Turn So-So Jeans Into Your Best-Fitting Pair With This Easy Waistband Alteration

Jeans can be such a conundrum. We want them to fit snugly all over, but too often they fit just right in the hips and legs, only to gape at the waist. Luckily, there is a solution — and it doesn't involve a belt. (Though knowing how to DIY belt loops isn't such a bad idea.)

With a little at-home alteration, that so-so pair of jeans is about to fit exactly the way you want.

How to Take in Jeans at the Waist

Level: Easy

What You Need


1. Pin the Waist

Start by carefully removing the belt loop at the center back of your jeans. Set that aside, since you'll replace it after you make your alterations.

Now, there are two options for trying on jeans: inside- or right-side out. Either way is fine, and you'll want to pin how much you need to take out, making sure not to lose any pins when you take the jeans off. Don't make the waist super-tight during this step, as you want to be able to move comfortably. A good test: once you have your fabric pulled in where you want to pin, sit down and make sure there's still enough leeway in the waist.

2. Trace the Amount You Want to Remove

Using a contrasting thread and a hand baste stitch, trace the amount you want to take off the waist. It's typical to stitch in a wedge shape, tapering at about 3-4" down the center back seam. Your adjustment could be different though, depending on how much you plan to remove.

3. Measure How Much You're Taking Out

Fold the back of your jeans at the center mark, then measure how much you'll be taking out of either side of the center back waist. In the image above, the measurement is 1½" out of each side, for a total of 3". Make a note of the measurement; you'll need it later.

4. Remove the Back Stitching

With a seam ripper, take out the stitching that holds the waistband to the back yoke at the center back . It usually helps to unpick 2-3" more than the wedge you'll be removing, so you have room to sew easily. 

5. Undo Topstitching at the Center Back; Sew New Seam

On most jeans, the seams are overlocked and then pressed to one side, and a double row of topstitching keeps them flat. You want to get to the actual seam of the center back, so you'll need to remove the topstitching and press the seam flat, away from the garment.

Undo the topstitching about 2-3" below where you've marked the bottom of the wedge. This will make it easier to sew, and allow more room to get your tapering line to meet up with the original seam stitching.

Match up your thread trace lines on either side of that seam — sort of like matching the two legs of a dart — and sew up the new center back seam. Cut the waistband at the center back.

6. Check the Fit

At this point, it's smart to try your jeans on again and triple-check you like the fit before going any further. You also want to check that the sides of the yoke still meet properly in the center back. Once all is good, take the jeans off, trim the seam and use an overlock stitch .

Now that you've sewn the center back seam, press it. As you're pressing, turn the seam allowance in the same direction as the rest of the seam, below the point where you removed the original topstitching. 

7. Topstitch the Center Back Seam

Before you reattach the waistband, topstitch the center back seam so it looks the way it did before. Take a look at the rest of the topstitching on the jeans, and adjust your stitch length before you start. You want to use a denim needle in your machine, as these intersections can be very thick. 

8. Finish the Waistband

Now that you've completed the back and yoke portions, it's time to finish the waistband. Match the cut edges and stitch them together at the measurement noted in Step 3. (In this example, that's 1½".)

9. Trim the Center Back Waistband Seam

Trim the waistband seam at the center back to a manageable amount, around ½". Press open, then press the edges of the waistband inside, so they're back to the way they were when you unpicked the waistband from the jeans.

10. Reattach the Jeans Yoke

Sandwich the jeans yoke back into the waistband and pin it. Check that the waistband is enclosing the edge of the yoke on both the inside and the outside of the jeans. Topstitch it closed. 

11. Replace the Belt Loop

Grab that belt loop that you took out in step 1, and replace it at the center back.

Try on the pair again, and revel in the joy of having jeans that look and feel like they were hand-tailored just for you !

Learn More Now

Pick up more straightforward techniques for adjusting any jean pattern in our class, The Perfect Jeans: Fitting Techniques for Every Body.

Meet Jennifer Stern-Hasemann, owner of her own design studio and your guide to the perfect jeans. Start with the muslin, the base of your design. You'll learn about common fit issues and how to take measurements.

March 25, 2019
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Turn So-So Jeans Into Your Best-Fitting Pair With This Easy Waistband Alteration