How to Alter a Skirt That Is Too Small (Too Big or Long)

What could be more comfortable than an elastic waistband? No matter how big your lunch, elastic waistbands just give and give and give. That said, an elastic waistband that doesn’t fit perfectly can be more than a little annoying. Fortunately, it's also a breeze to fix. If you can, get a friend to help: as you’ll be wearing the skirt during the first part of the process, an extra pair of hands will come in handy.

If you’ve got a skirt hanging in your closet that’s just a little too roomy for comfort, don’t worry. With a few adjustments, you could soon have it fitting like a glove.

Altering a Skirt That is Too Small

All you’ll need is some stretchy fabric in a matching color (or in a contrasting color if you want to make a statement), a sewing machine, a pair of scissors, and a handful of pins.

The Method

Step 1

Measure both yourself and the skirt at the waist. Using the measurements you’ve taken, calculate how much extra width you’ll need to add to the skirt to make it comfortable. Cut 2 lengths of the stretchy fabric: the length should be the same as your skirt plus a 2cm allowance, and the width of each strip should be half as wide as the total width needed, plus a 2cm allowance.

Step 2

Open the side seams of the skirt.

Step 3

Pin both pieces of stretchy fabric to one skirt side, right sides facing, and sew along the new seam.

Step 4

Lay the skirt piece with the stretchy fabric attached to it on a work surface, right side up. Place the 2nd skirt piece on top, right side down. Pin the 2nd piece to the stretchy fabric pieces and sew in place.

Step 5

Try the skirt on for fit. If it’s now too large, simply sew another seam down the center of the stretchy fabric to bring it in.

Step 6

To finish, hem the top and bottom of the stretchy fabric and use a zigzag stitch to seal any raw edges.

How To Alter a Skirt Waist


If there’s one truth in life, it’s this: if you can sew, nothing is impossible. Or at least it’s not if it involves adjusting the fit of your clothes. World peace and an end to hunger might still be a stretch, even for the best of dressmakers.

If your skirt waistband isn’t as snug as you’d like, you’ve got 3 options:

  1. Add some belt loops and cinch in the waist with a belt.
  2. Add an elastic band to the inside of the waist. This will stop the skirt from falling down, but depending on the style of the skirt, it might not give the best fit. Which brings us to…

  3. Sew a new seam. As this offers the most professional looking finish, we’ll take the next section to go into it in a little more detail.

How To Alter a Skirt That is Too Big in The Waist

If your skirt’s waistband is too big, try this easy method of bringing it in. It’s simple, quick, offers a professional-looking finish, and requires nothing more than a sewing machine, some pins, and the bare minimum of skill to complete.

Step 1

Start by pulling the skirt on, wrong side out. Work out how much you need to alter the skirt by, then pin it down the side seams to the required fit (this might be easier if you can find a willing pair of hands to assist).

Step 2

Carefully remove the skirt, taking care not to puncture yourself on the pins.

Step 3

Use a sewing machine (or a needle and thread, if you’ve got as much patience as time) to sew a straight stitch down the inside length of the skirt, using the pins as your guide. To finish, sew a 1/4-inch width stitch in reverse at the top and bottom of your newly created seam to give it sticking power.

Altering a Skirt With an Elastic Waistband


What could be more comfortable than an elastic waistband? No matter how big your lunch, elastic waistbands just give and give and give. That said, an elastic waistband that doesn’t fit perfectly can be more than a little annoying. Fortunately, it's also a breeze to fix. If you can, get a friend to help: as you’ll be wearing the skirt during the first part of the process, an extra pair of hands will come in handy.

What You’ll Need


Safety Pin

Sewing Machine

The Method

Step 1

Slip into the skirt. Cut the seam holding the elastic in place (this is the part where those extra pair of hands will start showing their worth), taking care not to cut through the elastic.

Step 2

Pull the elastic out of the seam and work out how much you need to reduce it by. Fold it over and use a safety pin to hold it in place. Make any adjustments necessary to make sure it’s as comfortable a fit as possible.

Step 3

Sew the elastic where it's been folded. Finish by folding the seam to fit the new, smaller waistband, and sewing it back in place.

How To Alter a Skirt That is Too Long

If your skirt’s puddling at your feet, it’s easy enough to adjust it to a more comfortable fit. If any of the following apply, it’s best to avoid making any adjustments to the hem, and to shorten the skirt from the waist instead:

  • The skirt is pleated
  • The skirt has a bias cut or unusual hem
  • The skirt has a border or embellished bottom

The Method

Step 1

Start by figuring out how much of the skirt needs to be removed. Do this by simply hopping into the skirt (making sure it’s inside out first), then folding it over, one roll at a time, right under the waistband. Once you’ve folded the skirt enough times to reach the desired length, use safety pins to hold the folded layers together.

Step 2

Get out your sewing machine. Place the rolled-up fabric to one side of the needle, and the waistband and the rest of the skirt to the other side. Using a zigzag stitch, stitch all the way around, keeping as close to the waistband as possible.

Step 3

When you’ve finished stitching, cut away the excess fabric. Job done!

How Much Does It Cost To Alter a Skirt?

Sometimes, altering a skirt yourself just isn’t an option. Maybe it’s too time-consuming, too complicated, or just too darn boring. Whatever the reason, there’s no shame in calling in the professionals. Costs vary depending on the type of alteration needed (not to mention where in the world you are), but as a general guideline for the US, expect to pay:

  • $25-$33 (depending on lining) for a hem adjustment
  • $25 for letting a skirt in or out at the sides
  • $25 for a waist adjustment

How To Alter a Skirt Without a Sewing Machine


Sure, a sewing machine helps with alterations, but is it absolutely crucial? Not at all. If you can thread a needle, you can make exactly the same adjustments to a skirt by hand sewing as you could with a machine – it may take a little longer of course, but the results will be just the same.

If even hand sewing is a big no-no, don’t worry. There’s plenty of ways you can adjust a skirt without needing to sew a single stitch.

Hem Tape

Cheap, incredibly easy to use, and surprisingly durable, a roll of hem tape is an invaluable addition to your arsenal. Use it for hemming, repairs, adjustments, and alterations – basically, if you can sew it, you can tape it.


If your waistband’s feeling just a little snug for comfort, fasten a waist extender to the button and breeeeath.

Bobby Pins

Is there anything bobby pins can’t do? When it comes to fastening, nipping, tucking, or adjusting, the answer is a decided no.

Fabric Glue

If you need a stress-free alternative to sewing, try fabric glue for size. Providing you match the glue formula to the fabric; you’ll be able to achieve exactly the same alterations as you would with a sewing machine.

Altering a skirt without sewing

If you’re a shorty-pants, you’ve likely got a closet full of skirts that could do with some serious hemming. But how do you do this if you don’t own either a sewing machine or a needle and have no intention of buying either? Simple. All you’ll need is 10 minutes, an iron, some pins, and a roll of hem tape (a measuring tape and a pair of scissors might come in handy as well).

The Method

Step 1

Try on the skirt (it may be helpful to wear the shoes you’re most likely to pair with it so you can best judge the length). Fold up the hem of the skirt to the desired length (this might be easier if you can get a friend to help). Pin the fold in place with a series of straight pins.

Step 2

Take the skirt off and place it down on a flat surface. Grab a measuring tape and measure the length from the original skirt hem to the pins. Subtract 1 1/2″ from your measurement, and then cut away that same amount from the bottom of the skirt. You’ll be left with a raw edge but don’t worry- the next step will clean things up nicely.

Step 3

Lay the skirt on an ironing board and fold the new hem you’ve created under by ½”. Iron the fold in place, fold under by another ½”, and iron again.

Step 4

Cut a strip of hem tape and place it between the folds of your new hem. Iron in place (usually you’ll need to press each section for around 10 seconds to get the hem tape to work its magic).

Step 5

Once you’ve pressed the hem tape in place around the entire hem, turn the skirt right side out and give it another good press. And there you have it – a fabulous new fit and not a single stitch in sight!

Can You Alter a Leather Skirt?

Altering a real or faux leather skirt is by no means impossible, but it does come with certain challenges. Any holes you make with either a pin or a needle will leave a permanent mark - if you’re a novice seamstress who’s liable to make mistakes, it may be best to get the skirt professionally tailored instead.

If you have enough experience or confidence to try it yourself, go right ahead. Just bear in mind…

  • Don’t use pins. Like, ever.
  • Only ever use a leather needle on your sewing machine.
  • Sewing through leather can task your machine: take it slow and steady.
  • Use a Teflon, walking, or even foot.
  • Test the machine tension before starting your final project.

Can You Alter a Pleated Skirt?

Pleated skirts can be a little tricky to adjust, but providing you follow certain guidelines, not impossible.

  • Work from the top down: regardless of the type of adjustment you’re making, always work from the top down. The lower hem on a pleated skirt isn’t like the hem on other skirts and should be left well alone.
  • Shorten from the waist: if you need to shorten a skirt, follow the earlier method provided for shortening from the waist. This is the best way of preserving the pleats and helping them survive the shortening experience without any damage.

Can you alter a denim skirt?

Got a denim skirt that’s a little too big to wear but too beloved to throw out? Fortunately, there’s a way to rescue it.

The Method

Step 1

Measure both the skirt and yourself around the waist. Subtract your measurement from the skirt’s measurement and divide in half – this will tell you how much to remove from each side of the waistband.

Step 2

Use a seam ripper to unpick the stitches along the width of the waistband on either side. You’ll need to unpick as much of the waistband as you want to remove.

Step 3

Flip the waistband inside out. Pin and sew to close. Trim the excess and turn the waistband inside out.

Step 4

Fold in the fabric directly below the new waistband and sew in place to create a smooth line. Pin and sew the new waistband in place.

How To Alter a Skirt Pattern

Patterns are made for “average” people with “average” measurements, but we all know there’s no such thing as an average anything. While adjusting a skirt pattern can seem a daunting task, it’s actually surprisingly easy once you get to grips with the basics.

For the best results, try these handy tips:

Double Check Your Measurements

Never guess or estimate measurements. Taking accurate body measurements is the number one way of ensuring the perfect fit, so always double-check each measurement for accuracy.

Get to Grips with Pattern Grading

Pattern grading may sound like something that’s going to give you a sore head, but really its nothing more than using a system of measurements to increase or decrease a pattern size.

Try the Seam Method of Alteration

Ultimately, there are 101 ways to alter a sewing pattern. How you do it is up to you, but you may want to try the seam method of alteration, which involves little more than making minor adjustments to the seam lines. If you’re new to sewing, you’re likely to find this the easiest method.

Happy Sewing!

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