Hilary Rhoda's wide-legged pants aren't for everyone. If you have a pair that no longer suits you, change the shape to a narrower style.

How to Narrow Wide Pants

by Shelley Moench-Kelly

So you've lived through the trend of wide-legged pants and now it's back to reality with tapered pants and skinny jeans. But it doesn't mean you have to sacrifice an expensive wardrobe and restock it with new bottoms. If you can draw a straight chalk line and sew a seam, you can alter those wide-legged pants to make them custom tailored and narrower in no time, and without having to shell out major bucks to a tailor.

Turn your pants inside out. Use a pair of small scissors to carefully remove the stitches from the hems. Pull off any thread remnants and discard. Iron the hem lightly so the fabric lies flat. This makes the measuring and sewing easier.

Find a pair of pants with a width you like to use as a pattern. Turn them inside out and place them on top of the wide pants. Align the crotch and center the legs so there is equal fabric on both sides. Mark the outline of the “pattern” pants from the crotch to the hem on the inner and outer legs with chalk. Remove the pattern pants and pin both layers of the inner and outer seams every 4 inches along the length of each pant leg. Set the pins perpendicular to the chalk lines.

Put on the wide pants and use safety pins at the inner and outer seam hemline to mark the desired width if you don’t have a pair of pants to use as a guide. Remove the pants and place them inside out on a flat, smooth surface. Use tailor's chalk to mark where the safety pins are on both the inner and outer seams. Remove the pins.

Use a yardstick to mark a straight line from the crotch to 1/2 inch outside of the chalk mark on the inner ankle seam and from the bottom hip to 1/2 inch outside of the chalk mark on the outer ankle seam on both legs. Pin both layers of the inner and outer seams every 4 inches along the length of each pant leg. Set the pins perpendicular to the chalk lines.

Sew seams with a straight stitch about 1/2 inch away from the chalk lines and remove the pins. Trim the seams to within 1/2 inch of the stitching. Fold the hem back and pin it in place. Restitch the hemline. Turn the pants inside out and iron the right side. For a custom finish, top-stitch the outer seams from hip to ankle with a matching or even contrasting thread. This helps to flatten the new seam and adds a tailored, customized look to your pants.

Items you will need

  • Small scissors
  • Safety pins
  • Measuring tape
  • Tailor’s chalk or fabric marking pen
  • Yardstick
  • Straight pins
  • Fabric scissors
  • Sewing machine
  • Thread
  • Iron


  • Pinning is crucial to a finely finished product, so don't take shortcuts. Even the most experienced seamstress can slip and ruin the seam or fabric and have to start over or make extreme adjustments if the fabric is destroyed and can’t be replaced.
  • To narrow pant legs, don’t stitch higher than crotch level on the outer edge of the pants. Doing so will decrease the hip circumference.
  • Do each step on both legs at the same time.


  • Razor blades and X-Acto knives are extremely sharp. Make sure your work area is well-lit and that the blades are sharp.
  • Dull blades are harder to maneuver and can injure you more seriously than sharp blades.

About the Author

Shelley Moench-Kelly is a writer and editor whose clients range from L'Oreal and www.Makeup.com to the McGraw-Hill Companies and FIDM. She has interviewed notables such as Dr. Andrew Ordon of “The Doctors” and the legendary Vidal Sassoon. Her first book, "Egg," is slated for release in 2016.

Photo Credits

  • Rob Kim/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images