Have you ever found a skirt you bought ten years ago and struggled to zip up the waistband? Next time you outgrow a favorite skirt, don’t panic! You can learn how to make a skirt bigger using simple sewing and non-sewing alterations methods.
The best way to make a skirt bigger is to remove the waistband and insert additional fabric or elastic to provide more room. Other sewn alterations include adding a stretchy waistband and putting elastic in a zippered waistband. Non-sewing methods include stretching, applying extenders, or using bobby pins.
In this article, you will find out when you can and cannot upsize a skirt to make it bigger. You will learn five basic methods to make a skirt bigger. Finally, you will discover tips for working with special kinds of skirts such as denim or pleated skirts.
Can You Upsize a Skirt to Make it Bigger?
Most of the time, you can upsize a skirt to make it bigger by inserting elastic, extra fabric, or commercial products such as waistband extenders. In some cases, you can even stretch out the fabric to make the garment bigger. That said, some styles of skirts allow for easier alteration than others, so the possibility of upsizing does depend on the kind of skirt.
Also, you will find it much easier to make a garment smaller than to make it bigger. Even professional tailors will not always take on upsizing projects since adding material into a garment takes more time and effort than taking fabric out to make something smaller.
The other challenge of upsizing is making the finished product look nice. Upsizing alterations tend to look pretty obvious, meaning that you may need to plan to wear a long shirt or sweater with an upsized skirt to hide the waistband!
With a few simple techniques, you can easily learn how to make most skirts a size or two larger, but the skirt may not look as professional or store-bought after the alterations. For example, if you add a panel of additional fabric into the waistband, the new material might not perfectly match the original material, or the added seams could look a tad bulky.
All that goes to say that while you can make a skirt bigger, you should expect varied results depending on the method you use and skirt style.
How to Make a Skirt Bigger: 6 Methods
You can make a skirt bigger using methods such as altering the waistband with a sewing machine, adding side slits, inserting elastic, or even stretching out the fabric. You can also try non-sewing techniques for a quick upsizing hack.
Most alteration methods do work better with a sewing machine. That said, you could complete any of these methods with a needle and thread if you want to sew by hand instead.
Check out the six simple methods to make a skirt bigger listed here, and decide which one will work best for you!
Altering the waistband of a skirt is often the best way to make it bigger. Most of the time, too-small clothes do not fit in the waist area, meaning that you can’t zipper or button the waistband shut!
You can alter a waistband in many ways, such as adding fabric or using elastic instead of the original waistband. You can check out both of those techniques later in this section!
This method is a bit of a cheater technique that lets you quickly expand the length of the waistband with just a bit of sewing.
- Use small scissors to remove the button from the waistband. Set this aside, as you will need it later!
- If you look at the end of the waistband where you just removed the button, you should find a flap of waistband folded to the inside. Use a seam ripper to carefully pick away the stitching. This should give you a bit of extra fabric to unfold at the edge of the waistband.
- Use a sewing machine or serger to hem the new end of the waistband. You may want to topstitch the top edge as well if the rest of the waistband has topstitching.
- Finally, sew the button back onto the slightly extended waistband!
2. Adding Fabric
Adding fabric inserts to the waistband or side seams can also create more room in the top of the skirt. This method allows you to resize a skirt by two or three sizes, but it will leave visible triangular seams. Finding new material to use as inserts may also prove challenging, but you want to make sure the fabric matches as closely as possible to avoid making the alteration look too obvious.
This method requires a bit more sewing and some additional steps, but you may want to try adding fabric if both the waistband and the top of the skirt feel too tight. This way, you can provide more room in the hips as well as the waist.
- Use a seam ripper to remove the original waistband. Work carefully to avoid damaging the fabric. Set aside the old waistband.
- Locate the side seams.
- Carefully use a seam ripper to remove the stitching six inches down the side seam. Alternatively, you can measure a length far enough down to reach past the curve of your hips when you try on the skirt. In this case, note down the measurement to use later.
- Deciding how much fabric to insert in the open side seams takes a little work. Cut a long strip of your replacement fabric four inches wide and pin it around your waist like a waistband. Mark the length of your desired waist on the new waistband, and cut off the excess leaving just one inch for seam allowance.
- Pin the new waistband to the skirt, starting in the center front. This way, you will see how much space you have in the open side seams, creating an empty triangle at each side of the skirt.
- Trace this empty triangle on scrap paper. Then use a ruler to draw a half-inch seam allowance around the triangle.
- Cut out two triangles of your replacement fabric using this paper pattern.
- Remove the pinned-on waistband and set it aside.
- Sew the triangle inserts into the side seams of the skirt. Starting from the bottom tip of the triangle and sewing up toward the waistband.
- Fold the replacement waistband in half, wrong sides together. Baste around the raw edges to keep the fold in place.
- Now align the raw edge of the waistband with the right side of the waistband. Sew around the whole circle to attach the new waistband.
- Finally, sew on any buttons or closures you might need to the waistband, and then try on the much larger skirt!
Depending on your skill level, you can add fabric panels in many different ways besides this basic method. You could insert just one triangle of replacement fabric at the center back seam, for example. Or you could add a wider rectangular panel all the way down the front of the skirt for a statement-piece kind of alteration!
3. Without Sewing
While sewn alterations make the most permanent resizing, you can make a skirt bigger by using some quick non-sewing hacks as well.
Of course, one of the most obvious ways to make a waistband bigger without sewing is to stretch the material. You can find more details on that method later in this article. Check out these three hacks if you’re in a hurry, too!
- In a pinch (no pun intended!), try adding a commercial product such as these waist extenders. You may want to wear a long top that will hang down over the waist, but these will give you some breathing room at least!
- For a cheaper alternative, try looping a small rubber band or hair elastic over the button on your waistband. Take one end of the band through the other, cinching it tight around the button. Then take the long loose end through the buttonhole and back to the button.
- This method won’t always work, but if you have pleats or darts in the skirt, you can use a seam ripper to remove the stitching and unfold these shaping elements. This will give you a bit more fabric in the skirt, possibly making it more comfortable.
4. With Elastic
You can alter some skirts by replacing the original waistband with an elastic waistband. This provides just a bit more give in the waist, allowing you to comfortably wear a skirt that didn’t quite fit!
This method is one of the most comfortable you can try, but please note that it will look less than store-bought when you finish. You may not want to try this on a fancy pencil skirt, but you can safely put in an elastic waist if you plan to wear a loose blouse or sweater that can hang down over the new elastic waist!
To insert an elastic waistband:
- Turn the skirt inside out and find the seam that connects the original waistband to the skirt. Use a seam ripper to carefully remove this stitching, and take the old waistband off.
- Lay the discarded waistband on top of a length of wide elastic. Cut the elastic in the same length as the old waistband so that the elastic will fit the top of the skirt. The extra room in the elastic waist will come from the stretch in the elastic!
- If your skirt has a zipper, you will leave the ends of the elastic loose to sew them to the edges of the zipper in the same way as the old waistband had attached to the zipper. If the original waistband formed a complete circle with no zipper, go ahead and stitch the ends of the elastic together to make a circle.
- Attach the elastic to the waist of the skirt, right sides together. Sew the edges together using a zigzag or stretch stitch on your sewing machine.
- If necessary, sew the ends of the elastic to the zipper, also using a zigzag stitch.
- Turn the skirt right side out and try it on!
5. Stretch the Fabric
If you don’t want to cut and sew your skirt to make it bigger, you can try stretching out the fibers in the fabric. This method will work best on natural materials such as cotton. Denim skirts, in particular, will stretch quite easily!
- Run your skirt through a cold water wash in the washing machine. Remove it from the washer while damp.
- Work around the circle of the waistband, stretching as you go with your hands. If you want a little wiggle room in the hip area, repeat this stretching motion lower down in the skirt as well.
- Try on the damp skirt. Does it feel a little bigger?
- If you can, allow the skirt to dry while wearing it. This way, it will hold its new shape and fit you next time you want to wear it!
If you want a more expensive but much quicker method, you can also buy waist extenders that apply pressure to stretch out the waistband of jeans or a skirt.
6. Add Side Slits
If your skirt fits in the waist but trips you up because it wraps too closely around your legs, you may want to try adding side slits! This alteration is one of the easiest you can try and only requires a few simple sewing skills.
- Locate the side seams.
- Mark the point in the seam where you want the slit to end, using chalk or a sewing pin. Make sure you measure this in the same way for both side seams.
- Use a seam ripper to remove the stitching in the side seams up to the point you marked. You may have to remove a tiny bit of stitching in the hem as well, depending on the style of the hem.
- Use an iron to press the raw edges of the ripped-out seam flat.
- Finally, fold over the raw edges of the ripped-out seam one at a time so that the raw edge goes to the inside of the skirt. Sew this new hem in place down each of the sides of both slits to create a finished edge for the slits.
It takes a bit more sewing know-how, but you could also consider adding a kick pleat to add more legroom!
How to Make an Elastic Waist Skirt Bigger
You can make an elastic waist skirt bigger super easily. All you have to do is remove the old elastic and insert a longer piece of elastic, which will provide more stretch in the waist!
- If you can find the center back seam in the waistband, carefully pick this open so that you can access the elastic. You can also neatly snip a small hole in the back of the waistband to get to the elastic and just sew it up later.
- Cut through the old elastic and draw it out of the waistband casing.
- Measure the old elastic. You will want to add one to two inches to that measurement as you cut a new length of elastic. Make sure you use elastic that has the same width as the old elastic.
- Cut your new elastic based on this measurement.
- Slot the new elastic into the waistband casing. One way to do this is to attach a safety pin to the end of the elastic and then wiggle the pin through the casing from the outside.
- Once you have the elastic wrapped all the way around the waist, stitch together the loose ends of elastic to create a closed circle.
- Finally, use a slip stitch to sew shut the slit in the waistband casing you used to access the elastic.
If you want to do this without the sewing, simply follow all the steps listed above but use a safety pin to secure the new elastic in a circle inside the casing. Then use a second tiny safety pin to close up the opening in the skirt waistband.
How to Upsize a Skirt With Zipper
You can upsize a skirt with a zipper in several different ways depending on the type and placement of the zipper.
- For an invisible zipper set in one of the side seams, you will have to rip out the zipper and then sew it back in if you want to add fabric panels to make the skirt bigger.
- For a zipper located at the center back: you can leave it alone and simply use the “adding fabric” method described earlier in this article.
- For a decorative zipper: you can either leave the zipper in place and add fabric panels in the side seams, or rip out the zipper, install a wide panel of fabric in a contrasting color of fabric, and then sew the zipper back int to this new, wider contrast panel.
How to Make a Denim Skirt Bigger
The best way to make a denim skirt bigger is to stretch it using a cold wash and stretch method. You can find directions for this technique earlier in this article! Denim is made out of cotton, which will absorb water and stretch quite easily.
If you prefer a sewn alteration, you could add denim panels to the side seams or the center back seam to create additional space in the skirt. Matching denim is tricky, though, so this may not end up looking as store-bought as you would like.
If you just need the waistband to button but don’t care if it looks great, you may want to use a no-sew hack such as using a commercial waistband extender clip. If you drape a long skirt or sweater over it, no one will ever know!
How to Make a Pleated Skirt Bigger
You can make a pleated skirt bigger if you don’t mind putting in the effort of shifting many tiny folds! For this alteration, you remove the old waistband, create a new waistband in your waist size, and then unfold and refold all the pleats so that the waist of the skirt will fit the circumference of your new waistband.
- Use a seam ripper to remove the old waistband.
- Cut out a long rectangle of new, matching fabric. You want the length to measure the circumference of your waist plus an inch for a buttonhole overlap and an inch for seam allowance. For width, measure the strip four inches wide.
- Fold the strip in half longways and baste down the long raw edge, creating a nice waistband.
- Now comes the hard part! Count the number of pleats. Then use an iron to press them out. This may take a lot of ironing and possibly the application of a clothes steamer as well.
- Measure the length of the new waistband and divide that by the original number of pleats in the skirt. This will tell you how big to make the new pleats.
- Press in new pleats in this smaller size, and then baste around the top edge to hold the pleats in place.
- Sew the new waistband to the skirt, right sides together. Press this, so it looks nice!
- Sew in a buttonhole and attach the old button to your new waistband.
- You should have a freshly pleated skirt in your size!
Can a Tailor Make a Skirt Bigger?
Most of the time, a tailor can make a skirt one to two sizes larger. This does depend on the type of skirt and the kind of material it contains, among other factors. Some tailors may not perform this type of alteration, as making a garment smaller is much easier to do.
Most tailors will charge between $15-$25 to let out a garment. Of course, this may vary from one business to another!
If the skirt includes extra fabric in the side seams, a tailor can certainly enlarge it. You may find this in an expensive skirt or in more formal work skirts. If you have a stretch pencil skirt you bought off a discount rack, the seams are probably serged together and will not contain any extra material.
You can make a skirt bigger using various sewing techniques such as replacing the waistband with elastic, inserting a larger strip of elastic in an elastic waistband, or adding fabric panels at the side seams for additional room. You can also alter a skirt without sewing to make it bigger using techniques such as stretching the fabric, using a waistband extender, or looping a rubber band through the buttonhole.
Pleated or elastic waist skirts need specific techniques to upsize them. Denim and zippered skirts also take some unique sewing methods.
Have you ever resized a skirt? What method did you use? Leave a comment below to let us know!