When I first blogged about this adorable dress, I mentioned the waist ran wide and suggested a few easy DIY “fixes.” Per your requests, here’s a step-by-step tutorial for one of my favorite quick tricks to make a shapeless garment fit better: by adding a partial elastic waistband. This is a total shortcut method (sewing experts … don’t judge), but it takes 10 minutes, it’s comfy, and it’s easy to undo if you gain weight later!
My sewing machine is 20 years old (it’s my baby!), but if you’re shopping for one now, I’ve purchased this affordable Brother sewing machine for family members and would recommend it. It has the basic functions and stitches without unnecessary extra features, and I found it to be easy and straightforward to use for beginners.
You will need
A sewing machine, a piece of elastic, thread that’s the same color as your dress / top, and pins.
Before we get started, note this shortcut method works best on casual dresses or tops that are unlined, or garments where the lining is a separate layer that’s not attached at the waistline. For this tutorial, I am only adding a partial length of elastic along the back waist. This partial elastic is enough to gather in the waist a few inches and make it look noticeably more fitted.
If you’re new to sewing, I would practice doing a few basic hems and stitches before working with elastic.
Turn the dress inside out and lay it flat (for these photos, I’ve pushed the dress lining up out of the way).
Cut a strip of elastic a few inches shorter that the dress waist width (I cut a ~ 9″ strip of elastic here).
Find the center waist point of the dress (pin “B”) and the center point of the elastic strip. Pin both together. Make sure not to catch both layers of the dress fabric (front & back) while you are pinning the elastic down.
Use fabric chalk or pins to mark how far you want to stretch the elastic band out (pins “A” and “C”).
Note: The total distance that you stretch the elastic band out while sewing is the approximate amount that the waist will be “gathered in” and narrowed by. For example, I marked pins A and C about 2 inches farther out than each end of the un-stretched elastic band. After stretching out & stitching the elastic to where pins A and C are, the entire waist of the dress will be gathered in about 3 to 4 inches.
Keeping the dress inside-out and backside facing-up, position the pinned dress and elastic at your sewing machine. Match one end of the elastic to pin C, remove the pin, and use a wide zig zag stitch to secure the elastic to the dress. Do a few reverse stitches so the thread won’t unravel.
Continue sewing the elastic on between pin C & pin B with a wide zig zag stitch, while simultaneously using both hands to evenly stretch out the elastic band until the dress fabric is laying flat and taut.
The hand further away from you should be steadily feeding the fabric and elastic through the sewing machine. The hand closer to you should be pulling the elastic towards you, while also pinching the dress fabric to keep both pieces in place (I’m doing this with my thumb & index finger below). This part can be a bit tricky for beginners. Check my Instagram stories later today for a short video clip on stretching the elastic as you sew!
Continue this process along section by section. Once you reach the last pin, remove the pin and do a reverse stitch to secure loose ends before trimming the thread.
And that’s it! Here’s how it looks close up, with the dress still inside-out (pardon my uneven stitches):
Here’s how it looks from the exterior. The waist is now gathered in for a more fitted look.
PS – I had also suggested adding two darts to the back waist instead of elastic, but that wouldn’t work as well here because this dress is pullover style and doesn’t have a zipper entry. If you make the waist smaller without any stretch, it might be hard to slip the dress on and off over your head.