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Simple Steps to Making Custom-Fit Alterations to Your Clothing

Thursday Jul 7, 2011

Easy Clothing Alterations Can Make a Simple Dress Look Spectacular

You might think so, but it could be one of two things: large hips or a small waist. A quick look in the mirror will tell the story.

If your hips are large in proportion to the upper part of your body, then full hips are the problem. If your hips are in proportion to the upper part of the body, but the waist appears small, then the problem lies in your waist. If your waist is small, the garment’s waist can be reduced by increasing the width of darts and pleats. If your hips are large, the pattern needs to be increased at the side seam in the hip area.

The biggest mistake a full-hipped individual makes is thinking that pants  that are snug in the hips will hold in the hips, making them look smaller. This   is not so! To camouflage a full hip, the garment actually needs to be looser so   it won’t lock onto the fullness. Full hips are better in drapey fabric, in   styles that are fuller at the hem, so that the hip appears smaller by   comparison. For the alteration given here, you will need to know your full hip   measurement, and how far down it is from your waist.


Determine the alteration amount by comparing your full hip measurement plus ease to that of the sewing pattern measurement. Make an addition to each side seam at the hip, tapering out half of the addition by the bottom of the garment. A large addition may also require adding at the waist, so that the side seams will not wrinkle when pressed open.


  1. Measure the circumference of your full hip, and the distance it is from your waist.
  2. On the pattern, measure down the side seam the distance of your full hip, starting at the waistline seam. Mark this spot with an X. Then highlight the sizes that fit your measurements with a highlighter pen, making smooth transitions to the smaller size at the waist.
  3. At the spot marked with an X, draw a line across the pattern perpendicular to the grainline.
  4. 0n this line, measure between the seam-lines of your size on the front and back of your pattern. Compare the flat pattern measurement to your measurement plus ease. The difference is the total alteration amount. Divide this by four to determine the amount you need to add to each side seam at the hip.
  5. Make the side seam addition. Taper in only half of the addition by the bottom of the garment; tapering in the full addition will just emphasize the problem.
  6. If you’re adding a lot—more than 1/2 in. (1.3cm)—at each side seam, you’ll also need to add to the waist. The extra at the waist can be taken out with wider darts or pleats. Make a gradual transition into the waist for a flattering silhouette; a curve that is too steep wrinkles when sewn in fabric and put on the body.


  • The circumference at the bottom of a straight skirt or full pants can always be tapered in for a slimmer effect. But don’t overdo it—too much tapering leaves the hips looking larger.
  • If your garment has a pocket, there’s no need to add to the pocket facing or side front piece. The location of these pieces will move out with the addition.

If you have to add a great deal at the hip, you will need to add some at the waist so that the curve at the side seam is not too pronounced. The waist can be reduced by increasing the size of the darts and the pleats.

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