How to Tighten a Loose Maxi Skirt

How to Tighten a Loose Maxi Skirt
Tightening a loose maxi skirt can be done through various methods, depending on the skirt's style and your preference using seams, darts, and elastic.

We’ve all been there- we saw a gorgeous maxi skirt at DressLily or other online stores, and the price was just right, so we added it to the cart and proceeded to order. Problem is, when the skirt got home, it was about a size or two bigger around the waist and hips.

But didn’t we give the online store our measurements? Well, that doesn’t matter now because it’s time to find a solution instead of whining over spilt milk.

Tightening a loose maxi skirt can be as easy as measuring the excess fabric lengthwise, making new side seams, and cutting off the rest. But sometimes maxi skirts have pockets, side zippers, pleats and other things that can make tightening it a bit complicated.

Fret not, though, as we will go into all this step by step so that lovely skirt doesn’t have to go to waste.

Easiest and Quickest Downsizing Methods

1. Take in the Seams

This method is the second easiest way if you want a permanent alteration. It works for any skirt that’s loose everywhere from the waist down. You also need to consider whether the skirt has an elastic waistband because that will add a step. Otherwise, here are the steps;

  • Turn the skirt inside out and wear it.
  • Gather the excess material on both sides at the waist and hips and clip that with pins. You want to gather an equal amount of fabric from the front and back panels for balance.
  • Take off the skirt and chalk a line where the pins are all the way down to the hem. I’m going to add a seam allowance of 0.5 inches.
  • If the skirt is only loose around the waist and hips, but you want to leave the lower part intact, draw the lines curved to meet the side seams at the hip line (widest part of the skirt), which is about 10-15 cm (4-6 inches) below. And sew along those lines.
  • You want it to be a bit loose, so when you’re eating throughout the day, you have space for your stomach.
  • Open the hem so the seams look flat down there, and then re-hem it afterwards.
  • Sew along the chalk line and fix the hem once you try the skirt.
  • Now, you can cut off the excess fabric or leave it and make a top stitch because you never know when you may need to resize it.

If your skirt has an elastic waistband, I suggest removing the waistband before adjusting the seams. You don’t need to take all of it off, just separate the two sections to where you don’t need to start sewing from the waistband.

Now it’s time to deal with the waistband.

  • Undo the stitching on the waistband and expose the elastic. If the fabric is stitched onto the elastic, you have to rip this off too and set the elastic free all around the waist.
  • Using the measurements you took, reach underneath where the elastic is poking out and pull at it until the elastic waist fits more comfortably.
  • As you pull, make sure that the elastic doesn’t twist in any way.
  • Pin it in place and trim off the excess.
  • Tuck the remainder of the elastic back inside the skirt.
  • Hand-sew the hole closed with an invisible stitch, also known as a tunnel stitch.
  • Now, pull out the entire elastic to ensure the fabric cinches back evenly across.
  • Connect back the waistband to the skirt and press to flatten it.

2. Insert Darts

What if the skirt has a side zipper, pockets or no side seams? Inserting darts will be your best option here. It allows you to tighten the loose skirt while also adding a flattering detail. It’s also best if the skirt is only loose around the hips, not the waist or the entire length.

So, what are darts?

This is where you pinch triangles on the fabric from the lower waistline to the upper hip area. The wider side of the triangle is at the waistband, while the narrow end tapers out into the rest of the skirt.

To do this;

  • Try on the skirt to determine how many inches you need to take. You can gather the excess fabric on the side and use a ruler to measure the width of that bunch.
  • Divide that number in 4 so you know how wide the top of each dart will be.
  • Using a seam ripper, remove the waistband and set it aside.
  • Find the center of the skirt and fold the side seams inwards so they meet at this point.
  • Use chalk to mark a point halfway between the side seam and this center point. Repeat this until you have 4 points marked- two at the front and two at the back.
  • If the skirt needs little taken in, you can make two darts instead.
  • Depending on how many inches you need to remove, share that with the 4 darts. For example, if you needed 2 inches out, divide this by four to get 0.5 inches for each dart.
  • Mark that length with two points and pinch them together when the skirt is on the right side to make a dart.
  • Pin the darts in place and sew across all four.

Now that the skirt’s diameter is smaller than the waistband, you need to make new seams on the waistband to make them equal.

Once done, reattach the waistband and press to flatten the darts.

3. Add Elastic at the Back

Costume designers often use this method to quickly fix a costume that’s a bit loose for a performer. It’s fast and doesn’t give that scrunched-up look you get with a full elastic waistband.

  • Locate the center back of the waistband and mark it with chalk or a pin.
  • Measure a few inches to each side of the mark, depending on how much you need to tighten the skirt.
  • Cut elastic, just an inch longer than the distance you measured on the waistband.
  • Lay the elastic flat on top of the mark you made on the waistband, and pin both ends.
  • You will need to make a shifty casing for the elastic using a buttonhole thread. Make a few stitches at the top of the waistband, and then bring the thread down over the elastic diagonally and make another stitch just below the elastic, now at the bottom.
  • Repeat this process by going up and down, making stitches over the elastic without touching it. This should give you several Vs crossing the elastic.
  • Now use a sewing machine to stitch down one end of the elastic.
  • Decide how tight you want to pull the elastic to tighten the waist. Pull on the free end until you get the desired tightness, and pin the end in place.
  • Finish up by sewing the free end of the elastic and cut off the excess length.
How do you make a loose maxi skirt tighter temporarily?

The easiest way to tighten a loose maxi skirt when you are in a rush or borrowing a skirt is to use safety pins. Insert two pins from the inside of the waistband and make pleats with the excess fabric. If the problem is the waist, a belt should help with this.

Can you resize a pleated maxi skirt?

Absolutely, and it’s easy. You can use the side seams method to resize by first taking off the waistband and pinning the pleats in place. Again, if the waist is the issue, open up the waistband and resize the elastic instead.

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.