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In Search Of: Adjustable Waist Pants

By Amalah

Dear wonderful, all-knowing Amalah,

My 17 month old son seems to have grown inches taller overnight. He’s still a peanut for his age. (Barely makes 5% for weight on the growth chart) What I’m finding is that his pants are all too short now, but still are too big around the waist. He has been in 12 month clothes. The waist of these almost fit when he’s in his bulkier cloth diapers (Thanks for your advice about those as well!) From what I’ve read, Ezra may have similar issues. Have you or any commenters had good luck with any brands of clothes that fit better for our shaped boys or know of any with adjustable waistbands? I typically shop at WalMart, Target and Old Navy. I hate spending a lot of money on toddler clothes since they seem to outgrow them so fast…..

Peanut’s Mama

Yep. Adjustable waistbands. The only — and I mean ONLY — way I can keep pants on either of my long-legged, snake-hipped boys TO THIS DAY. I still remember the first time someone flipped over the edge of a waistband to show me that magically little elastic doohickey on the inside: A button and a length of elastic with a dozen or so buttonholes that cinches up the waist to a tight, custom fit.

The only problem is that for some reason, clothing manufacturers don’t make EVERY waistband adjustable. I will never understand this. Never, you fools! Some stores don’t start hiding the elastic until size 2T and up. Some stores put it in jeans but not khakis or cargoes. And some stores put it in SOME jeans but not ALL jeans and there’s nothing to do besides stand there in the store, flipping over waistbands and muttering curse words. (But then, when you find one, you might very well become the sainted shopping savior to the parent standing next to you who’s all, WAIT, WHAT IS THAT? WHY DON’T I KNOW ABOUT THAT?)

Personally, I could never CONSISTENTLY find adjustable-waist pants in infant sizes (12 months and under). Not all babies are round and chubby, clothing manufacturers! Really! Almost all BabyGap pants have adjustable waists at 12-18 months and, and only SOME styles in 6-12 months have the hidden elastic. Same with Old Navy, Carters, Children’s Place, Gymboree, Mini Boden and Target (the Osh Kosh Genuine Kids brand — my kids SWIM in the Circo stuff). Some styles/sizes have it, some don’t. Basically, check everything in the “toddler” section, and if you come across it: STOCK UP. We do a twice-yearly trek out to a big outdoor outlet mall over an hour away just to snatch up any and all PANTS and SHORTS THAT FIT for the boys.

If your son is ready for 12-18 month pants, you should be able to find more adjustable waist styles in that size — even though you may end up supplementing your Old Navy stuff with some pricier pants from the Gap (watch for sales and email coupons; buy the next size up and stash them). (And there will still be trial-and-error about what brands/stores/styles fit him best) But the growth spurts do slow down so there’s a chance your son will wear those adjustable 18- or 24-month pants for a longer amount of time than he wore his onesies. My son Ezra wore 12-18 month clothing for almost a year, and now we’re just cuffing and rolling the 24-month stuff. And I personally find a good-fitting, durable pair of jeans to be worth the money, even at this age.

By 18-24 months and 2T, I’d say MOST of the major kids’ clothing brands (all the ones mentioned above, plus Levi, Lee, Janie & Jack, Kohl’s, etc.) put adjustable elastic waists into MOST of the pants styles. my oldest, Noah, just graduated to size 5T and I still cinch up the waists to about six or seven buttonholes in. (Osh Kosh Target brand and Children’s Place for jeans, Old Navy for pants. For Ezra, it’s Gymboree hand-me-downs and Gap and Levi’s if I’m buying new — they both make “skinny” styles right now that ARE PERFECT.)

I also own a good number of belts — Etsy is a surprisingly good resource for inexpensive-yet-custom-sized kiddie belts, though they of course can become a huge pain for diaper changes if the pants don’t snap open around the legs, and we had to retire most belts after potty training. I saw one suggestion online of buying small PET COLLARS to use as belts for really skinny little guys, and hey, if that works, it works. You could also make your own belts out of the skinny part of Dad’s discarded ties, or buy wide lengths of colored elastic and sew sturdy metal hook and eye closures to the ends.

My mother-in-law once tried to sew tucks into Noah’s pants for him — this is another suggestion you’ll see passed around the Internet a lot — but I…wasn’t super pleased with the result. She was a bit overzealous and sewed them too tight, and it ended up being an all-or-nothing solution. I tried to remove about half of her stitching and the waist basically expanded to its original too-big size. It was a lot of sewing effort on her part that was essentially wasted. (“Wasted.” HA. I kill me.)

But if you’re at all crafty or patient, here’s an (easy-looking) online primer for creating your own adjustable elastic waistbands that would probably be more worth the effort.

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About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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