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How to Make a Skirt Smaller: Step-by-Step Alteration Guide

How to Make a Skirt Smaller

Ill-fitting skirts that are too loose in the waist, hips or length are a common wardrobe malady. But with some strategic alterations, you can easily tailor your skirt for a perfect custom fit. Follow this comprehensive guide to gain alteration mastery and make skirts look and feel like they were made just for you!

Section 1: Full Overview of the Skirt Alteration Process

Altering a skirt involves careful planning, precision sewing, and pressed finished to resize it properly. Here are the key steps:

  • Assess fit issues: Put on the skirt and determine where it needs to be taken in – waist, hips, sides, or length. Mark problem areas with pins or chalk.
  • Measure for new size: Based on how much smaller you need the skirt, carefully measure your body to determine the new ideal dimensions.
  • Mark new seam lines: Turn the skirt inside out. Using the measurements as a guide, carefully mark where the new seam lines need to go using chalk, thread tracing, or pins. Remember to account for 1/2 to 1 inch seam allowance.
  • Sew new seam lines: Working from the inside-out, use straight or zigzag stitches to sew along the newly marked seam lines, easing in any excess material. Backstitch at ends for strength.
  • Check fit, make adjustments: Try on the skirt inside-out to ensure the fit is correct. Make any additional alterations by pinning and sewing as needed.
  • Finish seams: Finish all raw edges of the newly sewn seams using zigzag stitches, overcasting, or a serger if available to you. This prevents fraying.
  • Press seams: Give the altered seam areas a final press with an iron on the right side of the fabric. This sets the stitches smoothly and permanently.

Follow these key steps precisely in order when making alterations for professional results every time.

Section 2: Step-by-Step Instructions for Common Alterations

Here are more granular step-by-step directions for the three most frequent skirt alteration needs:

Taking in the Waist

Supplies needed: pins, fabric scissors, seam ripper, hand or machine needle, matching thread, iron

  1. Put on the skirt inside out. Use pins to mark where the waist needs to be taken in on both sides. Have a friend assist you for the most accuracy.
  2. Determine how much smaller you need the waist circumference to be. Measure this new waist size.
  3. From the existing seam line, measure in toward the center the amount you need to remove. Mark this new seam line with chalk or pins, allowing 1/2 to 1 inch for seam allowance.
  4. Working from the inside with matching thread, stitch carefully along the newly marked seam line. Backstitch at the top and bottom of the new seam for strength and to prevent unraveling.
  5. Try the skirt on inside out again. Make any additional adjustments by pinning in the waist area until you achieve the ideal fit. Sew additional darts or new seam lines as needed.
  6. Finish the raw edges of the new seam by zigzag stitching, serging, or overcasting to prevent fraying over time.
  7. Turn the skirt right side out, and press the altered waist seam flat with an iron to smooth and set the stitches. Check the fit one final time.
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Shortening the Skirt

Supplies needed: tape measure, fabric scissors, needle and matching thread, chalk, iron

  1. While wearing the skirt, determine the ideal length you want, and mark with pins or chalk all around the hem. Ask a friend to measure and mark the hem for accuracy.
  2. Change into shorts or put the skirt on inside out. Carefully cut along the marked line to remove excess length. Take care not to cut too much off.
  3. Make a 1/2 inch double folded hem by pressing under the raw edge, then folding under again to encase it. Pin the new hem in place.
  4. Edgestitch the hem down by hand or machine, sewing as close to the inner folded edge as possible for an invisible look. Take care not to stretch the fabric as you sew.
  5. Give the hem area a good pressing with the iron, sealing the stitching in place. Check the length, and make any adjustments needed.

Taking in the Hips

Supplies needed: pins, tape measure, fabric scissors, hand needle or sewing machine, matching thread, iron

  1. Try on the skirt, inside out first. Have a helper pin the excess fabric in the hip and thigh areas that needs to be taken in.
  2. Determine the new hip size you need the skirt to be. Measure the amount that needs to be removed at the fullest part of your hips on both sides.
  3. On each side, measure in from the original seam line and carefully mark the new side seam position. Allow 5/8 to 1 inch for seam allowance.
  4. Stitch along the newly marked side seams, from the waist down to the hem, removing the excess width. Remember to backstitch at both ends.
  5. Try the skirt on again inside out. Make any needed additional adjustments by pinning and sewing the side seams incrementally until the fit is ideal.
  6. Finish the raw edges of the newly altered seams by serging or zigzag stitching to prevent fraying with wear and washing.
  7. Once the fit is perfect, press the side seams flat with an iron on the right side of the fabric. The heat will set the stitches smoothly.
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Section 3: Expert Tips for Achieving Flawless Fitting Alterations

Follow these professional techniques for beautifully fitted alterations:

  • Staystitch curved seams like waistbands before altering to prevent stretching out of shape later.
  • Mark all new seam lines and hems directly on the fabric using heat-removable thread tracing for accuracy.
  • Baste key alteration seams first with long loose stitches to perfect the fit before permanently sewing seams.
  • Use interfacing or underlining fabric to add structure and stability to waistbands, necklines, and hems.
  • Match the thread weight and type to the fabric texture for nearly invisible mending. Lightweight thread on delicate fabrics prevents holes.
  • Frequently check the thread tension as you sew. It likely needs adjusting from topstitching to basting to constructing seams.
  • Press every seam and dart with an iron once sewn to flatten them before moving to the next steps. Proper pressing prevents puckering.
  • Take your time for best results. Rushed alterations often result in mistakes that are difficult to undo on finished garments.

Section 4: Adding Shape Through Strategic Darts, Tucks and Pleats

In addition to taking in side and waist seams, you can further refine the fit of a skirt with some subtle shaping:


Sewing perfectly tapered darts into the waist and hip area of a skirt mimics the contours of your body for a streamlined fit. The deeper the dart, the more fabric it eliminates. Make small, gradual darts first in multiple areas as needed.


Adding parallel stitched tucks horizontally around the waistline helps cinch in fullness gracefully. Design the tucks to be narrower at the side seams and wider at center front and back for a curved shaping effect.


Pleats expertly remove excess material while enhancing the visual appeal of a skirt. Knife pleats, box pleats, inverted pleats, and accordion pleats can all beautifully nip and taper a skirt silhouette.


A shaped waistband with interfacing gives structure and grip to better anchor the skirt in place. Make waistbands contoured to hug the waist.


Patch pockets strategically placed on the hips can help conceal fullness while adding function and flair. Opt for discreet in-seam pockets if a smoother profile is desired.

Section 5: Knowing When to Seek Out Professional Alterations Help

While many common skirt alterations can be done at home, some specific situations call for seeking a professional seamstress or tailor:

  • If the fabric is highly delicate, sheer, slippery, leather/suede, or a specialty textile requiring special handling and tools.
  • For complex adjustments like moving interior pockets, lining adjustments, reconstructing major seams, or resizing the garment silhouette and tailoring structured areas.
  • If the project requires couture finishing and pressing techniques best achieved with specialized equipment.
  • When working with extremely expensive or treasured heirloom garments where there’s no room for error.
  • For runway-worthy precision alterations such as on bridal gowns or cutting-edge high fashion pieces.
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The cost of professional alterations is well worth the investment in these cases to ensure flawless results and preserve the integrity of the garment during the process.


Learning how to properly assess fit, measure, mark, cut, sew and press garments when altering skirts takes practice but is an invaluable skill. With the techniques, tips, and step-by-step directions outlined here, you can gain alteration mastery to make skirts fit impeccably – just like they came custom tailored just for you!

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How much does it typically cost to alter a skirt professionally?

A: For simple adjustments like hemming or taking in the waist slightly, expect to pay $10-$25. More complex alterations like reshaping side seams or adding contour darts generally range from $25-$50.

Q: Can I take in the waist of a skirt without removing the old waistband?

A: Yes, you can sew the new tighter seam underneath the existing waistband, then reattach the waistband over the top. Be sure to finish the seam edges well.

Q: Should I use darts or a waistband to alter a skirt for better fit?

A: For minor fit adjustments, strategically placed darts are best. But for taking in the waist more than 2 inches, adding a properly interfaced contoured waistband will provide better support.

Q: Is hand sewing or machine sewing better for skirt alterations?

A: Machine sewing will be faster and allow very precise seam adjustments for most skirt alterations. But hand sewing can be useful for quick invisible hem fixes and on delicate fabrics.

Q: Can a skirt be easily tapered to be narrower at the hem than the top hip?

A: Yes, tapering a skirt is straightforward. Simply take in the side seams gradually more below the hip area than you take in at the top hip area for a contoured effect.

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Friday 25th of August 2023

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