Upsize A Too Small Dress | Thriftanista in the City


Upsize A Too Small Dress

Thrifting 101 says "thou shall not buy clothes that don't fit." I obey. Sometimes. Other times, my brain starts convincing me that I will work out, lose weight, and lop of a portion of hip to fit into an awesome thrift score. When a year goes by and nothing has changed, I start thinking rationally about modifications I can make to the dress and not my body.

how to alter a dress that's too small

I thrifted a close fitting vintage dress last year. I knew it was too small. It looked great in front but there was a struggle going on in back. The buttons and the buttonholes were trying to escape from each other. I have photo documentation of the battle.

But, I really liked the print. I loved the front pockets and the keyhole and button back. It's 90s vintage awesomeness. It's what thrift dreams are made of! I bought it and put in in the back of the closet waiting for the day I would wake up at my goal weight with smaller hips.

A year later and guess what? That motha' STILL doesn't fit. In fact, the struggle seems to have gotten worse. What can I say? Summer. Holidays. Cake. Aversion to exercise.


I wasn't ready to donate it back to the thrift store so I removed the back darts and opened up the side seams to make it a tunic that can be worn with leggings, pants, or a pretty slip underneath.

Of course, I don't recommend buying up a bunch of clothes that are too small for you. If you thrift score something pretty amazing with the flaw of being too small, here are a few easy changes to make it fit. No dieting required.

Open darts

Darts are seams added to a garment to provide shape. If you just need a smidgen more room for something to fit, try removing the front or back darts from the bodice. I would not recommend trying on a pencil skirt unless you plan to install an elastic waist

I removed the back darts from this dress and discovered about four inches of extra room. That was just what I needed to stop the back buttons from pulling away from each other.

thrift store dress upsize

Consider a tunic top

Use a seam ripper to undo the side seams. Just stop when you pass the tight area. That could be at the hip, the waist, or just below bust. You can finish the newly raw edges with liquid seam, hem tape, or actual sewing. Because of the buttons in the back of the dress, I also had the option of just leaving the buttons open in the butt / hip area which would be easiest of all.

thrift style blogs

My hips and butt were causing major button distress. I opened up the side seams to just above the pocket and then finished the raw edge with my sewing machine.

Add fabric panels

If you are an experienced seamstress or have a tailor, you can have fabric panels added to the side or alter the back. I could have removed the buttons completely and filled in with a stretchy material. Anywhere there's a seam, there's an opportunity to add more room.

I toyed with the idea of finding a similar fabric and sewing them along the sides. This dress is cheap though. Not because it was bought in a thrift store but the material itself isn't worth the bother or the money to pay a tailor. I'm enjoying it now but I'm not likely to have it more than a year or two.

Have you altered a too small dress? What changes did you make?



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