Adjustable Waistband Tutorial

Finally! I have that little sewing tutorial ready for you. I think the greatest invention in kids clothing just might be the adjustable waistband. Nothing seems to fit my kids right without them, and even if they did, chances are, it wouldn't fit the next kid when it comes time to pass it on. Unfortunately not everyone has realized the wonderful benefits to this amazing new trend and every once in a while we run into regular old snap and zip pants.

So, late one night while I contemplated what to do with a really cute, hardly worn skirt from a sweet cousin, that did not fit anyone, I decided to add a little elastic. The skirt turned out really nice so, I thought I'd share what I did with you. This method works great for making adjustable waistbands or just adding regular elastic for a better fit.

You'll need
  • Fabric scissors.
  • Wide, soft, washable ribbon (bonus points if it matches the garment).
  • Elastic, button hole for adjustable waist (we scavenge elastic from outgrown pants that are too stained or ripped up to be handed down or donated, i.e. the boy's pants, but it's also sold at most fabric/craft stores like Joann's).
  • Buttons (make sue they fit the buttonholes in the elastic).
  • Matching thread
  • And of course the garment to be fitted.

 Cut the ribbon so it will reach from one side seam to the other plus about 1/2 inch on each side (so 1 in. extra).

Tuck the extra 1/2 inch under then, roll that under a second time for a clean hem on the inside for the elastic to slide along, see picture below.

Baste to hold the fold. This should shorten the ribbon enough to fit the button right on the side seam. If you don't want your elastic adjustable just fold the ribbon under once, so it reaches just over each side seam.

Pin the ribbon in place. Start half an inch from the side seam to leave room for the button, or at the seam if your waistband will not be adjustable.

If you are using a slippery, silky ribbon, be sure to use plenty of pins to avoid slipping. Now, just sew across both sides of the ribbon leaving the ends at the side seams open. If you pinned well you should be able to put the ribbon face down on the machine and stitch right over the existing topstitch.

If your ribbon is narrower than the waistband of the garment center it between the top and bottom and follow inside the original topstitch about 1/4 inch or so. In this instance, the finished look will be like the picture below, the original stitch is the top (pink), the one attaching the ribbon is the bottom (brown).

For the adjustable waistband, add your buttons right at the side seams. Use that seam to hide your button thread. If there are no side seams, like these shorts, you should be able to slide the needle in and out of only one layer of fabric by pinching it where you're attaching the button, so the thread wont show through the right side of the garment.

Thread the elastic and button into place, or, if making non adjustable elastic waist, sew elastic and ribbon to the pants using the side seam as a guide to hide your stitch.

Your done, and look how fancy that ribbon inside looks. Of course, you'll use matching thread and it'll look even better. 


  1. Ingenious!! Thank you for sharing this! I have been thinking up something like this myself, but you've taken all the work out of it. THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!

  2. Thank you for the nice comment :)