How To Make Dress Pants Bigger Around The Waist (4 Quick and Easy Solutions)

tight dress pants

How To Make Dress Pants Bigger Around The Waist

I think we’ve all been there at one time or another – you pull on that pair of pants that have been your go-to dress pants for a while and are surprised to see that they need to be a little bigger around the waist. Maybe they shrunk. If you’re like me, my pants stayed the same but I grew after working in loungewear during the pandemic work-from-home days. There are a lot of quick fixes to this solution, some quicker than others.

Here’s a few quick and easy solutions for making your dress pants a little bigger around the waist.

Ponytail Holder

Yes, the same elastic that you use to make your ponytail can also hold your pants together if you don’t need to add a lot of extra space. Use the plain hair elastics, not the ones with decorations on the ends. Push the ponytail holder through the buttonhole of your pants. When it is halfway through, push the underneath portion of the ponytail holder through the other end and pull tight. Pull your pants on and hook the ponytail holder’s open end around your button. This hair accessory turned button extender hack could give you about an inch of extra wiggle room.

The “V” Method

This method also works with waistbands that are not elastic. If you need more than just a little extra room to button your dress pants, use the “V” method. I like this because you can add extra width to both sides and your alternation is hidden either by a belt or by your shirt. 

Start by estimating how much space you need to add. The easy way to do this is to literally measure how much space is between the button or snap that you cannot close. Whatever that number is, divide it by 2 because you will add half the needed space to each side of the pants. So if you have a 3 inch gap that keeps you from comfortably closing your pants, you will add 1.5 inches to each side.

If the pants have belt loops at the seams, remove the two loops on each side and save them to reattach. Cut from the top of the waistband down to the bottom of it, being careful to line the cut up with the seam. Use a seam ripper to open both seams up to about 2 inches below the waistband. Spread the seams open to form a “V” shape. Find a piece of fabric or wide elastic that is a close color match to your pants. Cut a V shape from your fabric or elastic that is one-half inch wider on both sides than the space you need to add. So if you need to add 1.5 inches to your side, the widest part of your V should be 2.5 inches wide. Zigzag or serge the cut sides of your fabric or elastic. Place the fabric/elastic inside the open seam and even the top of it with the top of the waistband and pin in place. Then, use a running stitch to sew the V into place. This video is a good example of a quick fix using this technique. I also like to add a zigzag stitch along both sides, too. I feel like it finishes the cut edges better. As an added bonus, it keeps fabrics from fraying. There are other versions of this method that take time to make more professional alterations, like in this video.

Replace An Elastic Waist

If your dress pants are an elastic waist, all you have to do is replace the elastic. Snip a hole into a discreet place inside the waistband (preferably around a side seam or the back or front). From that hole, pull out as much elastic as possible. If the elastic is sewn into a seam, cut out all that you can of the elastic. If you are able to remove all the elastic, you are ready to proceed. 

Using the same width elastic, measure it around your waist to determine the size you need to make the pants comfortable and cut it to that size. Stick a safety pin into one end of the elastic and thread it through the hole until you are able to meet both ends. Pin them together, then use both free hands to stitch the elastic together. You can whipstitch the hole back up by hand.

If you were not able to remove all the original elastic from the casing, add a new casing inside the pants, then add your new, looser elastic and finish out as explained above. 

You could also replace your elastic waistband with an exterior elastic waistband using wide elastic.  Just follow the process for adding an elastic waistband without casing to get the perfect look. To make this process easier, you may want to open one of the side seams about an inch and add the exterior elastic waist to the pants as a flat waist instead of a circular one.

When Time Matters

If you are like me, the option you pick to add width to your waistband will depend on the amount of time you have. That’s why I listed the ponytail holder method first. It’s literally the first thing I will try because nothing is faster than grabbing one out of the bathroom drawer and looping it to form a button extended. I have been known to connect two for a really quick fix of a bigger space. 

If this becomes an ongoing scenario, I recommend keeping some waistband extenders on hand.Hook and loop belly band extenders are an easy fix for waistbands with zippers. This set of waist extenders gives you a variety of colors and are easy to use with pants that button. 

The “V” method is the one I choose for pants that I just can’t part with. It is also easy to remove later if you lose those unwanted inches. This method took me about an hour to do the first time I tried it. It does get faster with practice, if you happen to have everything on hand. Replacing an elastic waistband took about the same amount of time. 

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