How To Make A Dress Bigger By Adding Fabric?

We all know what a sad feeling it is when our “that” dress does not fit us anymore or has become fashionably inadequate. I have been there a couple of times, and replacing that dress is just not an option for me.

I have way too many memories associated with it. In these cases, I always tend to use my overly confident sewing skills. You might wonder that making a dress bigger is a hard job but I am here to tell you that it is not.

It is surely a work of precision but anyone can do it. 

Adding fabric to your dress is also a great way of utilizing material that might have gone to waste. We do not waste here, we recycle, we upcycle, and we upscale. Let me take you on a short trip of adding fabric to your dress to make it bigger, to make it fit better, and to make it trendy again.

Remember that not every dress needs a DIY job. Some dresses are best if left alone. So make sure you embark on this journey only with the dress that needs DIYing.

How To Make A Dress Bigger By Adding Fabric?

Make A Dress Bigger By Adding Fabric

1. Assessing Your Dress and Materials Needed

Before I start cutting the fabric up, I start by evaluating the current condition of the dress. The measuring tape is my best friend here and for hard-to-see places, a mirror works best. I see how the dress fits, where is it loose from, where it fits perfectly, and what its length is, are the sleeves okay, or should the sleeves be longer? These are a few of the questions that I keep in mind when evaluating the current fit of my dress.

Now that I have evaluated the condition of the dress, I move on to choosing the right fabric. Now this part is crucial. The sole reason is that the new fabric needs to match or should be in contrast in terms of color, fabric type, and design with the existing dress fabric. I like to keep a box of scrap fabrics at home but always keep my options open in case I need to make a run to the fabric store. 

A hot tip while choosing any matching fabric color is to ask about the change in color after a wash. Many fabrics tend to lose their colors after every wash. So I always ask the shopkeeper for any information they can give on the fabric. 

Now that the dress is evaluated, and the fabric type and color have been picked, I move on to collecting all the necessary tools and materials that I will need going forward. The most common tools that I will need include scissors, thread, needles, measuring tape, cloth-safe pencils, safety pins, pins or clips, seam rippers, and a sewing machine (only if I do not plan on sewing by hand). 

tools and equipment

2. Preparing the Dress

Removing seams is one of the most tedious tasks in this whole process. A single wrong knick can be disastrous. I suggest you use a good quality seam ripper that will make your life much easier.

If you are very new to the whole process of seam removal, practice on another cloth before the actual dress. This will help you understand your hand movement and how much pressure you need to apply.

After removing all the seams, I give my dress and the new fabric a good wash. I always remember to be mindful of the temperature of the water while washing the fabrics. Some fabrics lose their integrity in hot waters.

Add A Corset Back To Enlarge A Dress

3. Measuring and Cutting the Fabric

We are halfway there so good job! Now I move on to measuring the amount of fabric needed for my dress. Based on where you plan on adding the fabric, you will need to measure and cut it.

If you are working on improving the arms, you will need less fabric as compared to if you plan on adding plaids to the dress. A simple tip that I can give you when cutting the fabric is always go for more than what you need because you can always go lower but you cannot go higher once the fabric is cut.

I like to use this chart for calculating how much fabric I might need. It provides approximate yardage requirements for ladies from sizes 10 to 14 with an average height of 5 foot 4 inches.

If you have other sizes in mind, the yardage can vary from 1/4 to 1/8 yard. For fabrics with nap and/or one-way designs, add 1/4 yard for each yard specified. If your dress has plaids, add the length of one plaid repeat for each yard specified.

GarmentFabric Width 35-36 inchesFabric Width 44-45 inchesFabric Width 50 inchesFabric Width 52-54 inchesFabric Width 58-60 inches
Dress, short sleeves with a straight skirt4-1/4 yards3-1/8 yards2-3/4 yards2-5/8 yards2-3/8 yards
Dress, long sleeves with a straight skirt5 yards3-5/8 yards3-1/4 yards3-1/8 yards3 yards

Everyone has their own ways of cutting fabric to ensure that each piece is cut even and accurately in terms of size. I like to use a masking tape that is cloth-safe. I start by cutting one panel to the most accurate side. Next, I lay the tape on it and make sure that the tape aligns completely with the edges of the fabric, also use scissors where needed. Now I transfer the tape to the uncut fabric in one piece and cut away. This method is easy, quick, and most of all fail-proof. 

Materials required

4. Attaching the New Fabric

For this, I pick the most up-to-date measurements of my height, waist, and bust. I start by turning the dress inside out and placing the fabric in its place. I use multiple pins to hold the fabric in place. In case I want to see what it looks like from the front, I turn over dress carefully, and have a look.

Make sure to handle this part very delicately. A sneaky way to add fabric to your dress is to add it to the sides. This gives them a very discreet look and they won’t be very visible to the audience. 

When I DIY a dress, I like to add the new fabric creatively by using ruffles and pleats. This makes the upscaling way more fun. You will however need to measure the fabric accordingly. Always leave ? an inch of the fabric for seaming. I have forgotten to leave this space more times than I care to remember. 

For seamless stitching and blending of the new fabric in your dress, I take on the stitching slowly. As much as I want to, I do not go full-throttle on the machine. Pinning the dress is one of my favorite bits of the whole process and I take them out one by one as I go. 

Putting the modesty panel

5. Finishing Touches

Before I close my workshop, I wear the dress once just to see how it fits me and where I might need to make a few adjustments. I try walking, sitting, jumping (if it is that kind of a dress), and twirling in the dress to have an in-depth idea.

Once I hem it finally, it will be a great displeasure for me to cut right back into it so better to have a look now than later.

If everything looks great, I hem the dress to keep your seams safe. I love using an iron to neatly press the dress in place and to make it look professional. The pressing enhances the look more than we think it does. If the dress needs alterations, I have some work to do. 

Customization Ideas

To take a DIY project a little further, I sometimes use lace, ribbon, or other decorative elements like beads or diamontes. As much as I have the urge to stick all of my beads on the dress, I make sure to use the right color for the dress or go in contrast.

If I still feel like something is missing or I want to give my touch to it, I creatively add another piece of fabric that enhances the look of the dress even more. Adding a belt, a bow, or even a zipper to make it truly mine has worked many times for me. 



Congratulations on reading how I make my dresses bigger by adding fabric. Hugs. In this project, I took you on a step-by-step journey of DIYing a dress with me.

I shared my secrets, my process, and also a few of my impulses. Feel free to make any changes to the techniques. Also, because of the versatility of the points discussed above, you can use them for a lot of different clothes DIYing projects. I hope this was a helpful read for you. Happy sewing! 



I bring over 10 years of experience in costume design and apparel making, blending my expertise in historical fashion with a deep understanding of character portrayal. Beyond creating and testing patterns, I'm passionate about teaching sewing techniques and sharing garment knowledge. Also, as a sewing blogger with a BA in Costume Studies from Dalhousie University, I enjoy writing articles that delve into the rich worlds of clothing history, sewing, textiles, and fashion. Follow my creative journey on Youtube => Elise's Sewing Studio Instagram => elisessewing

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