Taking in the Waist and Center Back on Denim Pants and Skirts

One of the more common alterations I do is taking in the waist and center back on pants, jeans and skirts.

Most people try and solve this problem by just making a dart or two in the back of the pants.

That doesn’t work too well if your pants or skirt is made of thick fabric and has double stitched seams.

This is when this alteration comes in handy and it works on pants and skirts alike.

For this illustration, I have a customer’s skirt:

khaki skirt to take in the waist, 727

Pin how much you need to take in and record the amounts along the waist and the center back seam (as I did in the second photo of How To Take In the Bust.)

Or use your favorite method of transferring measurements.

This skirt has a belt loop at the center back. With a seam ripper or a pair of small pointed scissors, take off the top of the belt loop, making sure you pay attention to how it is attached because you are going to reattach it in the same way after you make the alteration:

taking off the belt loop on skirt waistband, 729

Remove any tags that are sewn in:

take out talbots tag of waist on skirt, 730

Open up the horizontal waist seam by about four inches or more (2″ on either side of the center back) with your seam ripper or scissors:

take apart waist in skirt to alter wasitband, 731

If there is stitching along the top edge of the waistband, take out about 3 inches of that (1 1/2″ on either side of the center back seam).

Now, this skirt does not have a center back seam in the waistband. Most pants and jeans don’t either.

If yours doesn’t have a center back seam, don’t worry, we are going to put one in and it won’t show, because of the belt loop, as I’ll illustrate later.

If the garment does not have a belt loop, that’s ok. Most people don’t tuck in their shirts anymore, so the seam won’t matter and won’t really be noticeable.

This skirt needed to be taken in 3/4″ total in the waist. So, that means, I need to take in 3/8″ on both sides of the center back.

I took a ruler and marked the skirt 3/8″ away from the center back (make sure you mark to the left of the center and to the right of the center), one  at the top of the band and one at the bottom of the band:

using a seam gauge to measure the amount to be taken in at the skirt waist, 734

See the blue pen marks in the photo above (just to the right of the seam gauge)? Well, you probably don’t want to use a blue pen, but I thought you’d be able to see it better than my marking pen.

Make these marks on the outside waistband and the inside waistband because you have to take in both!

Just to clarify, your markings should look like this:

diagram of markings for taking in the wasit of a skirt, 752

As you can tell in the diagram above, if you don’t have a center back seam, you can draw one with a washable marker, or press it in, or eyeball it.

When you don’t have a center back seam, you are going to create one to take the waistline in. Don’t worry, because, again, it will be covered by the belt loop. .

To take in the waistband, fold the waistband along the new imaginary seamline, right sides together. (If your garment came with a center back seam, of course you’ll just stitch a line parallel to the seamline.) Match the blue dots to each other and pin them in place:

pinned folded edge of the waistband to be taken in on skirt, 741

Stitch in that new 3/8″ seam:

stitch the new seam to take in the waist of a skirt, 742

Most of the time, I cut the fold and spread the new seam out flat to reduce bulk in the waistband area:

cutting the fold when you've taken in teh wasit of a skirt, 743

However, if this is your first time with this alteration, wait and make sure everything is going fit together well before you trim it. If you have taken in a small amount, you may just want to leave it alone and not trim it. It’s up to you.

Now, we’re going to move to the skirt (or pants) for a few minutes, so leave the waistband until later.

Turn the skirt or pants to the underside. You need to take out the topstitching next.

Sometimes, the manufacturer will stitch the topstitching with a chain stitch. These are great because you can grab one thread and pull and the whole seam will come out. Just make sure you don’t pull out more than you meant to!

On this skirt I had one row of chain stitch and one row of regular stitching:

showing where to take in teh main section of the skirt when taking in the waist, 736

Take out the top stitching with a seam ripper or scissors.

taking out the topstitching with a seam ripper, 737

Take in the skirt or pants the desired amount, tapering the seam towards the original seam like this:

diagram of what the angle looks like to take in pants at waist, 754

Again, I don’t just guess on how much to take in, I have pinned it first and then transferred the markings so I know exactly where to stitch the new seam.

Once you have the new seam stitched, turn the garment to the right side and top stitch the seam just like it was originally. You may be stitching one row of stitches 1/8″ away from the fold and the second row 1/4″ away from that 1/8″ row. Don’t worry if the old stitching holes show. They will fade as soon as the garment is washed.

topstitching on the CB seam of skirt, 739

Next, you want to reattach the belt loop. Stitch that belt loop to the center back seam before you stitch up the waist.

stitching the belt loop back on the waist, 744

Next, stitch the labels back on. I usually just stitch the two ends of the label down. No need to go back over the entire label. Make sure you don’t stitch through to the right side of the waistband. Just stitch on the single layer.

stitching the labels back on the waist, 745

Now, on the right side of the waistband, top stitch the top edge of the waistband. Many times this is 2 rows of stitches. It might be one. Or, there might not be any. Just follow whatever the original garment had.

stitching the top of the waist, 746

Stitch the waistband to the skirt (or pants). I usually top stitch this area closed. Make sure that belt loop is hanging free:

stich the waist back on with the belt loop free, 747

Top stitch the top of the belt loop and then the bottom to hold it in place. Make sure you back stitch several times to hold it in place. If the area is super thick, use a Jean-a-ma-jig to help you keep from breaking your needle. Hand walk it over the bulky area if you need to.

stitch the belt loop back on, 749

Here’s a look at the inside:

the inside of the skirt waistband when its done, 751

This is what it should look like on the outside. The waistline should look the same as before you started, only smaller!

the outside back of the skirt when the waist is taken in, 750