How to Let Out a Dress

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Let Out a Dress: What You'll Need

Let out a Dress to make it bigger
Learn how to 'let out' or make a dress bigger. Photo: Getty/Betsie Van der Meer

If you have a wedding or prom dress that is just too small, you can easily make it bigger by letting it out.

‘Letting out’ a dress means that you are going to make it bigger by using fabric from the seam. It is called ‘letting out’ because you are ‘letting’ the fabric ‘out’ of the seam. Seams are the leftover fabric on the other side of the stitching that holds a garment together. Follow these simple instructions to adjust a dress that fits too tightly.

You Will Need:

  • A dress that is too tight.
  • Scissors [recommended scissors]
  • Seam Ripper 
  • Chalk  
  • Measuring tape
  • A sewing machine or sewing kit.
  • Iron and Ironing Board

Once you materials are all together, let’s get started.

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Inspect the dress

How to Let Out a Dress
First make sure there is room on the seam to let it out.

Turn your dress inside out. Use your measuring tape to see how much seam allowance you have. Some wedding gowns or cocktail dresses will intentionally have a lot of seam allowance to allow for letting out.

If your dress only has a 1/4" or less seam allowance, then there probably isn’t enough to let out the dress.

Once you have determined whether or not you can make your dress larger, move on to measuring your new seam.

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Measure Your New Seam

How to Let Out a Dress
Measure and mark your new seams.

Measure around your waist and hips. Measure the front and back of the dress at the waist and hips. Subtract the difference of each measurement. This is approximately how much room you need to let out of the waist and the hips, respectively.

You will be calculating a quarter of the amount you need to let out. For example, if you need to let out two inches, then you would mark ½” from the stitching on each side. Using a small piece of chalk, mark your seam where you will be sewing it.

Once you have marked both sides, you can remove the stitching.

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Remove the Stitching

How to Let Out a Dress
Remove the stitching on each side.

Using your seam ripper, remove the stitching on each side of the dress, only where it is too tight. Stop where your seam may cross any other seams, such as at the skirt or armpit. Be very careful when removing the stitching, because pulling too hard can cause the seam holes to stretch or tear.

When your seams are loose, go ahead and start stitching.

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Stitch up the Seams

How to Let Out a Dress
Sew up both sides of the dress.

Begin sewing at one end of the open seam, at your chalk mark. Use a needle & thread or a sewing machine to stitch up the sides with a similar colored thread. Tie off the ends of the thread when you’re done.

Iron each seam flat. Read the tag on the dress and test a small area with your iron first to make sure the fabric won't be damaged by heat.

Try on your dress again and judge the fit. If you have not let it out enough, repeat these steps to try again. It is easy to let out too much by mistake. If you have let out too much, take in the dress.

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