Adding a Fabric Panel to the Back of a Dress

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Adding a fabric panel to a dress is an easy way to make it larger.
Adding a fabric panel to a dress is an easy way to make it larger. (Image: Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

Altering a dress is typically done to make it smaller, but adding a fabric panel allows you to make a dress larger. A panel is often used if the dress needs to be enlarged more than one size. Tailoring your clothing at home saves money because professionals are often expensive. The materials needed to do the alteration are available at fabric stores and are budget-friendly.

Equipment

Having the right tools on hand is an important part of a successful alteration. A pair of sharp scissors allows you to make straight, even cuts to the dress, which creates a professional look. Use a fabric panel that is cut from the same material as the dress to completely disguise the alteration. If the material is not available, choose one that coordinates with the dress. Straight, tight seams are easier to achieve with a sewing machine, but a needle and thread work as well. Choose a thread color that blends with the fabric to cover the seam and make the enlargement less obvious.

Preparation

Before beginning an alteration, preparing your sewing space with all the tools and notions you need makes the process quicker and easier. If the dress you are enlarging is new, wash and dry it prior to sewing. This will soften the fabric and make it easier to work with. Clear a large table for spreading out your dress, which will ensure that measuring, cutting and pinning is done accurately. Assemble all your materials in an easy-to-reach manner.

Inserting the Panel

Before making the cut for your fabric panel, take measurements of your bust and waist. This ensures that you insert enough fabric so the dress fits well. If there is a seam on the back of dress, use a seam ripper to open it. If not, make a straight cut from the neck of the dress to the waist. If the dress has a zipper, remove it and discard. Measure and cut the appropriate amount of fabric for the panel, leaving enough room for a 1/2-inch seam. Match the panel to the dress, with the right sides of the fabric in. Pin the panel and stitch. Turn the dress right side out, try it on and make adjustments as necessary.

Tips

To disguise the fabric panel, try adding a corset-style tie over it. Sew loops down the inside cut of the back of the dress. Lace a piece of ribbon or cord through the loops and tie at the top or bottom. Choose a color that coordinates with the dress. This technique works well if you are adding a panel to a wedding gown or cocktail dress. Use smaller fabric panels to enlarge dresses for girls, which prolongs the life of the dress and saves money. Enlarging dresses allows you to purchase items on sale that don't fit exactly right and means you are able to buy second hand clothes and sew them to fit. If you have never added a fabric panel to a dress before, try the technique on a old dress for practice.

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