Alterations 101: Men’s Dress Pants, Trousers and Slacks

How Can a Pair of Men's Dress Pants Be Altered, and What Is It Going to Cost Me?

As with dress shirts, a man's trousers should be altered to fit the individual as well as possible. It's important to know how exactly your slacks can be tailored to fit your shape and size. Otherwise, you might discard a pair of pants that are too tight.

Or, for example, you might be too concerned with buying pants that are the right length when you should be paying attention to the seat and rise, as these are much harder to fix.

What Aspects of Dress Pants Can Be Changed?

The first post I ever wrote for this site – The #1 Most Important Fashion Tip for Short Men – you know how easy and cheap it is to get your pants hemmed. Most guys understand that their slacks can and should be adjusted to the proper length.

But do you know what else can be adjusted? This graphic explains what's possible and how much you'll have to spend:

Men's Dress Pants Alterations

With any alterations, the most important thing is your tailor. Be sure to find an experienced tailor who you can trust. If you are in need of the “basic” alterations – hemming pants for length or taking in the waist – your dry cleaner can probably help. If you need anything more advanced, definitely go to a real tailor.

More in this series:

Alterations 101: Dress Shirts

Alterations 101: Suit Jackets and Blazers

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  1. William in DC says:

    I know this is old, but would you or anyone know if the “seat” of mens dress & suit pants can be adjusted separate from the waist? I have a profile in which often the waist is fine, but the butt is a little snug, so the pants keep ripping at the crotch.

    • William,

      To my knowledge, there is no way to “let the seat out”. Meaning you could fix it if it were too baggy, but not if it’s too snug. Your best bet is to find pants that fit well in the seat and get them adjusted in the waist and legs. These alterations are easier and inexpensive. When you’re in the dressing room, pay attention to how the seat feels, and remember that the waist can be adjusted by a couple inches very easily.


      • Actually yes, you can let out the seat. It depends on how much seam allowance is used. If the normal half inch is used the seamstress can come in half of the what is there and then reinforce with seam binding. Have them look at the seat of the garment.

      • Zack here, from some of the DIY alteration posts Brock has shared. Agreed with “Staff.” It all depends on the pants. See my picture here. You just have to see how much fabric inside the pants you have to work with, and where you need it.

  2. My husband wears a size 56 waist and I get him the right size. However, many of his pants bunches up in the crutch, thus rising up in the hem as well. When he pulls his pant legs down, it goes back to the proper look. What can I do to fix this, if any?

  3. You talked about dressing well regardless of a man’s height. How about regardless of a man’s weight? I find it hard to make my 300-lb man when his tummy a foot beyond his chin level. Is there some rule of thumb to follow?

  4. Hi there,

    My boyfriend is 6″3, 250 lbs. He wears a size 38 in suit pants. He’s running into a problem where all of his suit pants are ripping in the crotch area after just a few months of wear. We spoke to someone who told us to look for low rise/low crotch pants in order to avoid this problem. Do you agree with his suggestion, and if so, do you know where we could find pants like this? Or, is this an issue that could be resolved with tailoring?

    • Hi Jenny,

      I don’t think low rise pants are necessarily the solution. Does your boyfriend have really long legs? What kind do of body shape? For formal pants (like suit pants) you shouldn’t be wearing them below the waist (low rise). I would suggest one of two things:

      First, buy pants that are slightly too big but that feel okay in the seat/crotch area, and have them tailored. Don’t worry about length or waist…these are easy fixes (as long as the waist isn’t too far off, like within a couple of inches). Remember, you can shorten pants and take them in, but you can’t add extra material.

      Or, go custom. Start with an inexpensive online clothier like Indochino and order a pair of made-to-measure trousers. I imagine your boyfriend won’t ever want to buy off the rack again after he experiences custom.

      Hope that helps!


  5. Brock,

    You mentioned about taking in the pant’s waist. How about expanding it by 1 or 2 inches ? Would that be possible at all ? I am interested in a Kenneth Cole 2 piece suit, but I don’t get to pick the pants size separately. My 38R would come with a 31″ pant, but I usually wear 32″. Thanks.

    • Hey Shane – most pants can be let out by a couple of inches. When buying pants, ask a sales associate about this. Or, look for an extra strip of material at the seam of the seat and waist band.


      • Luke McComb says:

        can a pair of dress pants be altered from a 39W to a 34W or is that just not possible? everywhere I look online they say 2 inches MAX

        • 2-3 inches max is a good rule of thumb. Any more than that, and you’re doing major reconstruction. Changing the waist by that much would throw off other aspects of the pants.

          Do these pants fit really well everywhere else? Might want to try a different brand….


  6. Hello,

    I am a little lost. I have a number of different pants/slacks/khakis. I have one pair that I LOVE the most because of the fit. Can a tailor use those as a “go by” and match my other pants to them in every way if there is enough material?

    I say this because I recently compared the length (from waist to the bottom) and width of the pant legs and they are identical. However, they feel like high waters when I put them on.

    I am 5’4 about 200 lbs. I normally wear a 36-38 waist, with a 29 inseam.


    • Bryce,

      Yes, you can use your go-to trousers as an example for your tailor. BUT, if they’re fundamentally different (for example, if they’re low rise, and you’re trying to tailor a pair of medium rise trousers), only so much can be done.

      I use “go-to” trousers for basic measurements – hem length and leg opening. Sounds like your pants may be the same length, but they have different lep openings and/or rise.

      Hope that helps,


  7. I feel that hemming pants alone can make the cut look worse on short men. Leg openings seem to expand and swallow up my shoes. Are there any ways to minimalize the leg opening from expanding from a hem? Or would I require a taper to go along with a hem to keep the overall shape?

    • Rey,

      I usually get my pants hemmed and tapered from the knee down at the same time. But there are many brands these days that are making slim leg openings that need no tapering, even after hemming. For me, that means less than 8″ across.


  8. You know what, if you are lucky to be reading this, then you better start doing what it takes for you to look stunning no matter your height.


  9. Can pants be let out in the thigh?

  10. Jack McMurray says:

    I’m 6ft 4 and play rugby. I find it impossible to find trousers that fit around my thighs. And go through so many pairs that it’s costing a fortune. I tried getting a larger size and getting them tailored but the tailor did an awful job and now I’m apprehensive of going in to a tailor and getting alterations done. Could recommend any websites where they carter for both tall and might and not tall or mighty?

  11. Rosemarie says:

    Why are you only showing men i am a woman who Breda pants altered

  12. I am hemming new, unhemmed dress pants for a man. He wants the heel to be about 1″ lower than the toe. I had to cut off about 5″ of fabric. I turned them up about 1.5″ and let the seams out on each side. What I have run into is that the front still does not have enough turned up fabric to and the heel now has a little too much turned up fabric. Is there somewhere online you can direct me so I can learn how to hem these smoothly? When I simply turn up and hem evenly I don’t run into this problem. Thanks

  13. So can you remove excess pleats from dress slacks and if so how much would that be?

  14. My husband has a condition that causes us to buy him pants that are very wide in the legs. The men’s store we go to for his suits seems to measure the pants from the back of his knee. I usually hem his other pants and would like to know how to do this so I don’t have to get on my hands and knees. I thought I figured it out by watching him but I’m not sure. Could you explain how it’s done?

  15. Lynn Kaufman says:

    is it possible to take 3 to 4 inches on a pair of dress pants or men or is that too much

  16. Is it at all uncouth to narrow the pants from the knee down? I have long and skinny legs and I think it may look better but may also not be proper etiquette???

  17. Alex ODonnell says:

    It is possible to loosen the waist so it isn’t tight…. About less than an inch ? I don’t need much , I like the pants ! It’s just a little tight.

  18. I have size 38 pants
    Want to take them out to size 40
    So 2 or 3 inches is that possible?
    I see there is room inside the fabric exactly 3″ of extra fabric

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