How to Alter the Waistband on Jeans for a Perfect Fit

Do you have trouble finding jeans that fit? For many of us, jeans frequently fit in the hip and leg area but are too big in the waist. You might think that cinching them up with a belt is the only option, but you can actually sew them to fit you perfectly. Read on to learn how to alter jeans to fit your waist. 

How to Alter Jeans Waistband

How to alter jeans at the waist for a perfect fit:

Step 1:

pin wedge at jeans waist

The first step is to carefully remove the belt loop at the center back of your jeans. Set that aside, as you will replace it after altering.

Then try on your jeans and pin the waist to indicate how much you need to take out. You can try them on inside-out and pin them — just make sure you can get them off again without losing any pins. Or, try them on right-side-out, and pin the wedge outside of your body. We will be marking it with thread, so it can be done either way.

Don’t be tempted to make the waist super tight. Before pinning, try moving around and even sitting down so that there is still enough ease for comfort after doing the alteration

Step 2:

thread baste the adjustment

Using a contrasting thread, use the hand baste stitch to trace the amount you want to remove from the waist of the jeans. Usually, this is a wedge shape, tapering at about 3 – 4 inches down the center back seam. However, your adjustment could be different depending on how much you are taking out.

Step 3:

measure adjustment amount

With the back of the jeans folded at the center mark, measure how much you are taking out of either side of the center back waist. Here, the measurement is 1.5″. Note the measurement for a later step. We are removing a total of 3″ from the waist of these jeans, all at the center back.

Step 4:

unstitch the waistband at center back

Take out the stitching that holds the waistband to the back yoke, at the center back. I find it helps to unpick a good 2 or 3 inches more than the wedge that will be removed — it just gives you more room to sew easily. 

Step 5:

cut the waistband at the center back

On most jeans, the seams are overlocked and then pressed to one side. Then, a double row of topstitching keeps them flat. We want to get to the actual seam of the center back, so the topstitching needs to be removed and the seam pressed flat away from the garment.

Undo the topstitching about 2 to 3 inches below where the bottom of the wedge is marked. This makes it easier to sew and gives more room to get a nice tapering line to meet up with the original seam stitching.

Match up your thread trace lines on either side of that seam — rather like matching the two legs of a dart — and sew up the new center back seam. Next, cut the waistband at the center back.

Step 6:

press the center back seam

At this point, you might want to try the jeans on again, just to be sure you like the fit. Also, check that the sides of the yoke still meet properly in the center back. If it is good to go, then trim the seam and overlock if possible.

Now that the center back seam is sewn, give it a good press, turning the seam allowance the same direction as the rest of the seam below the point where you removed the original topstitching. 

Step 7:

Redo topstitching at center back

Before you re-attach the waistband, topstitch the center back seam as it was previously. Take a look at the rest of the topstitching and adjust your stitch length before you start. Remember to use a denim needle in your machine, as these intersections can be very thick. 

Step 8:

sew center back waistband seam

Now that the back and yoke portion is completed, it’s time to finish the waistband. Match the cut edges and stitch them together at the measurement we noted in Step 3. So this example has a center back seam of 1.5″. 

Step 9:

press new waistband seam

Trim the center back waistband seam down to a manageable amount, around 1/2″. Press open and then press the edges of the waistband inside as they were when you unpicked the waistband from the jeans.

Step 10:

waistband ready to sew back on sew waistband back on the jeans and topstitch

Sandwich the jeans yoke back into the waistband and pin. Check that the waistband is enclosing the edge of the yoke on both the inside and the outside of the jeans. Topstitch closed to reattach the jeans yoke to the waistband. 

Step 11:

replace belt loop at center back

Replace the belt loop at the center back that we removed in Step 1.

A few minutes at the sewing machine and your jeans fit perfectly!

completed jeans with altered waistband

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5 Responses to “How to Alter the Waistband on Jeans for a Perfect Fit”

  1. inactive

    I used to be aƅle to find gooⅾ info from your content.

  2. Lola

    I love this tutorial but I have a little issue— when I tried this the fabric bunched up right around the spot where my sewing met the original line in the butt of the pants. How do I fix that? Please let me know if you have the time! Thank you!

  3. Cass Benson

    this is an amazing tutorial! the best method i've seen and explained super clearly. thank you!!


    The explanation for altering the jeans waistband was very clear, and I am very pleased to know that I can accomplish the task on my own. Thank you very much.

  5. sunsideup18482321

    Thank you for the clear instructions for how to alter jeans waistbands. I will alter my jeans waistbands and save some money.