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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.

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

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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  • Olivia

    November 8, 2010 at 11:24 am

    I recall reading on someone’s blog about a pant waist cincher thingy, but I can’t find it now. Anyway, I like the adjustable waists, but I’m having trouble with the girl pants. Form some reason, I keep finding cords and jeans that are slim fit or some shit. So they fit my daughter everywhere except the thighs. When she wears them she can lift her knees all the way.

  • Karen

    November 8, 2010 at 11:27 am

    Second the suggestion about BabyGap. The pants are great and if you get them on sale or through a deal, they are, what? maybe $10 more than Target or Old Navy? I also shop a lot at baby second hand stores nearby and find lots of Gap and Gymboree jeans there for $5. Love it.

    But what I really Reaallly want to know is, when will they start making adjustable waist pants for women? Cuz, uh. Yeah.

  • Amy

    November 8, 2010 at 11:40 am

    IF (and that is a big IF) I buy my daughter brand new pants, I almost always go to Old Navy (and then it’s only when it’s a great sale). They seem to fit true to size and length – even though we need the waist elastics.
    I have taken to doing a lot of her shopping at kids consignment stores, and it’s amazing! I can usually get her a few pairs of pants at a time and pay less than $20 for the load. I love it because we need to keep a separate stash of clothes for her (daycare and non-daycare) so we go through pants and shirts like nobody’s business!

    Good Luck!!

  • Missy

    November 8, 2010 at 11:52 am

    Gymboree tends to run the slimmest I find for sweats and elastic waisted pants. In fact, I was not really a fan of their clothes for my chunkier babies because they fit so tight, but my youngest was smaller and they fit him great. They have pretty good online sales and 20% off coupons if you are on their mailing list. Secondhand stores are great for this age as well.

  • liz

    November 8, 2010 at 11:54 am

    Land’s End and LL Bean are nearly all adjustable.

    Also, at Target most pants marked Slim will have an adjustable waistband all the way up through at least size 8.

  • Ally

    November 8, 2010 at 11:58 am

    I pretty much only buy gap jeans for my kiddos. I’ve tried other brands and they are the only ones that can fit on my small waisted kids. Every Christmas my inlaws get the kids gap gift cards for the purpose of buying jeans for the year. 

  • Pinkie Bling

    November 8, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    Found this on Sundry’s site:

    Hope it helps!

  • MommaFergie

    November 8, 2010 at 12:50 pm
  • Moira

    November 8, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    Ooh, dapper snappers are great. My son basically has no butt (even in a cloth diaper!), and those are wonderful at keeping his pants up.

  • Rachel

    November 8, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    Children’s Place! But I (very cheap) only buy when they have a clearance sell or online coupon codes. I don’t pay more than 10 dollars for a pair.

  • Olivia

    November 8, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    Yes, dapper snappers! That’s what I was thinking of.

  • Michele

    November 8, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    +1 for Dapper Snappers. They work well for my skinny son.

  • Clare

    November 8, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    I second LLBeans and Lands End!  I buy all my kids’ stuff on their sale/overstocks pages, and usually with free shipping.  I know Lands End also has slim, though that may not be in toddler sizes. 

  • eva

    November 8, 2010 at 1:20 pm

    If you are in Canada, Joe Fresh clothing (at Superstores) has a lot of adjustable waistbands…and is super cute and affordable.  Plus: convenient – get pants and groceries at the same place!

  • Allison

    November 8, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    Another suggestion to try the Dapper Snapper – just got one on Saturday for my tall, skinny girl and hallelujah, she’s wearing jeans today that are long enough for her legs but not falling down on her! They only work for pants with belt loops, which leaves about half our pants wardrobe still sagging…I’ve had limited success with a Clippopotamus, which is sort of the Dapper Snapper concept but with a clip on either end for non-belt loop pants. I’ve also had great luck by reading the comments on the Gap and Old Navy websites – there have been a few pairs of pants that seem to run really slim on a lot of kids, and they fit my girl perfectly – no hitching required!

  • Carm

    November 8, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    Pumpkin Patch sell them! Again though, not all the styles have them and I can’t really figure a pattern. Put your kid in overalls too — then the waistband issue isn’t really relevant.

  • Tiffany

    November 8, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    Gap Outlet is my favorite place for all my kids clothing. It’s cute and fairly inexpensive, especially with all of the coupons and discounts they offer (sign up for their emails/text/or credit card). My son can only wear their pants due to the adjustable waist…he’s a skinny little guy too!

  • JanM

    November 8, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    I read somewhere that an inexpensive version of the Dapper Snapper is just to use a mitten clip (the kind that snap on either end to attach kids mitts to their coatsleeves). I haven’t tried it yet, but it seems ingenious. 

    I also have a tiny-waisted toddler and I love those adjustable waistbands. Belts have also helped – especially finding one that my daughter thinks is “so pretty”. 

  • JCF

    November 8, 2010 at 2:24 pm

    I agree with the suggestion to search out the more expensive name-brands at consignment stores. My son is super skinny, and now that he’s potty trained and doesn’t have the cloth diaper bulk to hold his pants up anymore, our options have been seriously limited. We’ve found that Baby Gap and Gymboree are slimmer cut than Target or Old Navy. I’ve gotten quite a few pairs of pants from a local consignment store for $5 or so apiece, rather than $20+ new.

    I felt really badly the day I had to tell my MIL (who is very generous about buying lots of clothing for the kids) to either stop buying pants for my son (because most of them just didn’t fit) or that she needed to look out for Baby Gap pants for an adjustable waist.

  • silver

    November 8, 2010 at 3:00 pm

    This won’t help the mom that wrote in, as her son is still too young…. But if your child is size 4 or 5, switch from toddler sizes (4T and 5T) to boy sizes–but look for “slim”. My son swims in 3T pants, even with the adjustable waist tightened four holes on both sides. But a pair of 4 slims fits him perfectly!

    Not all brands carry boy sizes in 4 and 5 (some start in size 6). But those that do are wonderful!

  • Dani

    November 8, 2010 at 4:18 pm

    Post potty training, we’ve moved on to suspenders. The adjustable waists were just being pulled in so much that it really looked ridiculous and belts were becoming a potty nightmare. My mom picked him up a pair of suspenders and they’re easy to slip over his shoulders for bathroom runs and stops his pants from drooping to his ankles as he runs.
    Although, I’m totally going to check out the slims next time too!

  • SarahA

    November 8, 2010 at 4:57 pm

    I’m all about the overalls now. I don’t know how that will work with potty training but for now they work great. They are still very wide on her but in overalls, that works.

  • Melissa

    November 8, 2010 at 6:20 pm

    Also, you can just take one side in a little bit. My MIL measured my son’s waist and then took in all the pants she bought him just on one side. The stitching isn’t noticeable, they fit, and you can still buy less pricey pants. She showed me how to do it and it’s really not tough…5 pairs done in about 45 minutes and thanks for playing. And that’s just because i suck at the sew. 🙂

  • Melissa L

    November 8, 2010 at 8:58 pm

    We buy all of our Levi’s at Shopko. I really like the Levi Strauss ones. If you watch the ads you can get buy one get one half off. And the best part is they have the Kid Tough guarantee and if they put holes in the knees they will replace them with the same brand/ same size without a receipt. With three boys this has saved me a ton of money since they end up with holes after a month.

  • Melissa

    November 8, 2010 at 9:46 pm

    Also, Pumplin Patch does adjustable waists in all of their pants, not just jeans or khakis but sweats too – which is nice when your kid is in between sizes. 

  • professormama

    November 9, 2010 at 2:13 am

    Girls pants! Seriously, girls jeans come in a skinny-er cut, better than the boys cut- and the ones at Target don’t look like “girls jeans”. My 5 and a half year old son wears a size 6 or 7 with the legs cuffed, they last for a year before they start getting too short or too tight in the waist, perfect for string beans!

  • Tiffany

    November 9, 2010 at 11:29 am

    Myself belts are great, even post-potty training. My little guy is just shy of three and can hand it himself.
    If you are industrious, you could easily make one with some velcro and fabric too.

  • Jessica

    November 9, 2010 at 4:32 pm

    When he gets a little bigger (as in out of toddler) head to wal-mart. My 10 yr old has no waist whatsoever, and even in slims he pulls in adjustable waists virtually all the way. They sell wrangler jeans in slims with adjustable waists for around 11-13 dollars. My little guys that followed after don’t have the waist issue so can’t help on that front. The younger ones switch to the next size for the bigger waist rather than the length, quite the opposite of their oldest brother.

  • kari Weber

    November 9, 2010 at 9:18 pm

    I second the previous poster that talked about the “Kid Tough” guarantee… at Sears, where I shop, they have Levi’s slim-fit adjustable waist (like the 549 style…) for about 19 bucks (less if there is a sale…) BUT they have the Kidvantage program (free to join) and if the kids wear out the pants before they grow out of them, you just take them back and they give you a new pair. Just. Like. That.
    I bought one pair of 4 slims for my son over a year ago.  And I CRANKED the elastic.  Since then, I have gotten 3 new pairs of pants from that one purchase, and now he fits them with only a button hole or two, and no cuffing the bottom.  It is almost time to move him up a size, and crank again because he is so tall.  I love it, buy one, get a bunch free!  They have this program, by the way, on ALL kids clothes.  If they get a hole, or the zipper breaks, or it wears out before they grow out of it, they replace it.  Even shoes.  Genius.

  • Courtney

    November 12, 2010 at 3:27 pm

    How did 77Kids not get a shout out yet? Their jeans are the best!!

  • Megan

    November 12, 2010 at 4:37 pm

    I second the Dapper Snappers!! My son is very skinny, yet tall, and these have been our best discovery yet. They are easy to put on, and we just have one that we switch from pants to pants depending on what he’s wearing. Buying one wasn’t really very expensive, especially compared to buying brand-name adjustable waist pants! They do only work on pants with belt loops though, and I have no advice for other types of pants. I bet some smart mama has invented something, though!

  • Jess

    September 27, 2013 at 7:47 pm

    The only brands that were in the post that have adjustable waist under a size 2T were GAP and The Children’s Place, and that’s only on the premium denim which is never below $20 (TCP).  I know this bc I have searched everywhere.  TCP premium denim and their chinos has adjustable waist in sizes as small as 6-9 months and in the outlet this past Spring they also had shorts as well.  Some shorts online were also available with adjustable waist.  Tommy Hilfiger wasn’t mentioned and they have adjustable waist in their infant boys jeans, also as small as 6-9 months.  H&M also carries a style of jean with the adjustable waist, KMart brand does as well.  You can’t find a store that carries Levi’s where I live so idk about them.