to pass on concerning the layers of denim. If you take a hammer and give the heavy seams a wack or two, it will flatten them and make getting them under your sewing foot easier. It also makes sewing the seam a little easier.The same idea will help with the belt loops, although even with my industrial, I go slow. Needles cost too much to waste them. Also try to offset your insert just a bit from your belt loops. The seam doesn't have to be under the belt loop, even next to it should help hide it, especially if the fabric is a good match. Even if you just try to keep the edge of the belt loop over the very edge of the inserted piece, it should hide in the shadows. Just a suggestion or two to try and help. I did alterations for a store that sold a lot of jeans and saw almost every kind of alteration under the sun, there are almost always shortcuts or methods that make things easier to do. I learned most of the jeans alterations I know by doing. Scarey!!! Feel free to pick my brains. I love to talk sewing! I hope I don't sound like a know-it-all, that's not my intention. Just a case of been there, done that. Another place you can hide an add-in section (depending on how much is needed) is under the leather patch if your jeans have them. That would be easy enough to sew back on by hand should your machine not be up to it. Also, if you leave the teeth at the top of your shorter zipper ( and you should leave at least a couple) don't forget they are there when your stitch down the waistband. That can be a major train wreck if you hit the zipper teeth while sewing along. I shattered a needle once and had it fly up and hit me in the eye and I wear glasses. Very painful and not a mistake I'll likely ever repeat. The extra teeth can be removed using a pair of end nipper pliers. Anyway, I hope this helps someone out there. Sew-on! 

      1. Imzadi | | #12

        Thanks for the tip on hammering the belt loops. I simply hate sewing by hand. Also, I love the idea of hiding the extra extension piece under the leather patch!

        And as for accidently sewing the zipper teeth or the rivets, I add on a bunch of pins right in that area which makes me purposely have to stop to take them out. This reminds me that they are there. I've had that horrible ka-thunk from breaking the needle on metal a few times.

  5. Tessmart | | #19

    In regards to "lowering the waistbands on jeans".  I lower all mine out of prefrence for wearing ease.  I use a gray or light blue knit over 2" elastic. I put a piece of gross grain ribbon on the inside edge to keep in place.  I lower the waistband on the existing pair of jeans: re-insert the zipper, adjust pockets, cut off as much as is comfortable by measuring by trying them on. I then attach my new waistband, either with the cut edge visable, thus having a frayed edge showing or right sides together.  I use jean snaps to close up this new waistband.  I have gotten a lot of compliments on this, my teenagers even had me re-do some of theirs this way.

    Yes, it takes some time, but I want to be comfortable and I have found this an attractive way for the jeans.


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