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20+ ways to refashion clothes that are too small

20+ ways to refashion clothes that are too small

How do you reuse clothes that are too small? You can upcycle them them into something new like a pillow or you can refashion them to fit you! I’ve rounded up a fun list of refashion clothes tutorials to inspire you and teach you new skills, ready to make over your clothes so they look great and you feel great in them.

If you don’t have any clothes that need a new look, go out and dig around for some thrift shop challenges to makeover and update! It’s an inexpensive way to practice your sewing skills and exercise creativity. Let me know which of these 20+ ways to refashion clothes that are too small are your favorite, or if I missed any that you’ve used, in the comments!

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20+ ways to refashion clothes that are too small

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how to refashion clothes bigger

How to refashion shirts that are too small

too small dress refashion

I can’t get over how clever the black accents & shaping is on this dress refashion is, by @rethinktailoring! They have a brick & mortar sewing store where they do projects like this for customers, how cool is that?!

tshirt upcycle before and after

How to add fabric to a shirt to make it bigger – fast and easy refashion tutorial here on Swoodson Says! This is one of my most popular posts and it takes less than an afternoon to do, I get lots of compliments on the ‘after’ version of this shirt.

Open back t-shirt refashion from Sew Much Love, Mary – I haven’t tried an open back shirt yet, but this would give some great ventilation for summer I think! I can also see it working well for a yoga/exercise wardrobe.

colorblocking to lengthen a top refashion

If a top is too short for you, color block to make it longer! Easy refashion tutorial from Pearls and Scissors. I would’ve never guessed this ‘after’ didn’t come that way, it looks great. [2024 edit note – this website appears to be down, leaving it up for visual inspiration]

knee replacement sewing tutorial

I did this on kids pants but it would work on adult pants too – how to insert a knee panel here on Swoodson Says.

how to add a zipper side vent to a shirt

Another zipper side vent, this time on a shirt that needs some more room! You can find this tutorial at Thread Riding Hood. I love how this looks, even if you don’t need extra space in your waistband.

too small sleeve fix

If your sleeves are too short or tight, try this bell sleeve refashion tutorial from Sew Much Love Mary, these would be cute on a kid’s dress too!

lace back shirt refashion

A romantic vibe with this lace and ruffle back refashion (an Anthropologie knockoff!) from Happy Together. This isn’t my style but I love how it looks with all the details.

If you have a too-short tshirt, chop it and turn it into a dress with this circle skirt refashion from A Beautiful Mess, this looks so easy to wear.

If you’re thinking, wait, she linked a different side zip tutorial up above! That’s right – mine is a little different! See how to sew an exposed zipper and give yourself more hip space here.

If your sweater is too tight, turn it into a cardigan and leave it open! Heather Handmade has a tutorial to help you out, click through to see the finished cardi.

If the neckline is too tight on a top, add some grommets with this diy lace up refashion tutorial at A Beautiful Mess, I think this would work at both hips too.

How to add fabric to bottom of shirts here at Swoodson Says- if you shrunk a shirt in the wash, this is an easy way to add some length.

How to make a t shirt bigger

How to make a t shirt bigger with a back panel with an easy tutorial here at Swoodson Says!

adding a button placket refashion

This is a refashion idea borne out of a rip but works to add ease to a shirt that is too small or tight to get over your head, with a diy button placket tutorial at Mckell Makes.

If you like boho vibes, add some crochet trim to the sides of your shirt, with this tutorial from Trash to Couture.

[Not pictured]If you live somewhere with temperate weather, turn a too tight sweater into an open back refashion with this quick hack tutorial from In Honor of Design.

How to refashion pants that are too small

how to add zippers to jeans ankles

If skinny jeans are too tight to pull on, add some simple zippers with this jeans refashion from Pearls and Scissors! I like how these look just in general. [2024 edit note – this website appears to be down, leaving it up for visual inspiration]


See how to make the waistband in jeans bigger with this tutorial from Seasoned Homemaker, a contrast print or color would be cute too.


Refashion too tight shorts by adding a full panel in; she wrote a post with pictures if video isn’t your thing, see it here.

How to refashion dresses that are too small

refashioned dress to cardigan

If you have a dress that’s too tight, turn it into a lightweight peplum cardigan instead, with a tutorial from Trish Stitched, this ‘after’ is so cute.

Another visual for making a dress longer, on Youtube.

add ruffle dress tutorial

Another version of adding length, see how to add a ruffle to the bottom of a dress and its sleeves, with this tutorial from Heather Handmade.

If a dress is too short, instead of making it longer, turn it into a peplum top with this tutorial from Pearls and Scissors, I am so impressed she got sleeves out of it too.[2024 edit note – this website appears to be down, leaving it up for visual inspiration]

How to refashion skirts that are too small

diy too small skirt refashion

If your gathered skirt waistband is too tight, or you just like to be comfortable like me, use this tutorial for swapping in an elastic waist from Thriftanista In The City.

Another too small skirt refashion idea, adding a slit and swapping a zipper for ties, with a tutorial over at Thriftanista In The City, this ‘after’ looks so much better even though the changes are subtle!


Not pictured:

Have you refashioned anything bigger? Let me know how!

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Nancy Fong

Friday 1st of December 2023

I have couple of long drop-waist dresses that got too tight for me. I cut the skirt off and 6” from the bodice/midriff. then I reattached the skirt to the upper part, thus turning the dress into an empire waist loose dress. I love these dresses so I kept them all these years even though they were no longer flattering, and now I can enjoy them again. I wish I could show photos. This may be the solution for Karen Thompson’s message below (July 5, 2021).


Thursday 26th of October 2023

Excellent Ideas. I love all your creativity!! I was a designer for 20 years in Atlanta. I love buying vintage clothing but I am 4 sizes larger. Ha I now have a better vison and purpose for my older dresses. Keep Posting!

Stephanie - Swoodson Says

Monday 6th of November 2023

Thanks for the kind words Christine!!

Kathrine V

Sunday 20th of August 2023

Great suggestions! I am always looking for inspiration in this area, and even if an idea has been floating around for years, seeing the right execution makes a world of difference.

I also have been turning too small zip skirts to elastic waisted skirts. They were not gathered, but it's easy enough if the skirt is A-line and too long (mine were) to 1) remove zipper, 2) cut off the top 2-3 inches of the skirt, based on where you want it to hit your waist, 3) fold over top edge to create long pocket for elastic or just a finished edge, 4) add placket and buttons or hook and eyes to fasten garment with smooth finish where zipper used to be. I suppose if you have enough width to get over your hips, you could just stitch up the side gap, but I didn't, nor did I have a 3 inch zipper, so I pulled the elastic to my desired fit and stitched it down on either side, so excess fabric wouldn't add bulk on my waist.

This also works on too-small dresses. Remove zipper, cut off bodice and finish as above. I am now trying to figure out how to repurpose the bodice fabric. Tops are harder for me. They may become jackets or vests if I can find the right fabric to expand them. And the right style. Right now I am thinking wrap around for one (knit), and mandarin collar for another (woven).

For too-small skirts that are too short to be cropped as above, I add side panels of the same (if I made it) or contrasting fabric, then hide the waistband gap with a wide petersham ribbon. It's adorable. I have been told the skirts look even better this way; the key is never to match the fabric unless it is truly from the same bolt. So with an old favorite a cream and black silk & chiffon skirt, I used a pale pink satin side panel of 2.5 inches. I am considering running a thin petersham ribbon over the seams to make it appear more like it's always been that way. The first cut through the fabric of the too-small garment is always the hardest!

Stephanie - Swoodson Says

Sunday 17th of September 2023

great ideas kathrine, thanks for sharing!!


Friday 13th of January 2023

LOVED the tips for making too small clothes bigger--and keep them stylish!

My question is off-topic, probably. I am looking to upgrade from a Janome Harmony 4052 sewing machine. --I am KINDA dabbling in embroidery, but as art medium. I use embroidery to make upcycled clothes more artful. --I am also looking at electronic versus the mechanical machine that I am used to.

So far, I like upcycling hoodies and jackets, so I need something that will handle heavier materials.

Do you have ANY recommendations for which machines to consider? Any suggestions from you--or other commenters--would be really helpful.

Thanks in advance. :)

Stephanie - Swoodson Says

Saturday 14th of January 2023

Hi Vox! I don't think it is off topic - but I don't have any recommendations for embroidery/sewing machines, I've never used one :/ In general, I like Brother & Janome as brands for midlevel machines and would recommend going in person to your local dealers if you have them and see if the vibe is better at one or the other! I hope you find the perfect fit!


Thursday 18th of August 2022


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