If you found the perfect skirt for your next concert, party, or interview but it seems a bit too big around the waist, don’t panic! You can pretty easily alter the waist and seams of most skirts to tailor the skirt to the shape of your body. In fact, you can learn how to make a skirt smaller by sewing, cutting, or even just folding it!
The best way to make a skirt smaller is to take in the seams or add darts at the waist. Other alterations include adding elastic at the back of the waistband or sewing the waistband by hand. To make a skirt smaller without sewing, you can use hacks such as inserting safety pins or hairpins.
In this article, you will learn eight methods to make a skirt smaller. You will discover tips for how to handle zippers and pockets as you alter a skirt. Finally, you will find fun and simple hacks for making a skirt smaller without cutting or sewing!
Can You Alter a Skirt to Make It Smaller?
You can alter a skirt to make it smaller in many different ways, including sewing the skirt or tightening its waistband with elastic. It’s much easier to make a garment smaller than to make it larger! Any tailor or seamstress could alter a skirt to make it a size or two smaller with little effort.
The good news is that you can also learn how to alter a skirt to make it smaller! Depending on the tools you have at hand, you can permanently alter the skirt by taking in seams or adding darts at the waistband. You can also learn how to handle skirts that have an elastic waist, pockets, or zippers!
If you do not have a sewing machine, you can make some simple alterations by hand with a needle and thread. Alternatively, you can learn some hacks for how to make a skirt smaller without cutting or sewing at all.
The fact of the matter is that most ready-to-wear clothes come in “universal” sizes designed to roughly fit most people in a certain weight range. But you can’t have a one-size-fits-all piece of clothing that truly fits anyone’s unique body shape. Learning how to tailor clothes to your body will let you take those fun ready-to-wear clothes you find at Target or TJ Maxx and adjust the clothes, so they fit you precisely!
How to Make a Skirt Smaller: 8 Methods
You can make a skirt smaller in many ways, ranging from simply putting on a belt to cinch everything in to ripping out the stitching and resewing the seams. Some methods take more time and a bit of knowledge, though you can always learn as you go! Others offer a quick fix that will not permanently resize the skirt but may let you wear it in a pinch.
1. Take in Seams
Most of the time, taking in the seams is the best way to make a skirt smaller. A professional tailor or seamstress will likely use this method to make a skirt one or two sizes smaller. This method does take a bit of time and patience, but it is not that difficult for a sewing technique!
Most skirts have a waistband and seams that run down the sides. For a fitted skirt such as a mini skirt or a pencil skirt, you will need to take in the seams all the way down the sides and also make the sides of the waistband smaller. For a looser skirt such as an A-line skirt, you may only need to take in the waistband and the top portion of the side seams.
However, if your skirt has an elastic waist or pockets at the sides, you can find instructions later in this article to help you out!
You do need a sewing machine, seam ripper, scissors, and thread that matches your skirt to successfully complete this technique, though.
- Turn the skirt inside out and try it on. If it feels just a little too loose, go ahead and try this method! If it positively hangs off you, it is probably many sizes too large and you may want to give up on it.
- Gather up the excess material at your waist and hips, pinching the side seam between your fingers as you do this. You will want to gather an even amount on both sides. Pin down the side seam to know where to sew to make the skirt fit you correctly.
- Carefully remove the inside-out skirt. You should have a line of pins inside the original stitching of the side seams.
- Draw a neat chalk line where you pinned. For a fitted skirt, you will want to draw this line down to the hem. For a looser skirt, you can taper your chalk line out from the waistband to the original stitching in the side seam if you do not want to sew down the skirt.
- This step gets a little tricky, but it’s the only hard part of the process! You will need to use a seam ripper to unpick the stitching that holds the waistband to the skirt at the side seams. You don’t have to take the waistband totally off. Just separate these two sections as well as the side seams in the waistband itself.
- Set your sewing machine to a basting stitch. This is a long, loose stitch that you can easily remove later.
- Use the basting stitch to sew along your chalk line. For now, leave the waistband hanging, and just re-sew the side seams of the skirt.
- Remove the pins and try on the skirt to see if it fits perfectly.
- If you like the new fit, set your sewing machine to a regular stitch length and sew over the basting stitches.
- Repeat this process with the tiny side seams in the waistband, making sure that these seams match up exactly with the new side seams you sewed in the skirt.
- Now you need to reattach the waistband to the skirt in the areas you ripped out earlier. To do this, simply turn the waistband inside out and pin it right sides together with the skirt’s waist. Use your sewing machine to stitch across the gap you made when you ripped out stitches.
- Finally, use an iron to neatly press the new seams you sewed and make the waistband lie smooth and flat.
Besides making your skirt smaller neatly and professionally, this method allows you to tailor the side seams to your shape. For instance, if you have curvy hips, you can sew a curvy side seam as you put in the new side seams!
2. Insert Darts at Waistband
Inserting darts at the waist allows you to make a skirt smaller and give it a more flattering fit. You may want to use this method if you have curvy hips but a flatter posterior, and you find that the skirt tends to bag out at the seat.
This method does not necessarily take more work than altering the side seams, but many sewers find side seam alterations a little easier than sewing darts. With practice, though, you can learn to whip out a dart in no time!
First, what exactly is a dart? It is a method of shaping fabric by pinching a triangle out of the material, often at the waist or the bust. The wider end of the triangle meets up with a seam, in this case, the seam that attaches the skirt to the waistband. The narrow end of the triangle tapers out into the bulk of the skirt.
You can insert darts in the waist of both pencil and A-line skirts.
- First, try on your skirt and gather up all the excess material at one side of the waist. Pin this and carefully remove the skirt.
- Measure the excess material to know how much of the waist material you need to include in the darts. Divide this number by four, and you will know how big to make the top of each dart!
- Next, turn the skirt inside out and use a seam ripper to carefully remove the waistband from the skirt. Set this aside as you will need it again later.
- Now find the center of the waist at the front and the back of the skirt. Fold the skirt so that the side seam meets this center point, and use a sewing pin or chalk to mark the point halfway between the center and the side seam. Repeat this until you have marked all four of these points, two in the front and two in the back.
- Now, centering a ruler or measuring tape on your four marks, measure the amount of space you need for each dart. For example, if you found that the skirt was two inches too large during your earlier measurement, you need to divide two inches by four, which means that each dart should measure half an inch at its widest point.
- Mark both sides of each dart, and then pinch these points together, with the right sides of the skirt together.
- Pin the triangles in place by inserting a pin at the marks you just drew.
- You may also find it helpful to draw a chalk line from that mark all the way down to the bottom of the triangle as it tapers into the skirt.
- Sew down the chalk line from the wide top of the triangle to the tapered point, but stop just a hair from the edge of the fabric at the tip of the triangle.
- Repeat this process for all four darts.
- Leave a long tail of thread and knot this off by hand at the tip of the triangle.
- The diameter of the skirt waist will now be smaller than the diameter of the waistband, so you will need to sew new side seams on the waistband to make it smaller.
- Once you have matched the waistband to the smaller skirt, reattach the waistband by pinning it to the skirt waist, right sides together. Then sew around the circle of the waist.
- Finally, press the waistband flat and press the darts flat as well.
3. Insert Elastic
Threading elastic into the back of the waistband is a trick often used by dancers and theater costume managers to quickly fit a costume to a performer. This technique does not give you that scrunched-up look you get from a full elastic waist on a skirt.
You will need wide elastic, a needle, and pins for this method.
- Find the center back of the waistband. Mark this point with a pin. Then measure out several inches to each side of this point–the further you go, the more elastic you can insert. If you want to shrink the waistband by a lot, you may want to measure four to five inches on each side of the center point.
- Cut a piece of the elastic just a bit longer than the distance between your markings. You will trim the elastic later to tighten it up, but for now, you want it to lie flat on top of the inside of the waistband. Pin down both ends of the elastic on top of your markings.
- Now you will make a casing for the elastic using buttonhole thread. This type of thread has more heft and thickness to it than normal sewing thread.
- Tie off the end of your thread and make a couple of tiny stitches at the top of the waistband at one end of the elastic. Do not sew through the elastic!
- Bring the thread down over the elastic at a diagonal, and take a stitch in the waistband just below the elastic half an inch away from the end of the elastic.
- Bring the thread back up to just above the elastic, at a point one inch from the end of the elastic. Take another small stitch here. You should now have a “V” shape of thread crossing the elastic.
- Repeat this process until you have Vs crossing the elastic down its length.
- Using either a sewing machine or your needle and thread, carefully stitch down one end of the elastic. If sewing by hand, try not to sew through to the front of the waistband.
- Now you get to decide how tightly to pull the elastic! Pull on the elastic on its loose end until you reach your desired tautness. Pin the loose end in place.
- Sew down the loose end of the elastic, and cut away the excess length.
4. Alter Hem to Make Skirt Tighter at the Bottom
The best way to make a skirt tighter at the bottom is to take in the side seams at the hem. You can do this easily in most skirts by pinning the side seams together and sewing a new line of stitches inside the old stitching.
This creates a smaller circle at the bottom opening of the skirt. You don’t even have to rip out old stitching or sew a new hem for this simple process!
The danger of trying this, though, is that it can make a skirt very tight and impede your range of movement. If you do want a skirt that gets narrower at the bottom, you might want to consider adding a kick pleat or slit at the center back to give you a little wiggle room.
5. Alter Waistband By Hand
You can alter a waistband by hand by taking in the side seams or adding darts as described in the previous sections. The difference is that you will need to hand stitch the new seams with a needle and thread.
This process does take a bit of time and a lot of patience. The bright side here is making everything neat and flat with tiny, almost invisible stitches. Many couture clothing lines use hand-stitched elements for this reason!
Alternatively, if you want a super-quick way to alter a waistband by hand, you can try snipping off the button and moving it farther away from the buttonhole on the waistband. This will make the waist a little smaller when you close the button!
6. Make Skirt Smaller Without Sewing
The easiest way to make a skirt smaller without sewing is to insert safety pins in strategic locations. This does not give you a permanent alteration! It can save the day if you’re in a hurry and just need your skirt to stay up during a party or event, though.
One simple way to use safety pins to make a skirt smaller is to fold over a small pleat on either side of the center back seam. Carefully insert a safety pin from the inside of the waistband to hold the pleat so that the pin does not show from the outside.
Another way to use safety pins to make your skirt smaller is to try on the skirt inside out and pinch the loose fabric of the waistband at both sides of your waist. Insert small safety pins front eh waistband down over your hips as if you were sewing a new seam inside the old one. Repeat this for the other side, then turn the skirt right side out and put it on!
7. Make a Skirt Smaller Without Cutting
If you need to make a skirt smaller without cutting, you can use fashion tape or apply a bobby pin. Of course, you can also use safety pins, as you saw in the previous section!
Sometimes you need to alter a skirt without damaging it, such as returning it to a friend after wearing it.
One easy way to make your skirt temporarily smaller without cutting is to make a pleat either at the side seams or the center back and slide a bobby pin down inside the pleat to hold it in place. The straight line of the hairpin will hold the pleat even better than a safety pin!
Another method you can try is to make a neat triangle fold to both sides of the center back and hold the fabric in place with fashion tape or hem tape. This tape will not come out super easily, though, so keep that in mind if you decide to use it!
You can also use hem tape to put in a no-sew hem if you need to shorten your skirt or at the side seams to make the bottom of the skirt tighter without sewing.
8. Loose Skirt Hack
Supposing you want a really, really easy way to make your skirt smaller, you can also try a loose skirt hack!
- Wear a belt. This sounds simplistic, but it can keep your skirt up and make a fashion statement at the same time! If you do not want anyone to see the belt, put it on and then drape a loose shirt over it.
- Shrink the skirt in the wash by washing it in hot water and then placing it in the dryer. This method comes with some risk but will work well on cotton fabrics like denim. You should not try to shrink anything made out of wool or silk.
- If you have a long shoelace handy, tie it around your waist so that it rests tightly against your skin. Fold over the top of the skirt waistband, and then flip this entire fold over to the inside of the skirt, passing the fold over the shoelace as you do this. The tight shoelace will hold the twice-folded waistband in place and keep your skirt nice and tight!
How to Fix a Skirt That Is Too Big in the Waist Without SewingYou can fix a skirt that is too big in the waist without sewing using safety pins or commercial products like mitten clips.
Safety pinning a skirt works fast but can sometimes leave obvious bulges at the waistband. If you just need to keep your skirt from falling around your ankles, go for it! But if you want to look sleek and professional, you may want to consider a commercial product instead.Elastic mitten clips come in many shapes, colors, and sizes. They hang onto mittens or gloves as kids play in the snow, but you can also insert one of these guys into the inside back of your waistband!
Just clip on edge to one side of the inside back of the waistband, tug the elastic a little bit tight, and clip the other clip to the other side of the waistband! This will pull the front of the skirt more tightly around your middle.
How to Take in a Skirt with a Back Zipper
The easiest way to take in a skirt with a back zipper is to take in the side seams and leave the center back alone. If you really need to use the dart method, you will have to use a seam ripper to remove at least the top portion of the zipper from the waistband and then sew it back in using a zipper foot on your sewing machine.
This takes a fair bit of work, so you will find it a lot easier to take in the side seams, instead!
If you have a skirt with a zipper at the side instead of at the center back, you will want to attempt the reverse of this: leave the side seams alone and install darts at the front and back of the waistband instead to take up the excess material.
How to Make a Long Skirt Shorter and Tighter
The best way to make a long skirt shorter and tighter is to use your sewing machine to take in the side seams and shorten the hem. If you do not have a sewing machine, you can try a quick hack such as folding over the skirt’s waistband to make it tighter. You can also use iron-on hem tape to make almost any skirt shorter.
Ideally, though, you can give your long skirt a semi-professional makeover by taking in the seams to fit the waist and hips to your shape, as described earlier in this article.
Shortening a skirt to your desired length is quite easy; you simply need to measure the point where you want the skirt to end, cut off the extra fabric, and hemstitch the new hem into place by hand or on your sewing machine!
How to Take in a Skirt with Pockets
The best way to take in a skirt with pockets is to use a seam ripper and remove the pockets from the original side seam. Then re-insert the pockets as you sew new side seams further in, making the skirt smaller.
This process takes a fair amount of work. For that reason, you may find it easier to try adding darts at the front and back of the waist instead of taking in the side seams.
Altering a pocket skirt without sewing gets tricky. You can try a hack like wearing a belt, but even safety pins will bulk out if you try to pin over the pockets. Your best bet is to go through the time-consuming process of taking out the pockets and sewing them back in!
How to Take in a Skirt with an Elastic Waist
You can take in a skirt with an elastic waist in three different ways depending on the time and supplies you have available.
First, you can cut a tiny slit in the waistband casing to reach the elastic. Then snip away a little bit of the elastic–you don’t want to make the skirt too small! Finally, use a safety pin to secure the elastic back together.
This method will not last permanently, but it will make the waistband tighter very quickly if you need to wear the skirt right away!
Second, you can use the same method but sew the elastic back together instead of a safety pin. This method will hold together better than using a safety pin. You can do this with a sewing machine or with a needle and thread.
The downside to both of these techniques is that shortening the elastic may cause the fabric to bunch up around the waist in an unattractive way, especially if you take out more than an inch of the elastic. To solve this problem, you can try the third technique.
The most professional-looking way to take in the waist of an elastic skirt is to use the side seam method described earlier in this article and remove a portion of the elastic before you sew the waistband back onto the skirt. That way you remove some of the fabric from the sides of the skirt and avoid the bunching issue caused by shortening the elastic!
Can a Seamstress Fix My Skirt?
A professional seamstress or tailor can make pretty much any kind of skirt smaller. Making garments smaller takes skill but is far less challenging than making clothes bigger.
A seamstress can shorten the hem of a skirt, take in the side seams, add darts at the waist, or move a zipper or pockets as necessary.
Of course, you can do the alterations yourself, as well! But if you have an expensive skirt that needs altering, you may want to consider taking it to a seamstress or tailor to get the nicest possible results and end up with a garment that looks as if it was made just for you!
Most professional skirt alterations cost between $25-$45, depending on the complexity of the task.
Using many different techniques, you can make a skirt smaller, including taking in the side seams or adding darts with a sewing machine. You can also make these alterations by hand using a needle and thread. If you need your skirt smaller at the bottom, you can take in the side seams above the hem to tighten the bottom opening of the skirt.
To make a skirt smaller without sewing, you can do simple hacks such as wearing a belt, folding the waistband over a tied shoelace, or inserting safety pins or mitten clips.
Have you ever had to wear a too-big skirt? How did you make it smaller? Leave a comment below to let us know!