How To Easily Fix Baggy Pants

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.  Maybe you can relate to the emotional stress I felt. The idea of tossing something “you paid good money for”. Of course, if you never use the thing you paid good money for then that’s tossing away 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.

baggy 1

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

After you pin (just the one leg), sit down and be sure you have not pinned out too much fabric. 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.

baggy 2

Unpin and re-pin, smoothing out the fabric, keeping the outside seam of the pants flat. Meaning take 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.

If you noticed when you had the pants on that you need more fabric in the front than the back or vice versa then this method is too simplified for you. But read the steps through and you may see how you can adjust the tutorial.

baggy 3

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.

baggy 4

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 or sacrifice the pocket by sewing it closed. (Sorry)

baggy 5

Bring the marked line down the leg as far down as you had to pin out the 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.

baggy 6

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 it’s more than an inch too big?
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 you’re taking in the waist band only 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 the 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.

baggy 7

Blend the new stitching line into the original seam at the end. Nice and smooth.

baggy 20

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.

Baggy 8

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.

baggy 9

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 the pants are laying in front of you, you will know where to mark. You could also use transfer paper and a tracing wheel.

baggy 10

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 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 like this are made.)

baggy 11

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.

baggy 20

If they fit; proceed. If they don’t fit, adjust and redo and remember you’re getting practice.

baggy 12

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.

baggy 13

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.

baggy 14

Enclose the new seam allowance with a zig zag stitch or other overcast type stitches.

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:



7 Comments on How To Easily Fix Baggy Pants

  1. Susie Ross
    January 27, 2016 at 11:27 am (2 years ago)

    You have given me some very good information, I never thought I would be able to find. I am in need of taking in many pairs of good quality casual pants from a size four to a zero.
    Do you think your method will work, needing to take in so much fabric?
    Thank you,

    • Mary Earle-Sigler
      January 27, 2016 at 3:32 pm (2 years ago)

      Hello Susie,

      Going from a four to a zero sounds like a lot of fabric will be taken out and I do wonder can taking it all out of the side seams work? My alteration was just reducing the hips and thigh area of the pants so it’s a little different. However, how many sizes are between zero and four? Just size 2, right? So really maybe the reduction isn’t huge. Maybe it’s under an inch (at the waist) on both the left and the right side. I would try it (on your least favorite pair 😉 by basting out the excess, not cutting anything, turn right side out and trying them on to see. Without cutting the extra fabric off it may look like you have on another pair of pants underneath (the bulk) but it will give you an idea if taking all the excess out from the sides will work. Look at the crotch area that it’s laying where you want – the center and that the area above the legs does not look “off” in any other way.

      You can also take out a little fabric from the inseam of the legs if they are really loose.

      Also it’s likely you’re going to have to take the waistband off the pants and shorten it to get the waistband to a size zero. The other trick is, if your pants are light weight and the waistband is not usually seen (either a belt is worn or you don’t tuck in your tops), you can simply pinch out the excess fabric in the waistband. Take a little out at both the left and right sides above the side seams. Sew a seam where you pinned it so the extra fabric is to the inside of the waist band. If your pants are wool or denim this can be too bulky.

      If the waist band is elastic you could probably leave it as is. OR if it’s a regular waist band with a fly front could you sew some elastic (as wide as the pant’s waistband) to the inside to “gather” up the excess fabric. Like little kid’s jeans have elastic with button holes so you can let it out or tighten it up. I’m thinking I want to reduce the band 1″ on both sides (example). So I cut a 4″ inch piece of elastic and sew one end of the elastic down 2 1/2″ to the left of the side seam (but on the waist band) and the other end 2 1/2″ down to the right of the side seam. This way my 5″ of waistband becomes 4″. I’ve reduced it an inch by having the elastic gather the excess inch. Uhm….I wonder if that could work. It seems like it could.

      Well, please let all of us know if you have success or not with this method. I’m very curious.
      And thanks for the question. -Mary

      • Susie Ross
        January 27, 2016 at 7:20 pm (2 years ago)

        Hi Mary,
        Thank you for your helpful information. I will get back with you when I have altered a pair of pants.
        Thank you again
        Susie Ross

  2. Michele
    April 20, 2017 at 12:58 pm (10 months ago)

    I literally threaded a sewing machine and took my first stitch in my life last night. I am a 57 year old clothes crazy woman and want to learn to tailor my clothes for a better fit (l’m 5’8″ and 117lbs-hard to fit sometimes). First project is to take in a dozen pairs of pants. Thanks to you- I feel confident and excited and ready to begin my new passion.. Thank you for your generosity and skills sharing.

    • Mary Earle-Sigler
      April 20, 2017 at 1:56 pm (10 months ago)

      Thank you very much and Congratulations on launching your sewing super powers. You’re going to love wearing clothes that fit (whether a tailor alters them or you do) makes such a difference.

      And because I can’t help myself: My number one tip, if anything goes wrong with the machine – rethread it before you mess with any dials. You never know by looking at it but sometimes the thread doesn’t catch right. If that doesn’t work, take the bobbin out and put back in, and then, check that your needle isn’t too old and is inserted correctly.

      And email me any sewing questions you may have.

  3. Jacinta
    April 23, 2017 at 10:58 pm (10 months ago)

    Hi Mary,

    What a great tutorial, very clear steps and good accompanying images. I especially like the advice on how to check and correct as you go.

    My son is tall for his age and very skinny, I need to adjust his school uniform for it to fit him. To get the correct length, the waist is 2 sizes too big and the pant legs are very baggy. His school pants are pleated, will this method work? If not, do you have any advice regarding how to tackle this?

    Thanks for your help.

    • Mary Earle-Sigler
      April 24, 2017 at 9:35 am (10 months ago)

      Hi Jacinta,
      Thank you, I’m glad you found the tutorial helpful. I think this method will allow you to take in some of the baggieness in the leg but not all.

      When/if you use this side seam take in you’ll want to pin the pleats down in place so you don’t end up pulling them to the side.

      You also want to take in some of the excess along the center back seam. You don’t need to take off the waistband to do this but you will end up sewing over the waistband. Like making a dart. If your son wears a belt it will hide the seam you made at the center back of the waist band.

      Men’s suit trousers have a waistband in two parts (seamed at center back) so they can be taken out or brought in if the owner’s waist changes size.

      If you take in a lot and the bulk of the waist band “tuck” is uncomfortable you can cut off the excesses and finish the raw edge with a zig-zag stitch.Then iron the seam open.

      I hope this is helpful. Ya’ know as soon as you alter all his pants he’ll grow 😉 Murphy’s Law.


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