How to make a wedding dress bigger

Updated July 19, 2017

Bridal wear can be a hassle to alter, and expensive to. Fortunately, you can alter many wedding dresses at home with a friend. Dresses that are too tight under the arm can be easily fixed with a gusset, and dresses too tight in the hips or waist can be let out a little way. Bridal wear manufacturers incorporate a generous seam allowance that allows professionals to make timely alterations.

Letting the dress out

Turn the dress wrong side out. Evening wear has a slight give to it that equals to about 1.5 cm (5/8 inch) or more seam allowance. Letting the seam allowance out, and then resewing the seam without any allowance will increase the width 2.5 to 5 cm (1 to 2 inches) depending on the seam allowance.

Put the dress on. Have your partner mark with coloured tape the areas that need to be let out. Take the dress off and put the dress on the dress form. If you do not have a form you can make a quick taped form. Take an old T-shirt and a large roll of duct tape. Put the T-shirt on. Have your partner tape the entire T-shirt until completely covered, and gently cut the T-shirt off from the back. Put the taped form on a clothes hanger, and retape the back.

Take the seam ripper and gently cut open the dress's seam threads in each area that is taped. Cut all seams where the tape is. Re-sew the seams with no seam allowance.

Inserting a gusset

Pick a fabric that closely resembles your wedding dress fabric. It needs to be the same fabric content as the dress, and in the same colour.

Measure the width of your armpit and the length from the bottom of the arm put to just under the bust line. Have your partner help you with this.Take those measurements and cut two triangles of the same width and length from the fabric.

Put the dress on the form with wrong side out. Hand baste the triangles under each armpit of the dress. Cut away the old fabric so that just the new fabric is present. Do not cut outside the triangle. Machine or hand sew the triangle securely to the dress. This type of gusset allows free movement of the arms.

Letting out a previous alteration

Put the dress on the form wrong side out. When an alteration takes place, the seamstress takes the seam allowances in but leaves the original seam intact. This allows the seamstress to make additional alterations if needed.

Cut all the new seams out with the seam ripper. Do not touch the original seams. The new seams are visible on the top seam allowance. As you cut away those threads, a second seam allowance will become visible with a new set of threads. Do not touch those threads.

Try on the dress with the wrong side out. Have your partner use coloured tape to mark any areas that need to be taken back in. If the dress fits perfectly you are done. If you need to take the dress in, simply follow the original alteration's seam allowance by refolding it back in and resewing it.


If your dress has multiple tiers or skirts you may want some professional help. Bridal shops often offer sales on items that didn't sell well. You can save money by purchasing a dress that is much too large by altering it to fit.


Do not use scissors to rip seams. Only use a lighted seam ripper for bridal wear. Silk and satin tear and rip easily; be gentle when ripping seams with these fabrics.

Things You'll Need

  • Lighted seam ripper
  • Partner to help you with alterations
  • Coloured seamstress tape
  • Dress form or mannequin
  • Old T-shirt (optional)
  • Large roll of duct tape (optional)
  • Scissors
  • Sewing machine or hand-sewing supplies
  • 1/2 metre (1/2 yard) fabric to match dress
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About the Author

Emily Martinez has been writing since 2007, specializing in the fields of special education, sales/marketing and nonprofit. She holds dual bachelor's degrees in psychology and human development, as well as dual associate's degrees in education and horticulture. Martinez has expert experience in avian care, Middle Eastern dance, costume design, machine embroidery, sewing and painting.