How To Stretch The Waistline Of Your Pants For A Little Extra Room

How to stretch the waistline of elastic band pants

Elastic waistbands have a lot of stretch in them, but they also have a limit. If that limit is just a tad too tight, you can use an iron to stretch the elastic band a little more. Kipkis gives detailed instructions on stretching them out—all you need is an iron, ironing board, and a couple of washcloths.

First, you want to pull the elastic pants around the ironing board so they stay taut. Feel free to use pins if that helps keep the pants in place. Then, turn your iron to the highest setting and place a warm, damp washcloth on the elastic band. Press the iron down for about ten seconds, then let the pants rest for another ten seconds. Repeat that process for five to ten minutes, working your way around the waistband. The waist will have stretched, and you can start the process again and as many times as needed to stretch them as far as they’ll go.

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Ways to Stretch Leggings That Are Just Too Tight

There are a number of reasons you might wind up owning leggings that are too tight. If you’ve just bought them, always check the return and exchange policy. But it could be that you’ve gained some weight or that you feel they “fit” but are a little tighter in certain areas than you’d like.

It’s unlikely that you’ll adjust leggings by a full size (if you bought the wrong size, you may be in for another purchase). However, if the leggings are just tighter around some parts of your body, you might be able to help them mold to your shape. So, if you find yourself with too-tight leggings, here are some ways to stretch them.

Just Wear Them

Just like tight shoes, the best way to “break in” tight leggings is to wear them. Elastic will always loosen over time and leggings contain a lot of it (lycra or spandex). When you put them on, they’ll stretch to fit your body and, over time, they’ll relax to hold that shape. The more you wear them, the quicker this will happen. Though, admittedly, if they’re uncomfortable this may feel like a lot to go through (similar to breaking in painful shoes).

To Stretch Spandex, Move Around a Lot in Your Leggings 

When you do wear leggings, make sure you’re moving around in them. It’s the heat of your body and the movement that will cause them to stretch around the wider parts of your body. Walk, do lunges or a few downward dogs. Again, this may be a bit of a process, but in time, the leggings will start to give more in the tighter areas.

Avoid Hot Water in the Washing Machine; Wash Them With Cold Water

Hot water can cause leggings to shrink. So if your leggings are too tight, you want to put them in the washing machine on a cold water cycle. By the way, this is also the generally advised way to care for leggings and other delicates or synthetics.

By the way, that hot water can also cause elastic to snap. Although this might sound ideal to get a looser fit, you’ll probably just end up with ill-fitting leggings that are likely to be baggy in all the wrong ways. They may even start to become transparent because of the harshness of a hot wash. So stick with the cold water care instructions.

Avoid the Dryer; Air Dry Your Leggings

Similarly, dryer heat can cause leggings to shrink and/or elastics to snap. The general care instruction is to let legging air dry flat. If you want to stretch the length of your leggings, you could try hanging them to dry. The pull of gravity on the wet material may cause them to stretch. However, there are no guarantees they won’t also stretch in ways you don’t want (e.g. the waist to crotch area could stretch just as much as the legs).So our advice is to stick with the general care instructions and air dry, laying flat to dry.

Pull Them (Gently) When They’re Wet

You can, however, gently stretch the leggings by hand when they’re damp. You can also use weights to stretch them and hold them down in a stretched position so the fabric doesn’t contract completely as it dries.

Generally, I would advise doing this very gradually and gently across a few washes. You don’t want to pull too hard and cause micro-tears in the fabric (which could cause transparency). You also don’t want to stretch the leggings too much.

… Or You Can Even Wear Leggings Damp

Arguably an even better way to stretch leggings to fit your body is to put them on when they’re a little damp and wear them until they dry. This may not sound like a nice experience but on a hot day, they should dry pretty fast. Throw them on and go for a walk on a warm day.

The reason this is a better way than using weights is because the leggings will mold to your body’s shape as they dry. The heat of your body and the dampness will soften the material, making it more malleable.

(As an aside, this is also the way we stretch shoes – if you dampen shoes a tiny bit, or even wear damp socks inside new leather shoes, they’ll soften and shape around the foot better.)

Try Soaking Them In Baby Shampoo

One internet hack is to soak too-tight leggings in baby shampoo. The rationale is that baby shampoo is exceptionally softening and gentle and it will soften the fabric of your leggings.

This will involve hand-washing them. Soak them in a mix of cold water and baby shampoo for up to half an hour and then rinse them fully. If you’re worried about this method, do a little patch test first to ensure there’s no residue left on the fabric.  

You could combine this method with wearing them damp. Just let them part dry (you can pat the leggings between a towel to absorb excess moisture) and when they’re still damp, throw them on.

Types of Pants

Dress pants shouldn’t be too tight due to th
Dress pants shouldn’t be too tight due to their more formal nature

Dress Pants

If you decide to opt for turn-ups aka cuffs, the amount is up to personal preference. The classic spectrum is between 1.5″ – 2.5″  (3.75 – 6.25cm). While cuffs or turn-ups are often the standard with dress pants these days, going cuffless is always a bit more formal.

As mentioned above you can either go with a break or without. In my opinion, the best way to handle the question of a break is to opt for a slanted hem. That means the back is longer than the front. That way, the back ends just above the heel of your shoe, and the front has not or just a light break.

Pants with two inward pleats and a continuous wais
Pants with two inward pleats and a continuous waistband

If your pants are cuffed, avoid a break because otherwise, it looks ill-fitting. Unfortunately, it is not possible to have true turn-ups cuffs with slanted hems. Hence, if you want slanted cuffs, your tailor will have to create faux cuffs, which requires additional fabric. Hence it is usually something you can only get from a bespoke tailor. If you get bespoke trousers, the tailor can . If they’re not, then you ideally want a small break where the pant sits perfectly at the top of the dress shoe. The rise of trousers should sit above the hip bone or higher, in a mid- to high-rise, so that they pair well with a suit jacket. Low rise skinny pants of recent trends, when too extreme, throw off the proportions of a suit, elongating the body and shortening the legs.

If you are a slim chap, you can get away with flat front pants but if you are a seasoned gentleman or if you have fuller thighs, go pleated; it will be more comfortable and look more flattering. Personally, I prefer two inward pleats, sometimes with a continuous waistband.

Always bear in mind that thinner fabrics look less flattering than heavier ones on pants.

Business Casual Outfit by Hogtownrake – Sing
Business Casual Outfit by Hogtownrake – Single Breasted Blazer with popover shirt, cotton pocket square, perfectly fitting khakis/chinos and brown tassel loafers

Chinos and Corduroys

Chinos and cords generally sit at around the same spot as dress trousers, directly above your hip bones. Recent trends have seen chinos sold in a low-rise version that’s become popular, but if you do wear them to work, we suggest a more classic cut. It will look far better with a shirt tucked in than the low cut styles.

Tan corduroys with cordovan boots
Tan corduroys with cordovan boots

Although both cords and chinos can be worn closer to the body than dress pants, the cotton material will clearly show when the trouser is too snug. As far as the break goes, if you’re wearing a traditional or conservative cut, it’s a good plan to go for a slight break. However, if you do enjoy the look of skinny chinos you can skip the break entirely.

David Evans in Denim and brown country sport coat
David Evans in Denim and brown country sport coat with sweater

Denim Jeans

Since jeans are the most popular pants on the planet, there is quite a range of styles that can be chosen. They should be worn in a mid- to low-rise, though some men with love for vintage clothes will swear by high rise denim.

For larger men, you may find it’s more comfortable to wear the jeans at the same height as your dress trousers. When it comes to the fit, jeans – unlike some other pants – should stay relatively consistent down each leg of the trousers. They should ideally taper as they go down the leg, so you don’t end up with jeans that hug the hips but are baggy in the calves. When it comes to jeans, no break to a full break is ok, but most men wear them too long, sometimes even stepping on them when walking. Simply have them hemmed to the proper length at the alterations tailor.

Also, the slimmer the jeans are, the less break you should have.

Brown work boots with denim jeans with a break
Brown work boots with denim jeans with a break

How to Make a Waistband Bigger With Sewing

There are several fairly simple ways to use scisso

There are several fairly simple ways to use scissors and a sewing machine to permanently expand the waist of your pants. Anyone with a sewing machine can learn how to alter clothing, but mastering any sewing technique does take practice. You probably don’t want to try this for the first time on your favorite pair of pants.

Side Seams

The most straightforward technique involves inserting a V of extra fabric or elastic at the side seams of the pants. This method is nice because it’s quite simple, but it does leave exposed stitching and an obvious triangle of added fabric at the waist of your pants.

First, remove the belt loops from the side seams. Then either pick out the side seam using a seam ripper or use sharp sewing shears to slice down the seam, opening it up to just a couple of inches below the waist. Pull the seams open to create an open “V” shape.

Find a piece of fabric that matches your pants or jeans as closely as possible. (Alternatively, you can use a strip of extra-wide elastic in place of the fabric for even more stretch).

Cut out a piece of this fabric and fold it in half so that it forms a rectangle that is an inch wider than the top of the V shape in your side seams and about an inch longer than the bottom of the V. Zigzag stitch around the edge of the rectangle to keep it nice.

Place the rectangle inside the open V of the side seam, pin it in place, and zigzag stitch over the open edge of the side seam, sewing down and then back up the sides of the V.

The new fabric should now be sealed inside, filling in the V. For a slightly nicer finish, you can use a serger instead of the zigzag setting on your sewing machine.

Center Back Seam

Many dress pants include extra seam allowance (the material that extends beyond the stitching inside the garment) at the center back seam of the waist. This allows for easy expansion at the waist area.

Rather than adding in a swatch of new fabric, you need to pick out the seam and then sew a new seam closer to the inside edge of the seam allowance.

Professional tailors will probably use this technique if you bring in pants to be enlarged.

Elastic Waistband

Finally, you could also consider removing the waistband from your pants and replacing it with a stretchy elastic waistband. While this style holds less fashion appeal, it will provide long-lasting comfort.

How to Stretch Pants that Are Too Short

Love your leggings but see that they’re just a tad too short to really look great on you? Try the following to add a bit of length to your gym pants:

5. Wash and Pull

Wash your leggings as usual in a cold water cycle. Before putting them in the dryer, fold your gym pants, leggings or tights in half (left side on the right or vice versa). Using one hand, hold the waistband section and hold the leg bottoms with the other.

Gently tug and pull the ends apart. Without letting go of either end, bring your hands together. Then pull them apart to stretch them lengthwise once again. Repeat the same steps for a minimum of 3-5 times. Make sure you apply quick, hard pulls.

Dry as usual and try them on. Voila! Your leggings should be at the right length this time.

How to Loosen the Waistband on Tights

Curious about how to loosen waistband on tights?

If you find the waistband too small on your tights, you can try the following method on how to loosen elastic:

8. Treat in Cold Water

If you want to achieve a better fit around the waistband of your tights, soak them in cold water in the sink or washer for about half an hour. After 30 minutes, remove them from the water and wring.

Look for a couple of old clean shirts that you can roll together and stuff into the waist of your tights. The number of shirts you use depends on the waistline allowance you need.

However, do not stuff too many shirts to prevent damaging or causing runs in your tights. Leave the tights as they are with the shirts stuffed inside until they are dry. If you have time, keep them this way for about six hours before removing the shirts. Make sure the shirts you use are not only clean but also colourfast. Once done, your tights should fit quite well along the waistline.

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