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.
As with dress shirts, you pants (jeans, chinos and slacks/trousers) can be altered to better fit your individual build.
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
If the only fit problem you run into is length – you always have to get your pants hemmed – you could try buying shorter inseam pants from places like Ash & Erie or Under 510.
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!
Linda Schenk says
It is called a Euro hem and you just fold up the excess fabric inside and allow for the original hem allowance and then carefully from the inside stitch very close to the original stitching. If you have folded up a large amount then one needs to cut off some of the excess fabric and serge the raw edges so they do not ravel. If it is just a small amount folded inside then do not cut and then I would stitch in the ditch on the side seams to keep them from flipping. If you worry about the middle of the pant legs drooping you can always take a dab of fabric glue to tack them or even some heavy duty iron on hem tape. Check Utube because there are many good videos showing this method. I have done it many times with great results and no one can even tell they have been hemmed.
Linda Schenk says
If you google Utube video sewing a Euro hem there are many videos that will come up. Look for videos by Judith Turner as her videos are excellent and can walk you through step by step to do them but you do need a sewing machine to do these hems. Judith is an excellent alteration specialist and have followed her site for many years.
When you mention keeping the original hem in jeans, I wanted to ask for clarification. Do you simply mean using the same color and weight of thread (usually orange heavy weight), or do you mean to keep the original hem that has the distressed fabric?
If the former, then you loose the distressed fabric portion of the hem.
If the latter, what is the best way to do so?
I mean literally keeping the original hem. Just stitching in a new “hem” is a good solution for more affordable jeans, but for higher end denim, you should keep the actual original hem.
Trying to understand exactly “how” to do that.
So if the pants need to be shortened, do you cut off the original hem leaving some seam allowance above it, cut the pants to the correct length leaving seam allowance at bottom, then attach the hem to the bottom of the jeans with the seam very close to the original hem? Sort of like attaching trim to the bottom of the pants? Does that make sense? Is there a better way?
Can I go from a 34 waist to a 36 for the waist. I want a 40 regular suit with 36 pants
scott mcgregor says
I’m looking at a suit on ebay but I am 34 length and the trousers are 40. Can I rehem that large a difference or will the taper be wide?
You’ll probably have to get them tapered at the same time. It’s pretty standard. I almost always get pants hemmed/tapered simultaneously.
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
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.
Zack Pyle says
Depends on how much fabric is left on the inside. You can just look on the inside to see
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???
Nah it’s okay!
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
Zack Pyle says
It sounds like a lot to me, but I’ve never tried that much.
I think you could, but you’d want to be aware of losing any taper the leg might have.
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?
So can you remove excess pleats from dress slacks and if so how much would that be?
Not sure how much it would be. Probably not worth it unless you really love the pants.
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
Rosemarie [email protected] says
Why are you only showing men i am a woman who Breda pants altered
I think the same alterations apply to women’s pants too!
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?
Dave Halpern says
Are you wearing dressy pants while playing rugby? Try sweatpants or shorts.
I think he “trousers” he just means pants, not dress pants or slacks.
Can pants be let out in the thigh?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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,
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….
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?
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!
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?
I won’t claim to be an expert in style for men who are less than svelte, so I will humbly point you toward a website that will likely be very helpful – Chubstr.
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?
Rose – what is his inseam?
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.
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 Pyle says
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.