{Tutorial} How to Lengthen Pants

Daniel has a problem.


(Looking studly is not it)

Daniel is a tall, slim man buying "modern fit" pants amid a "hipster trend."

"Hipster Trend - isn't that kind of an oxymoron?" 

You would think! But apparently, the cool thing to do for young professionals is to rock pants with shorter inseams to show off 'fun socks.' Or, in some cases, to be worn without socks to show off shoes.

That doesn't even look sanitary....

In any event, what (I guess?) looks cool on models, and is tapered through the leg like a young, fit professional wants... looks like this on Daniel:

Hello pale, hairy ankles.

Hello pale, hairy ankles.

Daniel has a second problem. What he hates more than short pants... is wasting money. Which is exactly what he'd do if his two new pairs of pants - which fit well everywhere else - went unworn, collecting dust for the next 2 years, and then forced into the GoodWill bag on the 3rd. 

Now - I have no affinity for pant-hemming. Like most sewists I know, I growl at the very suggestion of altering other people's clothes. But when these pants (one in navy, one in charcoal) showed up after an excellent sale (and a no refund policy), I happened to be in the middle of my own clothes "fit"-ness journey. PANTS - that fit your waist, seat, and thighs great?? You're going to toss THOSE because of a measly 1-2 inches in length?? Don't you dare! 

So - should you find yourself victim to the latest sock-exposing trend, or an aggressive run through the dryer - here's how you can salvage those too-short pants.

STEP ONE: Make that sucker unpick his own hem.

They are HIS pants. (PS: Kudos to him for being brave enough to pose with a dog after what happened last time.)

Odds are the store bought pants have been pressed. A LOT. So grab your starch (affiliate link) and iron to undo it as best you can. Clip any stray threads and lint-roller any lingering picked-threads while you're at it. 


The unpicking process here added an extra inch and a half! That's quite a bit of wiggle room, when you can hem a pant with a facing and as little as 1/4 seam allowance. But - before we can stitch a facing - we need to figure out how long these pants ought to be! Let's throw those pants back on and learn a new (to me, anyway) tailoring term: "Break".

Daniel probably spends as much time on men's fashion blogs as I do on women's. And recently, he shared with me his "Pant Break" knowledge. Here's what it is, and what it looks like:

Break: the menswear term for how much creasing occurs at the bottom of the trousers, due to the length of fabric resting on one’s shoes.
— articlesofstyle.com

Ultimately, Break is a preference. For instance - "No Break" is the "show off my socks and/or cool shoes" length we're fixing in the first place. But it's trendy, and when you see people wearing their pants that short, it's not necessarily wrong. (Same with "too long" ... but I may shake my head at it anyway.) Goldie Locks and I settle somewhere in the middle - adding an inch to the original length.

I prefer the look of longer hems - 1 inch minimum - so I doubled my desired hem measurement (1+1=2) and added my seam allowance (2+0.5=2.5) to come up with the right height facing, and cut one facing per leg at the width of the pant + seam allowance: 

If you're sewing a much taller hem on a much more tapered style pant, you will want to cut off excess fabric, and/or sew with a bias-cut facing; so it stretches to fit the wider top of the hem and the narrower bottom of the hem..

Pin your facing, right sides together, to the outside of your pant leg.

If you can (ie, you have at least 1/2 inch of length to spare), sew your facing with HALF the seam allowance you intended. You will still hem at the intended length, but you'll have left a little "lip" of original fabric at the fold of the hem, which will make a contrast facing less noticeable. 

If you don't have that excess length, opt for a solid, similar color facing. There's a greater chance it'll be visible with movement, and you don't want people noticing your doctored pants if you can help it! 

I had room to spare... so I made my facing fabrics as obnoxious as possible. Aren't I a doll? Price of asking your wife to hem your pants ;)

Iron your facing...

Of the 3 creases Left of the facing seam, the one under my finger is the original hem stitching, the one in the middle is the original hem length, and the on 1/4 from the facing seam is where the raw edge had been turned under and enclosed in the hem.

Of the 3 creases Left of the facing seam, the one under my finger is the original hem stitching, the one in the middle is the original hem length, and the on 1/4 from the facing seam is where the raw edge had been turned under and enclosed in the hem.

Turn the facing under to the desired hem height. I prefer 1 inch or more, but chose 1 inch here because I could stitch along the original hem crease:

Here's what the outside/inside will look like when you're done:

You may notice there are still holes left behind from the original stitching. These are more obvious than in your other sewing projects because commercial sewers (or, this particular brand anyway) used a thicker thread for their detail stitching. A pass through the wash/dryer ought to close up the fabric's weave nicely. It did for these! While the navy pair was in the dryer, I had him model the gray pair:

These were unwashed/dryed, so you can see the visual of where the hem used to be (the crease) vs where they are now:

What do you think?? Easy, huh?? Still not fun, but pretty fabrics help. I used scraps from my son's Kate Spain Canyon preview outfit. Which hubs happened to object to originally thinking it was too girly. I get a sick satisfaction knowing he'll be wearing that same fabric regularly - even to work ;) The horror! 

And since I'm busy razzing my husband, I'll leave you with a final image to live forever in internet land. I mean.. A Before/After Review: