Not Feeling Hemmed-in Anymore

Have you ever found a pair of pants that fit you perfectly, bought five pairs of them (in different colors, of course), and lived happily for several years, only to later discover that the store no longer carries the perfect pant for you anymore?  Feeling “hemmed-in” by “standard” sizes that supposedly fit the average person and actually fit no one? I feel your pain.  About seven years ago, Banana Republic made a regularly sized pant with a shorter inseam (denoted “S”) that was the best fit ever. I bought almost every color of that pant available and literally wore them out.  When I returned to buy replacements a few years later, I discovered that they had replaced their “short” pants with a petite collection that was not a 1:1 substitution.  Complete and utter disappointment.  When I tried on a pair of their petite pants to find a small enough waist and inseam, the distance from the waist to the crotch was too short, and there was barely enough room in the thighs for my former gymnast/dancer/cheerleader legs (read: NOT TOOTHPICKS, FASHION INDUSTRY! Grr!).  When I tried on a regular pair of pants, the situation reversed.  Banana Republic was literally the ONLY store that carried a dress pant that fit me, but not anymore.  Now, my shopping experience at BR was like every other shopping experience at every other store =  feelings of self-loathing and bitter frustration.

Since this was back in my “newlywed educator with zero income to spend on tailored clothes and zero sewing ability” days, I did what any normal girl would do: I bought a buffet of differently-fitting (read: ill-fitting) pants.  On days where I needed to look “professional,” I suffered through the pants with the tighter crotch and legs (suffer being an understatement), while on casual days, I tripped over the long legs of the baggier, bigger pants (nothing says “put together” like tripping on your pants at a job interview, right?).  After tearing through a mile-long hem with a stiletto heel and experiencing petechial bleeding across my hips from the tight-fitting pants, I resorted to wearing yoga pants and “outdoorsy” pants to work–the kind with the expandable waist and zip-off legs that you buy at places like REI. Seriously.  Now granted, I work in the freer world of graduate student/academia, where you can get away with a more eclectic (translates: casual) wardrobe, but nothing says poor graduate student like ill-fitting pants. Or yoga/hiking pants.  Since most of the other female doc students have become pregnant in the last couple of years or so, I knew it was a matter of time before people naturally assumed I was wearing stretchy and expand-a-waist pants because I was carrying a bundle of joy.  I was desperate for a solution.

Some of you may be wondering why I didn’t just wear skirts instead of pants to work.  Reasons: Overworked women do not have time to shave their legs daily. I am an overworked woman. You can fill in the rest. Also, I work best with my feet propped on top of my desk.  Again, you can fill in the rest.

That’s when I realized I had started sewing again.  If I could repair a zipper on an old skirt and sew some pillow covers, surely I could hem some of those baggy dress pants, right?  I could make MY OWN “short” pants (Take that, BR!).  Of course, the thought of sewing mismatching leg lengths was intimidating, which is why I didn’t cut off the extra material.  That way, if I screwed up, I could undo the disaster and give them to someone else to fix. At some point. In the distant future. When I am not a poor grad student.  (Correction: In the near future.  I hope. Please.)

I started with a pair of Gap khaki pants, thinking that I would save my nicer dress pants for post-practice sessions.  I put on the too-long pants, and rolled up the pant legs to the desired length, making sure they appeared even. foldinghemsup Since the pants are made of a relatively thick khaki material, the cuffs stayed rolled up long enough for me to take them off, match up the legs to ensure they were the same length, and reverse the cuffs by rolling them under.


I realize this isn’t exactly how most people do this, but we’re talking amateur tactics that actually worked. Miracle. Feel free to ignore the weird black grunge on the edge of my desk–years of sweaty wrists, methinks? #FurnitureHandMeDowns It’s clean.  It’s just permanently stained.  But don’t worry.  It’s getting painted with Annie Sloan Chalk paint as soon as we move out of #Rentervilletuckingunderhem

I selected a stitch that looked like the original hem, then sewed each leg, starting and stopping at the interior seam (This probably seems obvious to most of you, but I took the attachment base off my machine so that I could sew in a circle around the pant leg, rather than sewing the leg hole shut!).   I used a cotton, khaki-colored thread from Coats and Clark that my husband actually bought to sew some buttons on his own pants.  After witnessing his attempt at button-sewing, I graciously offered to sew the rest for him. 🙂hemming I backstitched the beginning and end of my hem and across the interior seam to reinforce it because this was a fairly heavy weight khaki.  backstitchseamPlus, I wanted my work to last–at least for one wear and wash, anyway. Long enough to prove I could actually hem a pair of pants. Yeah, something like that.2legsfinished

I tried on my pants post-sewing and was amazed that they actually seemed to fit for the first time ever. Yay!  Now I’m no longer “hemmed-in” by store sizes.finishedNow on to the trickier dress pants.  Who knows? Maybe I’ll be able to wear my yoga pants for yoga and my hiking pants for hiking soon!