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Here’s a little-known fact about the original run of Gossip Girl: the costume designer, Eric Daman, never put belts on any of the male characters. While belts are great for keeping your jeans up or tightening your jeans, they’re not always the best solution for gaping at the back and they can add bulk to your silhouette.
Belts can also be pretty useless if your jeans don’t have any belt loops or if they’re no longer usable. Not to mention how difficult it can be to find a good quality belt at an affordable price plus bigger buckles can press into your skin and create discomfort.
Whether you don’t prefer the look and feel of belts or just can’t use one on your jeans, you still need to figure out how to tighten your jeans without a belt.
Fortunately, there are many different ways you can learn how to make your jeans tighter without a belt. These involve permanent solutions like sewing, elastic, and shrinking and temporary fixes such as pins, alternative buttoning methods, and belt alternatives.
How to tighten jeans with elastic
Elastic is a great fix for tightening jeans, especially if you suffer from gaping at your back waist. Traditionally, when you’re taking jeans in at the waist you’d have to take apart the entire waistband, reduce the seams and then reattach the waistband. It takes very long and requires quite a bit of sewing knowledge. Fortunately, you can very quickly and easily do a seamless tighten with elastic, scissors, safety pins, and thread.
Step 1: You can use any kind of elastic for this though it’s much simpler if you get a band that’s just a little thinner than the width of your waist band. Lay your jeans flat and mark a line on the inside of your back waistband at each side seam. You’re going to make slits at these points to string your elastic through.
You need to be careful when making these slits as you only want to make them on the inside of the waistband so that they don’t show through the outside of the jeans.
Read: Best Jeans for a Small Waist and Big Thighs
Step 2: Pin a safety pin at one end of your elastic band and pull it through the slits you’ve made. Make sure to have at one to two inches of elastic hanging out the end of one slit and safety pin this to the jeans. Keep the end tail long.
Try on the jeans and pull on the elastic to determine how long you need the band to get the right fit. Mark this by securing a safety pin to the elastic.
Step 3: Once you’re happy with the fit you can keep it like this with the safety pins in the jeans and wear them as is. However, the safety pins will likely open or stab you at some point.
For a permanent fix, stitch the elastic to your waistband slits. You can clip off the extra elastic after you’ve secured it. The elastic is going to stretch and pull a lot so you need to make your stitches strong and tight. Do several small and tight cross stitches and go over the seam two to three times.
That’s a simple permanent method for how to tighten jeans without a belt.
Read: How to Alter Jeans
How to take in jeans with sewing
Not all bagginess or excess is going to be at your waist. Perhaps you want to turn some boyfriend jeans into skinny jeans or you’d like to taper your jeans—a belt definitely won’t help in this area. Below is how to make jeans tighter without a belt that will account for a more distributed tightness.
Step 1: Turn your jeans inside out and try them on. Use the pins to pinch and mark the areas you would like to tighten. You can go over these with a pen or chalk as well.
Step 2: If you’re hand sewing, lay your jeans flat and do a running backstitch in all the areas you have marked.
Read: The Best Sewing Machine for Jeans
A running backstitch is a strong straight stitch that involves creating a backstitch after every 3-4 running stitches. Keep your stitches small and tight especially on areas that are going to receive a lot of resistance such as your hips and inner thighs.
If you’re working with a machine, make sure to test out tension and stitch length on a fabric similar to your jeans. Use those settings to create the new seams.
Step 3: You can choose to cut away the excess fabric. If it doesn’t cut you any discomfort then it’s best to keep the excess so you always have the option to let your jeans out at a later time.
Read: How to Fix Holes in Jeans in the Inner Thigh
How to tighten jeans with shrinking
Most of your denim laundry labels will warn against hot water washing and tumble drying. That’s because laundering your jeans this way can cause them to shrink. This is an advantage when trying to figure out how to tighten jeans without a belt, however.
Step 1: Put your jeans into the washing machine at the highest water temperature available. Alternatively, you can boil your jeans on the stove in water for 20-30 minutes.
Step 2: Toss your jeans into a tumble dryer on the hottest setting available.
Step 3: Try on your jeans and they should be considerably tighter overall. You can put them through another boil and dry but you don’t want to do this method too many times as it can damage your denim permanently.
Read: How to Shrink Stretch Jeans
How to get jeans tighter with buttoning
This method comes from a TikTok user who stunned the world with her ingenious technique for how to tighten jeans without a belt. You don’t need anything for this method except your chosen pair of jeans as long as they have a button and belt loops. This greatly takes your jeans in at the waist and you can easily undo it if you want to return to its original fit.
Step 1: With your jeans on your body, pull the button of your jeans through the belt loop next to it.
Step 2: Button your jeans as normal, keeping the button through the belt loop. The front fly of your jeans will cover the pinched fabric and make this adjustment practically invisible.
In as little as a couple of seconds, you will have taken in your jeans at the waist. If you plan to use this method often, it’s a good idea to reinforce your buttons as the pulling can stress them. This won’t be necessary for metal buttons that have been punched in the fabric but sewn buttons will need a few extra securing stitches.
Read: How to Turn Jeans Into a Long Skirt
How to tighten jeans with clips or safety pins
If you’re in a rush or in a bind, you can tighten your jeans with binder clips. Or safety pins. Or even paper clips. This isn’t a great long-term solution and chances are it will come apart if you wear it for very long but for a couple of hours, this is a great fix.
Step 1: Put the jeans on and choose one to two places you want to pinch the jeans. It’s best to keep these spots at the back or side seams so you don’t experience any discomfort when you’re sitting down.
Step 2: Use your safety pin or clip to secure the pinch, keeping the fabric on the inside of your jeans. Jean waistbands can be very tough for safety pins to get through so try not to pinch a lot of fabric all at once.
When using clips you can secure them in the pinch, then twist the area and reclip it for better security.
How to tighten denim with hooks and eyes
This method involves adding an additional closure on your jeans that creates a pleat to reduce the waistband of your h. This is great as it’s a permanent solution but you always have the option to not use it should you want to return to your jean’s original fit.
As to how to tighten jeans without a belt with this method, you will need a strong hook and eye closure. The hooks and eyes that you find in bras can bend and break from the stress of your denim. If you can’t find a good hook and eye, you can opt for a sew-on snap closure.
Step 1: Try your jeans on and use your fingers to pinch the waistband and make pleats. Mark these with a pin or chalk. The inside of these pleats is where you’ll mark the location of your hook and eye or snap studs.
Step 2: Using strong thread, sew your chosen closure at these markings. Making sure to keep your hook facing down. Make several tight stitches that go through the entire waistband.
Step 3: Try your jeans on again and test the fit. You can unpick your hook and eye or snap stud and resew them if they’re wonky or too loose or too tight.
Check out some of our other jeans guides: How to Unshrink Jeans | Best Men’s Belts for Jeans | How to Wear Jeans That Are Too Long