How to Make a Maxi Skirt Smaller

How to Make a Maxi Skirt Smaller
To make a maxi skirt smaller, measure and adjust the width, then address the length. You can tack in seams, add darts, insert elastic, cut or alter the waistband

Here’s what I’ve noticed every time I buy a skirt a size bigger- it’s big everywhere. Maybe that’s because I’m short, but I often have to reduce everything from the length to the hips and even the waist. Honestly, it feels like it would be more merciful to return the damn skirt to the seller.

Thankfully, altering a skirt to make it smaller isn’t too much work. I’ve done a full skirt in an hour tops and turned it into my favorite outfit. But you must also know what you are doing to avoid ruining the skirt.

We have separate posts here on tightening a loose maxi skirt and making a maxi skirt shorter that you can check out for more detailed instructions. But if you are looking for something more summarized, this is for you.

How to Measure a Maxi Skirt

Before you make any step towards altering that maxi skirt, you first need to take some measurements. Again, we have an in-depth guide on measuring length for a maxi skirt that I recommend you check out.

The easiest way is to put on the skirt and have someone mark for you exactly where you want the skirt to be. They will look something like this;

  • The length should be somewhere between the ankles and the top of your feet. Mark the skirt where it hits that point on both sides.
  • Width. On one side of your hips, gather all the fabric you think should go for the skirt to fit you perfectly and mark that point. If the skirt is straight, the fabric will be equal lengthwise. But if it’s an A-line skirt, only the upper hip will matter.
  • Waist. Do the same thing you did with the hips. Gather the excess on one side and mark that point. Again, don’t forget to add half an inch for seams.

How to Tighten a Maxi Skirt

When making a maxi skirt smaller, start with the width, not the length. It’s a lot more work, and you will need to touch the hem, so it’s better to start here.

As I said in the main post about tightening a maxi skirt, there are three permanent methods;

1. Take in the seams

How many inches was that bunch you gathered on the side? Divide that into two so you can distribute on both side seams. If the skirt has pockets or a side zipper, try the back seam instead. Open the seams, mark the excess fabric you want to remove and cut it off or tuck it in, making a new seam.

Most of the time, especially if the waistband has elastic, you will need to take off the waistband first and reattach it after taking in the seams. And if the alteration is going all the way down, open the hem as well so it doesn’t look weird.

2. Insert darts

Designers use darts to shape garments and make them curve around the body. You create them by pinching a small triangle on the waistline, stitching it and pressing it down. For an alteration, you must remove the waistband first to make darts and then reattach it.

The number of darts you put depends on how many inches you need to take in. Two on either side of the front panel are often enough, but you can also add two at the back.

3. Add elastic

Adding elastic works if the issue is a slightly loose waistband. We use it often in costumes that don’t have an elastic waistband to snug up the waistband.

In summary, you locate the center back of the skirt, and sew in an elastic piece there to make the waistband tighter without giving that scrunched-up look.

But if the skirt already has an elastic waist, you can just open the waistband, tighten the elastic and close it back up.

How to Make a Maxi Skirt Shorter

Now that your skirt is well-fitting on the waist and hips, it’s time to move on to the length or the hem. Again, there are a couple of methods to do this- you can cut off the excess length or fold it back in case you grow taller one day. I prefer the cut-off method because the hem looks better and flatter.

So in other words, mark half an inch from where the skirt hits your ankles and cut the excess fabric. Turn the skirt inside out, fold back the hem and pin it in place. Stitch and press it flat, and that is your new hem.

This is the easiest way to shorten a skirt. But what if it’s a hemless skirt with frills, lace or an asymmetrical design at the bottom?

Well, you can shorten it from the waist. This works for pleated maxi skirts too.

You can still make a mark at the hemline when measuring the skirt, but you will transfer that measurement to your waist.

  • Remove the stitches from the waistband if you have not done so already.
  • Carefully gather the fabric you want to cut off, but fold it to the waistline instead of cutting it.
  • Pin this fold in place and sew to make a new waistline.
  • Iron flat and re-attach the waistband.
  • Be very careful if the skirt is pleated so as not to lose any pleats or sew them together.
Can you make a maxi skirt smaller without sewing?

There are temporary ways to make a skirt smaller, including using safety pins on the side seam or hem to achieve the desired result. A belt also works to tighten the waist and also make the shirt a tad shorter. For a loose, flowy skirt, you can make a knot at the waist to reduce both length and width.

Is it expensive to make a maxi skirt smaller?

If you have basic sewing skills, altering a skirt is easy and cheap. Otherwise, you’ll need to take the skirt to a tailor to adjust it, which costs you some money. It is, however, not that expensive even with professional help.

Lior Shapiro

I love clothes with pockets and dresses, and I think any woman can pull off a good maxi dress.
I believe women's clothes with pockets make the world a better place.