How to Take in a Dress and Make it Smaller

A purple dress hanging on a door

Stacy Fisher

Learn how to take in a dress the easy way with this step-by-step tutorial that will take you through the whole process from start to finish. "Taking in" a dress refers to making a dress smaller. It's an easy clothing alteration that even the beginning sewist can handle. It's also a quick project, taking less than an hour to complete.

Are you still looking to get that perfect fit for your dress? Here are some tutorials for dress alterations that include shortening the dress, fixing a broken zipper, adding a slit to the skirt, mending a torn seam, or fixing a torn lining.

  • 01 of 10

    Gather Your Materials

    A dress, measuring tape, scissors, thread, pins, and marking tool

    Stacy Fisher

    First, you'll need to gather a few items so you can take in your dress. Here's what you'll need to get together before you get started.

    • Dress
    • Measuring Tape
    • Erasable or washable marking tool
    • Sewing Pins
    • Scissors
    • Matching thread
    • Sewing Machine
    • Iron
  • 02 of 10

    Measure Yourself

    Scissors, pencil, thread, pins, marking tool, measuring tape, and paper

    Stacy Fisher

    Using your measuring tape, you'll need to take a few measurements of yourself so you know how much you need to take the dress in. Here's what you'll want to measure.

    • Hips
    • Waist
    • Bust

    Write these measurements down, you'll need them for the next step.

    If you have someone who can help you take your measurements then take advantage of it. It's much easier to get accurate measurements when someone else can help you make sure the measuring tape is laying straight.

  • 03 of 10

    Measure the Dress

    A tape measure on top of a purple dress

    Stacy Fisher

    Now that you've measured yourself, it's time to measure the dress. Just like you did with your body, you'll want to measure the hips, waist, and bust of the dress.

    If you're not sure where these fall on the dress, try the dress on and mark where you need to measure. Take the dress off again and make the measurements.

  • 04 of 10

    Calculate How Much to Take In

    A purple dress, measuring tape, pencil, and piece of paper

    Stacy Fisher

    Subtract your body measurements from the dress measurements. This will tell you how many inches you need to take your dress in for the hips, waist, and bust.

    Divide each number that you want to take the dress in by 2. This will be the amount you'll be taking in on each side of the dress.

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    Mark the New Seam

    A purple dress, marking tool, and measuring tape

    Stacy Fisher

    Turn the dress inside out. Using a marking tool or sewing pins, mark the amount of the bust you'll be taking in on each side. Repeat with the hips and waist measurements.

    If you don't need to take in for a certain area of the dress (for instance the bust) then don't make any new seam markings for the dress in that area.

  • 06 of 10

    Draw the New Seam Line

    A purple dress, marking tool, and tape measurement

    Stacy Fisher 

    Starting with the new bust measurement, draw a new seam line that follows your body measurements. Continue down to the hips and the waist, gradually creating curves, as needed, between the lines as you go, following the natural flow of the dress.

  • 07 of 10

    Pin the Seam Line

    Sewing pins, a dress, a marking tool, and measuring tape

    Stacy Fisher

    Take your sewing pins, and pin together the front and back of the dress just inside the new markings, being sure to mark each side seam.

  • 08 of 10

    Sew the New Seam

    A dress with a line of white stitching, sewing pins, and a measuring tape

    Stacy Fisher

    Use your sewing machine to sew along the pinned and marked line that you drew. This creates the new seam of the dress. Repeat with the other side.

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Cut Your Seam Allowance

    Cutting away the seam allowance of a dress, scissors, and sewing pins

    Stacy Fisher

    Try on your dress to make sure that you're happy with the new seam lines. If not, go back and sew them again, being extra careful of your measurements. If you find that the dress is still too large, draw a new line closer to the interior of the dress and sew. If the dress is too small, you'll need to let out the dress by sewing another line further out and then unpick your previous seam.

    If you're happy with how the dress fits, take your scissors and cut into the new seam allowance you've created. Leave 1/4" to 1/2" seam allowance on the side of your new seam line.

  • 10 of 10

    Finish Your Dress

    A purple dress hanging on a door

     Stacy Fisher

    Turn your dress right side out and give the whole dress a nice press with the iron, being sure to flatten the new seam allowances so they lay flat. Congratulations, you've taken in a dress!