How to Stretch Out Jeans
Whether you're looking for more room in the leg, the waist, or the foot hole, you might want to try these 10 easy tricks.
A new pair of jeans is sort of like a new pair of shoes: they rarely fit perfectly until they’ve been broken in. Sure, there's a time and place for tight jeans that look painted on, but no pair of denim — under any circumstances — should cut off circulation or leave you gasping for air.
Luckily, even if your pants seem a little snug, you don’t have to sacrifice style. You just need to learn some easy ways to stretch out your jeans. Whether you're looking for more room in the leg, the waist, or the foot hole, there are a handful of tricks you can try, and we've tapped a few experts to share their favorite ones.
Wet Your Jeans, Then Stretch Them
Take a spray bottle, fill it with warm water, and liberally mist your jeans front to back, says Katie Brown, owner of Rytina Fine Cleaners. Once they’re wet all over, strategically pull on the fabric in those areas you're hoping to stretch. Afterward, and for good measure, put on the damp jeans and wear them until they dry.
Utilize the Power of Heat
No spray bottle? No problem. Brown tells InStyle a blow dryer can do the trick, too. “Simply blow heat directly onto the areas you want to stretch,” she says, and once your jeans are nice and warm, use your hands to pull and stretch tight areas.
Use a Waistband Stretcher
Yep, that’s a thing. According to NYC-based personal and fashion stylist, Lana Blanc, waistband stretchers are similar to the device used to stretch shoes, and as silly as the contraption sounds, she swears it’s magic.
“I've had clients gain up to an inch on their waist and a lot more in their wallet,” Blanc tells InStyle. “All you have to do is wet the waistband with lukewarm water (make sure it's damp), insert the stretcher, and turn the handle to expand. I like to leave it inserted overnight, or if you need more than an inch, you could check back in and give it a few more turns every few hours.”
Use a Pants Extender
Blanc says she came across this hack during pregnancy when, after her first trimester, she could not longer fit into any of her jeans.
“I didn't want to retire to leggings full time and I wasn't ready to shell out almost $200 for a pair of maternity jeans so I googled pant extenders and found a pair on Amazon,” she says. “They were an absolute game changer."
Use Your Head (Literally)
If your jeans are too snug because they shrunk in the wash, founder of InspiredFashionFinds.com, Chrissy Horton, recommends literally using your head to stretch them back out. Yes, really.
“I lay the jeans over my head and pull them. Think of a scarf draped over your head, each end covering your ears,” Horton tells us. “I then grab the ends of the jeans with one hand, use the opposing hand to hold the other half of the material steady on my head, and then stretch and pull!”
In Horton’s experience, your head provides a kind of balance and strength that enables you to pull with more force and further. Ergo, tug on the jeans as hard as you can hold it, release, and repeat about five times per leg.
Try a Foam Roller
No, this tip isn’t suggesting you should take your denim through your foam rolling routine — it's a little more clever than that. In order to stretch your jeans in the thighs, celebrity stylist, Amber Alexandria recommends laying your jeans out flat on a table first. Then, wet them from the bottom of the pocket to the knee, front and back, with a spray bottle, and insert a foam roller into the leg for approximately 10 minutes. Repeat the process on the other leg.
“The width of the foam roller will determine how much stretch you are able to achieve,” Alexandria says. “If you do not have a foam roller, you can repeat this same process with a roll of paper towels.”
Give Your Jeans a Bath
In the mood for a nice soak? Might as well take your denim for a dip while you’re at it. According to celebrity stylist, Soneca Guadara, wearing your jeans in the tub is a classic, though, not exactly practical way to stretch your jeans. Relax in the warm — not hot — tub for roughly 15 to 20 minutes, Guadara instructs, then air dry them out.
'Bake' Your Denim
From cakes to makeup, you can bake pretty much anything these days, even your denim. But according to Daniel Sanchez, creative director of Blush Mark, “baking” jeans is a styling tip that dates back to the 1970s. It involves wetting your jeans by generously spritzing the garment with a spray bottle full of lukewarm salt water or vodka, slipping on the damp pair, and enjoying some time in the sun until they fully dry on your body.
“Make sure to break them in throughout the 'baking' process. Squat, bend down, stretch and practice your cartwheels/handstands (if you can)!” Sanchez says. “The end result will be a pair of stretch jeans that are now molded to your body, while still utilizing the natural stretch of your favorite denim for max comfort.”
Wear the Same Pair Over and Over Again
What happens when you wear the same pair of jeans multiple times throughout the week? They feel less snug. So, if bathing in denim isn’t your style, and you don’t have time to sit around with a blow dryer, you could just rely on the power of time, according to Alissa Friedman, PR & Marketing Manager at denim brand Mavi.
“With some patience and persistence, and holding off on washing them for as long as possible, [jeans] will break in to be extremely comfortable and conform to your body,” she tells InStyle, adding that the key is to focus on the areas that feel most stiff and increase movement in those areas (i.e. bending your knees, doing lunges, etc.).
Do Some Stretches
No matter the area you're hoping to expand, there’s an exercise suited to stretch out your denim, says Vanessa Chu, co-founder of Stretch*d. (Bonus: you get a workout in, too.) For example, to expand the waistline, stand or sit and place one hand behind your head while reaching your other arm straight down along your other side, Chu instructs. Reach down as far as you can, then come back up to open the side body, hip flexors, and obliques, giving you extra room at the sides of the waist.
“Just like your muscles, your jeans need to ease in and ease out of the stretch to safely create space,” says Chu. “Movement helps lubricate and ease the joints, muscles and even inseams. Each stretch should be held for 2-3 seconds and repeat for up to 6-8 repetitions, one side at a time which should lead to some extra room in the jeans and a more limber lower body!”
This is Ask the Experts: Where our favorite fashion know-it-alls share their wisdom. Just because you can trust your style instincts doesn't mean you should have to.