How to alter trouser legs

Updated March 23, 2017

Altering clothes for a better fit or to bring them back into style has always been a common practice. Now, altering clothes to suit a style or express individual personality has become a trend. You want the alteration to look right, but professional clothes modification costs can be prohibitive on a budget. Fortunately, altering trouser legs can be done like a pro with minimal expense. You can take a pair of trousers with bell or boot legs and, in a few simple steps, transform them into a new slim look.

Turn your trousers inside out and put them on.

Pin the excess fabric on either the inside or outside leg seam with straight pins, until you get the desired look. If the trouser is belled or boot cut, start at the knee area.

Practice sitting down and walking to see how the fabric moves before sewing the new seam.

Take the trousers off and, using a ruler, draw a straight chalk line down to the hem following the pin marks. Re-pin the trousers at the chalk line.

Unpick the hem at the bottom of the leg, if the trouser style permits.

Sew a new seam, tapering very gradually at the beginning, to avoid creating a noticeable starting point. Use the chalk line as a guideline. Remove the straight pins.

Unpick the original seam. Trim off the excess fabric. Press fabric at the seam, using an iron set on the appropriate temperature for the fabric type.

Fold the hem back in place. Hand-stitch a new hem around the bottom of the trouser leg. Turn the trousers right side out.


If you are altering the legs on jeans, take up the inner seam instead of the outer seam because of the flat felled seams on the outer leg sides.

Check to see what type of fabric you are working with. Different fabrics require different sewing machine tensions. Look at the label to determine the fabric type and check the sewing machine manufacturer's instructions regarding setting the thread tension.

Before attempting to alter the intended trouser legs, practice altering an old pair of trousers, if possible. Hands on experience helps work out any questions you have and helps you know what to anticipate.

Things You'll Need

  • Straight pins
  • Tailor's chalk
  • Ruler
  • Sewing machine
  • Thread
  • Scissors
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