A well fitting pair of jeans can be a girl’s best friend…but a sloppy pair of jeans can make a girl look frumpy and sloppy. Hemming jeans to a proper length is really important for proper fit and one of the most common alterations to do, so here is a quick overview of what to look for and how it’s done.
I needed a new pair of dark wash bootcut jeans, and luckily found this pair at Nordstrom Rack in size 24 for a discounted price.
I’ve found Paige jeans to fit me really well in the rear, rise and thigh (the rise and thigh are my problem areas when looking for jeans), and I’ve found regular sized jeans to fit me better than petite sized jeans. These jeans have a 34 inch inseam, and so are way too long for my petite height. They need to be hemmed, and the waist needs to be taken in:
Tip: The most important things to look for in jeans is the fit in the hip, front (crotch) and rise. Those areas are hard and costly to alter. Inseam length, a gap at the waistband, and even the thigh and leg width can all be altered. Try and find a pair that needs the least amount of alterations.
First, you want to make sure that hemming the jeans won’t cut off any important details, or ruin the cut of the leg. In this case, these jeans are bootcut, so by cutting fabric off the bottom, the bootcut will become smaller around. In this photo, I have folded the jeans under to about the length at which I want them hemmed to see how they will look. The bootcut is still there, and is at a nice proportion for my body type. These jeans still look fine after hemming. In fact, sometimes getting regular sized jeans hemmed work better for me than petite jeans, because the flare at the bottom of petite jeans can be too large. Also note where the fading ends on this pair of jeans. Luckily, the fading ends around where it’s supposed to, so the jeans don’t look like I’m obviously wearing jeans made too long for me.
It is important to figure fabric content into your jean purchase decision. Certain fabric contents will stretch out to be saggy after an hour of wearing, others will shrink really well in the wash, and some will not really shrink much at all. Also consider the brand, for example, Sevens are notorious for major stretching. Here are some of my jean fabric contents, and how they have behaved in the wash:
- 60% cotton/40% polyester: Barely shrank at all. Length is still as I first had them hemmed.
- 98% cotton/2% spandex (dark wash): Slowly shrank in length. These went from perfect for my highest heels, to now perfect with kitten heels.
- 98% cotton/2% spandex (light wash): Shrank quickly after a few washes. These went from perfect for my highest heels, to now good for flats.
These jeans are a dark wash 98% cotton/2% spandex, so I expect these to slowly shrink a bit in the wash. I washed these twice before taking them to my tailor. You should always do this because the jeans will shrink in length when washed. If you are tailoring your jeans to the perfect length, and then they shrink after the first wash, they won’t be the perfect length anymore! Also, sometimes jeans will take up in the leg/thigh and waistband just a bit, which might help you avoid further alteration costs. To maintain color on jeans, wash them turned inside out in cold water.
Tip: Always wash and dry your jeans at least once before taking them to the tailor. Even if you always air dry or dry clean your jeans, there will still be some shrinkage.
Now let’s talk perfect length. First, pick the shoes you want to wear these jeans with. I like to start with my highest heels, since over a lifetime of washes, the jeans will slowly shorten and will eventually be short enough to wear with my kitten heels, or flats. Some people buy two pairs of the same jeans, and hem one for heels and one for flats. In this case, I want to hem these to my 3.5″ heels.
Jeans (and pants in general) always look best closer to the ground. I like my jeans hemmed just above the ground, or, about 1/4 of an inch from the ground when wearing heels. If they touch the ground, then the bottoms will fray as you wear them and look sloppy. If they are too high, the jeans look awkward.
Tip: When taking your jeans to your tailor, be sure to bring the shoes with the heel height you want to hem them to with you.
Hems – Regular vs. Original:
This is the hem on the un-altered pair of jeans. There is a thickness and slight wave to the hem. Asking a tailor to keep the original hem means he/she will re-attach the original hem on the bottom of the shortened jeans. This will keep the jeans from looking as if they were altered, and also costs a few dollars more. I prefer this choice.
A regular hem is simply cutting the length, folding and hemming the jean. This usually looks a bit flatter, and to the trained eye, will look obviously altered. This is the cheaper option, but not preferred.
So, to sum things up, here is what I did:
- Found a pair of jeans that fit well in the hip, rise, crotch and thigh/leg.
- Folded the jeans under to see how they would look hemmed to make sure alterations won’t look funny.
- Washed the jeans, inside out in cold water, twice to shrink them.
- Brought my 3.5″ heels and washed jeans with me to my tailor.
- Asked for an “original hem”.
- Asked for the waist to be taken in.
Here are the jeans after alterations:
See more common alterations for petites.