How can a pair of pants be altered? What can’t be fixed? How much does tailoring cost? This guide has all the answers.
More In This Series
This guide is part of a series of articles about clothing alterations. Feel free to check out the rest of the series:
Oh, and if you don’t have a go-to tailor, here’s how to find a tailor you can trust.
It’s important to know how exactly your pants can be tailored to fit your shape and size. Otherwise, you might discard a pair of pants that are too tight, too loose or just too long.
Also, understanding pants alterations makes shopping easier because it helps you focus on the most important aspects of fit (e.g., pants rise) instead of easily-fixable things like pants length.
How Can Pants Be Tailored?
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 jeans, chinos and dress 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:
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.
Pants Alterations Cost
This is going to vary quite a bit depending on where you live, but here’s a ballpark estimate of how much you’ll pay to get your pants tailored (if you live in the U.S.):
|Remove belt loops||$5-10|
|Take in legs (make them slimmer)||$15-20|
|Taper leg opening||$10-20|
|Hem pants (make them shorter)||$10-20|
Again, prices vary widely depending on location. Manhattan tailors will easily charge double of those in small midwestern towns.
Here’s a more detailed explanation of what can be done to make your pants fit better:
Getting the waist of your pants taken in is a common, easy and affordable alteration. It’s usually done from the back of the waistband, and the end result is virtually invisible.
Some pants may have enough extra fabric to allow a tailor to let the waist out for a looser fit.
Just be sure to run your pants through a laundry cycle before you get them tailored, as that will address any potential shrinkage.
Pants rise is the distance from the front of the waistband to the back (top to top). Is determines how high or low your pants sit on your waist or hips.
Lower rise pants sit farther down, closer to your hips. Higher rise pants sit farther up, closer to your belly button.
Rise can also determine how tight your pants feel around your crotch, so it’s a very important aspect of comfort.
Pant rise can be adjusted at the tailor, but it’s not the easiest alteration and should be avoided when possible, so try to buy pants that have the correct rise for you off the rack.
Buttons & Zippers
If a button falls of your fly or back pocket, you can get it replaced for about $5 at most dry cleaners. You can also learn to do it yourself, which is free and takes less time than driving to the tailor.
This is one DIY alteration that’s probably worth learning how to do, especially for your jeans (it doesn’t even require a needle or thread).
Faulty or broken zippers can be fixed or replaced for about $10-20.
It’s very easy to make your pants slimmer through the upper and lower leg, as well as the leg opening around your ankle.
You can slim up the thighs, calves and/or leg opening. You don’t have to do the whole pant leg. Sometimes, just reducing the leg opening is enough.
On the other hand, most pants can’t be “let out” for a roomier fit because there isn’t any extra fabric for the tailor to use.
Making a pair of pants shorter (i.e., hemming) is the most common alteration tailors handle for customers.
It’s cheap and easy, and I highly recommend getting all of your pants hemmed.
Keep in mind, when you’re getting expensive jeans hemmed, ask your tailor to “keep the original hem”. This will cost $5-10 extra, but it’s worth it.
If you’re getting cheap jeans hemmed, you don’t need to pay for this more advanced alteration, but your tailor should preserve the original hem look by stitching a new hem (or faux hem) into the bottom of each pant leg.
For dress pants and chinos, you don’t have to worry about keeping the original hem unless your pants came with a cuff.
Most jeans cannot be made longer, but some dress pants and chinos can be lengthened. Check the inside of your pant leg to see if there’s some extra fabric, or just ask your tailor to check.
Shorter Length Pants
For more options, check out these guides:
Then again, getting your pants hemmed is pretty affordable. You just have to make the time to visit your tailor, or learn how to do it yourself!
Download the "Tailoring 101" PDF Guide
Get all three clothing alterations infographics - dress shirts, jackets and trousers - in one convenient PDF file. Print it out or keep it on your computer/phone so you can reference it anytime. Oh, and it's totally free!