Types of Pull-On Trouser Waistbands

Since I started down the rabbit-hole of pull-on pants in my post about my Sasha trousers, let’s just go whole-hog on this, shall we?

I’ve been planning this post for a while, inspired by my me-made and RTW wardrobe. I love pants with a stretchy waistband, but there are a surprisingly variety of ways to accomplish this goal!

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Closet Case Pattern Carolyn Pyjamas

1. Elastic in a casing

This is the classic method for pyjama pants. You sew a casing first, then thread your elastic through. This is great because you can try it on and adjust it, but less great because it is prone to twisting. I wouldn’t use this on everyday trousers, but Helen from Helen’s Closet did a Winslow Culotte hack using this method and seems to have had no problems! This combines well with a drawstring, but then you loose some of the stretch.

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Closet Case Pattern Sasha Trousers

2. Elastic attached to a casing

This is my go-to method! I have a basic tutorial here, but I’m going to repost my more in-depth tutorial from the Curvy Sewing Collective here on my own blog soon. I like this method because the elastic is zig-zagged to the fabric casing before the casing is sewn on, so the elastic never twists. On the down side, it’s not adjustable once the waistband is attached.

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Thank you Helen’s Closet for the photo!

3. Elastic back, stable front

This is a nice method if you like tucking in your top, and your waistband might be seen. The front is made like a traditional waistband, but the back has elastic. Handily, Helen did a tutorial for this method too! I have one pair of RTW pants like this, and I personally find that the front waistband digs in when I sit, but I do carry most of my floof in the front!

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Photo by From Whole Cloth.

4. Adjustable buttonhole elastic

I’ve only seen this used in the Hosh Pants pattern for children, but it’s brilliant! The front is a stable waistband, and the back has a channel for elastic. What makes it unique is that it is designed for buttonhole elastic, which has little button holes pre-made into it. The elastic is attached to each side of the channel on the inside of the pants, so that it can be loosened or tightened by simply buttoning it on a different hole! For adult sized pants, you’d need to have several lengths of elastic to get a firm firm, but it would be great if you have dramatically fluctuating weight.

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Jalie Lisette Skirt

5. Visible wide elastic

I’ve never made pants this way, but it’s a classic finish for skirts and men’s underwear, and surely could be applied to loose trouser! The elastic is topstitched onto the garment so that it shows. My local fabric sore carries all sorts of cool multicoloured and patterned elastics now, and this is a nice finish if you like the belt-like effect of a defined waist!

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In Canada at least, I associate this style with the store Reitmans, which is one of the women’s wear stores in every town and city. My mom, my sister and I have worn these for years!!! 

6. Wide panels with no elastic

This is a RTW classic! The waist is made with a curved yoke that is at least 3-4″ deep, made with a double layer of fabric. I have one pair that seems to also have a layer of power mesh inside as well. This is nice if you want a smoother fit under tight tops, although because it is more stable, I find I get a bit of muffin top when I sit. You win some and lose some!

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Maria Denmark Laura Lounge Pants

7. Yoga waistband

A loungewear classic! A yoga waistband is just a super tall fabric band, which can be worn flipped up or rolled down. Super comfy and quite casual. (I made these Laura Lounge pants in 2013, and I am still wearing both pairs!)

8. Maternity pants

Look, this isn’t a genre I know anything about, but I thought it would be rude to leave it out. And now that I’ve googled Maternity Pants, Google is sure to think I’m pregnant. Honestly, the things I do for this blog! 😉

If you are looking for pull-on trouser patterns, Style Arc is the place to shop. They offer a bunch of different types of waistbands, and have a huge size range. Pretty much any trouser pattern can be hacked to have a pull-on waistband though, as long as your fabric has stretch or you are making a roomy style. I have an 11″ difference between my waist and hips, and it works just fine on me!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on stretchy waistbands and pull-on trousers! What styles do you prefer to buy or sew? Have I missed any great styles?


29 thoughts on “Types of Pull-On Trouser Waistbands

  1. I’m a big fan of yoga waistbands on leggings, and I want to try them on ‘real’ pants once it’s not so stinkin’ hot out! I’m concerned that they won’t be able to hold up a heavier ant though.

    I also like drawstring pants where the majority of the ‘string’ is elastic, with some actual ‘proper’ drawstring stitched on to each end and fed through the buttonholes. Threads magazine did an article about different elastic waist treatments years ago, and that one was my favourite.

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    1. Maybe you could reinforce the yoga waistband with some powermeh or some elastic, to make sure it’s firm enough to hold up “real” pants?

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  2. Does the paperbag waist elastic count? :o) It’s my favorite, I wore it in the 90s on jeans (RTW). Now I use it on all skirts and my wide leg pants. I do not tuck my shirt in but like the comfiness. I was delighted to see Style Arc had a pdf paperbag waist pattern in their etsy shop.

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    1. Do you use elastic in your paper bag waistbands? I’ve never tried sewing or wearing one, but it does seem like a fun option!

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      1. YES! The waist casing for pants/skirts is usually maybe 5″ high, then folded over for inserting the elastic.
        I add about 2″ more to the height and fold over – attach to pant/skirt leaving opening for elastic at the seam – sew along top of the casing using the widest seam allowance marking (regular machine) Insert elastic. close opening. I like to top stitch the opening and go around the whole garment. It looks “gathered” on the top, the elastic sits below, I like that, but best of all its comfortable. It might add inches to my waist under my top, but I don’t car. No one sees it. Sewing is to make me happy!

        It’s almost like when a pattern back waist calls for 3 rows of elastic, except I only do 1 bottom row with 1″ elastic.
        hope that made sense- LOL!

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  3. Thank you so much for writing this article! I have long associated pull-on waist pants with lounge and athletic wear, but the Mountain View pants from Itch to Stitch look classic and professional; it sort of broke my brain. How can pull-on pants look so polished?! Now I know the secrets of the pull-on pants universe! =)

    It’s funny that you mentioned the button-hole elastic in children’s clothes – I actually had some jeans with that feature back in the late 90s-early 00s, maybe Levi or Lee brand, bought at a department store (Kohls). It’s a brilliant idea, as long as the buttons are covered when not being used to adjust the elastic. I’m pretty sure I stopped wearing those particular jeans because the buttons were exposed on the inner waistband and I got sick of having button imprints on my waist every time I wore them.

    – Julia

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    1. I hadn’t thought that the buttons would be irritating, but it totally makes sense! I wonder what the best solution for that would be?

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  4. As someone who looks continually pregnant, I really should just come around to the elastic waist (I even bought the jalie pull-on jeans!), but I’ve been hesitant. I don’t have a big difference between waist and hip measurements (sadly only around 5″), but I have very slim hips paired with a bubble butt and a pregnant looking gut that makes pull on shorts really ride down in the front–I can stop the worst of that with a belt on a pair of jeans, but I HATE it on shorts and am worried that it will be the same way if I make pull on jeans. Probably irrational, but 🤷‍♀️.

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    1. I’ve got a similar body shape, and one of the things I like about sewing my own pants is that I can do a full tummy adjustment to get the waistband where I want it all the way around my torso. The tutorial on the Curvy Sewing Collective is good.

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  5. Okay- Add one here. I never thought I’d like it or even if it would work but they are so comfortable. You use just 3/8″ elastic in a wide waistband at the top. I know it sounds like they would cut in to you, but they don’t. Just give yourself ample elastic. By the way thanks for the great article.

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  6. Thank´s for this post! I´d love to tell you, how I sew elastics in casings without the twisting:
    As the last step, I stitch in the ditch of the side seams of my casing, catching the (untwisted!) elastic. That´s it.

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  7. Another option is to use elastic instead of interfacing in a conventional waistband. Make the waistband the length of your seated waist. You’ll still use a zipper and a fastening at the waist.

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  8. #3 is my go to for summer pants, but I’m hoping to make some winter ones with the same technique for this year. I’m hoping for “office pants” that are actually comfortable! Thanks for the round up!

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  9. I do the insert into casing, but then I serge or zigzag the opening shut with the elastic. That’s 2-3” in the back that doesn’t twist. I also Sew up at the center front and side seams after sitting around in the pants adjusting the elastic to where I need it. Typically I need 1-2” of ease in front and 3-4” in the back. If I stitch in the ditch for my elastic before squooshing it around, I end up with excess in the front and too little in the back.

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  10. I was done with having my babies four years ago but I’ll admit I have kept a few maternity items for regular wear. I have a “pot belly” and man, that manternity panel in the front of my jeans has been a lifesaver when I get water weight gain from my pre-menstrual time. There’s no shame in using maternity wear techniques when sewing regular clothes. Whatever works!

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    1. I’ve heard lots of people say that they wore maternity pants long after pregnancy! Comfort really is worth while, no matter how you get it! 🙂

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  11. I personally like the combo method that I think I first learned in a Jalie pattern but is also used in the Helen’s Closet Avery leggings. A wide fabric panel with elastic sewn at the top of that panel to the seam allowance. You get the “support” of the fabric panel but that extra elastic makes sure they stay up!

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    1. Good suggestion! That finish works so well in the Avery’s and I think it’s a big part of why that pattern has been so successful!

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  12. Stretchy waistbands have honestly been what’s kept me sewing during these baby years! The thought of going through all the fitting just to gain or lose weight with my limited sewing time is rather crushing. I’m planning to try the Itch to Stitch pull on jeans soon, but I’ll admit that part of me is a little concerned that I’ll like it so much that I’ll never get to my Ginger jeans after my weight stabilizes!

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    1. The Itch to Sticth jeans look great! I like a really high rise, so i prefer Gingers, but if you find something comfy and well-fitting, then sew it!!! ❤

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  13. This is all so helpful, I am about to make my first pair of shorts – I like a low rise as I have a full tummy and very high waist so am going to toile the chi town chinos but always have an issue with waistbands ending up too loose because I err on the side of comfort/my my tummy is bigger at the end of the day when I usually fit things! I have added a strip of elastic to the waistband of RTW bottoms before and am now thinking that adding some to the back of my shorts band would be a good idea, thanks!

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