How to Make a Dress Bigger

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You might think you have to leave that perfect knit dress behind in the dressing room because it's too small. Or, perhaps your favorite knit dress has become too tight and it's in the bag ready to go to the thrift store. Instead of walking away from those dresses, salvage them in a stylish way by adding some fabric panels to the sides.

How to let out a dress
How to let out a dress (Image: Beth Huntington)

Things You'll Need

  • 2 yards of coordinating knit fabric
  • Measuring tape
  • Sharp scissors
  • Pins
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Sewing machine with a medium ball point needle
Gather your supplies.
Gather your supplies. (Image: Beth Huntington)

Step 1

Measure all the way up the side seams of the dress with a measuring tape. Add 1/2 inch for a hem to this measurement. Write this number down.

Measure the side seams.
Measure the side seams. (Image: Beth Huntington)

Step 2

Measure all the way down the arm seams with a measuring tape. Add 1/2 inch to this measurement for a hem. Add this number to the side seam measurement from above. Use this combined measurement when cutting your long inset strips from your coordinating knit fabric.

Measure the arm seams.
Measure the arm seams. (Image: Beth Huntington)

Step 3

Cut two long strips to inset into the sides of your dress from your coordinating knit fabric. The strips will measure 4 inches wide by the number you calculated in the above step.

Cut two side inset strips.
Cut two side inset strips. (Image: Beth Huntington)

Step 4

Hem both ends of each strip. Fold under 1/2 inch, press with an iron, pin and sew using a medium zig-zag stitch with a ball point needle.

Hem both ends of the strips.
Hem both ends of the strips. (Image: Beth Huntington)

Step 5

Use a sharp pair of scissors to cut open both sides seams. Start at the bottom of the dress and cut all the way up the side seams and then down the sleeve seams. Cut off the old seam stitching.

Cut open the side seams.
Cut open the side seams. (Image: Beth Huntington)

Step 6

Pin one long side of the coordinating fabric strip to one side of the dress with the right sides together. Start at the bottom and pin all the way up the side and then all the way down the arm. Match the ends of the strips with the hem of the dress and the hem of the sleeve. Repeat on the other side of the dress.

Pin the strips to the sides of the dress.
Pin the strips to the sides of the dress. (Image: Beth Huntington)

Step 7

Use a medium length zig-zag stitch and a ball point needle to sew a 1/2-inch seam. Do this on both sides of the dress.

Sew the side seams.
Sew the side seams. (Image: Beth Huntington)

Step 8

Flip the dress over and with the right sides together, pin and sew the other side of the strip to the other side of the dress with a 1/2-inch seam. Do this on both sides.

Pin and sew the other side of the dress.
Pin and sew the other side of the dress. (Image: Beth Huntington)

Step 9

Press the side and sleeve seams open with an iron. No need to finish the seams since the knit fabric won't fray.

Press the seams open.
Press the seams open. (Image: Beth Huntington)

Finished

Now, your favorite dress will fit you perfectly again, and you can enjoy wearing it for many more years.

A stylish side panel adds a fresh look to a plain dress.
A stylish side panel adds a fresh look to a plain dress. (Image: Beth Huntington)
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