Welcome to our article focused on the top ways to make your jeans’ waist smaller. 

Other than a change in your body composition, to fit your clothes better, you will need to alter them somehow. Taking in your clothes is always an easier option than trying to extend your jeans and make them bigger.

Table of Contents

How To Make Jeans Waist Smaller

Tools you will need to make your jeans waist smaller.

  • Seam ripper
  • Sewing tape
  • Sewing needle
  • Safety pin
  • Sewing machine
  • Sewing thread
  • Elastic band
  • Pins

How To Make Jeans Waist Smaller

Choose which of the five options you feel most comfortable doing. There is a level of confidence and expertise in the first three choices. If none of these fit your comfort level, take your jeans to a tailor and get them to do it. Your local dry cleaner will also have altering options.

Also, before you start, make sure your jeans are fully worn in. Performing any of the adjustments on 100% denim that is still stiff, will the long term feel of your jeans waist. Instead, take the time and learn how to break in your jeans.

Last thing… have you tried putting on a belt?

Adjusting back of jeans

The first alteration you will want to try is adjusting the back of your jeans. Follow our step-by-step process below to change the back of your jeans to make the waist smaller

  1. Put your jeans on and pull the back of the waistband with one hand to adjust it to the correct size. Pinch the extra waistband fabric with your free hand and secure it with a large safety pin. 
  2. Pinch just below the safety pin to pull out the excess fabric and secure it with a straight pin. Continue pinching and pinning down the back seam until there is no more excess to pin and your jeans fit well in the waist and hips.
  3. Mark the inside of the jeans along the pinned seam and take out the pins. 
  4. Take the jeans off carefully. Place them face-up on a flat surface and pull the front waistband down so you can see the inside of the back waistband where you’ve placed the pins. 
  5. Mark along the center of the pinned seam with fabric chalk, making sure that it leaves a line on both sides of the seam. 
  6. Take out the pins.
  7. Use a seam ripper to take out the top and bottom row of stitches along the waistband, working from left to right. Remove all the stitching of the two rows on the waistband between the chalk marks, plus 1⁄2 inch (1.3 cm) on each side. 
  8. Leave the stitching along the top edge of the waistband and the seat of the jeans for now.
  9. Take off any belt loops between your two chalk lines. To do this, carefully clip away the thread attaching the belt loop(s) to the waistband.
  10. Carefully cut the stitching on the top edge of the waistband along the same length where you removed the two rows of waistband stitching. Separate the two layers of the waistband. 
  11. Use a seam ripper to take out the row of stitching on the inside of the jeans from the waistband down to about 1 inch (2.5 cm) below your chalk lines. 
  12. Remove the corresponding stitching on the outside of the jeans to fully separate the seat of the jeans.
  13. Fold the waistband across the center back line of the jeans, the midpoint between the two chalk lines. Fold with the right sides (the sides facing towards the outside of the jeans) facing each other, so the folded edge is facing you. 
  14. Sew where the new altered waistband meets from the top to the bottom of the waistband with a single straight stitch.
  15. Repeat the alteration with the outer waistband. Take in the outer waistband, using the inner waistband as a guide. Fold it in the middle, sew it, then trim and press the edges.
  16. Pin the seat together by turning the right sides (the outside of the jeans) to face each other. Pin along the chalk lines you made earlier. Sew the seat together with a single straight stitch next to the pins.
  17. Give your altered jeans the same outward appearance. Us thee top stitching thread to sew from the existing stitching lines up to the waistband in two rows, matching the stitching on the rest of the jeans. Overlap a few stitches with the old stitch line to make it blend better.
  18. Sew the top and bottom of the belt loop back onto the waistband in the center. Be sure to match the thread color of the other belt loops.

Taking in the sides of your jeans

The second alteration you will want to try is taking in the side of your jeans. Follow our step-by-step process below to take in the side of your jeans to make the waist smaller

  1. Turn your jeans inside out and put them on. Pinch the waistband on each side until you get the right fit in the waist. Try to pinch an equal amount on both sides so that your jeans will sit evenly after the alteration.
  2. Carefully put the pins in the waistband on each side where you have pinched the fabric, as close to your waist as possible. Keep pinning down the jeans’ sides where you can pinch loose fabric. Pin as far down as you would like, depending on how you would like the jeans to fit.
  3. Carefully take your jeans off. Sew each side of the jeans along the pinned line. Use a sturdy denim needle with a longer stitch length than average and higher tension. 
  4. Go over the stitches again with a backstitch (reversing back over your stitches) at the beginning and end to secure the stitching in place.
  5. Try your jeans on again and check the fit. You can always take your stitching out and try again if something is off. 
  6. If you are happy with the fit but feel like excess fabric inside the jeans is too bulky, you can cut it out. Leave a 1⁄4 inch (0.64 cm) border outside the stitching to prevent the fabric from unravelling. Otherwise, you can leave the material in.

Using an elastic band

The third alteration you will want to try is using an elastic band in the waist of your jeans. Follow our step-by-step process below to add an elastic band to your jeans’ waistband to make the waist smaller

  1. Put your jeans on. Pinch the excess fabric in the back of the waistband so that the jeans fit snugly.
  2. Keep the fabric pinched. Use fabric chalk or a highlighter to make a small line inside the jeans on each side of the pinched fabric where you want your new, smaller waistband to touch.
  3. Remove the jeans and lay them with the front side facing up. Pull the front of the jeans down to reveal the back of the waistband. Cut out a few stitches from the bottom of the waistband below each of your two highlighter marks. 
  4. Use scissors to cut a slit from one of the broken seams to just before the top of the waistband. Only cut through the inner layer of the waistband. Cut another slit on the other side.
  5. Prepare a 3⁄4 inch (1.9 cm) elastic band. Measure the elastic band and cut it, so it is slightly smaller than the distance between the two slits on the waistband. Attach a safety pin to each end of the band.
  6. Attach one end of the elastic band with a safety pin to the waistband outside one of the cuts. Thread the other end of the elastic through to the other slit in the waistband. Attach it to the outside of the slit with another safety pin.

Move the front button

The fourth alteration you will want to try is moving the front button on your jeans. Follow our step-by-step process below to move the front button of your jeans to make the waist smaller

  1. Use small embroidery scissors or a seam ripper to remove the button from the pants.
  2. Try on the pants and move the buttonhole past the old button spot, stopping when the waist gets comfortably tight.
  3. Mark this point on the button side of the waistband.
  4. Take the jeans off and use a needle and thread to sew the button back on at the new location.

While your working on the crotch, take a look to see if you need to fix the zipper on the jeans.

Shrink your jeans waist 

The fifth alteration you will want to try is shrinking your jeans. Shrinking should be your last option because the act of using heat to shrink denim is not a process that can predict exact size reduction. 

Below are the top three ways to shrink the waistband on your jeans. You can read how to do each of these in our detailed article on how to shrink jeans.

  • Boiling water
  • Wear in the bathtub
  • Washer and dryer
This is a photo of tall paul putting his jeans into the washer to shrink the jeans waist
this is a photo of a pot of boiling water to shrink jeans waist

If you are looking for the simplest option to do right now with the littlest work needed by you, then shrink your jeans in the washing machine using hot water (Yes, hot water does shrink clothes.)

Add a final bit of shrinking by tossing them in the dryer. Your dryer will 100% shrink your jeans waist. Learn how to do this the safest way for your jeans with our article on how to use a dryer & how long does a dryer take.

While altering the waist of your jeans, check to see if you need any other tailoring for your jeans. 


If the waist on your jeans is too big, the best thing you can do is take them to a tailor and let them alter your jeans for a minimal price. The cost to make your jeans waist smaller will be between $15-$30 USD.

Yes, you can make the waist on any type of pants smaller. The top ways to do this are to take them to a tailor, alter them at home or shrink them yourself.