Maybe Matilda: Turning Bootcut Jeans into Skinny Jeans

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Turning Bootcut Jeans into Skinny Jeans

You know what I'd really love? One pair of great-fitting skinny jeans. But with a closet full of jeans I've already owned for years, I have a hard time justifying a new pair in what may turn out to be a trendy fit.

One pair of jeans in my closet has been sitting around, unworn and unloved, for years. They fit me great, but there's one problem: they have really big, goofy flare legs.

Bootcut jeans are one thing (I love a bootcut), but these were in a league of their own. Even though I’ve owned these jeans for at least 3 or 4 years and really love the way they fit, I’ve only worn them a few times.

I decided since I don't wear them much anyway, I'd take a chance on them and see if I could turn those unloved jeans into a pair I might really enjoy wearing. I read a lot of tutorials and instructions on how to transform my jeans into skinnies before I got started, and all of the instructions I read were so different that I was left more than a little confused about what to do.

After some thought and trial and error, I thought it might be helpful for others who have thought about McGuyvering their jeans to hear what I did and how it turned out.

DSC_0468 (The finished product!)

I started by putting my jeans on inside out and pinning the fabric along the outer seam, starting about mid-thigh and working down toward the ankle. I knew I couldn’t replicate the look of the heavy topstitching on the inner seam, so I didn’t dare touch it, and only altered the outer seam.

I just worked my way down the leg, holding the outer seam as flat as possible and pinning where I wanted the new seam to go. I took the jeans off and used a pen and ruler to mark a gradual line along the pins, and started sewing along that line (make sure to use a heavy-duty needle!).

I started at the bottom of the leg and worked my way up. I think the most important point to take away from the many tutorials out there is to make sure your stitch line is smooth and gradual, and to blend it as smoothly and seamlessly as possible into the original stitch line when you reach the point along the thigh where you began pinning.
DSC_0457 This is what my pants looked like with one leg skinnified. (And yes, I’m standing on a bucket in my bathroom.) You can see, about mid-thigh, where I didn’t do a very good job of blending the new seam line into the old seam line—there’s some awkward puckering and bulging along the outer seam a few inches above my knee. I went back and sewed it again, making a longer, more gradual stitch line that blended less noticeably into the original seam, and it looks much more natural now.
Here’s what the stitch line looked like from the inside.

Try the jeans on after sewing before you cut off the extra fabric to make sure you like the fit and can easily get your foot in and out. It'll be a tight squeeze to get them on since you'll have all that extra fabric inside, but do the best you can.

If something doesn’t look or fit right, adjust. If you like it, cut off the extra material  and zig-zag stitch over the raw edges to prevent fraying. Instead of fitting and pinning for the second leg, I just folded the first leg over the second one and used it as a guide.
DSC_0460 I had never realized before just how long these jeans are! I used Sew Much Ado’s hemming tutorial (which uses the original hem for a more natural look) to take them up so they hit just below the ankles—a good length for flats and heels.

You can see the new, altered seam pretty well in that last picture above—the old seam at the top of the leg looks more “original,” and my new seam line comes in just above the knee.

DSC_0496 Overall, here are my thoughts on skinnifying bootcut jeans:

- I definitely recommend Sew Much Ado’s method for hemming jeans. Fast, straightforward, and leaves the hemline looking very natural and unaltered.

- Although I can tell that these jeans look altered now, I’m very happy with how they came out, especially considering how little time and effort I spent on them.

- I would definitely do this project again (and, as an update, have since 'skinnified' many pairs of bootcut jeans!). It turned a pair of jeans that had been neglected and ignored for the past few years into my new favorite pair.

Have you ever turned bootcuts into skinny jeans?


  1. You should be a skinny jean maker and model. No wonder all of your pants look like clown pants-- you're so skinny! Take that as a compliment not an insult. I'm not going to tell you to go eat a sangwich.

    I think they turned out beautifully! They don't look homemade at all! My mom usually has to tailor my pants and jeans for me because clothing makers hate tall people. I'll have to try Sew Much Ado's tutorial because I think my mom is getting tired of sewing every time I visit.

  2. I was just trawling tutorials about this and getting totally confused by the do's and don't as well! I will now just copy what you have done, thanks!!


  3. Great refashion idea. I've considered making a couple of my unloved jeans into skinny jeans as well! Glad to have some tips on how best to go about it

  4. These look AWESOME on you. I'm totally impressed.

  5. Very impressive! I think I already rid myself of all pairs of flare leg jeans...(which is a shame because I'm remembering a pair from AE that fit great, but the flare was ridiculous...actually, I'm going to have to check the closet on that...)
    I'm checking out that hemming tutorial. My husband needs pants hemmed all the time and usually his mom does it and my father in law says to my husband "what's wrong with your wife? Can't she do it?" :P

  6. Wow! I'm totally impressed. I own two pairs of skinny jeans right now and one is too tight for this preggo belly and the other is a maternity pair that are too loose. I think I'm going to have to try this out with some old maternity jeans!!!

  7. Thanks for making this seem like it's not super overwhelming. I never would've tried it because I would've been too intimidated, but now I think I might!!

  8. You are a sewing magician! They look great - I can't even tell that they used to be flares.

  9. Fantastic! They look really great!

  10. I've done this a few times and I'm considering doing it with a pair of my maternity jeans. I feel like I'm thinking of committing a deadly sin or something, for some reason maternity clothes just seem sacred and unalterable. But these ones are a bit loose in the leg anyways and I do have a pair that fit perfect that I wore a few ... okay, five... times last week. In a row. So what is the worse that could happen? Sweatpants twice a week, that's what. And how can something that feels so right be so wrong? It can't. So, skinny jeans they will be!

  11. I have done this to a bunch of my pairs of jeans. I'm wearing a pair right now :) I love how yours turned out. A really well written and detailed post on how to do it!

    Christine @

  12. Oh Silver jeans. I remember them. Back when I spent money on clothes. Way to rock the skinny jeans!!

    I totally hear you on pants not fitting. I don't know why I'm not capable of buying clothes that fit me.

  13. Hola y gracias por tus lindas palabras. Te quedan perfectos los pantalones de pitillo y con tacones estilizan la figura.
    Un saludo.

  14. You used to work at Maurice's??? All my used to work at jobs are like---the gas station, a waitress, a Subway "sandwhich artist"...nothing even close to cool...I've always been hopelessly uncool..

  15. You did such a great job on these jeans! I have some that I need to do this to. =) I did find a couple of pair of "skinny" jeans at Wal-Mart for less than $20 a pair. Got them with my birthday money last year. =) Thank you so much for the great tip!

  16. I absolutely love your shoes. Please give me the source. Thnx

  17. Okay, so I went through your whole blog to find this tutorial to alter some jeans today. It was so easy, thanks to your advice to not care about the bowleg issue (UM, mine were SUPER bowlegged.) Also, THANK YOU for standing on a bucket. Because I was so confused trying to see the bottom of my jeans in the mirror and doing high kicks just wasn't working. Of course we didn't bring a full-length mirror to Dallas, but we DID bring a bucket (of rice....seriously who does that?) so my ankles were seen for the first time in the mirror in months today!
    But seriously, thanks for making this so easy. :)

  18. Finally! I have a pair of gorgeous expensive jeans I bought years ago when bootcut was in, well now it's not so much in. This saves me throwing them out, YAY!
    Ps My name really is Matilda! Love your blog. xx

  19. I just converted a pair of my bootcuts following your tutorial and they look great! Thanks especially for clearing up the bowleg issue. I had been afraid to alter my jeans because of it, but no more.

  20. This worked great! Thanks especially for clearing up the bowleg issue.

  21. Thank you, thank you for this tutorial! I just bought a couple of pairs of straight leg jeans but they werent quite "skinny" enough for some of my boots etc but I dont like the low rise fit of the juniors jeans that fit closer to the leg than misses sizes. This worked great! Cant wait to wear my new, custom pants with my riding boots tomorrow!!! :)

  22. I was looking for the perfect pair of red jeans and while these are not perfect they come very close. The color is as pictured and the length is perfect for me (I'm 5'3"). They stretch quite a bit but stay in form. My only complaint is that they are a little more in the jogging category than jeans. I plan to order Barely There 4J56

  23. Great instructions! I've been snarling at all the bootcut jeans lately, and you've reminded me I used to be pretty good at skinnifying the jeans with legs I didn't like (even way back in the nineties, oh dear!). I will look up how you did the hems, too, and attack my stack of jeans! If the outside seam looks too obvious to you, try the old sandpaper trick. gently and carefully (those dry heel foot file thingies work really well). Your jeans look great. Thanks!

  24. Hey,

    Glad to have found your tut! I would throw some black dye on these too! Best, P

  25. Yay! Thank you so much for this tutorial - I just took in a pair of bootcut jeans and they turned out perfect!! :)

    Looking forward to exploring the rest of your blog!

  26. Thanks for posting this! I hated bootcut jeans, but it seemed like a waste of money to just chuck them. Now I'm going to make them look cute. Haha! ;)

  27. I, too, had a pair of great-fitting jeans with clown-pant legs, sadly purchased at the tail end of the "boot cut" era. I followed your easy instructions and now have a great pair of much more contemporary black jeans. (I only did one thing differently, basting for a last try-on before the final stitching, and the result was totally worth it.) Thanks so much for your blog!

  28. Just rub that outside seam with a fine sanding block (for wood or fingernails) and it'll look a little less perfect.


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