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Cinch a Dress with an Elastic Waist

Transform ill-fitting dresses into must-have designs by cinching the waist with elastic.
A close-up of the finished elastic waist.
All you need is a fabric strip, a safety pin, and 1/4-inch-wide elastic to achieve this look.
Transform ill-fitting dresses into must-have designs by cinching the waist with elastic.

Transform ill-fitting dresses into must-have designs by cinching the waist with elastic.

Photo: Noah Gordon

Create an elastic casing to alter a dress in just a few easy steps

Altering garments to fit our bodies is a science. However, it doesn't always have to be so difficult. During a recent closet overhaul, I found a dress I hadn't worn in years simply because it was a few sizes too big. While I had spent months pushing it to the back of my closet, I just wasn't ready to part with it. Then I realized it could easily be altered to fit by adding an elastic casing that cinched the excess fabric at the waist. Lo and behold, after just a few hours, I had a beautiful upcycled garment that fit just right.

Below, I'll demonstrate how to alter an ill-fitting dress with minimal effort to produce flattering results. This works best with lightweight, drapey fabrics such as rayon, linen, and cotton.

Oversized dress Save time and effort altering an oversized dress by adding an elastic casing to cinch the waist.

1. Mark the waistline. Try the ill-fitting dress on inside out and place a narrow belt around the desired waist location to determine where the elastic should sit. Mark this position with chalk or numerous pins along the belt's top edge. Take off the dress and use a ruler and chalk (or a water-soluble fabric marker) to draw in the full waistline.

Mark the waistline

Note that this line may not be straight all the way around. The bust, in particular, often causes the front to curve up and down.

2. Measure the circumference. Place the dress on a flat surface and measure the dress's circumference along the chalk marking. Cut a 1 3/4-inch-wide strip of fabric the length of the dress's circumference plus 1 inch. This strip will be used for the casing. (Note: A 1/4-inch-wide piece of elastic was used in this example. If another size is preferred, adjust the strip's width accordingly.)

Cut the casing

Tip: Be sure to choose a casing fabric that has a similar weight to the main dress fabric and doesn't show through when placed inside the garment.

3. Form a tube. With right sides together, fold the casing in half lengthwise and press. Stitch 1/4 inch from the raw edges, leaving 1 inch to 2 inches of unsewn tube at each end. This will enable you to neatly secure the short ends together after the tube is turned right side out.

Sew the raw edges Fold the strip in half before sewing the raw edges together.

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Comments (8)

balveerkaur balveerkaur writes: Gorgeous Dress
Posted: 6:45 am on September 18th

Sokrentr Sokrentr writes: Great!
Posted: 7:38 am on September 12th

Sokrentr Sokrentr writes: Great!
Posted: 7:37 am on September 12th

Mumya Mumya writes: nice
Posted: 8:47 am on September 11th

EmilyDekinson EmilyDekinson writes: Thanks for sharing this useful information...really very helpful!!!
Posted: 1:23 am on September 11th

justinvaseur88 justinvaseur88 writes: Thanks for sharing here nice dress with elastic waist
Posted: 4:01 am on July 31st

PatHersl PatHersl writes: A quilter's trick, if your fashion fabric is opaque. Sew the casing wrong sides together. Press the seam open then press to the middle of your casing. Sew down as indicated. If the seam allowance does not show through to the outside, this saves you having to turn the tube.
Posted: 2:15 pm on February 7th

user-6631655 user-6631655 writes: I love these articles, but I would really like to see you add a feature to create a PDF of your articles. The "print" function on your pages doesn't always work properly, and I prefer to save the articles to my computer rather than printing them on paper. It just seems to be very cumbersome to convert your articles into usable "storable" copies. Thanks.
Posted: 12:53 pm on February 7th

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