Painlessly Fixed, Or How I Made My $3 Jeans Look Like They Cost $8

Every time I take an armload of clothing into a thrift store dressing room, I am filled with hope. Hope that the half-price pieces fit perfectly, hope that I haven’t too far miscalculated the size of my own hips and am not about to waste twenty minutes of my life trying on fourteen pairs of pants that I can’t even button, hope that the cranky old lady that works here didn’t notice the enormous amount of stuff I brought in when the sign above me clearly says “Limit: 3 items”.

Often there are several things that look sooooo promising on the hanger, yet in practice fit like a burlap sack. Conveniently, I’ve been sewing since I was in diapers, so I can usually go home to my (read: Diana’s) trusty sewing machine and fix the items that are worth altering.

But how do you know if something’s worth altering? And how do you go about altering it? Well, ladies and gentlemen, that’s why I was born into this world of ill-fitting clothing.  All my years of intense seamstress training have resulted in my figuring out how to take extreme shortcuts and share them with you. My entire life has been leading up to this moment.

May I present to you graciously: Jamaica’s Slipshod Tips For Transforming Your Thrift Duds into Thrift Studs.


Okay. So those jeans you just tried on do fit. As in, they button without any muffin-top side effects. Unfortunately, that’s where the good news ends. You were looking for a comfy pair of skinny jeans, and this pair bags awkwardly at the knee as though you haven’t taken them off in six months. Are they fixable?

Well, sweetcheeks, that all depends on how they make your ass look. If they sag in the bum, they aren’t worth the trouble unless you want to pay to get them altered. And I don’t think you do. Keep looking.

Wait–what’s that in the distance? The perfect shade of lycra-blend grey denim! And they fit your wild rumpus! Awesome! Grab them and then head home to your machine. If you don’t know how to use a sewing machine, it’s time to learn. Technically you could do this by hand, but by the time you’re done you’ll hate me and neither of us want that.

What you’ll need: Sewing machine, thread, pins, patience.

Step 1:  Turn your newly acquired jeans inside-out, and put them on. All the way. Yeah I know it’s awkward to zip them, and you look like you’re dressing up for a high school spirit day, but just trust me. Check the side seams. On most jeans, the inseam is reinforced and difficult to alter, so you’re going to want to work with the outside seam, the one that caresses those lovely hips of yours.

Step 2: Grab your pins, and starting at the ankle, pin the jeans to fit you. Like this:

If the denim isn’t stretchy, you are going to want to leave a little extra room so you’ll be able to get them over your feet, and, you know, walk.

Keep pinning upwards until your new improved line meets the original seam where it fits you. Does that make sense? Just look at the picture. Repeat on other leg.


Step 2: Take the pants off, being careful not to scratch or stab yourself. (**Painfully Hip is not liable for any self-inflicted injuries that result from our clever advice**) Your pants should look something like this:

Step 3: Have a seat in front of your roommate’s sewing machine. Starting from the hem of the pants (and making sure to backstitch), sew along the line you created with the pins, removing them as you go.

When you reach the holy intersection of pin and seam, make them gradually connect, like a pair of socially awkward lovers. Otherwise you’ll end up with strange upper thigh wrinkles, and that isn’t pleasant for anyone.

Step 4: After you’ve sewn both legs up, try the pants on again (still inside out) to make sure the operation went smoothly. Take them off again and cut the excess fabric off, leaving about half an inch past the seam.

Step 5: Put your machine on the zig-zag setting (unless you’re lucky enough to own a serger, in which case you know what to do) and zig-zag the raw edge so it won’t unravel.

You’re done! Turn those bad boys right-side out, wiggle into them and check out your gams in the mirror! SO HOT.

Check back for more sewing tutorials from yours truly on everything from appliques to zippers. Aren’t you excited, my darlings?


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