Do you need to hem your newly bought suit pants?
It’s reasonable to feel that way; many suit pants come unfinished and need to be hemmed; this calls for many trips to the tailor for a straightforward process.
If you think about it, your suits cost more than the price tag says since you need to factor in the bill to your tailor.
Hemming your dress pants is perhaps an intimidating prospect, but it’s actually quite doable. So why not learn to do your own alterations?
It’s inexpensive and easy once you get the hang of it. And it’s an awe-inspiring talent to add to your skillset!
Things to Consider Before You Hem Your Suit Pants
A visit to the tailor for each new suit you buy is a good idea.
Ensuring that your suit fits perfectly is an essential part of your outfit, after all! But all these trips to the tailor can really add up.
Some tailoring jobs are best left to professionals. For example, unless you know what a “dart” is in fashion, I wouldn’t recommend taking in a suit jacket.
But if the only adjustment you need is to shorten your pants, you may want to learn how to hem your pants yourself. You can save a lot of time and money that way.
Most suit pants come with unfinished hems; you’ll need them finished before you can wear the suit.
However, this process isn’t challenging once you learn how. It can be helpful if you have a sewing machine, but it isn’t required.
Before you begin the task of hemming your suit pants, gather all the supplies you’ll need.
Some are essential, but others are suggestions that can make your life easier. You may need to visit a textile store to stock up on some items.
- Thread (same color as your pants)
- Straight pins
Not necessary, but helpful:
- Tailor’s chalk
- Sewing machine
- Tape measure
- Seam ripper
Proper Suit Pants Fit
Pants that are too short make the unsuspecting person look comical. You know your suit pants are too short if your socks are visible when standing.
Pants that are too long, on the other hand, make the person look sloppy.
If too much pant fabric rests on top of your shoe or touches the ground at your heel, you’ll know the pants are too long.
What’s “too much” on the top of your shoe? The hem of your pants should just brush the top of your shoe, gently resting along the top.
The Trouser Break
A trouser break refers to the fold of fabric where your suit pant leg hits your shoe.
Different lengths of pants will create different sizes of trouser breaks; this doesn’t mean your pants don’t fit you poorly.
Instead, the size of your trouser break depends on your personal preference.
A full break is the deepest crease, and the pants are a relatively long length. This break will leave possibly an inch of fabric resting along the top of your dress shoes.
A half break isn’t as deep; it creates a shallow but definite crease. A small amount of fabric rests on the top of your shoe.
You can also opt for no break at all. The hem of your pants will barely brush the top of your shoe.
Just be sure that the hem does make contact with your shoe; if your socks are visible, your pants are too short.
Measure for New Hem
The first thing that’s necessary for hemming your pants is to determine where the new hem needs to be.
Try on your suit pants with the shoes you’ll wear them with.
Next, fold under your pant legs while looking in a full-length mirror. Again, play with different lengths until you find where you think it looks best.
Gently place a few straight pins in the cuff to hold the hem in place while you carefully remove your pants.
You won’t need many pins, but just enough to remind you where you’ll want the crease of your hem to lie.
Use the pin in front as your leading guide for how much you need to hem.
Turning the Suit Pants Inside Out
Carefully remove your pants so that you don’t get poked with straight pins. Then, turn your pants inside out.
Lay them flat and check to see if both legs are the same length. You also want to ensure that the hem is even around each leg.
Remember that front pin that is your guide? Use your tape measure to gauge the length of fabric that’s been turned in at that point.
Iron a Crease
Ensure the fabric measures precisely the same all the way around on both legs.
Once you’re sure that both legs are equal in length, you can start creating a crease by ironing the folds.
Removing the Original Hem
In case the suit pants already have hem, you want to rip the old one.
To remove the old hem, use a seam ripper. It’s best to have a sharp seam ripper to quickly pull and tear the old stitches.
Then, make sure to press out the old creases so they won’t interfere with the new ones.
Folding Your New Hem
If your new hem involves taking your suit pants up by several inches, you may cut off some of the excess fabric.
Be absolutely sure before you cut that you are removing the correct amount; there’s no going back!
Important: you want to leave enough material to fold in for your hemline.
Ideally, you’ll want a one-inch hem, which means you should leave at least two inches of material since you’ll fold your hem over two times.
You can adjust the length as needed. Place pins evenly all the way around each pant leg.
It is a good idea to try the pants on again once you think you have your hem pinned in the correct place.
Three Different Ways to Sew Your Hem
Before you sew your hem into place, iron the fold of your new hem to create a strong crease.
This crease will make it easier to guide you as you sew and helps by holding the fabric where you need it to be.
There are three options for how you can sew your hem. You can either sew it by hand using a needle and thread, a sewing machine, or fabric tape.
Your choice will, of course, depend on your access to a sewing machine and your comfort level with either.
Either approach is acceptable. Choose only one of the three:
Method 1: Sewing Hem by Hand
There are many ways to stitch by hand.
However, since you don’t want your stitches to be visible on your suit pant’s hem, we’ll use what’s called a blind stitch. It is very subtle and, when done correctly, unnoticeable.
Thread your needle with a thread that’s the same color as your suit pants. Approximately two feet of thread should be long enough for each pant leg.
Once you’ve snipped the length of thread off the spool, tie the two ends together, making a double or triple knot, so it doesn’t slide right through the material.
Keeping your pants inside out, insert the needle and thread through the side seam of your suit pants, just above the hem.
Be careful not to catch the outer fabric. Also, pull the thread all the way through.
Insert your needle through the back of the cuff, running it along inside the top fold of the cuff for about half-inch, coming out the front and pulling the thread taut.
Then, using the tip of your needle, pick up only two or three threads from the pant leg just above the hem. Pull the thread through, but don’t pull it so tight that the stitch cinches. It should lie flat.
Repeat these last two steps until you’ve made a complete circumference around the pant leg.
Again, keep your stitches evenly spaced; otherwise, they may be noticeable from the outside.
You can even flip your pants over to check your progress. If there is any puckering, try to pull the thread flat gently.
Once you reach the seam where you began, cut the thread and tie knots to secure it in place.
Then, place the iron over the hem one more time to secure your hem.
Method 2: Sewing Hem with a Sewing Machine
If you have ever used a sewing machine before, you know that this way can hem your suit pants much quicker and more securely. However, your stitches will also be more visible.
As you set up your sewing machine with your matching thread and bobbin, it may also be best to remove the bobbin case from the machine if you can. It will give your pants a bit more room over the free arm.
Start by making long sewing stitches around both hems (also known as basting stitches). But stitch them loosely since you’ll have to remove them at the end.
As soon as you finish basting your hems, you can remove the straight pins. Double-check to ensure all pins are removed for safety.
Still keeping your pants inside out, slide one pant leg over your sewing machine’s free arm.
Using a straight stitch set to medium length, sew around the circumference of the leg.
Begin the stitching at the inner leg seam so that you can back up at the beginning and the end to reinforce your stitches.
Once you have made a full round on both pant legs, remove the temporary stitches.
Finally, press the hem with a hot iron again.
Method 3: Using Fabric Tape to Hem Suit Pants
If you are looking for a quick fix, you can use fabric tape for a temporary hem. It may hold quite a while, but it won’t last as long as sewing does.
Leave at least a 1¼” edge for your seam to begin this process, as fabric tape is usually one inch wide.
Next, cut the length of fabric tape that you’ll need for your hem, and press it onto the inside of your suit pants.
Finally, fold the cuff up over the fabric tape, right at the length you need your hemline.
Follow the pressing instructions on the package.
If your suit fabric is synthetic, be sure to use a cloth between the pants and your hot iron so you don’t ruin your suit.
Hi, I’m Alex, and I’ve studied and specialized in styling in Rome. Through my writing, I want to help men dress well and learn the purpose and significance of suits and other formal attire. My final goal is to make men more confident in their wardrobe choice and life in general.