There is a fine line between stylishly baggy pants and sloppy, frumpy, baggy pants. And I think the line has a lot to do with, not the pattern, but your body. The younger and fitter someone is the more they can look cute, perhaps even fashionable, in loose fitting clothing. Well, I’m no longer young (we’ll leave it at that – no talk of being fit or not or if I ever was).
I started reading “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” and per the book I gathered up all my clothes. ALL of them, from the closet, from the drawers, from the off season box, and from my large mending basket. It was in that basket that I found a pair of pants I had forgotten about. They were in the basket because the fit didn’t flatter any part of me but I still loved the color so I hung onto them (and I actually bought them new which you may related to the emotional stress of tossing something “you paid good money for”. Of course, if you never use it then that’s tossing away the money too).
Because I was in need of a recovery project, and because it was fresh in my mind, I decided to give those pants a makeover and since many of us have similar pants buried in our closet, and since it’s a hassle to go shopping for new pants (and costly) I wanted to show you how easy this fix is. My pants were baggy all over but just by taking out the excess fabric from the outside leg seam you can de-sag the butt and trim out the hips and legs. If the waistband is large but not huge we can fix that too with the side seams.
If it’s been awhile since you’ve had the pants on, put them on and analyze the fit. Pinch a little of the side seams out with your hands and see if that helps the pants look better. If it’s a “yes” then this method is going to work for those pants. Yay!
Pull the pants inside out and put them on (it’s tricky getting the zipper up but do it to get an accurate fit). Choose a leg and pin out the excess fabric along the outside seam. Try to keep the amount of fabric from the front and the back roughly equal. After you pin (just the one leg), sit down and be sure you have not pinned out too much. Keep checking the mirror and making adjustments with the pins until you like what you see.
(If your body is very asymmetrical you will have to pin both legs to get the best fit.)
Take the pants off, put on different pants, and lay your pinned pair on your work surface. Notice that the pins do not make a pretty line (above) but they give us a place to start.
Unpin and re-pin, smoothing out the fabric, keeping the outside seam flat. You are taking out an even amount of fabric from the front and the back. The pins should remain close to where you had placed them when you were standing in the pants, but now the pins form a smoother line.
Use a hip curve, if you have one, and a marking tool to mark where your new outside seam will be. Use the pins as a guide for this line but you may have to stray a little away in either, or both, directions to get a smooth curve.
Move the pins for sewing on the line. I placed many pins in because I really didn’t want my fabric to creep. Don’t worry about the pocket, IF it’s a slash pocket, you will just sew on the marked line and the pocket will be there when you’re done. If it’s an in-seam pocket either start taking in the leg under the pocket, sacrifice the pocket sewing it closed, or wait until I figure that out and write about it. For now, though, no pants with in-seam pockets.
Bring the marked line down the leg as far as you had to pin out fabric. At that point it may take a couple inches more to gracefully run your new line into the original seam. You want a line with a smooth curve over the hip and easy transition into the lower leg. Nothing jarring or jagged.
Start sewing on the original seam line and gently ease off and onto your new marked line.
If your waist band is way too big (more than an inch) start sewing at the top of the waist band while it is folded, and continue to stitch down. Stitching on the waist band area will be straight up and down, parallel to the fold it makes when taking in the outside seam. You may not be sewing on the original seam line when you get to the legs just keep your line smooth and it will look good.
Why only alter the waist if more than an inch? When you take the waistband in at the sides, and not the back, what you do to one side, you need to do to the other side. So if your taking in the waist band a 1/2″ you are sewing 1/8″ in from the fold (1/8′ on the double -two layers- makes 1/4″ taken in; 1/4″ on both the right and left side is 1/2″). Remember, the waist band is bulky (three layers) and not easy to sew through. It doesn’t seem worth the work to take it in so little. I’m just using a belt instead.
Blend the new stitching line into the original seam at the end. Nice and smooth.
If they fit, like you like them; proceed. DO NOT CUT ANYTHING YET.
If they do not fit, pin in more fabric and make a new stitch line, or take out your newly stitched seam to let out a little fabric and make a new stitch line.
Now for the other leg. Fold the pants so the altered leg is on top of the unaltered leg. Match up the legs as best as you can. Match the tops of the waistband on the outside edge.
Fold and pin back the altered leg so you can see where the new side seam on the upper leg lays on the bottom leg. This is where you will mark on the bottom leg. You want to transfer the top line to the bottom leg. It sounds complicated but once in front of you you will know where to mark. You could also use transfer paper and a tracing wheel.
The pocket area was too bulky for me to pin back the top layer so I used pins to mark on the bottom leg where the new outside seam should be.
(Notice that my pockets do not line up. However I knew the legs were matched because the top of the waist band and the side seams were lining up perfectly. I figured the pockets were just off from the pants original production. Garment workers have to work so fast that little mistakes are made.)
Mark your new guide line. Use a hip curve or other tool (your eye) to straighten out this new line where needed. Sew it up.
If they fit; proceed. If they don’t fit, adjust and redo and remember you’re getting practice.
NOW you can cut off the excess fabric. I leave a 1/2″ seam allowance. I don’t bother taking out any of the old stitches. I just cut 1/2″ away from my stitches.
Press open the new side seam where you can. Then press the side seam to one side. Since these pants had been worn and washed the original seam allowance had already picked a preferred side to go to. Press your seam allowance, new and old to that preferred side.
Enclose the new seam allowance with a zig zag stitch or other overcast type stitch.
Seriously I could not have gone to the shopping mall and found a new pair of pants in the time it took to alter these. It feels good to like and use what you already own.
And just for fun: