Can Skirts Be Taken In?

If you can't let go of your favorite skirt that is now too big for you, here are tips and step-by-step instructions on how to take in skirts at the hem, waist and sides.

This is a woman shopping for a skirt at a sports shop.
  • Skirts can be taken in at the waist, hem, and sides.
  • Avoid taking a skirt in by more than one size.

If you couldn’t resist a skirt on sale or got one at a thrift shop that’s a size too big, or if you’ve lost weight, the good news is that it is relatively simple to take in a skirt. If you’re not a stitcher, a tailor will be able to help. But with some basic sewing skills, you’ll be able to wear a well-fitting garment in no time.

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Can skirts be taken in?

Skirts can be taken in. You can alter the size of a skirt by taking it in at the waist, the hem, or along the sides, at the hip. However, avoid altering a skirt by more than one size or you run the risk of a poorly fitting item.

The easiest way to get a skirt taken in is to take it to a professional tailor or dressmaker, especially if you know you can’t do the alterations yourself or if you know you won’t have time. They will be able to advise you on what sizing will suit you and how much the skirt needs altering. If the skirt was expensive or is made of a difficult fabric – like chiffon, leather, sequinned fabric, or embroidered fabric – rather take it to a professional.

Taking in a skirt at the hem

This is a close look at a red skirt being sewed at the hem line.

The simplest way to alter a skirt to make it fit better is by making it shorter. You can either cut off excess fabric first or simply take up a hem.

To take up a hem yourself, follow these steps:

  1. Unpick the existing hem and iron it flat. (Unless you’re making a tiny adjustment and just folding up the existing hem, in which case you can leave it.)
  2. Measure the desired length of the skirt, either by laying the skirt on an existing garment that fits well or by having someone pin up the hem while you’re wearing it. You can do this by yourself, in front of a mirror, but it will take some time.
  3. Remember to add an inch for the hem.
  4. If you’re shortening the skirt from long to short, you may want to cut off the excess fabric. Do this by laying the skirt on a flat surface, marking the hem with tailor’s chalk and then carefully cutting.
  5. Working around the skirt, fold the hem over half an inch and iron it flat. The rough edge of the fabric will be on the inside.
  6. Either using a sewing machine or by hand, carefully stitch along the edge of the hem.
  7. Remove the pins and press neatly.
  8. If you don’t like to sew, use hem tape which you iron on and fuses to the fabric to create a neat edge.

Taking in a skirt at the waist

It is possible to take in skirt when the waist is too big. Taking in an elasticated waist is a relatively simple job, but it is trickier to take in a skirt with a fitted waistband as it will require some tailoring skills.

Taking in an elasticated waist

Skirts with elastic waists altered along with the materials used.

If you’ve bought an item with too large a waist, you can alter the skirt quite easily.

To take in an elasticated waist, follow these steps:

  1. Unpick about three inches of the waist casing on the inside of the skirt.
  2. Put on the skirt inside out and then pull out the elastic.
  3. Make a loop in the elastic until it feels comfortable. Pin.
  4. Take off the skirt.
  5. Carefully cut off the excess elastic, remembering to allow for an overlap for sewing.
  6. Take care not to twist the elastic. Pin the overlap.
  7. Stitch the elastic together by hand or using the zigzag stitch on your sewing machine.
  8. Tuck the elastic back inside the seam casing.
  9. Pin and resew the seam casing.

Taking in a fitted waistband

This is a red skirt with the waist section being measured using a measuring tape.

Taking in a skirt with a fitted waistband means that you will need to remove the waistband to make it smaller.

To take in a skirt with a fitted waistband, follow these steps:

  1. Put the skirt on inside out and gather the excess fabric at one side of the waist, at a side seam.
  2. Use a measuring tape to measure the excess fabric.
  3. Pin the measured fabric on either side of the side seam, front and back.
  4. Take off the skirt. You should now have two pins, one on either side of your side seam.
  5. Use a seam ripper to remove the waistband from the skirt between the two pins. You can rip just beyond the two pins to allow space to work.
  6. Flip your waistband inside out.
  7. Pin the excess section of the waistband right sides together.
  8. Sew a new seam at the pinned section, making the waistband smaller. Be sure to backstitch to hold the seam firmly.
  9. Trim off the excess fabric neatly and press the seam open.
  10. Align the edges of the waistband with the skirt.  You may need to realign pleats or gathers to fit the new size waistband before rejoining it.
  11. Sew the waistband back onto the skirt, aligning the new seam with the side seam of the skirt.

Taking in a skirt at the sides

It can be very unflattering to have a skirt that fits at the waist, but bunches out over the hips and thighs. Fortunately, taking in a skirt along the side seams is possible.

Taking in a maxi skirt

A jersey fabric maxi skirt is easy to take in – you can do this in about an hour!

To take in a maxi skirt along the sides, follow these steps:

  1. Put the skirt on and gather the excess fabric at each side of the waist, at the side seams.
  2. Use a measuring tape to measure the excess fabric at waist and sides.
  3. Take off the skirt and lay it flat. Place a pin at the required new size.
  4. From the pin, measure down about 8 inches along each side at a gentle angle to take in fabric along the sides. This is to accommodate the angle from your waist to your hip.
  5. Mark your new seam with tailor’s chalk and pin it.
  6. Sew your new seam from the waist along the hip. Backstitch at the start and end to hold the  new seam firmly.
  7. Trim the excess fabric.

A fitted skirt

This is a seamstress working on a blue skirt.

Taking in a fitted skirt at the sides can be complicated if you are going to alter the waistband and the zip, as the darts that shape the skirt will also move and end up looking awkward. Lined skirts are also tricky to take in as you will be taking in both the skirt and the lining. If the skirt requires that much tailoring, rather take it to a professional.

But assuming the waistband and zip are fine, then you can alter the sides without too much effort.

To take in the sides of a fitted skirt, follow these steps:

  1. Put the skirt on and gather the excess fabric at each side of the waist, at the side seams.
  2. Use a measuring tape to measure the excess fabric at waist and sides.
  3. Take off the skirt and lay it flat. Place a pin at the required new size.
  4. Use a seam ripper to remove the waistband from the skirt at the side seams.
  5. Measure and pin the new side seams according to your pin placement.
  6. If you want to take the entire side seam in, then unpick the hem as you will need to rehem the skirt to avoid bulkiness.
  7. Sew your new seam from the waist along the hip (and further if necessary). Backstitch at the start and end to hold the new seam firmly.
  8. Trim the excess fabric.
  9. Rejoin the waistband.
  10. Rehem the skirt.
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