How to Alter Pants the Quick and Easy Way

The DIY Designer
by The DIY Designer
5 Materials
1 Hour

In this tutorial, I’m going to show you how to alter pants legs to make them fit better to your body.

We’ll be taking out the seat and the waist from a pair of army cargo pants. Let’s get started!

Tools and materials:

  • Scissors
  • Measuring tape
  • Seam ripper
  • Sewing machine
  • Iron or heat press
Shortening your pants

1. Shorten your pants

Mark where you want to hem the pants and then cut the bottom off.  

Cutting off the inseam

2. Cut off the inseam

Cut open the entire inseam. Make sure you have really strong and sharp fabric scissors.

Push against the left-hand side of the inseam so you’re cutting it as tight to that seam as possible.

Cutting off the inseam

Then, cut off the seam entirely so you have two, clean finished edges.

You could seam rip these open, but since we’re going to be cutting off fabric out of the pants anyway to resize them, cutting them open will save all of that time.

Folding the pants

3. Fold the pants in half

Fold the pants in half so the fronts are together and the backs are together and you’re looking at the side seam. 

Folding the pants

This is where we’re going to cut some volume out in order to take in the hips so it's fitted all the way around our hips and waist.

Removing the belt loop

4. Remove the belt loop

Remove the belt loop and save it to reattach later and disguise the seam.

Cutting off the back seam

5. Cut off the back seam

Cut open the entire back seam using the same technique as you did with the inseam. 

Cutting off the back seam

This amount has already been removed from our pants, so when you sew it back together, this plus the seam allowance is how much smaller it’s getting without taking or cutting anymore.

Taking off extra

6. Take off more if needed

If you want to take off more, flip the pants inside out so the backs and fronts are together.

Start at the waist and cut off a little more volume out of the waist and hips, following the lines of the pants.

I only need to take about a quarter of an inch from either side, giving me about half an inch cutting off.


7. Cut the taper on the front and back sides of the pants

Pin where you want to start the taper at your widest point (the widest amount you’re cutting off) and gradually merge right back into the existing seam at the very top.

The measurement for my taper is 7 ½ inches folded and 15 inches all the way around. 


Flip it over and cut the back side of the leg.

If you’re only tapering, do it exactly like we just did the front but if you cut out a little bit of volume as in step 6, then you’re going to go however far in as you cut off from that seam.

This is because we made the rise longer by cutting volume out, so we want to get that rise back. If you took out a half-inch, cut about a half-inch. 

Sewing the pants closed

8. Sew the pants closed

Pin and sew it back together. If you only did the taper, just sew up the legs. 

Sewing the pants closed

If you opened up the back in step 6, sew that closed first.

I recommend sewing it in a super loose stitch so you can try it on. If it’s good, then you can reinforce it. 


9. Adjust as needed 

When I tried them on, I realized it was a little too baggy and I needed to take more out.

I ripped out the stitches and cut up the knee and the thigh to shave another 1 ½ in-2 inches. Then, I sewed it back together.

Reinforcing the stitches

10. Reinforce the stitches

Once the pants fit right, go back over the stitches with a tiny stitch.

Sew the seam allowance with a zig-zag stitch so it won’t fray or use a serger.

Reattaching the belt loop

11. Reattach the belt loop

This is going to disguise the fact that you took out the waistband, and help it look like it was always that way.

Pressing the seams

12. Press the seams

Press the seams with an iron or heat press so they lay fat.

Sewing the seam

13. Sew the seam for a double stitch effect (optional)

If you want a double stitch effect that’s on a lot of denim cargo pants, press your seam to one side and then stitch it down ¼-inch away from the seam.

Before and after: How to alter pants

How to alter pants

Here’s the before and after. Now that you know how to make pants fit tighter, I’d love to know what you plan on altering with this technique!

Let me know in the comments down below!

Suggested materials:
  • Scissors
  • Measuring tape
  • Seam ripper
See all materials

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