Tuesday, November 3, 2009

How to Stretch Leather Trousers

[*squelch*] Ooo, pardon me. [*squelch*]

What are those wet squishy noises, you may wonder.

It's because I'm wearing a pair of soaked leather pants. With some balled socks stuffed down the waistband.

What? You're still perplexed? OK. Here's the whole story.

Leather trousers are back in fashion, in a way the world hasn't seen since the late '80s. I have been reluctant to dabble in the trend, for two reasons. The first is that in many ways I am far too old to be wearing leather trousers. Let's just say 45+ ways.

The second is that I love secondhand clothes. But secondhand leather trousers are, by nature, nasty. Not the good kind of nasty. More of a "I can't be bothered to take them to the specialist dry cleaner after that heavy night out dancing in an unventilated club, so I'll drop them off at the thrift store instead nasty". Yuck-o.

But then I read that leather can actually be handwashed--even chucked into a gentle cycle in the washing machine, if you have a machine capable of such things.

And so yesterday, when I discovered a pair of really nice and nearly new leather trousers in a nearby charity shop for £5.95/$10, it seemed like kismet. I couldn't try them on in the shop, but they looked approximately my size.

Once home, I discovered that they were not my size. In fact a full size too small, whereby the waistband cut into skin and the leather round back was stretched tight as a drum, fully enforcing all the worst clichés of hens trying to dress like rock chicks.

Luckily, though, further Googling informed me that it is possible to stretch leather trousers. The knowledge base here is primarily the motorcycle riders, who wear leather much for protection against wind and road rash as because it looks undeniably cool. And according to the forum at Speedzilla Motorcycle, leather will stretch wonderfully if you wear it into the shower and then go for a ride at top speed on your Harley to dry off.

Not having a motorcycle, I settled for a sink wash and for riding the chair at my computer, having added a few extra inches to my form by stuffing in the socks. The leather is drying slowly, too slowly for my liking, but the technique seems to be solid gold.

Some lessons learned about washing and/or stretching leather trousers:

1) The color bleeds like you won't believe. Wash garment separately, or you'll be sorry. And don't use a nice towel to dry.
2) The color bleed issue is probably why most manufacturers recommend specialist cleaning, but a lining, especially an acetate lining, could also melt clean away if you were silly enough to touch it with an iron. Air dry your leather.
3) Leather is an organic material that was happily waterproof while on the back of the animal in question. It can take getting soaked. It cannot take being dried too close to a source of heat. Dry it slowly and carefully, as you would wet leather shoes.
4) If the leather is especially dried out, applying a nice leather conditioner will do wonders for its appearance.
5) I wouldn't put leather trousers in a washing machine, even on a delicates cycle, but I might try it with an especially gungy, yet tough, leather jacket. Turn it inside out first.

Now, they're almost dry. And still a bit too tight for my liking, but not so ridiculously snug that I won't put a picture up to show the result. A couple more hours stretching and they should be just fine (plus they will continue to ease up with ongoing wear).

One last tip: if you're over a certain age and you want to wear leather trousers, here's how to do it stylishly. Cover your bum. Unless you ride a Harley, in which case, I bow down to your rules.


  1. Love leather pants. I am dying to find another pair. And I am only about 3 reasons behind you...Great care tips!

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  2. I'm curious to know, what's the point of having a pair of leather trousers if you can't show off your bum?

  3. Thank you for many, many laughs today. Love the image of you "riding" your desk chair. Love the image of a Hell's Angel somewhere (East Village?) hand-washing his trousers in the sink and then riding around to dry them off. Much love.

  4. After you dried the trousers by wearing it, did it slowly get back to it's original size (the size before you tried to stretch it) after you took it off? I mean I want to know if it would become too tight again if we -well, i- wear it for the second or the other time without sink wash and dried it by wearing the trousers before. And is leather trousers are just completly unstretchable? Doesn't like ledging did or something. Thank you :)

  5. Wow how nice dress. I like this very much. I got a new idea to buy a new dress. Thanks for share this nice post. I hope I will get more in next time. I have blog about leather clean you are welcome to visit our site.

  6. Hello Roksana, I know that it would be cool if you pair it with a shoes. You can check this website http://www.boex.tv/ if you are interested in secondhand shoes and I'm sure that you will like their products because they are still good in quality,

  7. Im following your guidance now. Im a little over 2 hours into the process. They feel a bit looser but still not what I need to feel comfy. Im thinking about sleeping in them.

  8. Hi thx for this info! What about stretching faux leather or faux suede especially? I recently gained some weight in waistline and hips. I'm skinny so I need the weight, but want these pants to not dig into my belly and butt. Can I stretch them out a bit? Thx!

  9. guess they forgot about the rule of thumb. Where if you make a great product. People will talk and there will be no need for a HUGE emblem the size of the entire product...(Face palm)

  10. Going to try the get in shower and ride till there dry and see I'm a biker so if a biker says it works that should be gosspil

  11. THanks for the advise I just got some leather pants as a present and they were a little to small