Pin Those Pants
If it's not already, the almighty safety pin should be a staple in your purse, travel bag and bathroom drawer. In addition to temporarily hemming pants and even hiding unsightly bra straps, you can use this versatile little miracle worker to tighten up oversized pants when there's no belt in sight.
Before putting the pants on, turn them inside-out and fold a rear-facing section of waistband into itself. This creates a sort of dart, like you might see on a skirt. Secure the dart with a safety pin -- smaller pins work for lightweight fabric, but you might need a heftier model for denim -- and you'll find the pants have gone down a size or two.
You might have to adjust your gathering depending on how much smaller you wish to make the pants. If smaller is better, use a few pins to make more darts on either side of the waistband, just behind the pockets.
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Clip It Up
While it might not be a practical choice for day-to-day wear, if you're going in front of the camera and have a pair of pants that are almost perfect except for their size, turn to an old entertainment industry trick -- clips. Whether it's a strong clothespin, a binder clip, or any other kind of small clasp, you can use clips to gather fabric. Put the pants on first, and have a friend -- and a mirror -- help out with this one. Gather waistband material at the rear of the pants and clip it when the size is right; then do the same for any puffiness in the pants legs. It could be a lifesaver for your engagement shoot or family photos.
For a more practical and wearable choice, seek a specialty clothing clip that caters exactly to the purpose of cinching pants without a belt. Available at online retailers, these inconspicuous plastic clips work sort of like adjusting the strap on a backpack.; you hook the clip to the waistband, then twist it 90 degrees to gather and secure excess fabric. Typically, these simple gizmos reduce waistband sizes by up to 5 inches, and you can even double up on clips to double the downsizing effect.
From Saggy to Stylish
A belt doesn't have to be a leather accessory with a buckle and a few holes. -- even the Oxford dictionary says so. If you don't have a traditional belt on hand and sewing isn't your bag, think outside the box. Reach for a long sash to cinch up your britches. Whether solid colored or patterned, a lightweight sash lends your ensemble a Bohemian vibe that especially suits casual capris, boyfriend jeans or wide-legged pants.
Similarly, rope isn't just for tying up horses and docking boats. While thick, rough rope from the garage isn't ideal, a thin, clean rope in a neutral color -- or even better, a length of soft curtain cord -- works just as well as a traditional belt for certain wardrobe items. White rope makes for a nautical look when paired with high-waisted denim shorts and a loose blouse, or you can make a bold statement by holding up wool trousers with an elegant, decoratively tied rope. This trick adds a gypsy vibe to flowing skirts too.
For pants that just need a tiny bit of help staying up, a thicker under layer -- like athletic shorts or spandex leggings -- might do the trick. If you're going uber-casual, you may even be able to roll the waistband on cotton pants and shorts to tighten them up a tad.