Jeans go with so many different styles, from tees to blazers to high heels! The only thing that doesn’t look good with a jeans outfit is saggy, too-loose jeans that don’t fit you. Fortunately, you can learn how to make jeans tighter in just a few simple steps!
The best ways to make jeans tighter are to alter the seams of the garment with sewing or to shrink the denim fabric using heat. Popular shrinking methods include using a dryer, an iron, or boiling water. Other hacks to make jeans tighter include using a button, a rubber band, or a piece of elastic.
In this article, you will learn eleven handy ways to make your jeans tighter. You will find out how to make your jeans tighter in a hurry and how to make them tighter at the ankle. Finally, you will discover how to make your skinny jeans look good on you!
- Can You Make Jeans Tighter?
- How to Make Jeans Tighter: 11 Methods
- How to Make the Bottom of Your Jeans Tighter
- How to Make Skinny Jeans Tighter
- How to Make Jeans Tighter at the Ankle
Can You Make Jeans Tighter?
You can easily make jeans at least one size tighter just by shrinking them in your washer and dryer. You can also tailor jeans to make key portions of the pants, like the waist, fit you more tightly. You can even use special techniques to make the ankles tighter!
In fact, you can almost always make clothes smaller by a size or two. The most popular ways to accomplish this are to shrink the clothes or to alter them with sewing methods.
Shrinking jeans is one of the most popular ways to make them tighter. This method uses the natural absorbency and heat sensitivity of cotton fibers to cause the denim fabric to contract and shrink. This makes your pants smaller by as much as one or two sizes in most cases.
The big advantages of shrinking are that you probably already have all the tools you would need on hand, such as a dryer or an iron. Plus, this method does not require any special knowledge–you just need to follow the steps described later in this article!
Shrinking jeans does come with some risk, though, because it’s not a super precise artform. You will quickly learn that it’s tricky to gauge a precise shrink rate. This means that you could end up making your jeans too tight!
In this case, you can usually gently stretch out the denim by wearing the too-small pants while still damp.
The other big issue you may run into is that you will find it difficult to make sure the jeans shrink evenly all over. This could lead to the legs getting shorter or the thighs becoming too tight, while the waistband remains too loose, for example.
If you want a more precise method for making your jeans tighter, you could try sewn alterations. This allows you to tailor them exactly to your body shape. Plus, you can change the style of the jeans if you want–for example, you can make wide jean legs into skinny ones!
Of course, you do need to own a sturdy sewing machine and have some basic sewing skills to take on this challenge. If you find that thought daunting, you could consider taking your jeans to a professional tailor to make these alterations.
How to Make Jeans Tighter: 11 Methods
You can make jeans permanently tighter using the sewing method described here or temporarily tighter using several different shrinking techniques such as using a dryer, a pot of boiling water, or an iron. You can also use a few simple hacks like making use of the button on the jean’s waistband or adding a strip of elastic to make your jeans tighter in a hurry.
You can alter jeans to be tighter using a sewing machine that can stitch through denim fabric. This is the best way to permanently make jeans tighter.
- Turn your jeans inside out and locate each leg’s inseam, or inner side seam. You will sew a new seam just inside this original seam. Since your new line of stitching will fall farther inside the circle of the leg, this alteration will make the overall circumference of the leg a bit smaller!
- Decide how far inside the original stitching you want to sew. In most cases, you will want to tighten the jean legs by only about half an inch. Use a ruler and a piece of chalk to mark this line all the way up the jean leg.
- Use sewing clips up the length of the inseam to keep it flat.
- Set up your sewing machine with thread that matches the color of your jeans. If possible, use cotton thread as well to match the texture of the denim fabric.
- Start at the inseam of one ankle and slowly stitch all the way up to the crotch seam.
- Alternatively, if you just want to alter the lower leg–for example, if you want to remove a flare from the lower leg–you can taper your seam from the flared ankle into the knee and stop there.
- Repeat this process on the other leg.
- Turn the jeans right-side out and try them on to see if you like the new fit!
This technique works to alter the legs of pants and make them smaller without a lot of prep work or ripping out old stitching.
That said, if you need to alter the waistband of the jeans to make them tighter, you can also do that with a sewing machine. You will need to use a seam ripper to remove the waistband first, which is quite difficult. In this case, you may want to leave the task to a professional and take your jeans to a seamstress or tailor.
2. Without Sewing – Belt
The quickest and easiest way to tighten your jeans is to cinch them with a belt. While not exactly rocket science, this simple method will allow you to wear your oldest and most favorite jeans that have gotten just a tad stretched out without worrying about altering or boiling them!
Find a belt that matches your outfit and snug it tight through the belt loops. If you think traditional belt buckles look clunky, you could replace the belt with a silky scarf, a length of rope, or even a no-buckle belt that loops and ties, such as the belt off a cardigan or trench coat.
The most dramatic and thorough way to shrink your jeans to make them tighter is to use boiling water. Boiling water reaches a temperature of 212℉, much hotter than the internal temperature of most clothes dryers! This extreme temperature will cause the fibers inside the denim to contract, making the jeans significantly tighter.
- Find a large stock pot that can hold your jeans and a lot of water at the same time.
- Fill the pot about two-thirds full of water and put it on your stove over high heat. Wait until the water comes to a rolling boil, meaning that you can see bubbles bursting up onto the surface of the water.
- Carefully lower your jeans into the boiling water. Use a long-handled spoon to poke the fabric down into the water so that all portions of the pants get submerged.
- Let the jeans boil for five minutes to twenty minutes. The longer you leave them in hot water, the more they shrink.
- Turn off the burner on your stove and use pot holders to carefully take the pot of hot water to your sink. Drain away as much hot water as you can. Then use tongs to take the pants out of the water.
- Let some of the hot water run off into the sink.
- Once the jeans are cool enough to touch, roll them up inside a clean bath towel to press out a lot of the moisture.
- Finally, hang them up to air dry before you try them on.
4. Without Washing – Iron
If you want to shrink your jeans to make them tighter but do not have a washer and dryer handy, you can always try the steam iron method! This technique works especially well if you want to focus on making the waistband a little tighter, as you can more easily target heat onto that one portion of the garment.
As a caveat, you should not try this method on stretch jeans that contain elastic fibers. The high heat will likely damage the elastic, causing it to turn brittle.
- Turn your jeans inside out and spread out as much of the pants as you can on top of an ironing board.
- Turn on your iron to its high-heat or cotton setting. If your iron has a steam setting, turn that on as well. If it has a separate button for releasing steam, you will want to keep a finger near it to use it often as you work.
- Using firm pressure and slow, steady motions, run the iron back and forth over the jeans, releasing lots of steam as you work.
- Continue this process until you have ironed the whole garment or until you have thoroughly heated and steamed the key area you want to shrink, like the waistband.
- Turn off the iron and allow the pants to cool before trying them on.
5. Hair Dryer
Another low-stress way to tighten your jeans is to use a hair dryer. Just like using an iron, this allows you to target where you apply the stream of hot air. The downside of using a hairdryer is that these smaller tools don’t get as hot and will not cause the denim to get tighter as dramatically as other shrinking methods.
- Run your jeans through a normal wash cycle but do not put them in the dyer.
- Hang them close to an electrical outline, such as on the shower curtain rod in your bathroom.
- Plug in your hair dryer.
- Turn the hair dryer on to its hottest possible setting.
- Using smooth, sweeping motions, aim the hot air at the jeans and sweep the hair dryer up and down until the denim feels dry to the touch.
- Let the denim cool down a little, and then try on the jeans to see if they feel tighter!
The easiest way to make your jeans tighter is to put them in the dryer after washing them.
You don’t even need a step-by-step guide for this one–simply run your jeans through a hot water cycle in the washing machine, and then put them through a normal heated dry in your dryer!
The only caution here is that washing jeans will damage them a tiny bit, so you will not want to use this method too often. Influential brands like Levi’s suggest only washing your jeans after every ten times you wear them because all of the friction in the washer and dryer do wear away the fabric and wash away some of the dye from the denim.
7. Hot Shower
One of the best ways to make jeans tighter in exactly the shape you want is to wear them while you shrink them! This may sound a little odd, but you can make your jeans shrink just a little by wearing them in a hot shower.
This method does take much longer than most other techniques, but the big advantage here is that wearing your jeans as they shrink will cause them to adhere to the shape of your body and shrink in exactly the right shape for you!
- Put on your jeans and a top that can safely get wet, like a tank top.
- Place a large bath towel handily near your shower, in easy reach.
- Turn on your shower to the hottest setting you can comfortably touch.
- Get into the shower wearing your jeans.
- Let the hot water thoroughly drench the jeans all over for at least five minutes or longer if you do not feel too uncomfortable.
- Turn off the water and stand in the shower as some water drips away.
- Wrap yourself in the towel and use it to blot away some of the moisture.
- Find somewhere you can rest without getting water everywhere–you may want to spread another towel on your bed or just stand outside for a while!
- Wait until the jeans feel all the way dry to take them off.
8. With ButtonIn an emergency, you can quickly make jeans tighter at the waist by using this button hack. This does not permanently make your jeans tighter, but it will do in a pinch!
The waistband is the only part of your jeans that absolutely must fit you tightly. Some styles of jeans have baggy legs or loose thighs on purpose. But if the waistband does not fit snugly around your waist, the jeans suddenly look too big and unstylish.
- Put on your jeans and do up the zipper, but not the button.
- Find the belt loop close to the buttonhole.
- Thread the button through this loop so that the loop passes over the button.
- Now, put the button through the buttonhole as you normally do.
- The buttonhole will cover up your beltloop hack, but the waistband will snug against your waist more tightly!
9. With Rubber Band
Another great way to make jeans tighter in a hurry is to use a rubber band or hair band. Now, you should note that this emergency hack does look a little questionable from the back, so you will want to pair it with layered tops that can cover up the waistband!
All you have to do is pinch the center back of the waistband, gathering up the too-loose denim. Then use a rubber band or stretchy hair tie to wrap tightly around the extra fabric. You may need to wrap the band several times to keep it secure.
Want to make your jeans tighter at the ankle using a hair tie?
- Fold up two inches of the hem.
- Wiggle a rubber band over your foot and up to the center of this cuff.
- Fold the original hem down over the hair tie, and then fold the whole thing to the inside of the pant leg.
10. With Elastic
You can also make the waist of your jeans tighter using a strip of wide elastic. This method has the advantage of offering a permanent solution. But you don’t need a sewing machine or special skills for this technique!
- First, get a strip of one-inch wide elastic. You can find this in most craft and sewing stores in the notions aisle or order it online.
- Measure the circumference of your waistband, starting at the opening by the button and going all the way around until you reach the end of the waistband near the buttonhole. Subtract two inches from this measurement, and cut the elastic to that length. For instance, if your waistband measures 32”, cut the elastic into a 30” length.
- Turn your jeans inside out. Use your tape measure again to measure one inch away from the button and one inch away from the buttonhole in the center front of the waistband. Mark these two points with chalk.
- Pinch up the lining of the waistband at one of these points so that you only hold the inside of the waistband between your fingers.
- While holding it, use a pair of sharp scissors to make an incision in the lining of the waistband at your chalk marks. Make sure you do not cut through to the outside of the waistband!
- Repeat this at your second chalk mark as well.
- Slide a largeish safety pin onto one end of your elastic, and insert this into one of the incisions. Wiggle the pin all the way around the inside of the waistband until it comes out at your second incision. As you do this, keep an eye on the tail of the elastic–don’t let it go through the original incision! You can use a second safety pin to hold the tail just outside the first incision if you want.
- Finally, use the safety pin to hold the two ends of the elastic to each other. This creates a faux-elastic waist inside the denim waistband, holding the pants securely to your waist!
The most professional way to make jeans tighter is to take them to a tailor or seamstress. For as little as $10, you can get your jeans hemmed to fit you, while altering side seams or waistbands usually costs between $30 to $50.
You may want to go the extra mile and seek professional help if you have expensive designer jeans. Understandably, you might not want to put a pair of $200 or $300 jeans into a pot of boiling water on your stove! Instead, you could get a professional to make them fit you perfectly.
Alternatively, you can also go to a tailor to make cheap jeans look like designer jeans. Think about it–if you could pay a tailor $30 to alter your jeans, so they fit you perfectly just like designer jeans, why pay $200 for the actual designer version?
How to Make the Bottom of Your Jeans Tighter
The best way to make the bottom of your jeans tighter is to use a sewing machine and taper the inner side seam of each leg.
This takes a few minutes if you have a strong sewing machine that can stitch through denim. All you have to do is sew a new side seam from the ankle up to the knee. At the ankle, you will sew a new side seam far inside the original seam but then taper the new one so that it meets the old one at the knee.
This way, the jeans will fit you in the same away above the knee but will fit more snuggly through the ankle and lower leg.
If you do not have a sewing machine to handle this, consider going to a professional tailor. Most tailors will perform a simple task like this for as little as $20.
How to Make Skinny Jeans Tighter
The best way to make skinny jeans tighter is to wash them in hot water and run them through a full dryer cycle. This will typically cause skinny jeans to shrink by half of a size to as much as a full size.
You should avoid using the boiling water or steam iron method on your skinny jeans. All skinny jeans contain a fraction of elastic fibers woven into cotton denim. The elastic does not handle high heat well, and you could destroy the fabric if you expose skinny jeans to high heat.
How to Make Jeans Tighter at the Ankle
One great way to make jeans tighter at the ankle is to try a no-sew technique like the pin roll. This temporary solution will make your jean legs fit closely at the ankle and calf, and you do not need to spend a lot of time or have any sewing skills for this method!
- Locate the inseam or the side seam that runs up your inner leg. Pinch this seam between your fingers.
- Keeping the seam pulled tautly, fold it back around your calf.
- Hold this triangular fold with one hand, and use your other hand to roll up the hem. Make a ½” fold around the circle of the hem.
- Finally, fold the hem once more, making another ½” fold. This will hold your inseam fold and make the jeans tighter around your calf!
You can make your jeans tighter by sewing new seams or causing the cotton fibers inside the denim to shrink. Some of the most popular methods for shrinking jeans include using boiling water, a washer and dryer, a hair dryer, and an iron. You can also use emergency hacks to quickly tighten your jeans, such as inserting a strip of elastic, using a rubber band at the back of the waist or around the ankle, and wearing a belt to cinch in the waist.
Jeans with a lot of elastic, like skinny jeans, should not experience high heat. To make these jeans tighter, try washing them in hot water and putting them through the dryer. To make jeans tighter through the lower leg, tailor the leg with new seams or use a pin roll to tuck in the extra fabric.