How To Let Out A Dress Without Seam Allowance

Is that dress you love a little too tight at the waist, hips, or bust? So, you take the dress off to check the seam allowance where you can let out the dress. But there is hardly any seam allowance for you to work with. We have all been there! Now, what would you do other than discarding the dress?

Well, wait before you think of doing that! There are other ways of letting out a dress that does not have seam allowance. You will need a bit of sewing skills and you can do it with ease.

So, without further ado, let’s show you how to let out the dress that doesn’t have seam allowance.

How To Let Out A Dress Without Seam Allowance?

The first thing you need to know is that without seam allowance, you can only go up by two sizes at the maximum. If there is no seam allowance, the easiest way to fix a dress is to add fabric or gussets at the right places – below the arms or at the waist. You can rip the seams out and sew the gusset or fabric panel there.

1. Let Out A Tight Dress Easily

The stretching method is the best way to loosen up a tight dress easily. You will have to soak the dress in cold water with some fabric softener or conditioner before stretching the dress with your hands. It will expand the fibers of the dress in different types of fabric, which will give you enough room to breathe inside the tight gown.

In case you don’t have any time to go through the soaking and stretching process, you can use a handheld seamer to dampen the dress completely. After this, use your hands as usual to stretch the fabric. When the dress cools a bit, try that on and note if the fabric has stretched enough to fit you.

Here’s another pro tip to zip up a tight dress – attach a sturdy ribbon and a safety pin to the pull of the zipper. Now, zip as far as possible without pulling the ribbon. Right when it feels hard, hold and pull the ribbon end and shut the zipper easily.

2. Let Out The Underarms Of A Dress Without Seam Allowance

If the dress is a little too tight in the armhole and does not let you raise the arms, you can put a bit of something known as a gusset. There are two ways of doing this:

When your dress is sleeveless, you can go for triangle-shaped gussets and put that in the side seams below the arm. The process is the same as adding fabric panels. However, in case of gussets, you need to keep the wider part of the triangle at your armhole and the narrower end has to fade in the underarm side seams.

When your dress has sleeves, you need to go for a diamond or almond-shaped gusset and follow the steps given below:

  • Start by using a seam ripper for delicately removing the stitches right below the armhole of the dress.
  • Keep in mind that if your dress comes with a lining, the same parts of stitching will have to go from that lining, too.
  • The next step is cutting out the gusset from a matching material. You do not need to follow any precise measurements here as you want the gusset’s length to match with the underarm space of your dress. Get this expanse measured and put ½” all the way around for the seam alliance.
  • Finally, use this particular measurement to cut out two almond-shaped parts of material.
  • Align the gusset with that dress side of your armhole such that the longer oval side is in the curve of your ripped armhole. Now, pin the right sides together before sewing this part of the gusset firmly in place.
  • Next, pin that ripped-out sleeve part of the dress’ armhole to that other part of the gusset, while keeping the right sides together. Get this stitched in place, too.
  • After turning the dress right side out, you would notice a neat and small almond shape set there in the arm, which will let you move your arms in the dress more freely.

3. Let Out The Hips Of A Dress Without Seam Allowance

It is not easy to expand the hip part of a dress, but you can give it a try using a handful of simple techniques.

To start with, if the seat and the hips area do not match up to the shape of your dress, but the bust and waist do, you need to get a dress that has a good fit in the hips even if it is bigger in the waist. It is easier to take in the waist and make it a nice and elegant, fitted dress.

However, if you love the dress too much to give up on it, here are the potential solutions you can try:

  • Put a really long back or side slit to that skirt. It will get you more space for easy movement, though it will not put any fabric at that hip part of the dress.
  • The other alternative is to insert a kick pleat right at the center back part of the hem, particularly for a pencil dress. The kick pleats are helpful in preventing tight dresses from riding up when you walk. The process will need a bit of complex sewing knowledge. So, if you do not feel up for it, it would be wise to take the dress to a tailor for adding the kick pleats.
  • Take a look at those tags inside the dress to note down the style and brand. After this, go online to purchase the dress once again in a large size. Of course, this is not a method to let out your dress! However, if you have put on some weight on the hips, it can be a good idea for you. As mentioned before, it is easier to take in the waist than let out the hips.

4. Let Out The Waist Of A Dress Without Seam Allowance

Another common problem areas of a tight dress are the severe lack of space in that waist part. The good news is that this issue can be solved in a number of different ways.

You can put a zipper on the side or back of your dress. For this, you need to open the center back seams and sew the zipper in that area. The instructions to set a zipper are pretty easy to follow, and you will get a little bit of additional room at the waist.

If a little extra room is not enough, you need to insert fabric panels along the side seams, while tapering them down in the skirt to ensure that they are less obvious. Moreover, the instructions for adding fabric panels are the same as adding fabric anywhere. So, you will be able to do it easily with basic sewing skills.

How Much Can You Alter Any Dress?

Generally, you can let out a dress by one or two sizes. It is typically easier to turn any dress smaller than it is to let it out, though both are possible. If you want to let the dress out by more than two sizes, your best bet would be to take it to a tailor or seamstress.

It is also worth mentioning that dresses made of linen and cotton are easier to let out, while jersey, organza, and chiffon fabrics are more difficult to work with.

The Endnote

Not having enough seam allowance will not be an issue if you know how to put a gusset or fabric panel in a dress. So, go ahead and give the methods mentioned above a try to fix your dress.



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 *