How To Fix A Dress That Is Too Small To Zip Up

Bodies tend to be fickle, and at times, it is necessary to alter your dress to make it fit properly. Everyone has been there some time or the other! The good news is that altering your dress to compensate for zippers that do not reach at the top is pretty simple.

If the dress doesn’t zip up, you can either let out the dress by ripping its seams out and resewing it. Otherwise, you can put additional fabric to make your dress bigger. Both the techniques have four easy steps that you need to follow.

With that being said, let’s take a look at the tools and the techniques to get the job done.

How To Fix A Dress That Is Too Small To Zip Up?

Fix A Dress That Is Too Small To Zip Up

There are two ways to fix a dress that is too small to zip up.

You can let out the dress if there is seam allowance or enclosed seams. In case of enclosed seams, you will just have to rip out the first row of stitches while keeping the second one intact.

you can also add fabric panels to the dress to add more room to the bust and the waist area.

Materials required

Regardless of the kind of dress you’re altering, you will require the given tools:

  • Measuring tape
  • Sewing machine
  • Seam ripper
  • Matching thread
  • A fabric marking pen or chalk

Method 1: Letting the Dress Out

Letting the Dress OutLetting the Dress Out

Letting your dress out can be a good way to get a bit of extra space for yourself. Most bridesmaid and wedding dresses are stitched keeping this possibility in mind. There is additional fabric present at the seams, which you can utilize to make the dress bigger.

To understand whether you can let your dress out, turn your dress inside out to look at those side seams. It is possible to let your dress out if:

The fabric is folded right along seams: The fabric comes loose after the seam is ripped out, and that lets you add a couple of inches to its sides. You need to sew in a completely new seam after you are done adding that extra fabric.

The enclosed seams: This kind of seam comes with two rows of stitching. When you take the first seam out, the second one stays intact. It offers you a bit of additional fabric and needs no extra sewing.

You just need to change one step if there is an enclosed seam instead of additional fabric.

Step 1: Taking measurements

Taking measurements

Measure the bust, waist, and hips and write the numbers down. Now, you will have to measure your dress from one seam to another.

In order to do this, turn the dress inside out to measure just one side to multiply this number by two. To understand how much additional space you require, subtract the measurements you have from the dress’ measurements before dividing the number by two.

The number you get is the total inches you require. Before you begin ripping the seams out, make sure enough fabric is present at the seams. You can go on if there is sufficient fabric to attain the size you require.

Step 2: Marking the seams

Wearing the dress inside-out is the right way of marking the seams precisely. When the seams are facing out, you will find it easier to mark those seams. 

Mark the point where the dress feels tight. After this, make another mark where your dress starts to fit better. The place between the two marks is where you will let the seams out.

Step 3: Ripping the seams out

Rip out those stitches between the marks for removing the seams. Now, use the tool really carefully because the sharp prongs might rip that fabric.

When you are trying to fix an enclosed seam, this is the point you stop. Ripping that first row of straight stitches leaves the other seam intact, and you do not need to do any stitching. But resewing the seams is the next step for dresses with additional fabric.

Step 4: Resewing the dress

Before you start sewing your dress back together, ensure that you mark your dress. Find out where this seam has to be to get the dress to fit right. Also, use the measurements wherever needed. So, mark the spot to know where to begin stitching.

Though some people like hand sewing, it’s important to go for sewing machines here. The seams need to be straight with no hassle.

When you are done resewing your seam, get an iron to flat press the seam to fix it. You can choose not to do this step based on the type of fabric you’re using. Still, it is a good idea for a nice finish.

Method 2: Adding Fabric to Make Your Dress Bigger

Adding Fabric to Make Your Dress Bigger

Your dress might not have extra fabric present at the seams. Even when it does, the fabric might not be sufficient to resize your dress. In this case, you will need to get a piece of fabric that matches the dress closely.

Also, you can go for an alternating color if you are okay with the addition looking obvious. But most seamstresses agree that taking the fabric present at the bottom of a dress is a good idea.

Definitely, it means making precise, single cuts to secure enough fabric. You might even get to resew that bottom seam. Be careful while doing this because you might ruin the dress by taking too much.

Step 1: Taking measurements

Measurement is easier when you are trying to put extra fabric to the dress. You simply need to measure how far the zipper remains at place, where zipping up is difficult. This is what the side seams of the dress need.

Now, divide this number by two. For instance, there might be six inches in that gap where the zipper does not go up. So, adding three inches of extra fabric to those side seams will do the job.

Step 2: Cutting the fabric right

Cutting the fabric right

You will have to cut the fabric down to your required size. Now, you might find this part tricky. When you require space at the sides of the dress, you need to use a fabric strip. That rectangle can widen the dress all the way down.

But you need to measure out triangles if you only want space at the bust. Let the widest part of the triangles be at the top. Use pieces of paper for measuring the shapes you want. 

For instance, if you need three inches of fabric, this fabric has to the widest by three inches at one point. You can make paper shapes for both the sides because the shapes might be different. After this, lay those shapes against the extra fabric and get them cut exactly as per the paper’s shape.

Step 3: Ripping out the seams

By now, you have an idea about what you will add and where. So, go and get the seam ripper to start working carefully. Rip the seams from those parts where you will add the extra fabric.

Step 4: Stitching the cloth

Using a sewing machine is the best bet for this last step. You need to attach only a side of the new fabric before trying the dress on. Keep the opposite side to that other seam. This is important in making sure that your new fabric is exactly what you want. With this step, you will not need to redo any stitching.

After you are sure that the dress is fitting you the way you want, go ahead and complete sewing up the dress. After you are done with the new seams, iron those seams to make sure they stay flat.

How To Take in a Dress with a Side Zipper?

Materials Needed:

Sewing machine, Thread (matching the color of your dress),  Scissors, Seam ripper,  Measuring tape,  Chalk or fabric marker and Pins.

Step 1. Try on the Dress

Put on the dress and determine how much you need to take in. Use pins to mark the new fit on the side without the zipper.

Step 2. Mark the New Seam

Take off the dress and turn it inside out. Lay it flat and use a measuring tape and chalk or fabric marker to mark the new seam line. Remember to leave enough seam allowance (usually about 1/2 inch).

Step 3. Sew the New Seam

Using your sewing machine, sew along the new seam line. Start from the bottom of the dress and work your way up to the armhole.

Step 4. Try on the Dress Again

Before cutting any fabric, try on the dress again to make sure it fits well. If it’s still too loose or too tight, adjust your seam accordingly.

Step 5. Cut the Excess Fabric

Once you’re satisfied with the fit, cut off the excess fabric, leaving about a half-inch for seam allowance.

Step 6. Finish the Seam

Use a zigzag stitch or a serger to finish the seam and prevent fraying.

Step 7. Press the Seam

Finally, press the seam with an iron to make it lie flat.

If you need to take in the dress on the side with the zipper, it’s a bit more complicated. You’ll need to remove the zipper, take in the dress, and then re-install the zipper. If you’re not comfortable doing this, you might want to consider taking the dress to a professional tailor.



I'm Jessica Flores, a professional fashion designer and an expert seamstress. Crafting has always been a deep-seated passion of mine, one that has flourished and evolved over the years. I've dedicated considerable time to both studying and practicing in the realm of fashion and sewing, amassing a wealth of experience and skills. It brings me great joy to share these insights and experiences with you all, hoping to inspire and foster a similar passion for the art of sewing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *