Thrifty Whitties: Helpful tips to take your clothes in a size

Olivia Jones

If you are like me, chances are you have bought a garment from Goodwill or a market because it had a fun pattern and was some amazingly cheap price, only to take it home and realize that it was way too large. Or maybe you wear it all the time, but you still wish it would fit you better. If you have some patience, spare time and access to a sewing machine, I will tell you my tricks.

While I usually write how-tos for students who most likely have access to the supplies needed in the article, most students don’t own a sewing machine, so forgive me for deviating here. But if you have the patience and are skillful and precise enough, you are welcome to follow these instructions and sew by hand. I did not bring my sewing machine to school, so I often save my alteration projects when I go home on break. Well, maybe Thanksgiving break or winter break are not the best time to be taking in your clothes, since you may have feasted enough to temporarily fill out your clothes. However, you will want some breathing room in your newly altered garment anyway.

The first step in sewing is always to wash and iron the garment. You want to be sure of exactly how the fabric lays without the interference of any wrinkling that may throw off your measurements. Second, devise a plan for your alteration. For a blouse, check to see if it is tapered either under the breasts, or the shoulder blades, and if they are present make sure they fit your body. You can lengthen or add these, but you can’t usually shorten them. If they are placed too high, the garment is always going to fit awkwardly on you.

Tapering the garment apart from the seams is more for the drape than the fit. This is not where you are going to lose the bulk of the excess fabric. If you are tapering, you will want to do it before taking in the seams. Flip your blouse or dress inside out and with a ruler, and trace a matching line on either side of the garment that extends vertically under the breasts or shoulder blades.

Fold the fabric along the line and right where your waist would fall, pinch the fabric between your fingers and pin the fold. If you are not going to take the tapering all of the way to the hem and re-hem the garment, then keep the tapering under an inch at the deepest point. Allow it to very gradually taper out at each end. Pin along where you plan to sew and then flip the garment right side out and put it on to be sure that it looks good before beginning to sew.

After you sew those, iron the seams flat from the right side of the garment and put it on inside out. Pinch the fabric on either side of your waist at the side seam and when it is as tight as you would like it and looks even on either side, pin both sides. Continue along the entirety of the side seam, making sure to pin on both sides as you go along. When finished, remove the garment and with a pencil trace the approximate line of your pins on one side, unpin and make sure the fabric lies flat and meets at the hem, then re-pin and sew. Fold the shirt vertically so you match sleeve to sleeve and line up the side seams on both sides. Trace the seam from the side you have sewed onto the other side and then pin and sew that side. You have successfully altered your garment, so go enjoy your nice fitted clothes!