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Tailoring your off-the-rack jeans to fit

Full length jeansThe idea of jeans as a weekend, around-the-house garment has changed fundamentally over recent years. These days we see jeans everywhere and at almost any occasion.

Were you to purchase a pair of fine wool trousers or slacks, you'd have no hesitation having them altered to ensure a perfect fit.

When it comes to off-the-rack jeans, however, we tend to buy them and wear them, even if the fit is unbecoming.

There's much that a good tailor can do to ensure a better fit:

  • Take in the waist

Here you have to be careful. You might be limited to 1 or 1-1/2 inches, otherwise the two rear pockets will collide.

  • Taper the legs

So often we buy jeans that fits right at the waist but is a little baggy in the legs (or vice versa).

The key here is to achieve the fit while reproducing the exact look of the original. That means that the tailor must use the same color thread (if those seams are visible), the same thickness of thread, and the same spacing between the stitches.

  • Shorten the hem

Any tailor or seamstress can shorten a pair of jeans by cutting off some fabric and running the hem through an industrial sewing machine.

Again, the key here is to achieve the correct hem length while reproducing the exact look of the original hem. That means the same thread color, the same thickness of thread, and the same spacing between the stitches.

Of course, if the jeans have been prewashed or exhibits a distressed look, your tailor must be able to produce a hem with that identical washed out or distressed hem look.

Back seam of jeans
Jean skirt Back of jeans skirt
Puckered hem jeans skirt


As a general rule you ought to have your jeans professionally wet cleaned or dry cleaned before having them altered. This will ensure that any shrinkage takes place prior to altering the jeans.

Bottom line: alter your jeans for that perfect fit. And ask your tailor to return it with the original stitching and look.

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