Updated on September 24, 2022 by Sarina

A skirt that frames your stomach like a round picture frame, a bodice that looks like it is going to come apart at the side seams any moment, a button stand that gapes showing everything that is inside, outside, pants that develop embarrassing diagonal wrinkles from the crotch to waist or worse that refuse to close – Very common scenarios with solutions that take some time and work to do. This is why alterations cost so much when you get it done outside.

If you have clothing that is too loose, you just have to make a tuck here or a dart there and you may get wearable clothing again but when the clothing is too tight, it takes some work. To gain the extra space you will need to take some tools out of your sewing kitty and maybe even some new fabric.

Enough of warnings. It is not as intimidating as it sounds. There are some tricks of the trade that you can employ to get the clothing wearable again. 

Tip No. 1 – Loosen the side seams or darts

use seam ripper  to loosen tight clothes by taking out darts and side seam extra allowances.

The first thing that anyone who has tight clothing would do is to let out seams and/or darts. Use your seam ripper to carefully take out the seams first. This assumes that you have extra seam allowance.

When the clothing is tight across the chest, if you increase the side seams there, you should have enough to let out at the sleeve seam allowance too.

When you let out darts, you have to be a lot more careful. They are usually at the front of the garment and when you take them out, you will have to ensure that you do not leave any holes.  

Tip No. 2 – Shift the buttons

If you have button-up clothing that has grown tight without any space to let out at the side seams, you can think about altering the button position or making a new button stand.

If you have enough space, first move the buttons a little to the edge and see if that will give you enough space. If it does not, consider making another extended button stand and buttonhole stand – this will give you some extra space at the front.

Tip No. 3 -Add panels

Panels can be added to any part of the clothing to add extra width. When you have tight sleeves usually panels are added to the middle – you can add a contrasting fabric. 

For narrow skirts, you can add extra panels to increase the width. After adding panels you will have to extend the waistband. You should alter the waistband at the back seam. It is better not to touch the waistband at the front. If you have a similar colored fabric very well, otherwise find a close match.

If you have a center seam at the back, you can add extra fabric there. This can look good only if you have a matching fabric. 

Sometimes you may have extra seam allowance at the center seam and the zipper edge; this can be let out.

When the armhole is too tight you will have to add height to it. For this, you will have to add a panel along the shoulder seam. Let out the shoulder seam for this and add extra fabric on the front and back. Correspondingly you will have to add extra fabric to the sleeves too.

Tip No. 4 – Add Slits

addig slits on too tight skirts to loosen

If your clothing (dresses and skirts and even tops) is tight along the bottom edge, you can add a slit to the hem edge. You can find an easy tutorial on how to add slits to skirts here. Another tutorial with more ways to make slits can be seen here.

Tip No. 5  – Add gussets

Triangular fabrics cut to increase width - how to alter too tight clothes with gussets

Gussets are triangular fabric pieces added to the underside of sleeves and at the side seams of bodices to increase the width

First add the gusset to the sleeves.

Add triangular gusset pieces in the arm seam to increase the top sleeve girth

Then add to the bodice side seams.

add similar gusset pieces to the side seams near the bust to lter tight clothes

If you get matching fabric you can make it look almost inconspicuous.

add gussets to tight shirt to increase ease

Refashion

If all of these solutions fails, you can change that clothing into something else. Try refashioning the clothing into something which is better looking but looser.

tight clothing refashion1

If you have a top that is too tight to be repaired but you do not want to dump it, cut it as per the directions given below to turn it into a nice cardigan or vest.  An open vest cannot be too tight and you can still wear your favorite clothing

Keep the front of the vest to one side folded in front of you; Cut it as per the diagram.

refashion tight clothes

Cut the back accordingly.

the front part of the sweater cut in a curved front.

You have a loose vest which you can wear with anything. You can bind the edges with a bias binding tape, if you do not like the raw edged look. Read instructions to bind edges with bias binding tape here

If you have tight pants or jeans you might want to check out this post –  How to alter Tight Pants/Jeans? 

Related post: Clothing Alterations : 17 common scenarios ; How to repair clothes: 40 common problems; Basic fabric and garment care

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  1. Perfect and to the point! Thank you. I have a better idea of what I’m doing now. Appreciate this brief and informative article.

    1. Hi
      I have 2 cotton summer dresses that I can’t even get over my head to my bust, will a panel under the arms or back be a good choice .
      Thank you

      1. Is it because there is no opening/ fastener? Did you measure your bust round with ease added and compare with the dress round?

  2. I am very impressed with the way you have shown the under arm alteration.
    The way you have made all of them easy enough to follow