Alterations tutorial: how to re-size an oversized blouse

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

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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.

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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…

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

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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:

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Final look again:

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And the back view:

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Leave a Comment

88 Comments

  1. Hey! I just came across your blog yesterday and now I am a big fan! I love when you show the beginning and ending products because it's easy to feel disheartened when pieces don't fit or if you can't figure out how to pair them, but you show it's all about vision! 🙂

    Posted 5.26.14 Reply
  2. Lu wrote:

    Great work, congratulations! I love it! You are my source of inspiration!!!!! Thank you so much!!

    Posted 8.19.13 Reply
  3. kyee wrote:

    great finds under $10 at thredup.com!

    Posted 5.8.13 Reply
  4. Cassy wrote:

    You do great work.

    Posted 11.27.12 Reply
  5. Julie wrote:

    Wow, your ideas are so clever and sharp looking! Thanks for generously showing how you do what you do!

    Posted 9.29.12 Reply
  6. hypertigur wrote:

    I just did the shoulder ruching. Thank you for the tip! You just saved my sweatshirt blazer that has been sitting in my closet for months!!

    Posted 9.5.12 Reply
  7. Anonymous wrote:

    You're a genius! Question–not sure what you mean by "slimming" the shirt (and skirt) and the stitch lines. Did you CUT OFF fabric up the stitch line or just sew the inside?

    Posted 9.3.12 Reply
  8. Miss Cozzy wrote:

    So cute! Love the way this looks on you!

    Posted 8.30.12 Reply
  9. Anonymous wrote:

    I got a YSL scarf for three bucks!!! I also found an authentic Louis bucket bag for $30, I know it was over $10 but it was an amazing find!

    Posted 8.29.12 Reply
  10. Thanks! It's a really old, discontinued lipstick from Clinique – color is called soft bloom soft shine. I bought it ten years ago and picked up another one on eBay.

    Posted 8.28.12 Reply
  11. You can ask the ladies who volunteer at the Purse Forum to help authenticate under the Louboutin authentication thread. Otherwise, it's just up to your judgement unfortunately, and there are many fakes out there.

    Posted 8.28.12 Reply
  12. Hi Evelyn – I use a machine for everything else. It's much faster and the stitching is infinitely sturdier than my own hand-sewing.

    Posted 8.28.12 Reply
  13. Hi there – I took my class in China : ) I'm sorry I can't be of more help on class options offered here in the states, but I was thinking Michaels or JoAnns.

    Posted 8.28.12 Reply
  14. Thank you so much for your kind words!

    Posted 8.28.12 Reply
  15. I've looked around because many ladies have asked, and I think one of the best values out there is this basic brother machine: http://buyth.at/accp4 It's extremely similar to mine, and mine has lasted me well over a century so I think Brother machines are pretty durable.

    Posted 8.28.12 Reply
  16. Hello – I use a sewing machine for almost everything except blind stitches (where you don't want the stitches to be visible from the outside) or delicate fabrics. I also used hand sewing for the ruching here, but very rarely do so elsewhere.

    Posted 8.28.12 Reply
  17. THanks for sharing!

    Posted 8.28.12 Reply
  18. Thank you! I use a 10 year old super basic brother machine which is no longer made, but this is the closest one available now: http://buyth.at/accp4

    Posted 8.28.12 Reply
  19. If there is enough excess, yes I do cut it off but you need to make sure to either re-serge the edges (and most people do not have a serger machine), or fold the raw edges under and stitch to keep them from fraying. With this skirt the excess material was bulky so I did trim it off and foldled under the raw edges, them stitched to secure them.

    Posted 8.28.12 Reply
  20. Hi Ruby – thank you so much, but I don't use any products on my hair. I sleep with it in a bun to get some waves – sometimes it looks terrible like a nest, sometimes it works!

    Posted 8.28.12 Reply
  21. Anonymous wrote:

    Edit: And no stains. (sorry)

    Posted 8.28.12 Reply
  22. Anonymous wrote:

    Lovely skirt!  I love thrifting!  Over the last few months, i found some great things: Burberry+Dior white dress shirt, Alice+Olivia chunky knit cardigan, MaxAzria pencil skirt, Pinkyotto dress, some silk blouses, Theory sweater and dress pants, a real pair of Chanel jeans (unfortunately not my size, but my sister's).  All of them are around $6, some $3 on 50%off day at Goodwill, and stains.  Most of them are my size, and some needed minor alterations that I can do by hand.  I don't know how to use a sewing machine like you…Great blog!

    Posted 8.28.12 Reply
  23. Jackie wrote:

    You are getting so good at sewing!

    I love that skirt, what a find! Thrift stores are always hit or miss with me too but when I do find something I love it's so exciting!

    PS your hair looks great in these pics!

    Posted 8.28.12 Reply
  24. A Vivid K wrote:

    Absolutely stunning shirt, smart idea to change it!

    Posted 8.28.12 Reply
  25. Malika wrote:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

    Posted 8.28.12 Reply
  26. xoxoCat wrote:

    Wow, that's incredible. I love how you alter your own clothes, but I think I might even go further and take some classes on tailoring. I love sewing, but I'm quite terrible at it.

    Posted 8.28.12 Reply
  27. Michelle wrote:

    Loving the thrift finds slimmed down!! The top is gorgeous! It makes it so much more special when you know it is so unique and that you made it what it is! And a super low price always brings a smile to my face!! 🙂

    Posted 8.28.12 Reply
  28. Cherrie wrote:

    Wow very good!

    Posted 8.27.12 Reply
  29. Cherrie wrote:

    Wow very good!

    Posted 8.27.12 Reply
  30. pinksole wrote:

    Lovely ensemble, very chic.

    Posted 8.27.12 Reply
  31. I'm not a huge fan of the top but the skirt is very cute!

    Maggie

    Posted 8.27.12 Reply
  32. ruby wrote:

    I love this outfit and I'm so impressed that you altered it yourself! It looks really expensive; I can't believe it was under $10… ALSO I LOVE YOUR HAIR!!! I am Asian and it's really hard to give my hair texture and volume. What products do you use? I wish I could get your look! <3 your blog!

    Posted 8.27.12 Reply
  33. Anonymous wrote:

    Hi Jean,

    Love your DIY sewing/alteration projects! As a petite person with very little knowledge of sewing, I have a question: When you slim the sleeves and sides of the shirt and skirt, do you cut off the excess fabric or leave it?

    Thanks! ~Sandy

    Posted 8.27.12 Reply
  34. Jenn wrote:

    Can't even believe that you bought those at a thrift store because they look like designer clothes. Crazy amazing outfit.

    -Jenn
    chīsana blogger

    Posted 8.27.12 Reply
  35. lisacng wrote:

    Girl, you never cease to amaze me and I am constantly inspired by your style and eye for pieces and potential for DIY amazingness!

    Posted 8.27.12 Reply
  36. Anonymous wrote:

    Hi Jean. Your alterations are amazing! Which sewing machine do you use?

    Posted 8.27.12 Reply
  37. These alterations are amazing! You chose so wisely!! If something doesn't fit right away, I'm most likely not willing to buy it. Maybe except if it's too long. You've got a great eye! I love how you changed the blouse. The skirt is pretty, too. I love bold colors.

    Posted 8.27.12 Reply
  38. minimezzo wrote:

    Love it! I'm about to try some DIY alterations.

    I ran across this top on Modcloth.com: http://www.modcloth.com/shop/blouses/western-for-the-better-top

    I know it's probably not your style, but it's on big sale and runs really small, according to reviewers. Just thought some other tiny readers might like to know!

    Posted 8.27.12 Reply
  39. 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 😉
    XOXO

    Posted 8.27.12 Reply
  40. 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!

    -Mong
    Petitetomatoes.com

    Posted 8.27.12 Reply
  41. Unknown wrote:

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

    Posted 8.27.12 Reply
  42. Monica wrote:

    Your posts are so thought out and informative! So great for alterations for noobs! Thanks 🙂

    withloveshmon.com

    Posted 8.27.12 Reply
  43. Most attractive $7 ensemble I have ever seen. Bravo!

    LOVE that skirt!

    http://theleatherskirt.blogspot.com/

    Posted 8.27.12 Reply
  44. I SO WISH I HAD YOUR ALTERATION SKILLS!

    CHECK OUT MY AUGUST BIRCHBOX ON THE GLITTER LIFE! http://theglitterlife.wordpress.com/2012/08/27/august-birchbox/

    Posted 8.27.12 Reply
  45. 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!

    Posted 8.27.12 Reply
  46. 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!).

    Posted 8.27.12 Reply
  47. Anonymous wrote:

    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. 🙂 keep up the good work!

    Posted 8.27.12 Reply
  48. Jen wrote:

    Thanks for the instructions on doing easy alterations, the ruching method is brilliant. 🙂

    Posted 8.27.12 Reply
  49. Jen wrote:

    Thanks for the instructions on doing easy alterations, the ruching method is brilliant. 🙂

    Posted 8.27.12 Reply
  50. Kiwi wrote:

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

    Posted 8.27.12 Reply
  51. Mary Ann wrote:

    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! 😉

    Posted 8.27.12 Reply
  52. 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. 🙂

    Posted 8.27.12 Reply
  53. 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 http://www.facebook.com/wichifashionblog and wichifashionblog@blogspot.com

    Posted 8.26.12 Reply
  54. 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 😉

    Posted 8.26.12 Reply
  55. newpetite wrote:

    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!!

    Posted 8.26.12 Reply
  56. Anonymous wrote:

    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.

    Posted 8.26.12 Reply
  57. you totally transformed the shapeless shirt… I am super impressed! Looks amazing on you – after all your hard work
    xx
    Here&Now;

    Posted 8.26.12 Reply
  58. Taima wrote:

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

    Posted 8.26.12 Reply
  59. Anonymous wrote:

    Great outfit.

    What lip products are you wearing in this post?

    Posted 8.26.12 Reply
  60. tina wrote:

    hi!

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

    Posted 8.26.12 Reply
  61. 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.
    Lisa

    Posted 8.26.12 Reply
  62. Suzie Q wrote:

    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!

    xoxo,
    Suzie Q
    http://www.StyleCueBySuzieQ.com

    Posted 8.26.12 Reply
  63. pigsy wrote:

    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 🙂 I agree I would've walked passed this blouse too, the pattern is so adorable and unique!

    Posted 8.26.12 Reply
  64. 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.

    Posted 8.26.12 Reply
  65. Denysia wrote:

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

    http://denysiayu.blogspot.com

    Posted 8.26.12 Reply
  66. Nice!you're pretty.:)

    Posted 8.26.12 Reply
  67. Janki wrote:

    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!)

    Posted 8.26.12 Reply
  68. 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. 🙂

    Thanks for the inspiration.
    ~Natasha Fatah~

    Posted 8.26.12 Reply
  69. lin wrote:

    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.

    Posted 8.26.12 Reply
  70. Luna wrote:

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

    xx,
    Luna
    theredtrousers.com

    Posted 8.26.12 Reply
  71. Wow, I'm amazed with your alterations!!
    I love this look, perfect job!

    ♥♥♥

    Posted 8.26.12 Reply
  72. kp wrote:

    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.

    Posted 8.26.12 Reply
  73. Evelyn wrote:

    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

    Posted 8.26.12 Reply
  74. Siel wrote:

    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 🙂 I'm checking out the rest of your blog now! x

    Posted 8.26.12 Reply
  75. My gold sprayed shorts! They were reduced to 5€ and quickly became my go to piece for every occasion: http://apixiesviewonfashion.com/2012/07/05/black-gold/ I love them so much!

    x
    Sabrina
    apixiesviewonfashion.com

    Posted 8.26.12 Reply
  76. Rose wrote:

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

    Posted 8.26.12 Reply
  77. Elissa wrote:

    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!

    Posted 8.26.12 Reply
  78. jessica wrote:

    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:

    http://ayenforcraft.blogspot.com/2011/11/refashion-29-mary-mary.html

    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.

    Posted 8.26.12 Reply
  79. 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. : )

    Posted 8.26.12 Reply
  80. Anonymous wrote:

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

    Posted 8.26.12 Reply
  81. Anonymous wrote:

    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!

    Posted 8.26.12 Reply
  82. Anonymous wrote:

    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)

    Posted 8.26.12 Reply
  83. gigiofca wrote:

    I'm impressed! It looks really good 🙂

    Posted 8.26.12 Reply
  84. 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.

    Posted 8.26.12 Reply
  85. Anonymous wrote:

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

    Posted 8.26.12 Reply
  86. Eva Wu wrote:

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

    Posted 8.26.12 Reply
  87. Angie wrote:

    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!

    Posted 8.26.12 Reply
  88. C wrote:

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

    Posted 8.26.12 Reply

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