How to Make a Waistband Smaller

7 Materials
1 Hour

If you want to know how to make a waistband smaller without removing it completely, I have three sewing hacks for jeans to show you.

Simply, you can take in the waistband at the back or sides, or use waistband clips. The method you choose will depend on how thick your pants are and how much altering they need.

So grab any pair of jeans or pants that you have that fit you well on the hips and legs but are too large around the waist, and let’s get started!

Tools and materials:

  • Pants or jeans
  • Waistband clips (optional)
  • Fabric marker or tailor’s chalk
  • Measuring tape
  • Pins
  • Sewing machine
  • Hand sewing needle and thread (optional)
Trying pants on

1. Try on your pants

The first pair of pants I need to alter aren’t actually jeans. They’re a poly cotton mix so not as thick as denim. I’ll be sewing these on my machine.

I tried them on and decided to take them in at the sides. I measured the approximate amount I needed to take them in on each side, which was just under 2 inches (4 cm).

Marking waistband

2. Mark the waistband

Take the pants off, turn them inside out and lay them flat.

Measure half the distance from the side seam that you need to reduce the pants by on each side.

In my case this was 0.75 inches (2 cm), so they would end up 3 inches (8 cm) smaller overall.

Marking waistband

Mark the distance with your fabric marker. This will be the start of your sewing line.

Draw a line from the mark tapering into the side seam at a convenient point.

My pants have fake pockets with rivet trims, so I decided to end my sewing line just above the rivet.

Repeat on the other side of the pants. Make the alteration as equal as you can on both sides, so the pants don’t pull to one side when you’ve finished.

Sewing pants

3. Sew the pants

If your pants are denim, you may want to use a jeans or leather sewing needle for this part. 

Sew along the line on each side on your machine. 

As there’s very little sewing involved, you could even hand sew them.

If your fabric is thick and you’re taking in more than a small amount, the seam may be too bulky if you leave it as it is.

If so, cut the seam open along the fold and trim the excess fabric to reduce the bulk. Finish the raw edges and press the seam flat.

The clip method

4. The clip method

The second pair of pants I altered are gray denim jeans that are very big around my waist.

I found some waistband clips online and wanted to use them on this project.

Decide where on the waistband you want the pleat that they form to be. I chose the area just above the pocket.

The clip method

Measure by how much you need to reduce the waistband. 

Mine was about 4 inches (10 cm) too large, so I needed to sew the clips about 2 inches (5 cm) apart on each side.

The clip method

Hand sew the clips firmly in place right through the waistband, using a strong thread.

The clip method

Fasten the two sides of the clip together and try on your pants!

Altered pants

I’m very happy with the way the first pair of pants turned out.

The seam is flat, the pants fit me well and it was a quick and easy fix to make.

Altered pants

How to make a waistband smaller

The waistband clips come in various styles and I don’t think I chose the best ones for my jeans, to be honest.

They do make the waistband smaller, but they also come apart very easily when you sit down or the waistband flexes inwards. 

I think I’ll be either changing these up with another style or coming up with my own version of these, maybe using buttons.

The third method I used was to take in the back of the waistband with a small piece of elastic. You can see that in detail in my video on how to easily shrink a waistband. It’s a way of altering a pants waistband that works well if you don’t have a lot to take in.

Even small alterations can make a huge difference to how we feel in our clothes, or even if we wear a garment at all. I hope you got some good ideas from these and I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Suggested materials:
  • Pants or jeans
  • Waistband clips (optional)
  • Fabric marker or tailor’s chalk
See all materials

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