By Naomi Kent
So you’ve haphazardly thrown a pair of your beloved denim jeans into the dryer only to discover that upon the next wear you look like you’ve grown three inches. Your most comfortable and flattering jeans that once rested perfectly just below the ankles have undeniably shrunken to an awkward, unflattering length. After tugging, jerking and wrenching in vain, it’s apparent the jeans that once made you feel like a million bucks are now making you feel like you’re waiting for the flood.
Before you toss your beloved denims into the trash, or even worse, cut them into shorts (which by the way has been a bad idea since 1989…) know that you can gain two or more inches in length with some strategic stretching. With a little tugging action you’ll have your favorite jeans back – and you’ll be manipulating the length of all your shrunken denim without having to call grandma to whip out her infamous sewing machine. (Note: Call grandma anyway to tell her how you’ve magically revamped your entire wardrobe; she’ll think you’re a genius).
First and foremost, let’s touch on jean care as to prevent the costly damage of any future denim purchases. Denim, which is made of cotton or a cotton blend, will undoubtedly shrink when exposed to hot water or a hot dryer. If your new jeans already fit perfectly, be sure to always wash them in cold water with “like colors” to keep the color from fading, and hang them to dry to keep the fibers from shrinking.
If your jeans were mistakenly exposed to damaging heat, and they’ve crept up an inch or two, follow these simple steps:
- Toss your jeans back in the wash (this time in cold water) and begin the stretch immediately after the spin cycle has completed.
- Either by yourself or with a friend (you’ll gain more length with the strength of two people), stretch one pant leg at a time, one seam at a time. Begin by placing one hand at the crotch of the jeans, and the other at the hemline of the inseam and pull slowly and steadily.
- Repeat the same stretch on the outer seam, directly across where the initial stretch was performed. Finish the stretch by performing the same steady, pulling action in the middle of the jean leg, holding the jean material at crotch level with the other hand firmly on the hem. Repeat the same steps with the other leg.
Be careful not to tug too violently as weak, damaged denim can separate and tear. Denim with lycra/spandex blends can gain three to four inches through stretching, so carefully stretch a little at a time until you come to the ideal length.
To accurately measure your progress without trying on the wet jeans, hold the crotch seam of the jeans to your own while standing, and observe where the hem falls around your ankle. Additionally, fold the jeans in half on a flat surface, and line up the seams to ensure both legs are equal in length.
Most denim jeans can be safely altered using this simple method. Some jeans can also be stretched for additional width (depending on the direction of the threading) to gain an extra inch in the thigh, hip, waist, and lower leg. Not only will denim stretching save you some money, you might even gain a little muscle in the process. Five minutes is all it takes to revamp those jeans – and to avoid that “waiting for the flood look” forever!