How to Add an Elastic Waist Band to Women’s Pants

Pay attention women’s clothing designers: this one’s for you.

Ditch the Yoga Pants Go Gingham

Have you ever dressed a little boy and envied the waistband on their pants or shorts? I have. It’s adjustable. Why can’t women’s pants or dress trousers or jeans have an adjustable waistband? We’re not the same shape or size as the models. Many days, I’m not the same shape or size in the evening as I was in the morning!

All of these make a difference in pants for women: time of day, time of big meal, time of month, time of life – need I go on? We don’t want belts – we want elastic! I want to wear stretchy pants all the time but let’s face it: yoga pants aren’t for every day – as much as we want them to be. They’re also not work attire. They’re for working out. Period.

Since I cleared out my closet (read about the closet clean out here) and got rid of so many pants and trousers I hadn’t worn since the 1980’s, I bought 2 pairs of pants. They’re the same pant (‘The Julie’ fit) from Ann Taylor Loft. They’re washable, dressy, low-waisted, and were on sale. Total score.

The problem? Sometimes they fit well – sometimes not so much.

Here’s my solution: I added a channel of adjustable elastic to the waistband of my snazzy new pants and it’s awesome!

Add adjustable elastic to waist Go Gingham
Here’s what you need: pants, elastic, seam ripper, and buttons.

Materials needed:

  • Pants without belt loops that have lining at the waistband.
  • Seam ripper
  • Elastic – “button hole elastic”
  • Scrap fabric for channel addition (see below)
  • Buttons – that fit button hole size – 2 each
  • Sewing machine and thread to match pant color
  • needle for sewing on buttons

Here’s how to add an elastic waist band to women’s pants

1. Find pants to alter. Lined, low-waisted pants with a simple seam work best.

 Add adjustable elastic to waist Go Gingham
Simple low-waist pants work best.

2. Using a seam ripper, open seam along waist. Open seam from hip to hip – steer clear of the front of the pants.

Add adjustable elastic to waist Go Gingham

3. Using scrap fabric, make a narrow channel that the elastic can be strung through. With a sewing machine, attach the channel to the lining on the inside of the waistband.

Add adjustable elastic to waist Go Gingham

4. Channel has been added to the inside of the pant waist band.

Add adjustable elastic to waist Go Gingham
Attached channel of fabric to inside of lining. When pants are finished, this channel won’t show.

5. String elastic through waistband channel and use safety pins or clips to keep it from pulling back through.

Add adjustable elastic to waist Go Gingham
String elastic through fabric channel and secure with pins or clips.

6. Once the elastic has been strung through channel, make button holes on the lining side of the fabric to string elastic through to the finished side.

Add adjustable elastic to waist Go Gingham
Add button holes to fit elastic so it can be strung though. I added scrap fabric to reinforce the button holes.

7. String elastic through holes and secure with clips.

Add adjustable elastic to waist Go Gingham

8. Turn waistband down so elastic and channel are inside lining.

Add adjustable elastic to waist Go Gingham

9. Smooth waistband until flat and pin it. Once waistband is laying flat, stitch it back into place. It’s easiest to do this by sewing on the finished side of the pants – stitch in a ditch. Then, get ready to sew on buttons.

Add adjustable elastic to waist Go Gingham

10. Sew buttons on so that they are close to the elastic button hole opening but not too far away. Make sure to sew buttons on with thread that matches the pants. The thread from the pants will show through on the finished side of pants.

Add adjustable elastic to waist Go Gingham
Add buttons to the waist band. Leave room to easily adjust elastic.

11. Adjust elastic on buttons so that the elastic doesn’t pull through – and so the pants will be easy to put on when getting dressed.

Add adjustable elastic to waist Go Gingham
Adjust elastic so pants can be easily slipped on.

12. The finished product! Hidden elastic waist band – love it! After wearing the pants a few times, trim the elastic so it’s not too long. Be sure and stitch the edges of the elastic with a seam sealer or machine stitch the edge. The first time I washed my updated pants, the elastic unraveled.

Add adjustable elastic to waist Go Gingham
Hidden elastic. Make sure to sew buttons on with thread that matches pants so it won’t show.

One last note: If you’re new to sewing or not experienced, practice adding a waistband on a pair of pants that you’re not in love with – that way if it doesn’t work out, you won’t curse me.

Until clothing designers add adjustable elastic to pants, I’ll be adding my own. I’m thrilled with how these turned out. Yes, I’d prefer yoga pants but I’m trying to wear them for yoga only. OK, they’re good for napping, too.

Would you like adjustable elastic in your waistband, too?

Go Gingham related links:

How to make a waistband smaller without pins!
How to turn jeans into capris – easier than you think!
How to make skinny jeans from wide leg jeans – make your own “jeggings”
How to mend pillow cases to improve your sleeping – hah!
Easy steps to remove pesky tags from clothing
Want to learn to sew? Start here with easy cloth napkins
How to take apart a skirt – use your seam ripper on this project!

16 thoughts on “How to Add an Elastic Waist Band to Women’s Pants

    1. I’m trying to think….not too recently but I did sign up for their email newsletter. They have very good sales – sometimes in store and some online. The pants didn’t fit the same – which was disappointing because I thought they would since they were the same style. I really need to try stuff on! 🙂
      How’s your handbag coming along??


  1. I love Ann Taylor Loft pants. They give a teacher discount, too, in case other teachers are reading this. I might have to try this tip, although anytime I can get away with yoga pants, I will!


    1. 🙂 Believe me, I’m with you on the comfy yoga pants but then it can end badly – with me feeling like ‘darn it, why didn’t I just dress up a bit more!’ or something along those lines. These have been the solution for me….dressy but comfy. I have the pants in grey and black – both adjustable and they’re not dry clean only pants. Love it!
      Thanks for the tip on the teacher discount, too. That’s nice!!


  2. I have been looking for handle options – online and in stores Any ideas? The attachment for the handles has a pin running through it. Not sure which direction to go. Do you have any ideas? As least with fall on our heels, I have a few months to get the bag ready for spring!


    1. Check out ‘Oregon Leather’ – it’s a tack and bridle shop and they have a website. All of my leather handles, scraps have come from there.
      Good luck! Send photos when it’s done, please…


  3. Hey Sara – brilliant! Are the pics of you wearing the pants at the beginning of the post with or without the elastic in them? I can’t tell – that’s how good a job you did!!! Thanks!


    1. Hi Annie!
      The photos of me in the pants have the elastic in the waist. That is the beauty of it – it’s very hard to tell and yet the pants stay in place or I can adjust them during the day – or in the evening. Basically, whenever I want! 🙂
      The trick is finding pants that this can easily be done to. Belt loops don’t work…
      Can’t wait to hear if you do this.
      Thanks, Annie!


    1. Great idea, Preston! Wives who can sew will definitely be able to tackle this project. If your shorts have an elastic waist band, the elastic might just need to be replaced. It can wear out….check that, first. Good luck and thanks for writing in!


    1. Heather, I know it! It’s too bad they aren’t available like this already. I wore the pants today and had to adjust them a little. I wish all of my pants were adjustable!! 🙂


  4. Sara, thank you!

    I own a sewing machine, but I am not a “sewer.” Don’t think I ever used the buttonhole attachment before tackling the waistband alterations on this pair of pants.

    Your tutorial was easy to understand, follow, and finish!

    I forwarded a link to my sister (who is a sewer) with only one word: WOW. She agreed!

    Thanks for taking the time to create, shrew, and educate.


    1. MaryLou,
      What a nice message you’ve left and I do think you’re a sewer! If you can manage adding an elastic waistband to a pair of pants, that’s sewing. 🙂 I wore those grey pants last weekend and was so happy for the adjustable waistband…it really comes in handy.
      So glad you found the tutorial helpful. I always have my husband read them to see if he understands them but he is truly NOT a sewer! LOL!!
      Thanks for writing in and happy sewing to you!


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