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

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