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Sometimes you’ll have a pair of jeans that just aren’t doing it for you anymore. Whether they’re stretched at the knees or they’re hanging off your waist, take a second to consider tapering them before you banish them into the Goodwill pile.
A highly popular fashion trend these past couple of years has been vintage jeans. If you already have a pair that’s pretty old-timey but is a little loose on you, there has been no better time to give tapering a try.
Read on to learn more about how you can taper your jeans for a better overall fit.
Can You Taper Jeans?
Short answer: Absolutely. Tapering of jeans is one of the most common alterations done to the fabric and is definitely a skill set in any tailor’s armament.
Longer answer: While tapering your jeans is always an option, it is not always the best decision for your jeans. Various factors like fabric thickness, fit, wear, and frankly, even your skills with a sewing machine need to be considered before you decide to commit to a taper.
After all, to taper your jeans is to make a final commitment. Quite often, if the taper is to a stronger degree, you will end up having to cut off entire swatches of your jeans altogether.
Once you make that cut, there is no going back.
So, while you can taper your jeans at any point in time, whether or not you should is an entirely different matter.
Some helpful questions to ask yourself before you decide on a taper are:
- Does this pair of jeans fit me well as it is right now? (It might not be the cut you’re looking for, but if it’s a good fit, then we’d suggest you skip on altering it.)
- Can my wardrobe survive if this pair doesn’t?
- If I alter these jeans, how long will the alteration last me?
Aspects of a Good Fit
If you’re unsure about what to check for before you go about tapering your jeans, know your options. Here are a couple of factors to keep in mind when considering your game plan of how to taper jeans:
This is more or less a no-brainer. One of the most effective ways to define a good fit for jeans is the length of your inseam.
For any regular pair of jeans, the inseam refers to the length between the crotch and the hem.
As a general rule of thumb, your jeans should be able to reach the tops of your feet without the hem dragging along the ground.
This is the ultimate length for balancing comfort and the effortless aesthetic that jeans have come to be associated with.
The waist is yet another key element of a good fit. The general consensus is that a comfortable fitting comes with a moderately loose weight.
This is not just about the style of the jeans, but also in consideration of your daily food habits.
Keeping time with your input cycles of breakfast, lunch, and dinner, your stomach can change in diameter at different times of the day.
Thus, a slightly loose waist is an easy way of making sure your jeans fit you right regardless of when in the day you chose to wear them.
However, your jeans shouldn’t be too loose. A good way of measuring this is to see if your jeans can sit comfortably on your waist without needing a belt.
The seat, although it is not as actively considered as the length, and waist-fits are also a pretty important aspect of your jeans fitting right.
In fact, chances are that you’ve been unconsciously testing out your jeans for a good seat-fit. It may happen every time you have been out clothes shopping.
When you walk around and sit and crouch around in a new pair of jeans you’re considering buying, what you’re actually testing out is how the seat fits you.
A neat way of testing out jeans in the fitting room is to just squat on the balls of your feet.
If you feel like the jeans are a bit tight in the thigh area or if you feel the buttons or zip digging into your stomach, your jeans most likely have an ill-fitting seat.
Tapering, for it to be truly effective, can only be done at a level below the crotch. This means that tapers are typically made along your inseam.
Anyone who claims to be able to do it from the outseam doesn’t know what they’re doing.
The crotch-fit is a major part of a comfortable pair of jeans. The inseam is where you have the best control over it.
Trying to taper your jeans from the outseam, at best leads to an overall tight-fitting pair.
But if your luck happens to look another way, you could end up with a pair that’s tight at the hips and loose at the crotch.
You can technically taper the waist as well, but that can be a bit tricky. A badly tapered waist means you have to perform the standard ritual of exhaustive wriggle-jerking just to fit into your denim.
Once on, it’ll look great, but this isn’t really an option for people who run on tight schedules and don’t have the time to move their internal organs around just to fit into a pair of pants.
And besides, if you’re doing acrobatics just to squeeze into a pair of jeans, are you sure they’re even the right fit for you?
How to Taper Jeans
Now that you’re set with your basics and have a fair idea of where you want to taper your jeans, let’s get on to the ‘how’ of all this.
Follow these seven steps to get a clear understanding of how to taper jeans for the best fit:
1. Fabric Prep
Before you make that first cut, take a minute to study the fit you’re working with.
Have a clear plan of how you’re going to approach the material before you even put it on to check the leeway.
It even helps to have a faint drawing along the inseam before you try it on.
Once you’ve got a general plan, run your jeans through a quick wash-and-dry. This gets any additional shrinkage out of the way.
There are few things more tragic than a pair of pre-tapered jeans shrinking after their first wash.
2. Inside-Out Fit
Once satisfied that your jeans are going to stay at the size they are, turn them inside out and pull them on.
Turning your pants inside out helps expose the old seams and makes the whole process of undoing the seams and removing the stitches a great deal easier.
Pinch the edges of the pants until you get the fit you are looking for. Make sure you pinch along the inseam, as that is where the actual alteration will take place.
After you’ve finalized the fit, make a dotted line along the pinched fit to work as the new inseam of your jeans.
Make sure you keep about 1 inch of space between the line you draw and the actual cut you make. This works as a fallback in case it all goes awry.
Alternatively, if you have a pair of jeans that you’ve already had tapered to the fit you desire, lay them over the new pair and use those measures to draw the line for your new inseam.
Once the seams are all drawn, put on the pair inside out once more and pin your jeans along the chalked lines.
Make sure the pins are pointy-side-up when putting them in; this allows you to get out of your pinned jeans safely without getting poked or stabbed.
3. Undoing the Seams
Now that you’ve got everything demarcated, let’s get to business.
Separating the seams can be extremely arduous if done manually, and so most professionals chose to either directly cut along inseams or rip them apart.
A seam ripper, if you’re familiar with using one, can come particularly handy here. It makes an incredibly frustrating job, taking up to an hour, a matter of minutes.
Get started on the inner hem and only rip it slightly past where the chalk line meets the outer edge.
This gives you the freedom to fold the jeans along the inseam so that you can then easily stitch along your chalk line.
4. Stitching in Your New Seams
Take the pair of folded-over jeans for a quick sewing trip, and lay the bases for your first set of stitches.
Sew a straight stitch onto the chalk line that you’ve drawn and pinned down.
Try to keep the line consistent all the way over the hem as it’s going to be folded back up.
5. Retry to Check the Fit
Put your pants back on, but this time have them be right-side-out.
Because just the first layer of stitching has gone in, this is arguably the last point you have before you make permanent alterations.
So, if something doesn’t feel right, all you need to do is pick the seams apart.
Don’t wait until the second layer of stitches to try the fit out. It might well be too late to do anything at that point.
6. Cutting Off Excess Fabric
If you’re satisfied with the final fit, it’s time to bring out the big knives — or rather, fabric scissors.
Cut off the excess fabric from either leg, leaving about 1inch of space as a seam allowance.
It helps to draw a line to cut along instead of eyeballing it.
While the seam allowance is on the inside of the pant leg and will not contribute to the appearance of your jeans. However, an uneven cut can lead to discomfort when walking or sitting down.
Make sure you also iron your inseams once cut. This is to make them lay flat along with the inner fabric of your jeans.
7. Finishing Touches on Your Tapered Jeans
At this point, you’re more or less done.
Close up any raw edges along with either the seam allowance or the hem.
Typically, this is done with a serger. You may not have one. You can substitute either a zig-zag stitch or an overcast stitch for the same finish.
The typical trend is to just match whatever the original style of sticking was.
How to Taper Jeans Without Sewing
If you don’t have easy access to a sewing machine, you don’t have to give up on being able to taper your jeans by yourself.
One funky way of tightening your jeans without threading a needle is to use zippers!
Once the fabric glue dries, simply zip the leg up and you should have stitch-less tapered jeans.
Another very effective technique is to try heat-based adhesive tapes along your freshly cut seams. After application, you can essentially iron your jeans back into one piece.
Takeaway – Well-Fitted Jeans for a Fresh Dose of Confidence
Well, this is it! You’re now prepped with all there is to know on how to taper your jeans for a crisp fit.
Now put on that pair of perfectly fitted jeans and take on whichever high-fashion trend you’ve been eying.
There’s nothing like confidence to pulling off fashion, and there’s nothing like well-tapered jeans to bring out confidence.