Alterations tutorial: how to re-size an oversized blouse


Cabochon print blouse and pink pencil skirt, both from Savers Thrift Store


Thrifted blouse & skirt, DIY altered, BR swing jacket, Christian Louboutin pumps
I headed to the thrift store for inspiration recently – my visits there are hit or miss, but this time I skipped out with two pieces to experiment with. This blouse caught my attention right away, despite the dowdy silhouette and oversized fit. I like the vintage flair given off by the pink cabochon stones with antique gold backing, and the fabric-covered buttons. It can be pajama-like when worn alone, but adds interest when peeking out from underneath layers.

This skirt, labeled a size 5-6, was roomy in the hips but a perfect fit at the waistband (calling for easy alterations). Below are the alterations I performed on both…

I highly recommend washing and drying pre-owned items before starting any alterations. This is not only for sanitation purposes, but also prevents shrink-prone items from becoming too small after alterations.

Steps 1 through 3: The first issue I addressed on this blouse were the too-wide shoulders. In the past, I meticulously detached shoulders and re-cut the armhole openings. This was very hard to do and took me days as a non-skilled sewer, plus the outcome was far from perfect.

This time, I decided to experiment with a shortcut. I added ruching (gathered-up fabric) to the top of the shoulders, which effectively narrowed the shoulder width and shortened the sleeves. Basic ruching is quick, easy and useful. Details on how to add ruching via hand-sewing:

Step 4: Next, I slimmed down the upper torso and sleeves, up to the cuff opening.

Step 5: I then removed the waist darts on this blouse so that it would have a more flowy fit for wearing both tucked-in and un-tucked. Ironing throughout is the last step.

As for the skirt, I simply slimmed down both sides from the interior, starting right below the waist band:


Final look again:


And the back view:



88 thoughts on “Alterations tutorial: how to re-size an oversized blouse

  • C August 26, 2012 at 12:52 pm

    you're so talented!!! i'm inspired to learn how to sew

  • Angie August 26, 2012 at 12:56 pm

    wow you did a great job. i like the pj sheen and it works with the muted jacket and your bright skirt. matchy matchy talent!

  • Eva Wu August 26, 2012 at 1:10 pm

    you look great! i like your blog and i'm following you on bloglovin!

  • Anonymous August 26, 2012 at 1:12 pm

    Hi, how did you pick up sewing? Did you take classes?

  • PetiteAsianGirl August 26, 2012 at 1:15 pm

    I took a class when I was in my early teens to learn the basics. I highly recommend some sort of class because I would have no idea where to begin, otherwise.

  • gigiofca August 26, 2012 at 1:17 pm

    I'm impressed! It looks really good ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Anonymous August 26, 2012 at 1:20 pm

    1.I love how you can fix everything to fit you body perfectly 2. I wish I had one of those thrift store where you find awesome clothes (the stores in my town are full of pricey old clothes)

  • Anonymous August 26, 2012 at 1:24 pm

    You're so talented! I'm a petite Asian girl just like you. I should take a sewing class to learn all the tricks that you have for altering clothes!

  • Anonymous August 26, 2012 at 1:27 pm

    Pretty outfit, but your hair and makeup is what really put this outfit together – you look great.

  • The Little Dust Princess August 26, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    This outfit is gorgeous! I love how the pink skirt brings out the pink in your blouse. Keep these posts coming! I enjoy seeing these transformations. : )

  • jessica August 26, 2012 at 1:34 pm

    I love these alterations posts and that you're showcasing more thrift shop finds in this space! I personally love the unusual stuff you can pick up in thrift shops – definitely a way to have statement pieces that nobody else will have (especially if you alter them). You have a nice eye, and I often learn something new in your tutorials.

    My favorite thrift shop finds for under $10? Too many to count, probably 1/3 of my wardrobe comes from the thrift shop (including stuff that I've altered). This contains 2 of them:

    I LOVE that skirt. It is fugly in all sorts of good ways. I think it's a polyester 80s-does-30s, and I absolutely adore 30s fashion. The sweater used to be a BR Mens L crewneck that I added a ton of felt flowers to and converted toa cardigan. Took me forever but it's one of my favorite things I've ever made.

  • Elissa August 26, 2012 at 1:53 pm

    every time i go to the thrift store near me it's a miss! the thrifting finds i see from other bloggers are almost always from savers.. maybe they just attract the best donations!

  • Rose August 26, 2012 at 2:08 pm

    Love that you showcase thrifty finds too! I didn't like either of your pieces separately, but when you wore them together BAM! gorgeous ๐Ÿ™‚

  • August 26, 2012 at 2:17 pm

    My gold sprayed shorts! They were reduced to 5โ‚ฌ and quickly became my go to piece for every occasion: I love them so much!


  • Siel August 26, 2012 at 2:37 pm

    Wow you really turned this into a gorgeous piece! I love DIY's like this – the perfect example that you can make something very nice out of an ill-fitting vintage piece ๐Ÿ™‚ I'm checking out the rest of your blog now! x

  • Evelyn August 26, 2012 at 2:58 pm

    I'm always amazed by how you do your own alterations!
    Do you also hand sew for the sleeve and torso
    slimming areas, or use a sewing machine

  • kp August 26, 2012 at 3:06 pm

    I love the fabric covered buttons on the blouse. Each one of your DIY alterations moves me closer and closer to taking a beginners sewing class.

  • โ™ฅ Natalie August 26, 2012 at 3:19 pm

    Wow, I'm amazed with your alterations!!
    I love this look, perfect job!


  • Luna August 26, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    This is unbelievable! I love your posts on thrift finds and adding alterations.


  • lin August 26, 2012 at 3:38 pm

    great DIY post. you have a really good eye on things and potetial of things that others may pass up. thanks for the tutorial.

    by the way, you look nice in those colors. very bright, summery, and cheerful.

  • Natasha Fatah August 26, 2012 at 4:24 pm

    You're sewing skills never cease to amaze! I have blouse almost identical to the one you got, except its in navy. It's way too big, just like yours, but I've just been belting it and hoping for the best. I should really pick up some sewing lessons. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Thanks for the inspiration.
    ~Natasha Fatah~

  • Janki August 26, 2012 at 4:32 pm

    ok, that does it! I am taking a sewing class and getting a machine! We have some of the best thrift stores in town, ironically, most of the clothes come from Boston (I'm in Austin, TX). I normally get a lot of Ann Taylor and Talbots outfits and once saw a Theory suit (smacks head for not grabbing it). I usually go the tailor and get annoyed at the costs– so trying my hand at something "interesting" is off the table.
    You really are amazing. I NEVER would have thought to tinker with the shoulder sleeves. I wish my ALL-GIRL high school had sewing classes. Though sexist, it would have been so useful. More than the ceramics class I took and the clumsy vases I had at my childhood home!

    Jean, keep it up please! (love the step by step too!)

  • Mia Tanwangco August 26, 2012 at 5:15 pm

    Nice!you're pretty.:)

  • Denysia August 26, 2012 at 5:35 pm

    I'm in love with the blouse, and the skirt is really cute. It's a pop of color in the outfit!

  • August 26, 2012 at 6:21 pm

    Very impressive, Jean! You definitely have an eye for fashion. I would have walked right past that blouse. I love that you are finding these treasures and making them your own. I never find these kinds of gems when I go thrifting. You're very inspirational. I plan to learn more about basic sewing techniques when I am at home with the baby.

  • pigsy August 26, 2012 at 6:45 pm

    Love it! Love how you alter vintage and thrift finds. I just finished reading the book OverDressed and am trying to stick to shopping only thrift/vintage so its always good to see these posts ๐Ÿ™‚ I agree I would've walked passed this blouse too, the pattern is so adorable and unique!

  • Suzie Q August 26, 2012 at 6:53 pm

    I love the fuschia colored skirt. I wish I was that talented at the sewing machine, the blouse makeover looks fabulous. I especially adore the shoulder rusching!

    Suzie Q

  • Lisa Martinez August 26, 2012 at 9:06 pm

    Thank you for sharing your alterations for us to view, I appreciate the visuals.
    You have inspired me to learn how to alter my own clothes.

  • tina August 26, 2012 at 9:21 pm


    I was wondering how do you make sure your Louboutin's purchased from ebay are genuine? thanks!

  • Anonymous August 26, 2012 at 9:21 pm

    Great outfit.

    What lip products are you wearing in this post?

  • Taima August 26, 2012 at 9:24 pm

    Love this. I am extremely inspired. I too am petite and can never find anything "small enough". Thanks for the tips.

  • Jessica @ Here(and)Now August 26, 2012 at 10:43 pm

    you totally transformed the shapeless shirt… I am super impressed! Looks amazing on you – after all your hard work

  • Anonymous August 26, 2012 at 11:18 pm

    I love your blog. even though i'm 5.8', your blog has more inputs and i love to use it in my outfits. can you tell me where did you attend class for sewing basics? i'm planning to take a class in Michael's.

  • newpetite August 26, 2012 at 11:29 pm

    That skirt is gorgeous and I love how you made the shoulder work by rouching! Genious!! My fav find is the stripy blouse from Macys! Initially when I saw it, it was $50(which is too exp. for me) and then when i went in there next which was like after 4 months and i had completely forgotten all about it.. it was hanging there for $5!!

  • SewPetiteGal August 26, 2012 at 11:34 pm

    Ruching the shoulder?? That is GENIUS and fits in well with the style of the blouse! I detest sleeve removal / attachment (still reeling from my tweed jacket DIY where the darn thing was torn apart and sewn together about 10 times) and avoided sleeves entirely for a long time.

    I'm a newbie thrift-er and have recently been looking at the costume jewelry section for things to dissect and upcycle. I found the prettiest gold chain / pearl combo necklace for $8 (the one I'm wearing with the black sheath dress) and was delighted that it was in near-perfect condition – no dissection necessary! Also found the cutest Care Bears trash can (it's, um, for the kids, but um, I'll just keep it in my office till they're old enough to appreciate it).

    Re: mothers – My mom isn't a fashion plate, but I have found many items in her closet to rework in case you ever get tempted to go through your mom's ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Wichi Fashion Blog August 26, 2012 at 11:39 pm

    This is really good, I really like the pink skirt. It looks good on you. Being a new follower I am learning a lot. I am your same height and size can you give out measurement for alterations? I mean who much do you take in and stuff. I am alter clothes too. So it would be so easy for me to learn from your blog. Check out my blog at and

  • Utah Girl Am I August 27, 2012 at 12:29 am

    I found your blog recently and love looking through your posts. My two favorite things are A- Your creativity with outfits! And B- Your amazingly clear and detailed alterations tutorials. I'm not a good sewer, but your easy-to-follow instructions have inspired me to try a few things in my own wardrobe. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Mary Ann August 27, 2012 at 12:53 am

    Great finds, Jean! I'm impressed with your idea to ruche the shoulders – certainly cute and much easier (like you said) than recutting and sewing the shoulders! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Kiwi August 27, 2012 at 2:33 am

    You are so amazing with alterations and making huge pieces fit so perfectly. I wish I could do alterations on my clothes myself too

  • Jen August 27, 2012 at 3:28 am

    Thanks for the instructions on doing easy alterations, the ruching method is brilliant. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Jen August 27, 2012 at 3:29 am

    Thanks for the instructions on doing easy alterations, the ruching method is brilliant. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Anonymous August 27, 2012 at 7:00 am

    I'm not a petite but yet I love to follow ur blog so much. I'm always excited to see ur new posts. Ur fashion sense is truly inspirational. It's so hard to find a blog on work appropriate outfits. Ur clothes are so pretty, so practical that I can wear it everyday to work. Jean, u r pretty, talented n humble. I'm a big fan of u. ๐Ÿ™‚ keep up the good work!

  • My Dressy Ways August 27, 2012 at 9:30 am

    Jean, the colors of this outfit are amazing! I love that top on you! I'm afraid of prints like this blouse and scarf prints looking too matronly on me, but you manage to make them look so stylish! My favorite thrifted item is my $1 bow blouse (which I almost put back!).

  • Planned Style August 27, 2012 at 9:52 am

    WOW! Very impressive. I wish I could sew too. You inspire me to take a sewing lesson. Do you have any advise on how to pick a sewing machine for a very beginner like me? Thank you so much for this post!

  • theglitterlife August 27, 2012 at 11:10 am



  • The_Leather_Skirt_Blog August 27, 2012 at 11:43 am

    Most attractive $7 ensemble I have ever seen. Bravo!

    LOVE that skirt!

  • Monica August 27, 2012 at 12:25 pm

    Your posts are so thought out and informative! So great for alterations for noobs! Thanks ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Unknown August 27, 2012 at 12:49 pm

    Hello! I was just wondering, do you hand stitch everything? Or do you use a sewing machine?

  • Petitetomatoes August 27, 2012 at 1:08 pm

    I love the color of this outfit. Im following you via bloglovin and you have some pretty awesome posts. You have a very classy style and your DIYs are extremely helpful!


  • Princess Martha August 27, 2012 at 1:15 pm

    What a great eye!!!
    You look fabulous in these thrifty finds…proof that fashion doesn't cost money…it's all about knowing how to wear it ๐Ÿ˜‰

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