How to Alter a Dress to Make Your Waist Smaller

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Things You'll Need

  • Thread to match the color of the dress

  • Scissors

  • Sewing needle

  • Straight pins

  • Thimble (optional)

You can make your waistline look smaller with a few simple dress alterations.

You just found a dress you adore, and you rush to the dressing room to try it on. It looks fabulous on you, but as you examine the fit you notice that the dress makes your waist appear wider than it really is. Luckily, you won't have to put that dress back on the rack, if you know how to sew a basic straight stitch. A simple alteration can be made to give your waist a smaller appearance.


Step 1

Strip off your garments and put on the bra you plan to wear under your dress so you can make a more accurate adjustment to the waistline.

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Step 2

Turn the dress inside-out. Put the dress on and fasten it completely.

Step 3

Stand in front of a full-length mirror, or a mirror large enough to give you a good view of your waistline. Using your reflection as a guide, pinch a side of the dress with the thumb and forefinger of your non-dominant hand, and secure a pin in the fabric with your other hand, placing the pin about 1/4 inch in from the side seam. Repeat this step on the other side, in the same spot. Adjust the pins until you get the correct fit. Be sure the gathers are equal on both sides.


Step 4

Place additional pins up the sides of the dress, starting from the first pin. Be sure the adjustments make your waist appear smaller, but are not too tight. Use just enough pins to cover the waistline area, making sure you follow the contour of your body. Note that the line of pins should gradually taper off and end on top of the side seam so you can follow the pins and merge the alteration stitches with the side seams.


Step 5

Take the dress off, being careful not to stick yourself. Use long hand stitches to baste the sides of the dress. When basting the dress, follow the line of pins. Knot the last stitch on each side of the dress, and cut the thread with the scissors. Remove the pins.

Step 6

Thread your needle and sew over the basting with regular stitches. Try to sew as close to the basting as possible, but avoid sewing directly on top of the basting. End the last stitch on each side of the dress with a knot, and cut the thread.


If you have a sewing machine, sew the sides of the dress with the machine after basting the sides by hand. Sewing machine stitches may make your alterations less obvious.


Wear a thimble when you sew by hand to protect your fingers from pin pricks.


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