Have you ever found a pair of jeans from your favorite brand that fits you just right, except the legs hang down too much, and make you look short? Sometimes your jeans seem too long if you bought them to wear with boots or heels and then decide to wear them with loafers or flats, too. The good news is that you can learn how to shorten jeans in a few simple steps!
The best way to shorten jeans permanently is to hem the leg at the ankle by hand or on a sewing machine. Hem tape provides an easy way to hem jeans without sewing as well. To shorten jeans quickly, folding techniques or using scissors to fray the cuff can take off several inches in minutes.
In this article, you will learn how to measure yourself for the right jean length. You will discover eight ways to make your jeans the perfect length for you. Finally, you will find jean shortening hacks to help you quickly repair overlong jeans.
- How Does Jeans Length Work?
- What to Do if Jeans Are Too Long?
- How to Shorten Jeans: 8 Methods
- How to Hem Jeans for Beginners
- How to Hem Jeans Professionally
- Hemming Jeans Hack
- How Long Should Jeans Be?
How Does Jeans Length Work?
Jean’s length depends on the inseam measurement and is usually listed in inches in US sizing. For men’s jeans, the inseam measurement in inches forms the second part of the actual size number: the first part lists the waist measurement, and the second half of the size lists the length. So a pair of 32/30 jeans would have a 32” waist and a 30” inseam.
Women’s jeans use either an S/M/L size system or an even-numbered size system starting at 0, but they also use the inseam measurement to describe the length of the pants.
You can quickly tell if a pair of jeans will have the same length as your legs by comparing your inseam measurement to the measurement listed in the jean’s size number or size chart. To take an inseam measurement, you measure the distance from the crotch to just below the ankle bone.
Of course, not all jeans should have the same length. You often want relaxed or bootcut jeans to hang down over the tongue of a boot, while skinny jeans typically end at the ankle bone and have a shorter-than-average length. If you plan to wear your jeans with heels, you need the hem to reach down longer than if you want to wear them with sneakers.
All of these variations mean that you probably own several pairs of jeans, which may all end at different points on your leg or foot!
What to Do if Jeans Are Too Long?
If your jeans are too long, you can fix the length with methods like hemming and folding, or you can use an emergency save like wearing the waistband higher up on your waist.
If you put on a pair of jeans and suddenly realize the length does not work with your current outfit, you may need to make some quick adjustments.
- First, try pulling the waistband of the jeans higher up your waist. If possible, secure this with a belt cinched tight through the loops of the waistband.
- Make it look like you meant to wear extra-long jeans by arranging the hem of the jean legs on the outside of your footwear.
- For closely fitted jeans, roll up the hem in a one-inch cuff.
- If you have more time, run the jeans through the washer and dryer. The heat will make the denim shrink slightly and could shorten the pants just enough for you.
Besides these emergency solutions, you can find eight excellent ways to shorten jeans more permanently in the next section.
How to Shorten Jeans: 8 Methods
You can shorten your jeans by sewing, using special sewing adhesives, cutting a fringed edge, or folding the hem.
1. By Hand
If you don’t have a sewing machine, you can hem your jeans to a shorter length by hand using nothing more than a needle and thread. This method does take a few minutes and some patience. Depending on the weight of the denim in your jeans, you may find it takes effort to stitch through the fabric.
- Decide where you want the jean leg to end on your leg. Measure your inseam by starting at that point and measuring up the inside of your leg to your crotch.
- Turn the jeans inside out and lay them out on a flat surface. Start at the crotch seam and measure down the inside of the leg.
- Subtract the inseam you measured on yourself from the inseam of the jeans–this way; you know how much fabric at the bottom of the jeans you need to hem up. For example, if your inseam measures 30 inches and the jeans have an inseam of 32 inches, you know you need to shorten the jeans by two inches.
- Use chalk to mark the bottom of the leg at this point.
- To prepare the jeans for sewing, fold up the lower edge so that it creases where you made the new-length mark. Pin this extra length in place to the inside of the leg.
- Thread a sharp hand-sewing needle with a length of thread less than two feet long. Use cotton button-sewing thread that matches the color of the denim if you can.
- Tie a knot at the long end of the thread and make invisible, sturdy backstitches around the circle of the new hem. When you have sewed around the leg, make a few extra overlapping stitches for added security before tying off the thread.
- Repeat these steps to hem the second leg as well.
2. Sewing Machine
One of the quickest ways to permanently shorten jeans is to hem them using a sewing machine.
- For another handy way to measure the correct length for your jeans, try them on and have a friend help you fold up the extra fabric at the hem into a cuff that creates the perfect length. Ask your friend to use safety pins to hold the cuffed-up hem in place.
- Take off the jeans and use a ruler to measure between the old hem on the jeans and the bottom edge of the cuff. This tells you how much extra length you need to take off the legs.
- Turn the jeans inside out, spread them out flat, and make three more measurements. First, measure from the old hem up the leg by the amount of excess length you found in steps one and two. Use chalk to mark a line across the legs at this point.
- Second, measure a second line one inch below the first line. This will give you fabric to fold under as you create a new hem.
- Finally, make a third line half an inch above the original line.
- Cut along the lower chalk marking, and set aside the extra circle from the old hem.
- Use an iron to fold under the raw edge of the jean, making a half-inch fold. Then fold that edge up to meet your top chalk line. Pin it in place using sewing pins.
- Thread your sewing machine with either thread that matches the denim for a less obvious hem or thread that matches the topstitching in the jeans.
- Put a new needle into your machine to help it stitch through the layers of denim.
- Sew around the folded and pinned circle of the new hem. Overlap your stitches by about half an inch for security.
3. With Original Hem
If you want to shorten your jeans but keep the original topstitched hem, you can use a special measuring and folding technique to hem the jeans while keeping that stitching.
- Mark where you want the jean leg to end with chalk or safety pins. Fold up the cuff at this point, and measure the depth of the cuff from the old hem to the fold line.
- With that cuff still folded to the outside of the jeans, measure all the way around to make sure the cuff has the same depth around the leg Pin it in place with sewing pins as you go.
- Set up your sewing machine by removing the free arm so the narrow jean leg can slot into the machine. Clip in a zipper foot and thread the machine with cotton thread that matches the shade of the denim.
- Finally, stitch around your folded cuff, keeping your stitching line as close to the original hem as possible.
- Take the jean leg out of the sewing machine and cut off any excess cuff more than half an inch from your stitch line.
- Use a serger or zigzag stitch to finish your raw edge.
- Press the finished edge to the inside using an iron to create a nice new hem that still features the topstitching from the old one!
4. Without Sewing
The easiest way to permanently shorten jeans without sewing is to use fusible hem tape. You can find this handy stuff at any swing store or online. It looks like webbed tape loaded with heat-activated glue.
- As always, you need to measure your jeans for the new length before you begin.
- Turn the extra length of the legs to the inside and pin them in place.
- Take off the jeans and turn them inside out.
- Smooth the pinned legs out on an ironing board and let your iron heat up to a cotton or high setting
- Measure the length of the hem by measuring across the fold at the bottom of the jean leg and multiplying that by two.
- Add one inch to that measurement and cut a length of hem tape. For example, if the distance across the bottom fold on the leg measured 5 inches, multiply that by 2 to get 10. Then add one inch, ending up with 11 inches of hem tape.
- Insert the hem tape between the top edge of the folded-under cuff and the inner jean leg around the leg, overlapping the ends of the tape slightly where they meet up.
- Follow the hem tape package instructions to know how long to press down with the iron on top of the cuff to set the adhesive.
- Once you have finished pressing, let the denim cool down slightly and then tug on the cuff to make sure it will stay in place.
- Use your iron to make a sharp crease at the bottom of the new folded-edge hem.
You can shorten your jeans by folding them with several different techniques for a temporary way to make them the perfect length.
This is a great solution if you do not want to cut or sew the legs. Maybe you often wear your jeans longer when paired with heels, but you need to shorten them temporarily to wear them with flats. Or maybe you had to borrow jeans from a friend, and you need to return them in good condition.
- For skinny or slim-fit jeans made out of thinner denim, try a narrow rolled cuff. Fold up half an inch of the hem to the outside of the jean leg. Then fold that over once more for another half-inch fold, and smooth out any creases to form a narrow, crisp rolled hem around the leg.
- For a straight, relaxed fit or any jeans with wider legs, try a deeper folded hem. Make the first fold up to the outside of the jean leg–you can make this fold anywhere from three to five inches deep. Then fold up the leg once more, forming a wide cuff.
- For a rolled cuff, fold up one to two inches for the first fold and then roll that fold up two or three times, making sure you keep each fold even as you go.
6. With Scissors
You can quickly shorten jeans by using scissors to create a fringed raw edge and remove any extra length at the bottom of the leg. This method looks good on pretty much any type of jeans, but it does create a more informal style that works best in casual settings.
- The simplest way to fringe your jeans with scissors is to cut straight across the leg, removing all the extra length. Then wash and dry the jeans to get a few loose threads at the bottom of the raw edge.
- Another way to shorten your jeans with scissors is to cut off slightly less excess length and use a fork to scrape at the raw edge, turning it into a deep, fluffy white fringe around the bottom edge.
- You can also cut off one inch less of the extra length from the leg and make vertical snips around the cuff one inch deep to create a denim fringe.
7. With Flared Leg
Hemming jeans with flared legs requires a slightly different method because the wider bottom edge of the jeans won’t fit neatly if you fold it up onto the more narrow upper portion of the leg. To solve this problem, you adjust the inseam.
- Measure the length you want to shorten the jeans too. Take them off, turn them inside out, and draw a chalk line across the leg at the new hem point.
- Now measure the distance from side seam to side seam right at that chalk line. Divide that by two and write down this number–label this measurement A.
- For measurement B, measure straight across the original hem similarly. Divide that measurement by 2 so you can find the exact middle point, and mark that with chalk. For example, if you measured 12 inches from seam to seam across the original hem, mark chalk at the 6” point on the hemline.
- Place your ruler starting at the chalk mark in the center of the original hem. Whatever your measurement A came to, measure that distance from the chalk mark to both sides and make new marks at that point.
- Now draw straight chalk lines down from the side seams at the top chalk line to the two new marks you just made at the original hem.
- Stitch down those two vertical chalk lines to create a straight leg with parallel seams instead of flared side seams.
- After this, you can use any shortening method like folding, sewing, or using hem tape to shorten the jeans.
8. With Tapered Leg
Tapered jeans have wider upper legs and more narrow hems, which makes them hard to shorten. Before hemming or using no-sew hem tape, you can widen the hemline by snipping the seam allowance open inside the folded-under edge. But the easiest way to hem tapered jeans is to use a facing.
- Cut across the jean legs at the new length you want. Discard the old hem.
- Measure across the raw edge and cut a strip of denim or sturdy cotton one inch longer than the circumference of the new leg opening and one inch tall.
- Sew a half-inch seam allowance to close this strip into a circle the same size as the leg opening.
- Pin the facing right sides with the raw edge and sew around it with a half-inch seam allowance.
- Turn under the facing and topstitch to make the new hem look nice.
How to Hem Jeans for Beginners
The easiest way to hem jeans for beginners is to use the sewing-by-hand method or a no-sew method such as hem tape or folding. These techniques do not require any special equipment like a sewing machine.
Sewing by hand and making an invisible backstitch may require a little practice, but once you get the hang of it, you can hem around the jeans legs in no time.
How to Hem Jeans Professionally
The best way to hem jeans professionally is to use a heavy-duty sewing machine loaded with jean thread. This way, you can stitch a double line of stitching in nice contrasting top stitching that looks just like store-bought jeans around the new leg opening.
The actual process of hemming the jeans remains quite simple, though. You simply measure your new length and make a double fold at the new raw edge before you stitch it in place.
Hemming Jeans Hack
If you want a quick hack for “hemming” your jeans, try this safety pin method!
- Put on your jeans while wearing the right shoes. Figure out where you want the new length to end and mark that point.
- Take off the jeans and fold up the extra length to the outside of the jeans until they measure the right length, Place a circle of small safety pins around the top edge of your fold, just below the original hem.
- Try on the jeans again to make sure you go the length right.
- Now turn the whole fold, safety pins and all, to the inside of the leg.
- Iron this fold into place.
How Long Should Jeans Be?
Your jeans should be long enough to fit the shape of your leg and match the type of shoes you plan to wear with them.
Check out these tips to help narrow down the right length for your jeans!
- The most important rule of length for jeans is that the inseam on the jeans should have the same length as your inseam.
- The style of jeans can also impact the right length. Skinny and slim jeans should end either just above your ankle bone or right at your ankle bone, Straight jeans should end just below your ankle bone in most cases, and wider jeans like a boyfriend or bootcut style can break right at the top of your shoe.
- If you plan to wear heeled footwear, like heels or boots, you will want your jeans to have extra length to cover your extra height.
The best way to permanently shorten jeans is to hem them either by hand or with a sewing machine. Easy no-sew methods like using fusible hem tape or cutting a fringe at the leg opening can also permanently shorten jeans. For a temporary way to shorten jeans, try rolling or folding a cuff in various styles at the bottom of the leg.
Some types of jeans, like styles with flared or tapered legs, prove more challenging to hem because of the varying circumference of the leg. In this case, you will need to either alter the side seams or use a facing to shorten the jeans.