The Best Way to Alter a Dress or Top so it Fits

There are times when we buy items of clothes that are a little too large or a little too long and as such we need to make slight alterations to them in order for them to fit or look just right. Unfortunately, it is not always the case that the item we want is in exactly the size or shape we want so it is necessary to make these alterations in advance of a special event.

What You Need to Alter a Dress or a Top?

A DIY enthusiast will have a tool kit containing a hammer, nails, screwdriver and drill etc so too an individual embarking on the alteration of some clothes requires the relevant tools to be at hand. If you are intending to make alterations to a garment you will ideally have to hand the following :

  • Fabric Pen
  • Scissors
  • Needle and Thread
  • Sewing Machine (although not always necessary)
  • Iron
  • Pins
  • Seam Ripper
  • Measuring Tape

These are the standard items you will need but as we have already mentioned it may not be necessary to have a sewing machine and indeed not everyone is in possession of such equipment so the customary needle and thread may have to suffice. It is also a good idea to have a friend handy if you are altering a dress so that he or she may mark out the areas to be altered whilst you are wearing the dress – this allows for a more accurate measurement and also reduces the risk of marking out wrongly if the dress is lying flat on a table for instance.

Removing Seams

You should remove the old seams with a seam ripper in order to make your new seams which may make the dress shorter; seam rippers allow for the pulling out of seams without damaging the material but it is important when you are carrying out this task to only remove the seams that are necessary to the alteration.

Making New Seams

Your new seams will be where the dress or garment has been marked out. Take in any extra fabric that is not necessary to the seam, sew your new seam and then trim excess fabric on either side of the seam. Once you have done this it is best to iron the seam flat.

Altering the Length of the Garment

To alter the length of a dress, for example, remove the old hem and then iron out the crease where the hem used to be. Then using your markings pin the ends of the dress up and under until you reach the desired length of the dress. This is where your measuring tape comes in and you should use this to ensure that the dress’ new length is the same all the way around. Once you are happy the new hem is right sew it into place and then remove any pins and excess material and iron to remove the crease.


After you have done this you can finish – this means that sew around the hem again to ensure it does not unravel. Do this using a zig-zag pattern (this is where a sewing machine does come in handy) about an inch from the hem itself. Trimming the edges with scissors or pinking shears also reduces the risk of fraying.

Of course, there are many garment alteration shops up and down the country that can do this for you but it is much more satisfying if you can do it yourself and also – it must be said – more cost-effective. One of the main reasons many people alter their own clothes is the money saved on having to buy either a new garment or having to pay someone else to alter it for you.

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