Tailor Talk Part 2: All About Inseams
Erin Gray (Pronoun: she/her) is a Portland, OR based writer with an affinity for working behind the scenes with companies that offer something unique to their market. When she’s not writing, she likes to roam around mossy hiking trails, wear leather hats, and build stuff. You can find her on instagram @rawhidelaces or email her by clicking on the little envelope below:
Let’s talk about inseams.
It’s the awkward measurement running up your inner thigh that you’ve probably heard one or two jokes about (especially if you’re in the “watched every episode of Friends” club).
It’s also the measurement that determines how long your pant legs are, and if they are the right length for your own personal set of legs.
When the inseam is just right, it makes a huge difference in how the pants look overall.
When it’s not right, your pants look bunched up and baggy.
And since your legs aren’t getting any shorter, we highly recommend shortening the inseam on any pair of pants when it’s too long.
Knowing when and how to get the inseam of your pants shortened is especially helpful if you love to support small clothing brands like ours, which offer pants in one standard inseam length that you can customize to fit you perfectly.
Luckily, there are lots of options to shorten an inseam - some involve a trip to the tailor, and some are free!
Some are probably already familiar to you…
But if you read all the way to the end of this blog, we promise you’ll find one you’ve probably never even heard of!
Before we get started, let’s address one frequently asked question:
How can I tell if my inseam needs shortening?
No need to break out the measuring tape - there are a few easy ways to tell if your pant legs are too long.
Simply try them on without shoes and stand on in front of a mirror on a hard floor.
If the back of the material is dragging on the floor, consider shortening the inseam.
If the edge of the fabric just barely grazes where your heel meets the floor, you’ve got the perfect length.
Another way to tell is to stand in front of a mirror with shoes on and see if the material bunches and gathers at the bottom where your pant leg meets your shoes.
When done intentionally, this is called “stacking”. Many people prefer this more casual look for their jeans and chinos.
But if you’re going for a more dapper and streamlined look (especially if you want your pants to be able to transition between casual and professional settings), this bunching at the bottom means it’s time to choose your favorite inseam shortening method.
Let’s start with the most traditional, effective, and permanent option… taking them to a tailor to be hemmed.
Option #1: Hemming
Hemming is the classic solution to giving your pants the proper inseam length.
For those of us without mad sewing skillz of our own, this is where your friendly neighborhood tailor comes in super handy.
What kind of tailor is right for this job?
While anyone who knows their way around a needle could do this job, that doesn’t mean they should do this job.
First off: for your good jeans, stick with a professional.
You may have a friend with the aforementioned mad sewing skillz, but we recommend against handing over your favorite pair of pants to them for hemming right out the gate, even if they promise to do it for free or cheap.
You could end up with ruined pants and even worse, a ruined friendship. If you’re going to go this route, have them do the hem on a pair you don’t like so much first.
When you are shopping around for a pro in your area, remember that tailors tend to specialize.
It’s a good idea to seek out a shop that specializes in general alterations, rather than one that focuses on wedding dresses or custom suits.
Avoid the wedding specialist - you can expect a markup no matter job what you bring them (wedding related or not).
If you can find one that has a wide range of clothing displayed in their shop (rather than just suits) that is a good clue that they specialize in general alterations.
The alterations specialist is likely to be a bit more affordable and there is a better chance that they will know how to preserve the original hem (the wavy and sometimes faded section at the bottom edge) on a pair of jeans.
It may seem like a small thing, but it will make your jeans look like they were never altered.
Not every tailor knows how to do this, but it is possible and highly recommended.
How much should hemming cost?
As long as we’re talking about a typical material like cotton or wool, getting one pair of pants hemmed should cost about $10 - 15 at your local alterations tailor.
It’s a great small job to test out a new tailor before taking in other clothes for more complex alterations.
To make sure you got your money’s worth, check that the seams are even, everything lines up nicely (nothing should be crooked), and the tread ends are knotted.
What should I bring / say when having pants hemmed?
Make sure to bring or wear the shoes you would normally wear with the pants you’re having altered - that way your tailor can make sure the new length looks right with those shoes.
When measuring how much length to take off, your tailor might ask how much of a “break” you want - the term “break” just refers to horizontal fold where the pant leg meets the top of the shoes.
A popular and dapper choice would be “no break” - meaning no excess fabric to fold up or bunch at the bottom. Also a great choice if you like to show off bold socks.
Another safe bet would be “slight break” - meaning just a small amount of fabric gathering at the bottom. A more relaxed and slightly more conservative style.
Option #2: Cuffing
Maybe you prefer to cuff your pants instead of getting them hemmed - you’re certainly not alone!
By cuffing, you can make your pants the proper length in seconds without the help of a tailor.
Cuffing has a few advantages over hemming - it’s free, it gives your pants a classic look that many people enjoy, and it’s a great way to show off your favorite boots.
However, it also has a major drawback: cuffing can make your legs look shorter.
This happens when the the material of your pants is lighter on the inside (like it is with most jeans) because the contrasting block of lighter color created by the cuff visually shortens the longest line of your body.
If the material of your pants is the same inside and out (like it is with most chinos), then cuffing them won’t have this affect.
But let’s say you like cuffing your jeans AND you want to appear as tall as possible...
Here’s how you minimize the leg shortening effect of cuffing:
Tip #1 - Follow the 2 Inch Rule
Like all elements of your look, the cuff of your pants should be in proportion to the rest of your body.
Just like how a watch face that is too big can make your wrist look smaller, a cuff that is too big will make you look shorter.
For anyone less than 6 feet tall, you can stay in proportion with a cuff that is 2 inches or less.
Tip #2 - Is your cuff too wide ? Roll instead of fold!
If you need to cuff more than 2 inches to get the proper inseam length, no need to worry - you can still avoid a trip to the tailor.
Instead of making your cuff out of one large fold, roll up your cuff in slightly less than 2 inch sections (the same way you would with your shirt sleeve).
Walla! You end up with a roll that is about 2 inches wide.
If you want to go the extra mile, you can spray the roll with water and press it flat with an iron (or a flat iron) to make it hold better.
Now we’ve covered the two most common options… let’s get a little weird!
Both cuffing and hemming have their pros and cons.
Hemming gives a super clean look and is permanent, but it requires time and money.
Cuffing is instant and free, but it makes you look shorter and isn’t the right look for some occasions.
Is there an inseam shortening method that is both instant and free BUT can also come close to the clean look of hemming?
Enter the third option...
Option #3: The Reverse Fold
Before we get into the details, take notice that the pants above are a close fitting cut.
That is key for the reverse fold.
This trick will only work with close fitting cuts like slim, slim-straight, or skinny. It will not work with bootcut or similarly loose cut jeans. It also works better with shoes vs. bare feet or sandals.
Here’s how it works:
Step #1 - Pinch the fabric around the ankle and pull the bottom edge of your pant leg up so that it sits at your desired length.
This tip came from Aaron Marino via Youtube and you can click here to watch the full video.
And yes, the reverse fold really does hold as long as the jeans have a close-fitting cut. Try it out around the house and see for yourself!
If you want some extra insurance, you can secure the inside of the reverse fold with a rubber band (put it up as high as possible to avoid it being visible).
Is it a perfect or permanent solution? No, of course not.
But it can come in really handy, especially if you need to look sharp and don’t have time to get your pants hemmed.
So there you have it: 3 options to get the perfect inseam length.
If you want something permanent and professional: get them hemmed at a tailor.
If you want something instant, free, and casual: go with the cuff.
If you want something instant, free, and more dressy: go with the reverse fold.
Which inseam shortening option is your go-to?
Let us know in the comments!