Jean Week: Straight Leg to Skinny Jeans

2:00 AM

 I decided I had enough posts to make a whole week about JEANS!
PART 1: Altering straight jeans to a tapered skinny leg opening

A staple in any person's clothing...and something I hate to shop for/ buy.
As a kid I could never find jeans long enough.  It seems to not be as big as a crisis now, with many brands having tall lines.
 I need between a 34-36" inseam, so not impossible to find, but not always available.

So I bought a pair of jeans for a good deal from the Gap outlet a while ago.
They didn't have any tall sizes, so I just bought regular, and yes.  Floods.
The before shows the straight leg way too short sad case.  I would cuff them when I wore these, but it's just annoying to have a pair of pants that are too short.  So I decided if I tapered the ankle so it was more in the skinny jean realm they might work better.

So here's a tutorial to alter a regular pair of jeans to make your own skinny jeans.
I realize that probably my finished leg isn't tight enough to be "skinny jeans" but you get the point, and this works mainly for straight leg or very slight bootcut jeans, because we're taking it all out of one side of the leg.  A flared jean would need to be taken in on both seams to look right.}

Look at your jeans, and notice the different seams on the leg sides.
One, usually the inner leg seams will be a "flat felled seam" which means it's sewn twice, a regular seam, then the seam allowance is put on one side and top-stitched down.  
Your other seam will be a regular side seam, which we'll be using to taper the leg opening.

1. Unpick Hem
You'll need to unpick the hem, but not all the way around.
 Just unpick directly under your regular side seam, and around the leg about the middle of the front and back of leg, so about half of the total hem will be unpicked.

2. Pin Your Fit
If you have a pair of skinny jeans you like and want to mimic, you could just align the inner leg seams and trace the outside where it fits well.
If you don't trust or have other jeans to use as a pattern, I put my jeans on inside out, and pinned down one leg along the seam to the fit I thought would work.
Next carefully take the jeans off. 

3. Mark Seam
Using your pins, you can mark along the side seam of the jean in a gradual line from the ankle up, slowly bringing your new line to merge with the original seam.
Using the first leg as a pattern, mark the opposite leg also to so they'll match in the end. 

4. Sew Seam
Gradually sew the new seam into the original seam so it's a gentle taper.  
My taper began as high as the bottom of the pocket, but this pair of jeans fit a little loose all over, so you may not need to take anything out of the thigh. 

5. Adjust If Necessary
Before you cut any of your jeans, try them on.
I found I wanted them a little more narrow in the ankle, so I sewed another side seam 1/2" in, making the total ankle circumference 1" smaller.
If you find you made them too tight, you can unpick and sew a new seam closer to the original. 

6. Finish Seam and Hem
Once you are confident you have your alteration where you need it, you can just serge the seam to finish it off.
If you don't have a serger, trim the seam allowance and zig-zag the edges as they will most likely fray if you don't.
From there your hem should fold right back up to where it was and you can just top-stitch it back in place.

I have to confess, I up to today have never owned skinny jeans, and even now, they could probably be a little more narrow in the ankle.
I guess I've actually been anti-skinny jean.
First off, with the name "skinny" jean, I threw them from consideration, adding to my mind the idea only twigs with chicken legs could pull off wearing them.  So  because my thighs do touch and are always going to be larger than my calves and ankles, I figured skinny jeans were best left for little prepubescent tweens.

So I'm turning over a new leaf lately trying to dress better.
Pretty much I've worn the same things since 8th grade: Old Navy/ Target tees and flared jeans.

Someone recently gave me advice to grow up and actually think about a wardrobe.  
So I'm trying to branch out a little, so far just adding layers and accessories to all my tees and jeans.  I'm never going to be a fashionista, but I would like to look a little more put together I that I'm realizing I may want to move on from my Jr. High fashion sense.

I mainly altered these jeans to wear with boots for fall/ winter, but maybe one day I'll brave wearing them with a flat or something.  They may actually need to be taken in a little more, as it kind of seems like the short inseam still looks a little weird not being tighter around the ankle. 
At least I don't have a huge bunch of denim scrunched around my ankles when I wear boots now.  

Anyone else anti-skinny jean?
Or trying new things they've never worn before?
Or buys jeans that don't really fit just because they're on sale and really cheap?

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  1. When you "undid" the hem did you de thread it or just cut it?

    I love this idea for fall/winter bc I have some great "flood" pants I can alter and wear with boots :)

  2. great Job. I am also trying to update my look. I have been reading missus smarty pants blog and news letter which has helped me think of dressing in a different way. good luck and you look great.

  3. Sherry:
    When I unpicked the hem, I use a straight edge razor but you could use a seam ripper and I just hack the threads and pull out the tiny ends.

  4. Oooh! Thanks for posting this! I have a question (well, two, actually) - does this work for the upper leg, too? I have jeans that fit the big tummy, but are way too big on the butt, hips, thighs area. If I could take them in at the top, that would work wonders! And can I assume this works for khakis, too?

    Love your blog! It's made me want to sew way more than I usually do! Just made my daughter's Halloween costume, in fact!

  5. Yes, to all three questions! But your jeans look great.

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Ugh. Amazingly witty comment accidentally deleted by a bump with the wrist. I have no energy to recreate the remark. But you look great! And you admitted to shopping at the gap without me and nat dragging you through the doors!


  9. tala:
    Yes, this same method will work for khakis or really any pant

    You can slim the thighs with these outside seams, I actually took some out of the thighs of these jeans, the seam went clear up to the bottom of my front pockets.

    As for the butt of the pants being too big, I asked my little sister who's a professional tailor and she says taking in the seat and waistband kind of depends on the jeans. Certain brands (she mentioned True Religion or the really decorative jeans) look silly taken in due to the fading/wash of the jeans/ pockets. But she said a classic solid denim like a dark navy from Gap can be taken in the seat seam and look good. I guess something to think about. Just tapering the outer side seams from the waistband to the ankle is probably the easiest place to start to see if that helps, before you attack the bum/ crotch seams of the pants.
    Good luck!

  10. i have a pair of skinny jeans (pretty much all i wear, as on most body types, a well fitting pair actually makes you look skinnier) that is a tad too short, and i prefer them when i wear boots. in my other jeans, the longer cuff bothers my heel. so, you may find that you actually like the shorter length over the winter. (and in the summer, i also just cuff them up to wear with flats.)

  11. Thanks for the answer, Jess! I am definitely going to try this!!

  12. I haven't had to take-in jeans or pants lately but I have remade a few shirts. I don't like my tops to hug my chest so I've been buying a size larger even though they are way to big. Out of desperation I recently bought two shirts, removed the sleeves altered the width across the chest and then restitched the sleeves. Wish I could say that I did it for a good $ deal but I'm in between sizes. You are very clever.

  13. I am anti skinny jean. A big reason is you can see your shoes so much - I don't always want to wear nice shoes! And the old me used to buy jeans that didn't fit because they were on sale but I'm trying hard not to do that anymore.

    Am loving your blog!!!

  14. Ugh. Skinny jeans.

    I remember in 6th grade, the trend started moving toward flare jeans and I thought they were hideous and stupid(any real 80's-90's child can tell you that pegged pants are the ONLY way to go), but alas...ankle-hugging jeans were taken off the shelves and I was forced to shift to flares.

    And I will never go back. I still buy flare jeans or I buy the closest I can find and modify them with fabric panels to be flared. They're just more flattering to my shape. Skinny jeans make me look like a caramel apple.

  15. I buy jeans that don't fit because they are on sale. It's pathetic. You look amazing. :)

  16. Stacia:
    I'm pathetic right with you! Too short, way too big, I'm not very intelligent when it comes to sales!

  17. I'm anti-skinny jeans. I just look like an ice cream cone. I do need a pair to wear with boots though. Thanks for the tutorial.

  18. This is really a great idea and very interesting too. Thanks for sharing your great ideas and keep sharing!

  19. I prefer skinny jeans and Undoubtedly,this style looks good on some body types. The body type of a person is essential in choosing the right fit. When looking at fashion jeans for men, certain brands stand out. mens jeans

  20. I love flare jeans and sometimes I wear skinny jeans. Whichever is my type, I go for it. But anyway, thanks for the tutorial!

  21. Is this tutorial applicable only for women's jeans or is it for men too ?

  22. Your blog is so cool! Great tutorial....

    Women's Designer Fashion and Clothing

  23. I like skinny jeans and for that is my first choice. he brand has its own unique selvage Denims For Men Jeans is most Use fabric on the globe. every men like to put on informal jean in frequent times.I really like your look - it's informal but still fashionable enough.But I'm sure there will be a lot of activities this season.

  24. I love skinny jeans ! Especially budget friendly multiple options that create more fabulous fashion moments!

  25. Thanks :) Didnt know if i could undo the hem and be able to sew it back together but this post helped me realize it wasn't too hard!

  26. Love your breezy honesty! Thanks for the info! Btw-you could totally rock skinnies, just ordered some from longtallsally.UK in "36 inseam-so hoping they'll flatter me ;-) If not, think I'll copy your technique w/my True Religions-wish me luck!! :-)

  27. Your blog is so cool! Great tutorial....
    bootcut jeans


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