Sunday, November 11, 2012

Dealing with smallness of person

The manufacturers of premium denim jeans get a lot of things right.  They can provide you with supreme comfort, flatten a stomach, lengthen the legs, and tighten and lift a bottom.  There is one thing they are starting to get consistently wrong: length.  Unlike men's pants, which come in actual sizes in inch increments, women's pants come in one length, or if you are very lucky: three lengths (petite, regular and tall).  It may be my imagination, but lately they all seem to be making them insanely long regardless of size.  I suppose this is great if you are very tall, since it's impossible to add fabric, but if you enjoy smallness of person, like me, it means either spending an additional small fortune to have them altered, or learn to do it yourself.  My local dry cleaner/tailor charges $24 to hem a pair of pants.  This adds insult to injury if you've just spent $200 on a pair of Citizens of Humanity/J Brand/Seven/Joe's/AG jeans.  The injury is worsened when they get it wrong, which has happened to me one too many times and so I learned to do it myself.  In fact over the years, I've developed my own strange method of getting them exactly the way I want them without fail.  Here's how you do it:
Start with a pair of fabulous fitting jeans.  In my case, these are Citizens of Humanity Dita Petite Bootcut.  Yes, these are "petite" and they are still four inches too long...sigh...  Let me just state right here for the record, that I am not built like an Oompa Loompa.  I am 5' 2" and weigh 110lbs.  I am pretty much the definition of petite, so I'm not really sure who these are made for.  Even with insanely high heels, they would still be too long, but I digress.  Put on a pair of shoes with a heel that is what you will wear most often with them and turn up the cuff so that they break where you want them.  Pin on each side, matching the seams so you know the cuff is straight.  Walk around and make sure that it's comfortable--not too short and that you aren't stepping on the back.  Take them off.
 Measure the fold so you know how far up you will want the hem.  I love my sewing ruler, because it has a slide so I can mark the exact length.
 Iron where you have them folded so you know EXACTLY where the hem should be and fold the jeans inside out.
Fold them back exactly on the crease where you ironed them.  If you want to double check, use the ruler where you have it marked.  If you notice in the previous photos that the hem is not perfectly straight, you aren't wrong.  I am convinced that they drink on the assembly line.  This is the only explanation for why I can try on three pairs of the same size and they all fit differently.  Nothing in life is perfect, which is why I do the "cuff and iron in the hem" method".  It's really hard to screw it up.  Once you have the hem "set" with the iron, cut off the excess material.  How much you cut off depends on how high or low you want the fold of the hem.  I honestly don't think it matters that much.  NO ONE is going to be scoping around your ankles with a magnifying glass and only you know what the original hem looked like.  Decide how long you want the hem to be and then roughly double that length.  I have decided I want a little longer than a half inch, so I am cutting off at 1" and a 1/4.  Cut off the excess as straight as possible.  If you need to, use a pencil and ruler.  I always eyeball it because I like to live on the edge.
 Fold over the edge so that the hem is the desired size.  Use the ruler to be sure it is even all around and iron, making sure that the seams on the sides are as flat and neat as possible.  If they aren't, you will have a giant wad of fabric and your sewing machine needle may break.
 Pin all the way around and check to make sure that both sides are even.
Sew the seam starting with the INSIDE of the legs so that your back tacking will be less noticeable.  If your denim has some lycra, it will stretch while you are sewing.  Make sure you keep some tension on the leg while you sew so that it feeds smoothly.  If they are bootcut jeans, this is a bonus since the tension will retain some of the "boot" feature that you've cut off by lopping off four inches.  If you are hemming A LOT off the bottom, they may end up looking like straight leg jeans after you cut the bottoms, which sort of defeats the purpose.  This is also why it's a good idea to start with jeans that have the best fit you can find, so that the whiskering, fading, knee break, etc will be in the best possible location.  It really does matter.

 Now you have two perfectly hemmed legs...with the "mom hemmed these for me" look.  Not good.  Time to get out the pumice stone, nail file or piece of sandpaper and go to town.
 Use the original hem that you've cut off as a guide to know when to stop.  Distressed stone washed bottoms are great.  Gaping holes are not.  Know when to say when.

Try on for size and admire your handi-work.  You just saved $24 and have custom-fit jeans!

Have a great weekend everyone!

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