How to Alter Pants to a Smaller Size

    by Pat Olsen

    About the Author

    Pat Olsen has over 35 years of experience as a professional journalist in California. She attended San Francisco State and Pacific College. Olsen has several published books, is a staff writer for Mill Creek Living Magazine, and currently writes for Demand Studio. She is a retired educator who still teaches twice a week.


    If you lose weight, your pants may need to be taken in one or two sizes. This is a very easy job if the pants' waist is elastic, but it will needs a bit more attention if the pants have a zipper. Alteration works best if you are only taking out 2 to 4 inches, and once you learn the basics, it shouldn’t take more than an hour to take in a pair of pants.

    Things You'll Need

    • Tape measure
    • Dressmaker’s paper
    • Seam ripper
    • Dressmaker’s chalk
    • Sewing machine
    • Iron
    • Pins
    • Needle

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    Measure your waist and hips. Measure from the center of your waist to the center of your crotch in front and in back. Measure from your waist to your ankle along the side seam and from your crotch to your ankle along the inseam in case you need to take up extra length.

    Lay down the pair of pants you wish to alter on a piece of dressmaker’s paper. Trace around the pants to make a pattern. Use the measurements of your current body shape to reduce the pattern and re-draw the lines. You have created a pattern that can be laid over existing pants. Use dressmaker's chalk to mark the alteration lines onto any existing pair of pants.

    Deconstruct your pants. Use a seam ripper to remove the waist band on the backside of the pants. Shorten the elastic inside the band, snip out the extra inches of the waistband and seam the material closed, allowing it to cling to the waist. Take the extra 2 inches out of the back of the hip by making two 1-inch-wide V-shaped darts at the center of each buttocks. The dart extends 2 inches down the length of the material. Make similar darts in the center front of the pants, if necessary.

    Alter the waist of zippered pants by ripping the waist in back as suggested, and ripping the button side of the waist away from the body. Shorten the waist band and move the button to tighten up the waist. Make similar darts as needed.

    Follow the dressmaker's chalk marking on the outside leg seam to take in the hip width. This is easier than altering the seam from front to back and under the crotch. Stitch from the waist down, and gradually ease the new seam into the existing leg seam somewhere near the knee or below. Trim the seam line.

    Follow the dressmaker’s chalk marking to seam a comfortable fit if the crotch of the pants hangs too low. Use the existing inseam as a guide to sew deeper into the crotch to remove the extra material. Trim the seam.

    Follow the dressmaker’s chalk to decide where the back of the waistband should be pinned if the rise at the back of the pants is too high. Stitch the waistband to the body of the pants along the marked line. Move the belt carriers and reposition them correctly so that they aren’t too close together once the waist is altered.

    Check to see if the pants are too long after altering the width; rip out the hem and turn up the extra length. Hand stitch the hem.

    Photo Credits

    • woman pant for fitness image by Andrea Massimiani from